Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, is heavy-laden with care for the victims of the recent flood disaster that ravaged tens of thousands of farmland, lives and property in the state. Despair hangs heavily in the atmosphere as grief enveloped his state. Thus the governor is carrying enormous responsibility of providing relief to the affected communities.
According to the statistics released by the Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), an estimated 500,000 hectres of crops, including rice, millet, sorghum, maize and sugarcane had been washed away by the flood, while at least five bridges connecting people to Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, were also said to have been carried away.
No fewer than 11 local government areas of the state were affected by the unmitigated disaster. These included Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo, Maiyama, Jega and Dandi, among others. The official figure of casualties is put at six with several others injured.
Before it came lurking, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency had predicted that Kebbi State would be among the states to witness flood this year beginning from September 6.
Regrettably, it was like a case of the unwilling cultivating the unprepared. In the end, both the affected communities and the state authorities were literally caught napping. And so when the governor eventually made his way through to the scene of the disaster, he quickly took an easy line of defence, saying “things like this happen. We are not unique in the world, it is regrettable. We have seen in the Hurricane Laura and other similar disasters in other parts of the world.”
He got his premise wrong. Agreeable; disaster cannot be totally averted. And the experience is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. Both developed and developing parts of the world have had their own taste of the sad narrative. The difference, however, is in the style of response. While authorities in other climes tend to be more proactive in their dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, especially preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters, here, governments at all levels are mostly reactionary in their approach.
Proactive approach begins with proper mechanism for monitoring signals and indicators of both natural and man-made threats, risk reduction through proper training and planning to minimise the loss of lives and property and above all, building community-based disaster preparedness. Such measures do not only help to assist communities in reducing their vulnerability to disaster, but also strengthen their capacities to mitigate effect of them.
The latest Kebbi experience is a sad reminder of a long history of government’s negligence which makes the state vulnerable to perennial flooding. At a recent stakeholders’ meeting, the state’s Director, Town Planning, Alhaji Abubakar Abubakar, was quoted as blaming the government for allowing farmland owners to design and sell lands at will without adherence to approved layout.
How the authorities concerned would react to this will determine the vunerability of the state to this future occurrence. But Governor Bagudu in his apparent lean-on-me attitude does not appear to be much concerned about the happenings at his backyard. Rather, he is looking forward to the Federal Government for assistance that may never come.
Understandable, Kebbi State holds a special place in Nigeria’s food security. Available reports show that the state alone contributes 60 per cent of rice production in the country. With over 500,000 hectres already submerged by flood, that capacity must have been greatly hampered, which is a threat to the food self-suffiency drive of the Buhari administration.
But what can Buhari do in concrete terms other than his vicious circle of commiserating and promising of assistance? Already, he has sent in his words, saying “I am particularly sad over this incident because it’s a setback to our efforts to boost local rice production as part of measures to stop food importation.
“Kebbi State is the focal point of our policy to produce rice locally as part this administration’s commitment to agricultural revival which suffered relative neglect in favour of food importation. We are going to work closely with the Kebbi State government in order to bring relief to the victims.”
To the critical minds, the assurance says nothing more than mere illustration of lack of proper appreciation of the imperative of prevention as against disaster management. Therefore, if Bagudu chooses to live by the president’s words, he can sit back and wait for the mana to fall from heaven. After all, as Stephen King rightly quipped: “There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”
To be sure, Bagudu who is the the Chairman, APC Governors’ Forum, is one of the ardent loyalists of President Buhari. He took his loyalty a notch higher when he recently declared that the economic policy of the administration was in the right direction.
He gave the commendation on the heels of anger that trailed the sudden hike in the price of petroleum, as well as tariff of electricity.
A statement signed by Bagudu, read: “The forum commends President Muhammadu Buhari for efficiently managing Nigeria’s economy, which has led to giant strides in the execution of major national projects.” He listed some of the projects to include: the revival of railways, the Second Niger Bridge, Ajaokuta Steel Company, and road projects across parts of the country, among many others.
Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who had previously served as a Senator, was born on December 26, 1961. he served as the Senator for the Kebbi Central constituency of Kebbi State.
He obtained a B.Sc Economics from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, M.Sc Economics, University of Jos, and M.A. International Affairs. He succeeded Adamu Aliero as a Senator representing Kebbi Central Senatorial District following the latter’s appointment as Minister for FCT.
Bagudu, who contested on the platform of the PDP, later dumped the party for the APC. He subsequently won the governorship election on March 9, 2019, beating his rival, Senator Isah Galaudu of the PDP.