By Michael Nwabueze
Flooding has always been part of nature’s invasion of the Earth man has had to contend with right from the earliest days of Earth’s existence. From the days of Noah till today, it has remained a constant phenomenon in the life of man and, despite attempts made from age to age, the phenomenon has remained as there is little nan can do when nature decides to unleash itself in whatever form.
Last week, videos and images of damage in some parts of arguably one of the largest markets in Africa, Ariaria International Market, surfaced online and, expectedly, sparked reactions from commentators across board. What surprised this writer was the vitriolic political dimension the reactions took and the partisan narratives given the incident by some of those who reacted to it. Some chose to deliberately forget that heavy rainfall, especially in this period of the year and given worsening climate change, is a global phenomenon that all men, no matter how advanced, cannot control but can only ameliorate its consequences.
In Florida, for example, it was reported as per floodlist.com that rainfall on Wednesday, Spetember 28, 2022, had “buildings ripped from foundations floating in stormy waters” leaving thousands fleeing to shelters and to other safe areas. It is the same in other parts of the world.
Back home in Nigeria, according to a report by The Guardian newspaper, quoting authorities of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), “The floods in 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states and capital city have affected half a million people, including 100,000 displaced and more than 500 injured”. It also quoted authorities as “blaming the floods this year on water overflowing from local rivers, unusual rainfalls and the release of excess water from Lagdo dam in neighbouring Cameroon’s northern region”. Specifically, the report quoted the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency as saying that there will be “more floods in 2022 than last year due to ‘excessive rainfalls and contributions from external flows’ such as the dam in Cameroon”.
From Delta to Kano State, from Bayelsa to Jigawa State, from Abia to Lagos State, from Benue to Kogi State, Anambra and others, the raging floods have proven that it has no favourites, as it traverses the length and breadth of the nation like a liquid colossus defying armies and leaving behind it tears and sorrow.
However, among all the states affected by the heavy rainfalls, it is only in Abia that opposition elements have politicised the issue and attempted, though vainly, to make it look like the government in power deliberately conjured up the rains against its people.
That is how mischievous and acerbic opposition politics is in Abia. Those who play politics with such disasters arising from the powers of nature are only exhibiting how inhuman they are for reducing humanitarian crises to an avenue of playing politics.
The Ariaria incident is most unfortunate and the flood victims deserve our sympathy, and, where possible, our assistance, as individuals and institutions, and not to use their situation to play banal politics.
On Tuesday, October 4, the rains poured with full force as predicted by relevant authorities and submerged houses, destroyed farmlands, killed some and displaced many others simultaneously in Anambra and Delta states. Not even for once has any opposition politician in either states politicised the disaster, which is even of far more humongous proportions than that which befell the Ariaria International Market in Aba and its environs. But in Abia, politicians, in their desperate bid to diminish the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led government, blamed government with so much resentment for not spreading tarpaulin beneath the skies in order to protect the city from the inevitable floods and the attendant outcomes.
While one cannot say for sure how the condition of victims of floods have been ameliorated in their respective states, Ikpeazu, moved by the sad situation, has not only met with all the affected traders, big or small, at the Ariaria International Market and made a cash donation, he also empathised with them and consoled them as a leader would do his people in such a situation.
Apart from the above, the governor had also commenced the remodelling of the sprawling market to include a flood control project to curtail flood issues associated with the market and its environs. This is not a promise; it is a project that has its first phase almost completed.
Meanwhile, there is arguably no government that has done more than the Ikpeazu administration in terms of flood control. With the two-time dredging of Aba river, Ifeobara pond as well as Uratta pond and the ongoing efforts at constructing new drainages and expanding existing ones as part of road construction, among others, Ikpeazu has shown enormous commitment to the control of flood in the city.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the traders, despite the disaster that befell them, resoundingly applauded the governor while he was empathising with them recently. And they were right in doing so because they understand the fact that the disasters are raging worldwide and are largely not the making of any government, no matter how advanced. Their response to the governor is an indication of their total rejection of the propaganda and mischief of opposition politicians who had earlier visited the market in the aftermath of the floods and mocked the hapless traders by using their sad situation to play politics.
As the 2023 elections approach, opposition politicians in Abia State who are obviously lacking in ideas and issues with which to campaign, and seeing that they are finding it extremely difficult to run the government of the day in Abia State down because of the numerous achievements recorded by the Ikpeazu-led administration, are now clutching at even straws to keep their campaigns afloat by descending into the arena of the mundane. For such, even nature is angry and will certainly visit them with electoral disasters come 2023!