There are things that are inevitable about the human society. One of these is disaster, and it is the issue in focus today. Like most of the readers would have known, disasters can be predicted and the other version can be unpredictable. No matter how well a society is governed there will always be points they suffer one form of disaster or the other. The essence of government is also for issues of this nature. When you look around the world and see what happens in some of those places, in this regard, one begins to wonder if our country is equipped to handle severe disasters.
In recent times, we have seen oceans in America, Latin America, Europe and some parts of Asia, empty into habited regions, leading to destruction of human lives and properties. Not too long ago Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and some parts of Southern Africa countries taking far huge tolls than were the cases in the other regions mentioned earlier. A case of near similar events but different consequences. The outcome was more tolerable in the earlier mentioned regions than it was in the case of those African countries. The question would be why? The answer is simple: foresight and organization. Those in the other developed regions know the lesson that disasters would always come to be, irrespective of how well organized their societies are. They do what is expected of any rational society: they expect it, prepare, put structures in place and train disaster management personnel so that they can respond in the most professional manner in the event of the unexpected.
What they do is not magical, it is being human and responsive, using God-given intellect to know that misfortune could come and that man has a responsibility not only to predict where possible but to put in place remedial actions in the event that the unexpected happens. In saner climes, topics on disaster are cardinal studies both in formal and informal settings. Regular seminars and summits are organized by the government, private sector, non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations to teach citizens about the environment and possible disasters and what positive measures to take in different instances. At a point in our primary school studies pupils were given rudimentary lessons on hygiene and on such crucial matters as environmental degradation. At the secondary school level students were taught the effects negative human activities on the environment like illegal mining, indiscriminate digging up of the soil, bush burning and deforestation. But today it is doubtful if some of those courses still run at those levels.
Many of us are running with the belief that earthquakes and hurricanes cannot happen here. The truth is that it can happen here and the question should be how prepared are we to handle such emergencies if they occur. We have state and national emergency agencies, but the truth is that those bodies are not equipped to handle disaster of any kind at all. The constitution of those agencies have suffered from undue politicization. The staff are picked based on the whims and caprices of commanding authorities, and not on competence and professionalism. Most of the staff know nothing about disaster let alone the managing of it. For most of them disaster is a dislocation of people and the solution they know is to announce it, procure blankets, food materials and a few building materials, distribute and loot some; with that to them disaster management has well taken place.
The truth is that disaster management is an onerous task. It is a sophisticated assignment, even for small issues like flooding and dislocation; if rescue operations will have meaning, helicopters, engine and inflatable boats, sound communication gadgets, earth sensor equipment are some of the necessary instruments that would be required. There is also need for well-structured resettlement centres that are decent and have adequate facilities. In some places victims eat decent food free of charge and non-governmental organizations are registered and kept on standby to also offer some assistance. How much of these do we have here? How many of these disaster management agencies at state and national levels have earth moving machines, apart from perhaps, Lagos which may boast of very few, which other? Nations are talking about earthquake bunkers, it is not certain how much sense this makes; but whether it makes sense or not we owe ourselves the responsibility to find out its uses, advantages and disadvantages, and where we find sense in it, to adopt it to suit our peculiarities.
The truth we must tell ourselves is that we are not doing anything. We have created surface structures perhaps in reactions to foreign dictations or our penchant to imitate without understanding and this approach has tended to compound rather than help our situation. Even in ordinary routine rescue operations, we can’t deliver. A citizen of this country now resident in the United States of America, was implored to return home and settle, and he said over his dead body. The reason he gave appeared simple but it was a very serious matter. He said a man of Chinua Achebe’s class had an accident on a Nigerian road and it took several hours to evacuate him from the scene of the accident, and the delay resulted in paralysis, because the doctor observed that if he had been brought in earlier, total remedy would have been possible. He said in America, there would be a phone call by sympathizers and in a matter of minutes, an air ambulance would hastily arrive and evacuate the victims.
In some parts of the country, citizens have had to be evacuated from their residences for various kinds of reasons, but the truth again is that such exercises have tended to debase rather than be an act of succour. The reasons for evacuating them may be altruistic but the quest for true nationhood would be served better if in doing so the citizens are handled with tenderness and befitting alternative provided to enable them live to decent lives. We don’t see this approach because the things that are supposed to be are not. The staff where they exist are not professionals, in some cases even government agencies hire touts to execute such a sensitive assignment. As observed earlier, no proper resettlement centres exist, or is owned either by the states or the federal government. The life of the citizens worth more and if we know this, we must get our government to prepare adequately for disasters.