From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
“Water no get enemy.” the inimitable Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang many years ago. In Bayelsa State, that assertion has been punctured.
Why? Water has turned against the people. It caused unbearable pains with 90 per cent of the state representing seven local government areas submerged.
The situation is pathetic and tragic, throwing up series of humanitarian challenges. Over 700,000 residents from 300 communities were badly affected. Yenagoa, the state capital, was not spared.
Days before the flood came calling, Governor Douye Diri was in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, for the kick-off of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).
Immediately the waters surged, swallowing the state and its critical infrastructure and sacking people from their homes, he raced back home. His instant reaction: “From my personal assessment, the situation is dire. Nearly a million people in over 300 communities have been internally displaced. Unfortunately, some deaths have been reported.
“The narrative is the same across Sagbama, Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw, Ogbia, Yenagoa, Nembe and Kolokuma Opokuma local government areas.
Businesses have been shut, properties lost and farm lands destroyed.
We have a humanitarian crisis.
“I know that we are all impacted by this situation, either directly or indirectly. I am also not unaware of the support and love you have shown to one another at this time of adversity. I am deeply inspired by your resilience and solidarity. This is the authentic Ijaw spirit.
I salute you all.
“We serve a miraculous God who will not leave us nor forsake us. Be assured and strengthened by the words from our state memory verse in Isaiah 41:10: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’ This too
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, was bewildered when he visited. And he displayed it: “I was involved in flooding as governor in 2012. I have not seen what I saw in Bayelsa.
This is the third place I am visiting.
“I can say the Federal Government should declare an emergency using Bayelsa as a point considering the strategic importance of Bayelsa to Nigeria. There is no way what is happening here that a state can cope with it. I have seen the governor go to one or two places.
Thank you very much for remaining strong in this very disastrous situation. Everywhere in Bayelsa is under water. Bayelsa at this stage needs support. What I saw here is unimaginable.”
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom also visited.
He came with members of his state executive council. He told Diri: “The destinies of millions of our people are tied to your own. You have tried to show that you care and restore hope.
“That show of care strengthens your people in spite of the dire situation the flood had put them.” He thereafter presented a cheque of N100 million and a truckload of relief materials from his wife’s Family Empowerment Programme Foundation Diri responded: “We see you not only as a friend but also a brother.
It is a trying time for us. This is the time we need leaders not politicians. And you have proved to be a true leader. The cheque of N100 million will be judiciously used and accounted for. You have done what a brother should do.”
Chairman, Bayelsa Elders Council, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, said Diri demonstrated courage and determination in the face of the disaster: “This given comfort and hope to the residents.”
Diri accompanied by his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, visited Southern Ijaw particularly Oporoma, headquarters of the council and met with flood victims. In Ekeremor Local Government, Diri refused the use of a canoe to tour affected areas. He offered to walk in the waters like the flood victims. He was in Ekeremor main town, Isampou, Aleibiri, Ayamasa, Ofoni and Toru- Orua.
At Zarama and Okordia, Yenagoa Local Government and Kalama in Kolokuma/Opokuma LG, Diri stressed that the compassion of a true leader should not be felt only during electioneering but also in times of distress.
He emphasised the need for all to be their brother’s keeper, particularly in this trying times: “Natural disaster is no respecter of political parties or ethnicity.”
He was particular about the distribution of relief materials. He cautioned officials in charge of the distribution to be non-partisan, as the disaster knows no political party.
Former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan whose country home was equally submerged called for help: “I am touched by the dire situation in some of the affected states, especially my home state, Bayelsa, where almost all the local government areas are submerged in water and the East-West Road section. The state has become impassable, creating scarcity of food and essential commodities.
“Today, I visited Otuoke, my community and a few others to have an assessment of the impact of the flood. It is still a depressing situation in many of the affected communities, the magnitude of the flood and the disruption and destruction it has caused.
“This is a moment of crisis. We need to work in unity to achieve the goal of giving hope and providing succour to all victims.
“I urge all citizens of goodwill and humanitarian agencies to demonstrate solidarity with these victims and provide support to those affected.”
Diri appreciated those who had come to the aid of the state: “Let me use this opportunity to appreciate those who have shown themselves as our true friends and brothers. We called for help and God has sent helpers. We say thank you to those that have come through for us so far. We will publish all donations received.
“We appreciate our former VP Atiku Abubakar for his philanthropy and empathy towards our people. We also received my brother governor from Akwa Ibom State. He did not just visit but he also donated N100 million. We thank the people of Akwa Ibom for their show of brotherliness.
“I also acknowledge a letter from the Governor of Lagos State. Within this period, a son of the soil, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, visited and made a pledge of N350 million worth of food items.
“Let me also appreciate the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Oladayo Amao, for the support of the Nigerian Air Force. We procured some items and because the road into our state has been cut off, we approached the Air Force and they obliged to airlift what we bought from Abuja to Port Harcourt and to Yenagoa. The Bayelsa State Government bought the items.”