VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you” – Ernest Hemmingway
‘Tick says the clock tick, tick, what you have to do, do quick’ – Nursery rhyme
When what is called natural disasters – earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, landslide, mudslide, etc., strike abroad, we Nigerians are fond of saying rather gloatingly, ‘Thank God, we are a blessed country, Nigeria is not prone to such occurrences’. And so we very often ignore such happenings which we consider to be the staple of distant lands, paying little or no attention to them. Apart from the initial reports and front page headlines given them by our media which seemingly shock us because of their unimaginable ferocity, we very often soon forget them, turning our attention to more ‘pressing’ things. That is, the hustle and bustle to make ends meet with its accompanying rat race. Our media headlines also change within 24 hours to nagging domestic (home affairs).We shrug our shoulders in indifference because they are happening in far flung countries, thousands of miles from us. The usual refrain is, “Wetin concern agbero with overload”. Then they are completely erased from our memory until the next one occurs. So the cycle goes.
Not even the fact that these natural disasters’ are occurring more often has made us stop on our tracks to reflect more deeply about them. Nor the fact that we can so to speak, relate with two such types of disasters – floods and fires – even if they appear to be on a ‘small scale’ compared to what is happening abroad. It is true that we have not had cases of forest fires that burn for days and weeks on end as happens in the United States of America and Latin America. Nonetheless, we have had in recent times, cases of fire incidents nationwide destroying properties worth billions of naira and even claiming human lives. Our country has not experienced a Tsunami but we are well familiar with flooding that destroy crops and render thousands homeless. True again, they have not gotten to the level where streets are washed away and flattened as we see elsewhere in the media. Fact of the matter however, is that they are coming and they will definitely get to us at some point in time. If anything these natural disasters are coming nearer home to us, to our country.
We used to associate earthquakes with far away Japan, the continent of Asia generally. Then we started hearing of them in the United States with accompanying hurricanes. Canada only recently reported that two months of rain fell in just 24 hours, bursting dams and sweeping away parked cars, boats and houses. Europe with its unpredictable weather, rainfalls and ferocious floods has become common. Now it has reached Africa.
Years ago, it was the Nyos mountain in Cameroun that spit out its deadly contents of steaming ashes, etc., downhill over hundreds and hundreds of kilometres, literally wiping off everything on its path, including plants, crops and humans. And then this year, came an earthquake in Mozambique and now Democratic Republic of Congo Kenya have just experienced landslides and floods that left dozens dead and several others missing (buried underneath). Can we still remain indifferent to the looming natural disasters around us, in our world? We live in an era where what was once thought impossible now occurs and with uncanny rapidity. Who could have thought that earthquakes/landslides could occur in our backyard – East Africa? Let us not ask for whom the bells are tolling for they are indeed tolling for us.
The tolling bells in the form of the many natural disasters occurring in multiple forms and in quick succession are a warning signal for us to be doubly alert; to take a retrospective look at ourselves, to begin to ask ourselves the great questions of life; to reflect deeply on how we have been carrying on here on earth, how we have been living our life and make amends for good.
For, indeed, all of these have been brought about through our wrong ways of living. We human beings have been a bad housekeeper as we are about to completely damage our environment, the earth, made over to us by Nature for our temporary abode, through our bad habits. And this has dire consequences for humans, plants and animals. For example, the sun has a natural covering around it to protect the earth and those living on it from its direct rays. Through mankind’s bad habits, this ozone layer is now gradually peeling off thereby increasing the sun’s rays on our environment and with it rising temperatures (heat), etc.
World leaders allude to climate change as reason for the natural disasters we are all now experiencing. They have been meeting in series upon series of conferences over it while scientists have been digging up tons and tons of research materials on it.
Yet they have not been able to stem these natural disasters. Technological inventions can indeed help in determining when they will strike in a particular place/zone, but cannot stop them. Yes, it is climate change for the simple reason that our climate has indeed changed. But what is the reason for the change? That is a question our worldly scientists have not been able to answer fully.
Simply, the reason for the confusion today in our world, including the confusion of climate change with its concomitant dire effects is mankind’s wrong ways of living, bad habits over millennia which have now so literally weighed down our earth that it has veered off its orbit, course, bringing with it, distortions of all kinds.
The big question is, are we prepared, individually and collectively as a country and comity of nations for these natural disasters? One does not mean the establishment of disaster management agencies like the national/state emergency management agencies or the federal ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management which only deal with the peripheral issues essentially. I mean are we fully equipped, consciously to be able to withstand these coming natural disasters?
Yes, if we learn to thoroughly know Nature which prepared this environment for us to live in, keep everything in their natural order and not disarrange things through our bad ways in thoughts and deeds that bring about disorder, disharmony, confusion. In brief we must adjust our ways and obey the laws of Nature. But will there be time enough for us to make amends? I wonder. Tick says the clock, tick, tick, what you have to do, do quick!
Ikeano, a journalist, writes from Lafia via [email protected]