Thursday, October 13, 2022
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Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)

"The kind of over flooding we are experiencing in Nigeria nowadays, is not all that a natural phenomenon or disaster. The excessive over flooding we are experiencing this year in Nigeria, for example, is preventable as it is artificial and manmade. Since, it is largely caused by lack of good-will, and by negligence, incompetence and government of mediocrity and lopsidedness!"

'Chike and the River', is a title of a novel for children written by Prof. Chinua Achebe many years ago, and which was read in Secondary Schools in those days by my generation. The continued over-flooding we have been experiencing in Nigeria these days, and over the years, without anything tangible been done to checkmate it, reminds one of that Achebe's novel, 'Chike and the River.'

he over-flooding of lowlands along the banks of River Niger and its surrounding rivers and tributaries, this year 2022, brings to our memory, the story in Chinua Achebe's epic, children's novel, "Chike and the River", the deep significance of what Achebe was trying to communicate to us all in that novel. The novel as we know, was about how our people living on both sides of the East and West of River Niger, or rather, between the Cities of Onitsha and Asaba, never saw the River Niger as a barrier or obstacle, even as at that time of 'Chike and the River', when the Niger Bridge was not yet built. It was Nnamdi Azikiwe's NCNC Government, that later built the Niger Bridge. But that came years after the story that was told by Achebe in 'Chike and the River.'

This Over-Flooding: Is it Natural or Human Negligence/Manmade?

It is painful that the last time some attempts at dredging River Niger at Onitsha axis of the River was made, was before the Nigeria-Biafra War. Since then, not even the River Niger banks and its tributaries, like Rivers Anambra, Benue, and so forth, were seen by the successive Nigerian Governments as a priority, deserving attention for dredging. That is, to help, prevent collateral destructions and damages like what we are seeing this year. As well as, to save lives and means of livelihood, and ancestral and agricultural lands of the people living along the lowlands of the Rivers Niger and Benue and their tributaries, like Anambra, Imo, among other rivers. And of the people living within the Niger Delta Confluence Rivers and their Tributaries! As things are today, most people of those areas have felt abandoned to their fate by the Nigerian State!

But the question is? What is the big deal in dredging River Niger and its surrounding tributaries that the successive Nigerian Governments to the present dispensation, have refused to commit themselves and money to doing, to save lives and means of livelihood of the people living along the lowlands of those Rivers' banks? Why have successive Nigerian governments since after the war in 1970, refused to do something about Rivers Niger and Benue, in the areas of dredging to save lives and means of livelihood of the inhabitants and the nation at large?

We should not forget that almost all the major and most important cities and regions of the developed countries in Europe, Americas, and in other countries of the world, are located within the banks and lowlands of big rivers and seas and oceans! For example, the Capital Cities, and Agricultural and Industrial centres of countries of Europe, are basically, located along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and its tributaries; or within the lowlands and river banks of the other equally big Seas and Rivers in Europe.

Cities like Paris, Rome, Berlin, Zurich, Bonn, London, to mention but a few, are located near the coasts of Mediterranean Sea and its Rivers! Each of these European countries' Cities and Capitals, is traversed by some big rivers. E.g., in Germany, river, such as the Rhine River that passes through, and that traverses all the major cities and regions of Germany and neighbouring countries, is another egregious example!

What of the Trastevere River in Rome, tributary of Mediterranean Sea, that traverses across the entire City of Rome, dividing the city into two by its waters! But these waters are never seen as a problem or obstacle, and never have their lowlands ever over flood the nearby cities, towns or villages! This is because the river was dredged many years ago and is on daily check and maintenance by successive governments! The same is the case with the rivers that passed through the Cities of Paris, Berlin, Zurich, Prague, London, etc. Each of these European cities has its Rivers cut across it. Never are the waters of those Rivers seen as obstacles for human activities and mobility in any of those places.

The rivers and its tributaries are not only dredged, but multiple bridges are build across those cities' rivers for easy human mobility and business activities! E.g., within the city of Rome, there are about 14 Bridges built across the Trastevere River, that often if you are a visitor to the City, you may be passing through those bridges with buses or metropolitan trains, without knowing it. The same is obtainable in the other European Countries and Cities, and in the United States of America, Canada, and Latin American countries. In the US, for example, the City of New York and New Jersey lay on both sides of the Hudson River, and are linked with bridges here and there. The same with all other major cities in the US, including, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, Houston, Los Angels, San Francisco, among others. They are all founded along the lowlands of rivers and of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans' coastal zones.

All these are possible because, the governments of those countries made dredging of their rivers and waters a priority. The question is, 'can Nigerian Government ever see dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue, among others, to checkmate the dangers posed by excessive over flooding during rainy season, a priority? Your guess is as good as mine!

Put in a different way: 'Is a nation building, that includes, dredging our rivers to save lives and means of livelihood of citizens, really a priority for the leaders and governments that are piloting the affairs of the Nigerian State? As it was never the priority of the previous Nigerian governments since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War in 1970?' And since the recent events in the country have clearly shown that the government of the day, like the ones that preceded it, may have another priority or agenda of theirs that can be anything other than dredging rivers Niger and Benue to checkmate excessive over-flooding during rainy season. Since the government has never seen as a priority, the dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue and their tributaries, that pass across our villages, towns and cities in different parts of the country?'

This is because, it is not today that experts have identified the major source of this constant dangerous over flooding happening along the lowlands of Rivers Niger, Benue, Anambra, Imo, etc. The over flooding occurs each rainy and flood season, when the other neighbouring West African countries like Cameroun, Niger Republic, Guinea, etc., that share the River Niger with Nigeria, release the excess waters from some of their big dams. That is, those West African countries located along the upland of Rivers Niger and Benue, each they release the waters from their big Dams, Nigeria is bound to experience this type of an excessive, over flooding! This has been happening over, and over again, over the past years! Yet, the successive Nigerian governments have refused to do something about it!

At least, since we cannot stop those countries from easing the waters from their overfilled Dams during rainy season, which help them to release their excess waters, to flow down to the Atlantic Ocean and free their farmlands for another season of farming! However, there is something, we, as a country or government of Nigeria can do. That is, if we really are serious as a nation state to do something in this regard! What we are expected to do, as a serious nation state, that is, if we are really serious about nation-building, is to dredge River Niger and some of its major tributaries! And then channel and redirect those excess waters coming from those other West African countries that share River Niger with us, to other beneficial use in Nigeria!

What do I mean? The Nigerian Government, if it is serious about serving the people and the nation-building, should, instead, of abandoning the people living along the lowlands of the Rivers Niger, Benue, etc., to their fate, embark on dredging the Rivers Niger and Benue. That is, to redirect and collect those excess waters coming from other countries, redirect them through dredging the River Niger and its tributaries. Then, channel and redirect the excess waters for other beneficial use, to Nigeria's hinterlands. For example, redirect and channel them for irrigation, and to Nigeria's hinterland, for Cattle Grazing. And this will solve most of problems connected with open-grazing and irrigation that is almost tearing the country apart today under the present dispensation.

The kind of over flooding we are experiencing in Nigeria nowadays, is not all that a natural phenomenon or disaster. The excessive over flooding we are experiencing this year in Nigeria, for example, is preventable as it is artificial and manmade. Since, it is largely, caused by lack of goodwill, and by negligence, incompetence and government of mediocrity and lopsidedness!

Is this not one of the major reasons there are growing agitations for Referendum for Self-determination and independence among some of major indigenous ethnic nationalities, like Biafra and Oduduwa Nations in Southern Nigeria, respectively? People who have come to say, enough is enough!

Those in government in Nigeria know what to do to mitigate and prevent, these collateral damages been done by over-flooding to the peasants and poor people living along the lowland areas of Rivers Niger and Benue, and their tributary rivers, among others. Unfortunately, the government has time and time again, proves that it lacks the good-will, the capacity and interest, as well as the requisite leadership acumen, knowledge and foresight, to do the simple thing, of what it is expected of it in this regard!

This is the problem; one of the major reasons for Nigeria's continued slide to backwardness and underdevelopment.