Rivers Flooding: A Mixture of Ignorance and Politics

by Odimegwu Onwumere

It was Carl Sagan who said that we have arranged things so that almost no
one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for
disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this
combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our
faces. And Rush Limbaugh added that the future is not Big Government,
Self-serving politicians, Powerful bureaucrats. These have been tried,
tested throughout history. The result has always been disaster…

The result of the mixture of ignorance and power has been disaster in
Rivers State. The Treasure base of the Nation has had its own share of the
combusting ignorance in the form of flooding that meted out its ugly visit
to many towns and villages across the state. With an assumed seven hundred
thousand people in number who were affected by the flooding and about eight
hundred thousand communities that were inline affected, it’s no child’s
play that ignorance was really out to pay humanity back for suppressing
nature since the world began. Is it however commendable to all the people
who in one way or the other have made sure that the victims of the flooding
did not have double date with the surge and poverty? If individuals had
tried real well in helping, does the state government needs to be commended
for setting-up committees upon committee to address the need of the victims
and the affected areas?

There are more to prevention than healing. Though, no one can hold back
nature. But with an honest planning, nature would not have its full weight
against the people at will. It could be recalled that on 25th February
2011, the Rivers State Government said that rains would be very immense
than that of any other past years, and would generate an untold flooding.
The state government through its Commissioner for Information and
Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, made this known in Port Harcourt, the
capital of the state. It was after a State Executive Council meeting of
Wednesday 23rd February, 2011, the government said that its information was
based on the meteorological details on Rivers State. The Rivers State
Government was perhaps out to draw the love and pity of the residents, and
it said that it had set-up two committees that would ensure that effective
flood control was in place.

In all manner of truth, it was obvious that the committees died immediately
they were set-up. The Rivers State Government did not take the warning on
flooding seriously, perchance it thought that everything was politics and a
mixture of power between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the
always crying Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, hence it felt
that there was no need to be afraid about the meteorological warning.

Hardly has any nation stood the large amount of water covering an area that
is usually dry. And the developed world knows this, but not in Rivers
State. The flooding in Rivers State has only succeeded to become a contact
point for politicians to sell their political quests to the public with the
glaring pretense that they care for them. Literally, this is falsehood.
Some of them who had not come home for so long from their residences
outside the Rivers State are today at home and making promises and all that
crab foster they said that they were giving to the victims of the flooding.

These politicians did not inform the Rivers State Government before today,
when the warning came, that there are no internationally standard drainages
in the state that would absorb the overspill from the river channel, local
rainfall and run-off, and tides, which are the causes of flood. They,
perhaps, thought that it was going to be the usual Ikwerre Road or Oyigbo
kind-of flooding, but not knowing that Amadioha was out with a different
package of flooding to expose the government. And it has been exposed
beyond doubt, with Riverine flooding, which is a function of precipitation
and water runoff volumes within the watershed of the stream or river and
with the Coastal flooding, which is typically a result of storm surge,
wind-drive waves, and heavy rainfall. This was also how in 2006, Port
Harcourt experienced an unprecedented flooding that submerged houses,
paralyzed economic activities and rendered some residents of the Mgbuoba,
Diobu and Nkpolu areas internally displaced.

What happened? Everyday, the Government of Rivers State and its agents are
mouthing of stopping the burning of oil and gas and fossil energy which
have built up CO2 round the environment; and the Greenhouse gases in Rivers
State are affecting the atmosphere badly. While experts had warned about
global warming that would hit Rivers State, her managers were significantly
recalcitrant to the global warming through the flaring of gas, which is
produced in the state in every barrel of oil, but they were ever ready to
solidify politics. The environment of the state is not favourable due to
man’s exploitation of nature and his ignorance to re-building nature.

We should reject this! But is this shrug-manner in handling things, the
same way earthquake would be handled, should it occur in Rivers State?
Rivers State has not gotten it right environmentally since the World
Environment Day was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972.
And Rivers State was created in 1967. The 5th of June every year, set aside
as World Environment Day, has not helped matters. As the principal vehicle
for stimulating world-wide awareness about the environment to enhance
political attention and action, the World Environment Day was created by
the United Nations General Assembly. The 2007 celebration of climate change
was themed: “climate change”. The world held a conference at the polar city
of Tromse in Norway. This was in view of the hot topic of melting ice. But
did Rivers State follow-up with the warnings?

Which warning had Rivers State paid heed to or celebrated since the
meteorological report hit town early 2011? As part of the Niger Delta,
Rivers State is subjected to flooding due to the overflow banks of rivers.
What warning that River State saw in February 2011, had been a prediction
that there would be rise of sea level caused by climate change in the Niger
Delta. The problem now is that the lowlands of the area shall be exposed to
higher risks with flooding, causing salt water to flood coastal lands
culminating to infertile lands for agriculture. Asia, Europe and South
America also experienced heavy showers and storms in 2002. The United
States also experienced severe drought.

So, it was being economical with the truth for the State Government to give
specifics of the areas that were affected by the flooding. It won’t be
gainsaying that the whole of Rivers State is affected by flooding. A suburb
of Port Harcourt called Oyigbo is in a sorry state of environmental
degradation today. It is still in the bracket what the Rivers State
Ministry of Environment, joined the world to celebrate at the main bowl of
the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre in Port Harcourt, in 2008, during the
year’s World Environment Day. The state government tagged it, “Climate
Change, Kick The Habit: Towards a Low Carbon Economy’. It said that it was
creating awareness on the consequences of climate change.

Followed by Governor Chibuike Amaechi who was represented by the then Mr.
George Priye, Commissioner for Budget, he said: “The World Environment Day
celebration is to reflect on the importance of environment and simulate
political attention and action on our collective sphere. We have to impress
on public and private organizations to give a human face to all

ntal actions, to issues of energy consumption and products of
carbon in this section of the earth. Individuals can also join to keep the
environment clean by the green tree planting campaign.” And Amaechi started
planting trees or flowers? The ones millions of naira were expended for
that survived, or that died?

Also, the then Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Kingsley Chinda said: “We
want both primary and secondary schools to begin the formation of
environmental clubs. The schools present here should nominate their
representatives with their leading teachers being in charge. All the
schools in Rivers State will have environmental clubs, which the Ministry
would be aware of…Something has to be done to safeguard our environment.”
(Chinda said this in a chat with journalists after the programme).

Also, the chairman of the occasion, Prof. D.M. Baridam, then Vice
Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, said: “We can rightfully say that
Nigeria is fortunate enough to have a moderate weather in most parts of the
country. Climate change and happenings are challenging our lifestyle and
eco-system. Our dependence on carbon based energy has caused a significant
build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere throughout the universe.
Unless we continue to create awareness on the consequences of climate
change, eradication of poverty and promoting normalcy and political
stability will be hard to achieve. We must beat the carbon habit. We need
to give a human face to environment issues and empower ourselves to become
active agents of sustainable and equitable development, promote the
understanding that communities are pilot in changing attitude towards
environmental issues”.

Amaechi had attributed problems in the oil and gas sector in the country to
faulty policy frameworks, in an indication at a dinner for delegates to the
first Port Harcourt International Oil and Gas Summit organised by the State
Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources at Government House, Port
Harcourt, 2010. The governor, also, through Ikuru, regretted the wastage of
the nation’s abundant gas endowment through flaring, saying it was ironical
that scarce resources are still spent on the purchase of the product for
cooking and other uses, expressing the hope that the trend would soon

Today, Amaechi has through Ikuru again, called on the National Emergency
Management Agency (NEMA) to intensify its endeavours in the stipulation of
relief materials to the people in Rivers State that were affected by the
flooding. In earnest, do the people need the donation of relief items that
include 500 units of mattresses, 200 bags of rice, beans, vegetable oil,
clothing, mosquito nets, among others? Do the people not need a state
government that was already prepared to lifting the people up from their
predicament when there is such occurrence than a government that would be
running helter-skelter looking for assistance? What is the ‘adequate’ in
the step that the state government took? Is it in the camping and catering
for the welfare of the flood victims, when virtually all the villages and
towns in the state are in total menace of overflooding and lowflooding
resulting to environmental degradation? It is political for any group or
body to say that the state government promptly addressed the plight of
communities and persons affected by the surging floods (in the past two
weeks), whereas flooding had been a recurrent decimal in the state, and the
state government has not yet addressed the poser that the weather experts
raised in 2011? Yours truly had at times spoken-well-of this government,
but after the honour, it has been observed that things get worse than they

Anybody saying that this is the first time since 1969 that the state would
be experiencing such flooding is just being political. Did the person
remember the 2006 flooding in Port Harcourt? Anyway, Rivers State cannot
run away from climate change, which was generated by human actions. But
Rivers State Government must put all hands on the deck to cut down politics
from its activities. Rivers State has to follow the outcome of the
convention of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which midwives
the Framework Convention (FC), which is an environmental treaty signed by
leaders from 155 (now 166) countries at the earth summit. Rivers State
should remember that ten years latter, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the
world summit on Sustainable Development was held; and these Conferences
have done much to bring about a general consensus among scientists and
policymakers with regard to climate change.

But was that applicable to Rivers State? It behooves all the people who are
playing ‘busy body’ or politics with the flooding by amplifying this and
that they have donated to tell the Rivers State Government that it should
go back to the warning of the experts and put its house in order, else
these noise-makings about the flooding is sheer ignorance, and will
continue to tell again what Carl Sagan said that we have arranged things so
that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a
prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but
sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to
blow up in our faces. And Rush Limbaugh added that the future is not Big
Government, Self-serving politicians, Powerful bureaucrats. These have been
tried, tested throughout history. The result has always been disaster…
Because the flooding has not come to an end.

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