By Chidera Michaels
The spigot from which all the evils bedeviling our people cascade is the stupefying dumbfoundedness of our leaders. That’s common knowledge. Their superfluous narcissism is rampant and bewildering. Besides all other problems besetting our people, the incessant flooding is hard to understand. We have water-related problems in the eastern part of the country. The recurring decimal is that people’s property and houses are drowned and destroyed by floodwater, the blacktops on the roadways are washed away, and there are no viable seaports or jetties on our seas and waterways. The absence of seaports and jetties is shocking since business is the life wire of people in that part of the country. And so, it seems to me that migrating from the eastern states en masse to other parts of the country in search of the amenities we can provide for ourselves is as dumb as it gets.
The ravages of floodwater are not new in the eastern part of that country. Kogi State and some other western states experience this problem as well. Of course, you could try to hide behind global warming as being a contributory factor in the constant flooding. But that suggests that other factors responsible for these floodings are under control. And this is where I come down on this: Checking floodwater is not the same thing as inventing a cure for cancer. Nor is it akin to finding a solution to world peace. Put simply, controlling erosion is not rocket science at all.
A second-year civil engineering student can design a sewage system to channel the floodwaters away from the surface into an underground sewage system. However, for that to happen, a sewage system must be built to receive the colossal amount of floodwater generated in the area. Given the perennial nature of the problem, it boggles the mind that this situation hasn’t been taken care of long before now. Whenever I see the few paved roads asphalted in the southeast with their shallow and narrow gutters (which usually get filled up with refuse and sand quickly), I wonder what the governments that designed such channels were thinking.
I said in an article I published in September of 2021: “Because of the menace of erosion in the Eastern region, an underground drainage system must be constructed so that floodwater is directed away from the surface. This is how it is done in advanced countries. Many cities and towns in Europe and America are under sea level. These cities and towns would be under the ocean without adequate erosion checks. New Orleans in the State of Louisiana is one such city. Others are Salton City in the State of California, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Copenhagen in Denmark. But the residents of these cities do not regularly complain that erosion is destroying their houses, as appears to be in eastern Nigeria. Our towns and cities are not under sea level. So, our erosion problem is nothing that an effective erosion check cannot take care of.”
But of course, a lack of a better sewage system is not the only thing responsible for this continued flooding. It has been widely noted that blocking the path of floodwaters with buildings and other structures is perhaps the leading cause of flooding in that part of the country. A prevailing phenomenon that is as disgusting as it is deplorable is the practice amongst the wealthy and influential in our society to show that they can defy the law without consequences. Such people built many houses and structures blocking the floodwater paths. In most cases, the buildings are situated close to the tip of busy roads and streets. And because these individuals are well off, the government does not torch such buildings.
Recently, however, the government of Anambra State appeared to have made a public spectacle of removing some of such structures from the flood paths. I am yet to see whether that was a mere show or a determined effort by the government to reopen the blocked flood paths.
Dredging the rivers and streams and widening and deepening the gutters will surely help in this effort. But dredging the River Niger will also help tackle the other reason our businessmen and women developed the habit of migrating out of the east in droves. I am told that eastern Nigerians have deserted the east in their thousands to Lagos and other areas because there is no viable seaport in the entire east. For a long time, I didn’t realize that state governments or private business entities could build and operate seaports and jetties by obtaining licenses from the federal government. So, why hadn’t the eastern states’ governments sought the rights to revitalize and operate the seaports at Warri, Port Harcourt, and Calabar? That may sound like a good question. However, I am aware that this is Nigeria. Because the Nigerian law allows such a practice does not mean that the eastern states’ governments would be given such licenses. One of the reasons for harboring such paranoia is the hostility of some influential Nigerians towards the Igbos of eastern Nigeria. An example is the published audio of the venom spewed by Kashim Shettima, the APC’s vice-presidential candidate, against the Igbos.
The article I referenced above, published in September 2021, said in a section of it: “The seaports at Warri, Port Harcourt, and Calabar must be revitalized and opened for business with all urgency. And the River Niger must be dredged and expanded to allow ships to reach Onitsha. The Suez and the Panama canals are artificial waterways created by linking oceans and seas where none existed before. The Suez Canal is 193 kilometers (120 miles) long, 24 meters (26 yards) deep, and 205 meters (244 yards) wide. And it was created to link the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The Panama Canal is an 82-kilometer (51 miles) waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. But the distance from Onitsha to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 175 kilometers. This is a distance of 109 miles. And the area to be dredged along the River Niger already has water running through it, unlike the Suez and the Panama Canals. Therefore, the river only needs to be expanded and deepened. It should be done with dispatch to allow ships to reach Onitsha.”
So, the situation begs these questions: Why haven’t such oil-rich states like Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River gotten such licenses from the federal government to either revitalize or build new seaports along their coasts? If a single state couldn’t do it alone, did they ask their contiguous states or the southeastern states to partner with them in the venture? On the alternative, why won’t the southeastern and southsouthern states unite to build one world-class seaport in the area? Should such a seaport be built in Warri or Port Harcourt, the Lagos seaport will become almost moribund in ten to twenty years.
Deviating slightly from the issue under discussion, has anyone noticed that the successive governors of Rivers State ran for President of Nigeria with the billions of naira they stole from the state government’s coffers? A fraction of this stolen money spent on their elusive presidential ambitions could have been used to expand, equip, and modernize the seaport at Onne. He could have immortalized his name forever if any of them had done this.
But forget the governors of the southeast and southsouth for a moment for being insatiable money-grubbing jerks. What about the business moguls in the eastern states? I’m talking about wealthy traders whose businesses depend on importing and exporting goods. So, what’s stopping them from pulling their resources together to build or revitalize one of the existing seaports in the eastern states? Ten or more billionaires from Anambra State alone could finance such a venture.
And here’s the perennial question that’s been bandied about for quite some time: Why do the Igbo businessmen and women in Lagos consent to being taken for suckers by the Lagos State government? Why are they constantly being asked to reclaim lands in Lagos State’s swampy creeks only to be evicted from the lands they reclaimed about a decade later? What’s up with that deal? Why can’t they see that they are being played for chumps? Don’t these wealthy Igbos in Lagos have any dignity? What must happen before they grow some senses? Do you smell another “Abandoned Property” imbroglio on the horizon as I do? That is possible, you know, should the Lagos State government have its way! Remember “Aku lue uno?” Translation: When wealth is brought home, it dignifies the one that accumulated and got it home. I’ve heard the Igbos described as being as smart as hell all my life. Where’s the proof?
♦ The opinion expressed in this article are the author’s and does not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Awka Times. Chidera Michaels is an attorney and a Christian theologian based in Baltimore, MD, United States (email: email@example.com).