The rain of pain
By Bayo Fasunwon
In the 90s, a period of drought threatened the nation. Farmers, civil servants and even the unemployed prayed that the dusts would give way to a cool atmosphere. Famine stared people in the face, and prayers were sought to God as was in the days of Elijah. Then came a reggae artist in the cloak of a prophet. He rang his bell calling on the Almighty Jah. He told Jah to send down the rain. His name is Majek Fashek.
Whenever and wherever he sang the song, rain fell to the amazement and gratitude of all and sundry. The song opened a new vista to reggae music, Tabansi records came into the limelight, and Majek Fashek came into the limelight. From Africa to Europe, his name became a household item. To many, Bob Marley had reincarnated in Nigeria. However, alas, the rain came down and Majek Fashek’s reign was short-lived. The rain fame brought him into an unholy romance with drugs. The rain brought drought into his life, and the shining star dimmed before the night fell. It was a rain of pain.
Such was the scenario for many people when the rains of 2019 came calling. The long awaited rain came with storms and winds. The roofs of many houses were blown off; many fences were pulled down while some houses collapsed under the pressure of water and wind. In the previous years, many houses were submerged by water from dams, many property owners and tenants were sacked from their houses in Lekki and many parts of Lagos. Properties worth millions of naira were lost to the rainstorms, while motor able roads became a veritable environment for canoes to thrive. The farmers who had prayed for rain also lament on the havoc it caused on their farmlands, destroying and sweeping plants and harvested crops. Such was the nature of the rain of pain.
Rain is a natural occurrence that sustains life and living. By it, farmers have bountiful harvests, while heat and dust become a forgotten cause of illness amongst mortals. Therefore, rain cannot be wished away despite the havoc that comes with it. However, rain in itself is not a disaster. Disasters and tears are often the handiwork of human beings. Incessant rain releases flood into various communities when the drainages are nonexistent, blocked, or too shallow. Often times, the lack of adequate means of waste disposal predisposes the undisciplined to releasing their dirt into the gutters or waterways thereby causing a blockade of water channels. In addition to this, government’s contractors construct shallow gutters that could not sustain the volume of run-off water. In most cases, houses are built without the construction of gutters for water control and direction. Given all these human failures, water would always find the place of least resistance to maneuver; any obstacle that resists its kinetic energy would be brought down. This therefore accounts for collapsed buildings and sometimes bridges. Furthermore, lands are sold by Shylock ‘landowners’ without a layout that gives way to the free flow of water. It is therefore uncommon to see people building on waterways, thereby obstructing water flows. The diversion of the natural course of water gives it no opportunity than to veer off its regular paths and cause flooding and havoc.
Through personal observation, the quest for development and urbanisation sometimes account for the transformation of rain to pain. While development is a desirable activity, it also causes displacement. For example, the ongoing road dualisation projects in the Akoko North East local government would encourage flooding for the people of Sabo and Ugbe areas of the local government. Gutters have been enlarged and reconstructed, and rainwater is being controlled from the market area and Ugbe to adjoin the notorious River Dada at the Jubilee area. The course of the River (which in reality is a passage route for runoff water) passes through the Sabo area and the inhabitants of Alhaja Shifau Street in Ugbe before linking with Iboropa Road Bridge (which is also being threatened). The volume of water is such that it causes a lot of flooding and damages in the wet seasons. Given the reconstruction of drainages, there is a need for the dredging and re-channelisation of the entire course of River Dada in order to give the inhabitants of these areas a breath of life. Beyond re-channelisation, a permanent solution would be the construction of solid water channels for the entire length of the course of the River (as was done in Ogunpa, Oyo State). To this end therefore, the State government needs to visit these areas, and travel the whole length of the watercourse and apply for ecological funds to overcome the menace of River Dada on the hardworking people of Ondo State.
The havoc of rainstorms is also preventable if people would also imbibe the habit of tree planting that would act as windbreaks. As long as the wind is given a free way during storms, it becomes quite easy to uproot roots, pull down fences also cause many havocs. The planting of trees however must also be accompanied by the creation of clear waterways on the roads and houses in order to control the direction of water and thus prevent the destruction of house foundations and soak ways. The local governments ought to up their game in the continuous construction and removal of debris and dirt from the gutters. Once the gutters are blocked, the runoff water would always seek its level and destroy homes. In addition to this, the local government sanitation officials ought to carry out surveillance checks as it rains. This would enable them to see, arrest and prosecute those who have made it a habit of throwing wastes into the gutter ways during the rain. In order to achieve this, the local government should provide its men with raincoats, boots, and Hilux Vans that would aid them in their surveillance. As a prelude to this, the government must ensure that its waste disposal units and programmes are effective and affordable in order to deter the populace from seeking unethical methods of waste disposal that would endanger the community at large.
It is also pertinent to note that many buildings that give way during rainstorms are old, dilapidated, or constructed with cheap materials. It is unfortunate that government could not provide affordable and durable houses for her citizens. The quest for home ownership therefore propels many to build their individual houses. Given the high cost of building materials, many builders and intending homeowners use feeble materials to build. These types of buildings normally give way to storms. While it is advisable that efforts should be put in place to reduce the cost of building and buildings, government can also encourage her workers by making sufficient loans available for building durable homes. As it is in Nigeria now, a loan of one million naira cannot build such homes. If the Government can also construct low cost housings and release such to citizens to pay over a long period, the problems of layout, durability, and sustainability would be solved.
Finally, I commend the government for sending relief materials to the victims of the recent rainstorms that rendered them homeless. These relief materials may not be enough to give the victims a decent housing compared to the ones they had lost, but it showed a government that cares. Nevertheless, Government should also realize that prevention is always better than cure. May the rains of this year bring a bountiful harvest from the labours of our farmers?