Eleven days ago, the world stood still for Swedish girl, Greta Thumberg, who held world leaders by the jugular over their inaction in tackling the challenges posed by climate change.
What started as a one-girl-show in hallowed chamber of the Swedish parliament a year ago was to (later) metamorphose into a global phenomenon embraced by children and adults alike.
The pockets of protests penultimate Friday across the world said it all. For leaders with conscience, the challenge posed by Greta while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on climate change, is just enough to touch them all.
Striking the leaders with punchy words, the teenage Swedish activist roared: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us (the youth) for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! How dare you pretend this can be solved with just technical solution or business as usual?”
Like other parts of the world, Nigeria also has its own fair share of global warming which often results in some unpalatable consequences, with mostly children and women suffering the damning consequences.
From the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), for instance, came a frightening figure of 100 human lives (not animals) lost to various flood disasters in 10 of the nation’s 36 states, including the FCT, just this year alone so far. This is a figure that might, at the end of the year, surpass that of 2012 when about 140 people were reportedly killed and tens of thousands of others displaced.
I can bet this is just the official figures, given the intensity of torrential rainfall across the country. It is common knowledge that the heavy downpour in Abuja can’t really be compared to any other places in recent times. It is same old story in Kogi, Niger, Anambra, Delta and Bayelsa to mention but a few.
But what did we see while the global protests lasted? Our dear country chose to turn the other way. If my memory serves me right, the only visible protest was from Lagos. In fact, I sought to know how the protest went back home, and Helen, our environment reporter, said nothing really happened, not even from the government side. So, what does that say of us as a people?
As fate would have it, it was a day nature chose to pay an unpleasant visit to the pupils of Ezegbo Primary School Okukuwa, Amasea community, in Awka north local government area of Anambra state.
It’s more tragic when the children, who were supposed to be on the streets like Greta, never did so, but got driven out of school by the same flood in the sleepy settlement.
It’s however curious to know that while Greta is accusing world leaders of betrayal and inactions, the school’s headmistress, Mrs. Leticia Umeadi, believed there should be a spiritual solution to the unfortunate incident which, according to her was never experienced in the school in the last 12 years. She also made a case for some government’s interventions in terms of infrastructure.
Also, at about the same time the protest was on, another teenager, Hadiza Babayo, was arrested in Gombe for allegedly conniving with one Bala Shuaibu to kidnap her five-year-old cousin. So, between Greta and Hadiza are clear difference of what they symbolise. The two are symbolic of their societies and also creations of their societies. In a way, they hold the key to the future. But what future?
While the Hadiza ‘saga’ still remains at the level of allegation, what can one say of that 14-year-old Kosisochukwu Anioma, who feigned her own kidnap when in the actual fact, she was hibernating with a boyfriend in Owerri, Imo state? That shows how sick our society has become!
Worst still, the major event that dominated the media and public space on the day of ‘climate protest’ was the verdict by presidential election petition tribunal which shot down the petitions filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over the 2019 polls.
Similarly, two states that had been worst hit by floods in recent times – Bayelsa and Kogi –were so engrossed in the preparation for governorship election. The issue of climate change was not meant to be at the front burner for obvious reasons,,. elections!
Where were the pro-Buhari/pro-Atiku and their likes. I was wondering why they were not willing to encourage the Nigerian teenagers to equally protest the climate change phenomenon while the event lasted. Oh, they didn’t want to be accused of sabotaging the government! They were, however, quick to arrange one-million-man march in support of their protagonists at the slightest mobilisation. Nay, the security challenge the nation presently faces won’t allow such for it may be hijacked by hoodlums. Usually the common refrain!
Yes, President Muhammadu Buhari was at the United Nations General Assembly’s summit where he told the world what Nigeria intended doing for its populace suffering perennial flood disasters and other related calamities.
Specifically, he assured that his administration is more prepared to reverse the negative trend of climate change.
He said: “I want to announce that the government of Nigeria will develop a more robust sectoral action plan, and expand the scope of our Sovereign Green Bonds in line with our intended upward review of Nigeria’s NDC’s towards the inclusion of the water and waste sectors by 2020.
“In the energy sector, Nigeria is presently diversifying its energy sources from dependence on gas-powered system to hydro, solar, wind, biomass and nuclear sources. Specifically, Nigeria is progressively working to realize 30 per cent energy efficiency and renewable energy mix by 2030. This is envisaged to lead to 179 million tons of carbon dioxide reduction per annum by 2030”.
Like German leader, Angela Merkel, the Nigerian leader has set a target. But, the salient question is how achievable is the goal? Greta has led the way and it will be a big shame if we cannot follow through and hold our government accountable on this natural menace called climate change.
It’s high time we gave our youth the opportunity of a life time by letting them act where necessary rather than making them timid before their counterparts the world over.
But wait a minute! It should be noted that it’s not all about negativity among Nigeria’s teenagers. Quite recently, some young Nigerians showed how creative they can be. An instance of eight teenagers from northern Nigeria making science fiction movies using a broken smart phone is something to cheer about. It’s interesting to note that the same medium (YouTube) through which they access pornography which is capable of wrecking their morality is being employed by these creative youngsters to showcase their talents. What else can we ask for?
The Nigerian child is gifted and should be allowed to flourish like his/her counterpart in other climes. We have thousands of Greta in this country and we must not kill their initiative to make and cause positive things happen.
The society which creates Hadiza and Kosisochukwu needs to retrace and redirect its steps and straighten the system for a guaranteed future. As parents and leaders, we must elect to do things rightly for the unborn generations to get it right. Our future can only be bright to the extent that we work towards making it so.
Abdulrauf , editor Blueprint newspapers is on internship at the Deutsche Welle, Bonn, Germany.