By Oke Epia

A very vocal section of the Yoruba nation threatened secession from Nigeria recently. The kidnap of a prominent figure of Oduduwa and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae by nomadic Fulani herdsmen had ignited that shocking threat. Although Falae was eventually released, the ugly incident had the nuisance value of testing the tenuous threads of Nigeria’s patchy nationhood. What has this got to do with climate change? Please hold on for a moment.

This is December and this month’s deadline by President Muhammadu Buhari to the armed forces to bring an end to boko haram atrocities in the country seems like a mission impossible. This is because in spite of the bold-faced assurances by top brass of the Army to meet the presidential ultimatum, the terrorists have managed to sustain if not increase the violence visited on both military and civilian targets in the last few weeks. To the extent that a needless debate over the fate of some 105 soldiers allegedly forced into ‘tactical manoeuvre’ by the terrorists arose has it become more doubtful if December will not us pass by with the mindless marauders still reigning. Again, how is this connected to climate change? Please stay with me as I make my way closer to the point.

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The desperate journeys by Africans through heinous conditions of the desert and Mediterranean which has dislocated families, seared societies, claimed lives and left many able bodied sons and daughters in modern servitude in Europe and elsewhere is a phenomenon that continues to worry the world. And it happens not just because of the quest for greener pastures but also because it is simply no longer green back home. The land is scorched and drought has become a frequent lot. And because survival is the first law of nature, people are forced to migrate even if through waves of waste and dunes of disasters.

Those who still do not understand how all of these relate to climate change must be such who have chosen to regard the phenomenon as an abstraction cooked in the corridors of conspiracy to engage a restless world in continual exertion of gullibility. These must be the ones who think that the gathering of no less than 150 political leaders from all over the world in Paris under the aegis of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) is a jamboree. They must be the ones who think President Barack Obama of the United States who described climate change as a security threat is looking perhaps for another excuse to invade some far flung enclave to smoke out the remnants of Bin Ladin’s men. These must be the ones who live in perpetual denial of the realities of the times and yet expect government to solve all their problems from cancer to scorpion bite. They fail to realize that the stinging creature which leaves its comfort zone in the dingy damp could have been chased away by harsh habitat conditions brought about by the ecology of greenhouse emissions even if in a subtle manner.
They wonder in their minds about the receding waters of the Lake Chad but get their reasoning to wander away from the hostile weather conditions that caused it. They fail to question why in decades past the nomads never had to clash with farmers in the long windy trek across territories in search of pastures for cattle. They refuse to understand that changing weather conditions have necessitated incursions into farmlands in the hinterland since hitherto fallow passageways have turned into parched paths of no value to man and cattle.  It is because they fail to see that climate change has partly caused the conflict between farmers and herdsmen that they cannot understand why the Yoruba’s threat on the rest of the country resulting from the manhandling of Chief Falae has anything however remote, to do with the consequences of global warming. This is no more time for such inchoate mythical thinking. The gathering of global leaders in Paris this week cannot be because of a stupid affair over rice and stew at state dinners.

In the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, “Nigeria continues to witness the adverse effects of climate change in all its ramifications. Presently, we are reeling under the challenges of climate change as the frequency and intensity of extreme events like floods and drought are on the increase. The magnitude of insurgency Nigeria is facing cannot be completely explained away without taking cognizance of the threat of climate change.”

Such tough conditions and challenges brought about by the effects of climate change do not require much sophistry and ambivalence in seeking for solutions. Especially when Africa is concerned and since Africa’s burden is to a large extent, Nigeria’s cross, President Buhari struck the right chords by calling for stringent, urgent and honest solutions in Paris.

“Nigeria strongly believes that the agreement we reach here in Paris must equitably address climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in terms of the means of implementation with emphasis on adequate financing, technology transfer and capacity development,” he said, adding that “it is our fervent hope that these implementation modalities will be explicitly enshrined in the agreement.”

To demonstrate how seriously Nigeria takes the issue of climate change, the president announced the country’s commitment in addressing it: “Based on national considerations, Nigeria intends to attain the mitigation reduction objective of 20 per cent unconditional and 45 per cent conditional below the Business as Usual level of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.”

The depletion of Lake Chad and the consequences of that clearly epitomize the impact of climate change within the region. It is estimated that the lake is now less than 10 per cent of its original size. And about 11.7 million of an estimated population of 20 million people that lived on the trough in 2013 were domiciled in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. Forced migration and displacements over the years have resulted in dislocation of social ties and caused economic disempowerment of the people managing to hold on to a fast-vanishing resource endowment. The gross effects of these have left Nigeria with challenges of insecurity, hunger and malnutrition, increasing poverty and drought among others.

Given this scenario, it is understandable that President Buhari drew global attention to the worrisome condition of the lake in a presentation to one of the meetings at the conference on Tuesday. He asked developed countries to make financial commitments towards raising some $14 billion urgently needed to revive it. The Nigerian president told the meeting that the lake which spread over an area of 25,000 square kilometres in 1925 now barely covers 2,500 square kilometres and that some five million people in countries around the area have been displaced.

In a graphic portrayal of the situation, Buhari said “Nigeria has a large population of over 170 million people and in some parts of Northern Nigeria, a farm that used to belong to 10 people now belongs to over 100 people. They have no other place to live and no land for cultivation. In all, the experience of countries sharing the Lake Chad further illustrates the mutual challenge we face today and which must be collectively addressed without further delay.” He specifically demanded of G7 countries to assist in saving the lake because “if that is achieved, at least five million people from Central African Republic to the Lake Chad Basin countries (Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin) will be rehabilitated” and that “when this is done those who are daring to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean to come to Europe will remain at home because they have land where they can cultivate and earn a respectable living.”

It is gratifying that the call by Buhari coincided with an intention expressed by France to help Africa deal with the struggles of climate change. France has announced a $6.4 billion fund to be spread in four years to assist in the provision of power in Africa. $2 billion of this would go for the development of renewable energy in the continent. The European country is also offering another $1.5 billion for the Great Green Wall project by the African Union that promotes planting of trees and assist people adapt to the encroachment of the Sahara desert. President Francois Hollande announced these during a meeting with some African leaders at the side-lines of the Paris conference.

Climate change must be vigorously confronted and now is the time to act. In the words of Hon. Sam Onuigbo, Chairman of Nigeria’s House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change, “it is crucial to highlight that in the immediate past, climate change issues were only ‘staring’ at humanity, but today, the negative effects of climate change are vigorously and violently confronting and almost ‘overpowering’ human survival efforts and threatening our earth.”

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