Signs of the times
As Hurricane Harvey was bidding Texas goodbye after its visit which left a trail of material destruction and deaths of no fewer than 60 persons, Hurricane Irma has come knocking much more rudely than Harvey did, this time in Florida. While Hurricane Harvey’s herald force winds travelled at a speed of 135 miles per hour, Hurricane Irma was sweeping down furiously at the speed of 175 miles per hour. With that speed no one need consult his crystal ball to determine the amount of damage it will inflict all along its path as it is landing, in addition to the speed, with the gale rising as high as 23 feet. (Never mind me; I am of the old school: It is not all the time I find it convenient to speak in meters!). Hurricane Irma will pound its destination state, the cities and towns with 10 inches of rain.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, the maxim goes. Learning from the experiences of Houston, ahead of Irma’s predicted arrival, as of the time of my writing, frantic efforts were being made to evacuate from town or home, and protect property as much as was practicable and realistic. The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency. Same did Puerto Rico which meteorologists are predicting would be hard hit as well as other Caribbean Islands. The governor of U.S. Virgin Islands was reported as saying to his people, “This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane.” North and South Carolina are also said to be on the path of Hurricane Irma and at great risks.
In Texas, not only were there deaths, parts of several communities were flattened, there was power outage and water supply was disrupted; mangled trees fell everywhere. Health services were disrupted as some hospitals were flooded. A doctor lamenting said: “Thus, dialysis patients have to be able to get a clinic and a clinic has to have running water and electricity—something not all south east Texas clinics had after Harvey’s heavy rains and flood waters swept through. Pardon the horrible analogy, but in Houston, these patients were at risk of flooding of their homes and literally flooding from inside their bodies.”
The features of a hurricane are force winds, heavy, blinding rains amidst storms, heavy flooding laden with plummeting force and rivers on its way overflowing their water level which in turn tears down embankments. The strong winds fell trees and mangle them as well as well pull down buildings and swaths of farmlands and throw away objects with uncontrolled fury. A ship and an aircraft had better clear out of the pathway of a hurricane. It is thus force winds accompanied by rains, not falling but pouring non-stop for days.
What lies behind the phenomenon? What are the causes of hurricanes with their attendant turbulent devastation? With all the advancement in technology, why have we human beings been unable to check their advance and recurring menace, so to speak? Is there a time we will ever be able to control them? Meteorologists and other scientists with hurricane and storm observatories have gone a long way in accurately predicting the movements of hurricanes and calculating their speed and when they are likely to temper their fury and depart. Whatever else is there for the scientists to do has so far eluded them.
We are by now familiar with the interesting and helpful debate among them on climate change, periodically joined by political leaders. The conclusion in their prognosis is that there is no shooting past the emission of gas carbon dioxide (CO2) which in turn gives rise to green house effect in the atmosphere. Their arguments point unmistakably to imbalance in the exchange between Venus atmosphere said to reflect three quarters of sunlight and that of Mercury. Venus atmosphere consists solely of CO2 with its temperature measuring 497 degrees Celsius whereas Venus without an atmosphere would measure its moderate 141 degrees Celsius. With the overload of CO2, the temperature on Venus is by far higher than that of Mercury which is farther and much closer to the sun. The scientists thus state that Venus absorbs only a quarter of sunlight. The exchange between the oceans and the atmosphere is naturally balanced under normal conditions. But man has tampered with the balance by adding a huge amount of CO2 a year to the atmosphere by what scientists call seven gigatons.
The consequence of the imbalance from the pollution is acidification of the oceans, a situation which has gone on to harm coral reefs. The scientists further argue that although volcanoes send out CO2, this is only one-fifth of what man emits. The sum total of the consequence of interference by us human beings through our activities is that there was never a time the carbon dioxide concentration in the last 800, 000 years was as high as what obtains today. This has led to imbalance in ecological equilibrium. Also, the Ozone layer which shields man from the ultraviolet radiations of the sun that can endanger life, both of man and those of other creatures, is torn by the emissions man produces in the course of his activities. The layer absorbs radiations in the upper part of the atmosphere called stratosphere. It is this perforation of the Ozone that is said to partly blame for the prevalence of cancer among its other causes.
The question then arises: Can this imbalance continue without being corrected? Who is to restore the imbalance and how is it to be done? The well-known cerebral Pope John Paul II was once quoted as saying: “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its life-style. In many parts of the world, society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause.” Former US Vice-President Al Gore is another world figure who has pre-occupied himself with the issue of climate change. His position on it gave as much food for thought as Pope John Paul II’s.
According to higher knowledge available on earth today, our world, the environment and all were constructed by the faithful builders. They not only build, they maintain the earth, the oceans, the rivers and the environment, including the non-terrestrial. The said builders are called elemental beings or animistic beings often mistaken for Angels. Those in charge of water, rain, oceans, rivers or lagoons are known as nixies or water sprite. I want to assume that the soft drink product called Sprite must have derived its name from the sensing by the owners of the purity of the activity of the water sprites. In our clime this set of elemental beings are also called mammy water by Pidgin English speakers of our society. Various communities have names for them. This is saying that the knowledge of their existence is spread across the world, indeed of the whole gamut of these beings. Those of them that preoccupy themselves with the earth, soil, sand, stones, hills and mountains are called gnomes while those with plants are elves with female elves tending flowers or such delicate plants and the male elves, trees. Those that work with fire are salamanders while those with air and wind are nymphs. They vary in sizes in accordance to the nature of their tasks such that those that are concerned with sands are very tiny while those that build and tend mountains are giants, exceedingly beautiful with their heads touching the clouds. This explains why most settlements are either on the slopes or down the slopes of mountains or on the plateau. Settlements not by mountains are by the ocean or river side. The national anthem of the Egbas of the South-West is woven around Olumo Rock. Professor John Pepper Clark already revealed in his celebrated poem on Ibadan that the city is set on seven hills. The ones that preoccupy themselves with plants taught the early people the season to plant, how to plant and what is good as food plants and those that are poisonous. Nowhere has anybody read that our forebears performed experiments in laboratories to determine whether okro is edible or bitter leaf and ginger should be embraced for their detoxication properties. They taught them what herbs were efficacious in healing their ailing bodies.
Greek and Roman mythology recognizes that these beings also have lords and so speaks of Zeus, the ruler of Heavens and the god of the sea, god of the sea meaning nixies. The reason why the Greeks regard Zeus as the ruler of Heaven is that its activities are connected with justice and every believer is confident about Justice coming from Heaven sooner or later. The Roman version of Zeus is Jupiter. Mercury is connected with humility and conscientiousness. Demeter is with agriculture and fertility, Aphrodite with grace, Hera with fidelity and Athena connected to vigilance and so on. The Greek mythology teaches us that the Heavenly abode of these gods and goddesses is Mount Olympus.
This explanation becomes necessary to see that there are beings who are concerned with order, balance and wellbeing of our world. And when there is imbalance they must correct them with absolute disregard to our pains or destruction. We brought about the imbalance or distortions in the first place. Our opinions count for nothing in the discharge of their tasks. Even though they leave incalculable damage on their trail, they are not on vengeance mission.
We have consigned these elemental beings to the realm of fables or dismissed the recognition of their existence as hallucination and this is because the man of today has disconnected himself from nature. We live or work in 15-storey buildings and descend from there to enter our air-conditioned cars or buses. The buildings are not ringed with trees for dwellers to inhale oxygen from the plants and exchange with carbon dioxide that we exhale. The cities are largely jungles of concrete. In the end it is recycled carbon dioxide that is re-inhaled. All manner of ailments ensue for lack of pure air. Leavy surroundings of old in which we lived and had recreation have been cleared to pave way for roads with interlocking stones or for parks. Estates arise everywhere without any thought or provision for plants—trees and grasses.
Children who are allowed to be children, who are allowed to naturally intermingle with nature see and relate with these beings. Indeed, such children uncorrupted with toys, bicycles, television and cell phones, regard the elemental beings as friends. They are not children burdened with extra lessons during holidays but are allowed to make mud prototypes of birds and dogs. It is not for nothing that when the children are taken to the villages they find excitement and fulfillment in running after the grandma’s goats and do hide-and- seek with her cat. The dogs become automatically their friends they want to mount and ride. Lizards and snake lizards in the neighbourhood are in trouble. Fouls which naturally are not caged are relentlessly pursued in their bid to catch them. When they are taken to the village river they swim until their eyes become red and they have to be persuaded to get out of water. On the last day, it is departure with teary eyes. Sensing they are going back to the false city life, they ask: “Mummy, when are we coming back here?”
Scientists say plants, grasses, grooves and forests absorb four times as much water as the ground has capacity to absorb. The possibility of flooding ravaging areas with no plants, therefore, is real!
Next week: What is the mission of hurricanes, rain storms and earthquakes? Are they reformatory agents or destructive agents?
The other day, former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave a glowing testimonial to President Buhari. To demonstrate how detribalised Buhari is, Obasanjo revealed that unknown to a great many people, the first daughter of Buhari is married to an Igbo man from Anambra State. His driver and cook of more than 10 years are Christians. While he excused soldiers under his command to take Sunday off duty, he declined to extend the same to Muslim soldiers like himself who desired to take Friday off, saying while the Christians could justify their Sunday off work with the commandment from the Bible, their Muslim counterparts could not say the same with regard with their faith. Of course, his integrity came up for mention as well. Despite his exposure and important government assignments as minister and chairman of PTF, the former President said, Buhari did not exploit his position to build any house in Abuja.
I want to believe a majority of Nigerians can swear by Buhari’s integrity. His integrity is proverbial. It is written on his forehead, literally speaking. He is one you can leave your money and property with and go to sleep. He is easily irritated by the thought that anyone could dip hands in the public till. He believes that it ought to be shameful for anyone to betray public trust. His entire being radiates his aversion to corrupt practices. And one can see his pain and sincerity in his mien when he decries corruption in the land. On that aspect therefore, he yields place to none.
The area of his life many have difficulty reading is his attitude to the complexity of our society and by extension his attitude to inclusiveness in the running of the country. It is hard to disbelieve Obasanjo. He is not a flippant person. Buhari is not complicated. For him his first instinct is what is foreign exchange for? He is very simple, indeed. If the reverse were the case anyway, given the courage of his convictions, Obasanjo would not have hesitated to say so. The problem, therefore, is not his integrity that is called to question, but his style of administration which suggests that he pays scant regard to the complexities of our land. Integrity is not all there is to nation building. There must be accommodation, evinced love and compassion and demonstrated readiness to show sensitiveness to various sensibilities. His lopsided appointments at the onset of the administration and the recent reorganization at NNPC, for example are a case in point. They brazenly violate the principle of inclusiveness. Given Obasanjo’s unassailable testimonial, we would be right to begin to suspect the fifth columnists at work. It is also possible that a great many of his critics are the ones who are yet to have the full picture of how his mind works on such matters. Was the President briefed on such a sensitive matter as reorganization at NNPC?
Handling Nnamdi Kanu
The government has requested the court to revoke the bail Nnamdi Kanu was granted on the argument that he has violated the stiff conditions of his freedom. Not many people are convinced that his trial was warranted in the first place, and not because his cause is shared by them, but because other options should first have been employed. His rowdiness and agitation are seen more in the realm of politics than the realm of out and out criminality.
What handling Nnamdi Kanu requires is a simple matter of people’s management skills. There are people with vast human management skills. Dr. Christopher Kolade comes readily to mind if I may say. Consider the picture, for example: Accompanied by Prof. Pat Utomi, a man he admires and loves to no end, Kolade heads for Umahia as an emissary of the President and he tells Nnamdi, “I am from President Buhari.” The first thing you can expect Kolade to do would be to flash his disarming smiles at Kanu. Then he would draw from his known rich armory of humour and get him to relax. With that dialogue begins.
At the end of the exploratory meeting Kolade flies down to Abuja to brief the President. The President in turn sends a happy birthday card to Kanu. Then a meeting is set for the Villa. Kanu will be expected to fly down accompanied by the constitutional lawyer Professor Ben Nwabueze whom Kanu appears to hold highly. Several options would be put on the table; the most feasible being restructuring which ought to be closest to Nnamdi’s heart because secession at this time has grave implications. “Young man, go and sleep over it, consult your lieutenants and we meet again.” The whole thing requires wisdom, tact, humour and laughter. After all, Mrs. May flew to Aberdeen for a meeting with the Scottish First Minister, Miss Nicola Sturgeon, to persuade her to temporarily halt her agitation for a second referendum on Scottish desire to tear away from the United Kingdom.