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Does history repeat itself?

By Debe Nwanze There’s a popular saying that ‘there is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again – now’…

By Debe Nwanze

There’s a popular saying that ‘there is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again – now’ which has been attributed to Eugene O’Neill . Karl Marx is also reported to have said, ‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce ’ and George Santayana probably has one of the most famous lines on the topic, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ . These phrases, one would argue, sound as an ominous warning to understand history so as to be better prepared in terms of expectations of the future. However, Mark Twain, a renowned author, is often reported to have noted that, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.’

On 20th February 2024 which is one week and a few days from when this article was being written, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) released the 2024 seasonal climate prediction (SCP), forecasting temperature, rainfall, dry spells, Malaria and Meningitis readings for the first six months of the year. The report, which is publicly accessible and downloadable on the agency’s website provides insight on climate parameters and their expected behavior within the period (the first six months of the year).

NiMet releases this publication annually as part of its mandate to the Nigerian people and government. For example, the Executive Summary of the report states that the onset of rains is predicted to be delayed in the Central States, while Borno, Abia, Akwa-Ibom states are predicted to have an early onset of rainfall when compared to their long-term averages. It’s no gain saying these are consequences of climate change. Further insight from the report shows that both day and nighttime temperatures are predicted to be warmer than the long-term average over most parts of the country in the months of January, March, and May. In the Federal Capital Territory (F.C.T.), day-time temperatures in most parts, according to the report, is predicted to be about 37oC and 34oC in the cooler parts. This is a departure from the regular day-time temperature as temperatures experienced now are warmer than they used to be. Night temperatures are also slightly warmer than usual which is a departure from the norm according to the report.

A cursory look at the prediction for March also shows daytime temperatures for most parts of the F.C.T. to be at 37oC, which is also slightly warmer than the temperature expected for this period. This explains why many may be finding it difficult sleeping for the past few days as the power situation has been poor, leaving them at the mercy of the weather which presently may not supply very good ventilation. The nighttime temperature prediction for the month of March shows temperatures which are a slightly cooler departure from the norm. This provides a little bit of respite and hope from present condition which is difficult to cope with and have far-reaching consequences.

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History repeating itself.

Some years ago, a research and opinion polling firm, NOIPolls, head-quartered in Abuja, conducted a nation-wide poll during one of such heat waves that affected most of the country. Findings from that survey, which was conducted in the week of 4th April 2016, showed that almost 80% of Nigerians indicated they had experienced a rising change in temperature in their localities with residents from the Northern region accounting for the largest proportion. The major effects of the change in temperature based on responses were tiredness/fatigue (indicated by 30% of Nigerians), headache (29%), rashes (24%) and dehydration (21%) among other effects. These effects should be borne in mind and anticipated also during this time as the conditions are fairly similar. As expected, the ramifications are far-reaching with respect to productivity at the workplace, people-to-people interactions, flaring tempers, etc.

The level of awareness regarding the information by NiMet was measured in that 2016 nationwide poll. Results showed that 8 in 10 Nigerians were not aware of the information. Chances are that if that survey were conducted today the results may remain very similar to what obtained previously, which is a 2 in 10 level of awareness. That is poor considering the investment by NiMet in conducting the seasonal climate prediction (SCP) as well as the findings contained in the report which should serve as early warning system to the public.

History rhyming.

Besides naming specific coastal cities and low-lying areas of Niger, Benue, Kogi, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Anambra states which are at higher risk of flooding, the report doesn’t specifically state which areas are at risk of flooding due to increased rainfall, etc. A late cessation of rainfall is predicted over the southern states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Ondo, Ekiti, and parts of Edo, Delta, Ogun, Oyo, Kogi, Kwara, FCT, Niger, and Kaduna. Although the annual rainfall amount is predicted to be below normal in Jigawa and Bayelsa (both of which suffered severe flooding incidents a couple of years ago among others), Yobe, Bauchi, Kano, Kebbi, Gombe, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross-River, and Delta. Although the report clearly states, ‘flash flood cannot be ruled out because of excessive rainfall expected in some areas, places within urban cities of the country with poor drainages are also vulnerable to floods during the rainy season’.

Whether you are a proponent of history repeating itself, or of history rhyming, both groups are likely to agree that history comes with some degree of predicting the future which is supposed to be the real gem of early warning system as contained in the Seasonal Climate Prediction and the findings from the poll of the heat wave. We are presently living with the effects of climate change, that is why we are witnessing departures from the regular temperature trends. What do we do with this knowledge? How can we prevent bigger disasters and avoid huge losses based on this information? Or we do fold our arms and recline to our fate? Which is the better, more preferred option? It is my humble opinion that it would be wrong on various levels to have received this information as an early warning and do nothing about it. Basically, just sit on it as though we are unaware of it. We should do what we can to help prevent disasters and avoid losses that can be prevented.

Debe Nwanze is a Senior Research Associate at NOIPolls. The views contained herein do not reflect the views of the organization where he works. He writes from Abuja and can be reached on ‘X’ using the handle; @DebeNOIPolls.

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