If you have remotely opened any eyes or ears recently, you are most probably convinced, if you were not, that global warming is real. In parts of Europe, city temperatures have soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, while one-third of the US population has seen heat alerts for most of the past month.
“Air conditioning!” you say? Well, air conditioners are a part of the conundrum: they may keep you cool inside but elevate the heat outside. And your kind of building may be generating more heat than others, thus requiring more air-conditioning.
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In other words, those N1.14 billion Toyota Land Cruisers President Muhammadu Buhari quietly donated to Niger Republic—a nation far more secure than Nigeria—allegedly for security, may be keeping the lucky government officials cool, but worsening the country’s climate case.
Not that climate change is of much importance to Nigerian officials. Why improve Nigerian schools when they can send their children to Canada or Scotland? Why build hospitals when they can obtain medical care in England, the wife seeks gluteal augmentation in Spain or the United Arab Emirates?
But that is not how other minds are working or other societies advancing. In that UAE, one of the hottest places on earth, they are responding to the climate crisis by deploying an ancient architectural technique known as “mashrabiya,” using latticed screens which keeps a building cool by diffusing sunlight.
In Medellin, Columbia, the city has deployed an urban greening programme it calls “Green Corridors,” combating climate change by creating thick vegetation areas along 18 roads and 12 waterways.
In a similarly creative response, Miami Dade county in the US state of Florida created “Neat Streets Miami,” a scheme which identified bus stops as being of special concern in a heat wave. They developed a scheme to plant trees around 10 bus stops, along with an elaborate ‘how-to’ guide. There are now over 70 such bus stops in the county as various communities join in.
These are projects that have arisen from the concern of officials to advance the public interest, after all, an overheating climate does not exactly penetrate the cool offices of such officials individually.
Nigeria differs. Take our congested city roads, for instance, the experience of Lagos immortalized by the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, in “Confusion,” a song in which he captured the nightmare of governance in the form of infrastructural menace in post-civil war Nigeria.
He deployed the image of “Ojuelegba,” the road intersection in Surulere, Lagos, where—with each motorist compelled to look out for himself—all traffic often came to a halt:
“For Ojuelegba, moto dey come from south
Moto dey come from north
Moto dey come from east
Moto dey come from west…”
Nearly 50 years and hundreds of billions of dollars, and hundreds of relevant officials and tens of governments later, “Ojuelegba” has become as systemic as it is endemic. The chaos yields thousands of wealthy officials nationwide annually as the cancer spreads.
How? Well, it is our money-sharing philosophy of governance, the one in which there is a lot of talk but no service, and all the people who would have deployed commitment and expertise and intelligence are rebuffed in favour of those who know how to sing songs of praise.
It is the one where top government officials often have no money to serve, but more than enough to share, and local government chairmen never have enough for projects that are funded, but always enough to share.
It is the one in which a president never has enough to complete important projects begun by a predecessor, but always enough to commence new one; the one in which a president can commence projects even into another country, or to buy its officials gratuitous presents rather than fulfill a contract with the university union, for example.
And it is why Nigerian leaders treat chaotic city traffic as a member of the community or as entertainment, rather than as a problem to be solved. After all, they have policemen to beat citizens off the roads for them.
Because when we are in charge our philosophy is a “Ghana-Must-Go” bag orientation: we share money and sundry gifts among ourselves and to those we approve of, rather than spend on the people who elected us to serve them.
This orientation means that in office, rather than lead we are actors playing the part of the leader. We claim we are conserving resources but speed in sirens to the airport in a 30 or 50-car convoy to travel in a 20 or 30 person contingent for a 30-minute conference for which we spend three days. We ought to be diagnosed with hypocrisy and treated for lack of focus, but never are.
It is partly why Buhari should not be impeached. Not that he does not deserve it but that it is far too late for our complicit National Assembly. To impeach now would be to grant him the freedom he has craved since he discovered that being the president is a practical civilian responsibility, not a nebulous military appointment. Besides, that would merely empty the putrid mess on someone else who would arrive handcuffed.
If we are lucky to have an election in 2023, Buhari has 10 months left. About half of that period would be spent in the political campaigns for his job. Buhari has never truly understood what being the president means, and he deserves to sit in front of a TV which suffers no power failure and hear his tenure savaged or defended on the campaign trail, and on television and social media, and by those who either love him so much they will surprise him with the kind of disinfectant they bring, or who detest him so much he will feel their hatred in the presidential palace.
When political campaigns open, Buhari will not be on the ballot, but given his atrocious performance, he will be the inescapable subject as he transforms into defender-in-chief.
That is partly because while the rest of the world is thinking about building the future, including handling climate change, we are fixated on greed. Nigeria ought to be feeding Africa, but under Buhari, we are waiting for grains from Ukraine. While our citizens are being starved or hunted down by terrorists, we have enough to distribute to another country.
Our sense of right and wrong is now so porous that when the first Nigerian Inspector-General of Police to be jailed for stealing and money laundering dies, our leader, rather than being quiet, mourns his “…penchant for boosting the morale of officers and men in the Force…”
No more, Nigeria! When we gaze into the future, we want a man who can interrogate it for us; one who is motivated by fellow citizens whose intelligence surpasses his, not comforted by those who are inferior.
Nigeria deserves a man who knows that our country has been badly let down by its rulers and that it is almost too late. Someone who dreams of the heights he can take his country and how he can uplift. It is now or never.