You may wonder what this has to do with global warming. Perhaps not much but at least there are some links. A factual story, as illustration. A few weeks or so before the expulsion took place, an official of an NGO dealing in environmental issues was in my house in Kaduna. He briefed me on the dangerous impact of desert encroachment ravaging the northernmost fringes of the country.
He showed me some depressing video slides where whole villages have been completely submerged by sand dunes. Not a single roof could be seen. When he moved to another slide, showing what the villages were some three years or so before, I just couldn’t believe that they have all been sacked by the fast marching sand dunes.
When I enquired from him what has become of the inhabitants, he responded, “We got in touch with a few of them who told us that some have moved to Bauchi and Wase in plateau State”. On mentioning Wase, the Jos North November, 2008 crisis swiftly came to mind and I remarked that, “I hope they have properly registered their presence with the local authorities in the area”.
This remark came from my childhood experience as a son of a village head. In those days people seeking to settle in our village reported themselves through ward heads to our father, then the village head, who in turn contacted the district authorities and on and on. Such was human movement effectively monitored during the era of the first republic.
Anyway, given this background, when Wase “exploded”, I was not taken by surprise. In the meantime, the NGO man showed me other slides of gulley erosion in the east and how the Atlantic Ocean has been doing its own bit by submerging land areas in places like Lagos, where he said the famous bar Beach has since been eaten up by it. He then rationalised that if this horrifying development is not checked, there would be witnessing massive human movement in the years ahead into central Nigeria and that with the issue of land becoming a serious problem in some parts of the country, especially the fast shrinking land for grazing, the demographic future of Nigeria may be threatened.
It is not likely that those who were expelled from Wase were from the desert-submerged villages mentioned, but there is every reason to believe that they were probably the nucleus of the first set to move into central Nigeria, as my host rationalised.
What this picture graphically paints is that as global warming takes its toll on us, more Wases would emerge in due course and the socio-economic consequences could be grave. Obviously, when we consider this scenario very dispassionately, this probably was what informed the thinking behind the action rather than the usual claims we have been hearing. Wase is a natural reaction to a growing phenomenon to which we have not been paying adequate attention as we should.
Our efforts towards afforestation have been largely cosmetic. My host, who is a Nigerian, lectured me on what the colonial administration did to curb the menace of desert encroachment in those days. He told me of a large dry land, completely tree-less, but with sign post reading “Federal Environment Agency Afforestation Programme”. Imagine that! During Obasanjo, governors of desert- encroaching states, the so-called frontline states, were assembled in Kastina to launch a tree planting programme. This was towards the 2003 elections. That was the end of the matter. Meanwhile, more manure for Wases to blossom.
And this is the tragedy embodied in this serious neglect. Let us ask a question. How possible was it that about two thousand people were moved in a convoy, from probably some desert infested villages on the northern fringes of Yobe, Borno, Kano, etc down to Wase, Southern Plateau, a distance of roughly 600km, without being detected by the hoards of security personnel posted along the way? It is curious that not even one person raised an alarm, not with a view to stopping them but more for the purpose of finding out why they were moving in such a large convoy. It is not ordinary for such a people of this number to move with their families, possessions and all, leaving their places of origin, without cogent reasons. The need to find out these reasons ought to have informed the appropriate agencies to dig deep into this development. Unfortunately, we do not place much premium on matters that affect the lives of our ordinary people. Which was why we ended up playing the usual politics with Wase, without even the media raising questions as to why it occurred in the first place. And now, the matter is dead without a bother except for its political attraction and ethno- religious accruals, which in the long run, are of no benefit to our future.
We must learn to drift away from these imbedded habits in order to appreciate the cause and effects of human situations with a view to finding solutions to them. It has never been too helpful to be constantly pedestrian in the interpretation of events. Important matters are buried in the process.
Finally, for the nation to stop the drift towards Wase, the appropriate agencies should take serious considerations of the looming danger of desert encroachment, ocean surge, gulley erosion, etc. A stitch in time…