Youth-led initiatives are highly encouraged in every society that needs to develop in all aspects of endeavours. Nevertheless, in Nigeria, most especially the North, a number of factors are responsible for holding back the movement or survival of such initiatives.
Against all odds, a 35-year-old Abdulmajid Abubakar, a resident of Sani Mainagge in Kano metropolis, is a climate change activist. He is the founder of Eyes on the Environment Initiative.
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Speaking exclusively to Daily Trust Saturday, he narrated how passion, coupled with his area of specialty as a graduate of Geography, influenced his journey to climate change activism.
“I started advocating climate action in 2017. I happen to be an environmentalist by profession, having studied Geography in my first degree, while my second degree is on Natural Resource Management and Climate Change.
“I understand that our older generation is too skeptical when it comes to climate change because of belief.
“There was a time we had an encounter with a professor of environment in a university here in the North on low carbon and environment.
“When we were done and went to his office, we saw the light and the air conditioner on. And it was during morning hours. At that time, we had a passive daylight and cross ventilation, so we were not supposed to switch on air conditioners anyhow. When we asked why he did that, his response surprised us. “It is all theory on paper,” he said. If a professor of environment would say that, what does one think of a layman?
He narrated how he invested in dry season farming and the experience he had.
“I took both the capital and the profit and added to a loan of N450,000 and reinvested during the rainy season. Unfortunately, flood came and washed everything away. The development gives me more reason why I should go into research and advocate a change. It is not about us but how the coming generation would be affected.
“I started by visiting schools and targeting small children. We tried to plant the mission in their minds, so we started by giving them seedlings and exercise books. We also promised them schoolbags when we came back after six months and saw that the seedlings had grown.
“That competition compelled them to look after it. We even learnt that some went to the extent of buying and replanting when their own died, just not to miss the bags. Even during holidays they went to their schools to water it. The strategy really has a positive impact because even school enrollment and punctuality have grown,” he said.
Taking the advocacy to a higher level became imminent, and as such, meeting with stakeholders and traditional leaders became the right step.
He also said, “We went on and met with most of our traditional leaders seeking support to promote the course. We did that because they are the authorities at the grassroots level who can help stop the tradition of cutting down trees and other issues giving birth to the menace associated with climate change.
“Some of them admitted that they did not know the implications, while others knew but were less concerned. However, they all promised to identify with the project.
“Since we were on the social media, there was a time someone who is now a mentor to us contacted and commended our efforts. He was convinced that locally, we were doing something great, and promised to introduce us to the international community.
“He nominated me to attend the recent Curve-26, which took place at Glasgow in Scotland last month. I received the badge to attend the conference, but there was no funding.
“When I started consulting close associates, I was really pushed to the verge of quitting. You know how our people see things. Some will tell you that it is a waste of resources, while others will say it is not worth it – spending outrageous amount of money just to attend a conference.
“At last, I told myself that this is what I wanted and I could really do it with the little I had. I stopped telling anyone after my sister and her husband gave me the go-ahead after looking its opportunity. I took my life savings and headed to Glasgow, not minding the consequences.
“Developed countries are contributing 97 per cent, but we Africans are said to suffer for it because of our poverty level and the system of government we operate, as well as our behaviours.”
He further said, “It is the youth that can stand and speak to world leaders that we need climate justice. It was agreed in Paris that we should bring underdeveloped countries to be funded for the purpose of adapting to climate change. It hasn’t seen the light.
“So we went there, and at the long run, the only thing we can say has been done is the relationship between America and China, who agreed to limit their emissions in other to have a safer future.
“Apart from that, we usually conduct cleaning sessions, during which we visit some strategic public places to sensitise people and pick up dirt.
“People were surprised to see children of very influential people kneeling down to pick things from the ground. That has really encouraged people to key into the initiative, while promising to become agents of climate change in their communities.
“We are calling on the government, from federal to state level, to bring out policies that will benefit the masses. For example, in the UK, if you want to buy something, they will ask if you need a bag. If you need it you have to pay for it. You see, technically, they are discouraging you from using plastic or nylon anyhow.
“We should regulate how companies produce these products by calculating their emissions into monetary terms.
“We are also appealing to the youth and the general public to observe and contribute. Our inaction is grossly paving way for negative effects in our lives. We should not cross our hands and say it is the responsibility of government.”
He continued, “There are companies that recycle these nylons we are throwing away anyhow to produce interlocks and other things.
“It is our behaviour that is giving birth to this climate change; it is not a natural thing. When we change our ways, surely we will see development.
“Lastly, what I always advocate is environmental or climate education in schools – from primary to tertiary level. This, I think, will go a long way in flattening the curve.
“Whenever we post that we need volunteers for a certain outreach, people really respond, especially females.
“Let’s look after our environment the same way we are looking after ourselves or our children.”