Few months after news of the flood disaster reached us I have been compelled to write this article –just for record purposes– with no intention of repeating stale news. I rather would like to share personal observations of the socio-behavioural praxis of the people whose land have been renamed “floodland” by events.
So many things have been said about the ravaging floods and the aftermath of its unprecedented destruction of property and frustration of innocent and hardworking Nigerians. The question on their lips may have been: even if the government and industries operating within their communities had in past years deprived them of good living standards how could God have allowed this catastrophe to befall them?
It is true that some towns had their names from some natural, social or cultural features they are endowed with. Just like we have wetlands, in my humble suggestion, I think the flooded regions would best be referred to as floodlands –hence the title of this article.
Professor Olatunji Dare’s comment that millions of people have been displaced and properties worth trillions of Naira have been damaged due to the floods was initially unbelievable. This prompted a keen interest on the issue to ascertain the facts that have been posited. In fact, I have never doubted the intelligent facts provided by the sage, Prof. Dare, except in the case of the mess in Kogi, to borrow his words.
Just as it has been the characteristic attitude of the Americans to give special names to natural disasters, especially the ones christened with human names like hurricanes Katrina, Isaac, Sandy, to mention a few, Nigerians would rather make jokes out of the situation.
First is an account of the visitation of Adams Oshiomole to some flooded areas of Edo state. The people were almost dancing in the flood while welcoming the governor –the deus ex machina. If you ever thought the people would be in mourning mood, then you thought wrong. As if that was not enough, you would not believe the euphoria that followed the governor’s announcement of one hundred million Naira relief donations as if it was a campaign gift. I had an opportunity to chat with one of the victims and his response was that the “donations have never been enough to belle-full everybody.”
In another scenario, at the early stage of the floods motorists were always confused to decide on which side of the road would be driveable. God had blessed the indigenes because every pothole had become a business centre. How? Getting closer to a pothole a driver would see some group of young boys between the ages of 12 and 22 facing each other as if they are in serious discussions. An attempt to call their attention would amount to nothingness. In trying his luck and the vehicle engine saturated with water fails, the “deaf” young boys would burst into laughter to call your attention, apparently to show that helpers are around. A second look at them would mean an invitation which would be greeted with a business proposal –heavy bills inclusive. As soon as the vehicle is removed they would position themselves for the next victim.
While the floods ravaged the communities on the shores some young men found swimming and bath pools at their backyards. Some were found munching fish pepper soup “washed down” with palm wine.
Another set of players showcasing humorous attitude of Nigerians even when they are about to die is the mammoth of wanton social media addicts; the tweeting, the distracted crowd of facebook addicts and the Blackberry Messenger (BBM)-pinging soap opera gossips, to paraphrase Reuben Abati. In this category, there is a story of a young lady who has been showing her class by twitting her locations –including visits to big hotels– and her activities in general. In one of such occasions when the flood finally reached her, she posted on her BBM “flood tingz” alongside her picture inside the fast-moving water. When she was moved to the relief camp she posted “camp tingz.” Unluckily she was one of those who contracted a disease while in camp, so she posted “hospital tingz.” While this story was told in a popular bar in Warri boys were already expecting a tweet that would read “dying tingz.”
Nigerians have an exceptional way of staying in good humour even in a crisis together with other interwoven traits like politics, corruption and panelocracy –democracy run with panels and committees, including flood committee.