June 8 is observed annually as World Environment Day. Our last edition which focused on Environment therefore almost coincided with this year’s episode of the event. With Governor Aregbesola’s recent declaration of emergency in sanitation and flood control, coupled with his flag-off of tree- planting programme, another epoch is set in salvaging our landscape from the vestiges of degradation, pollution and colossal losses attendant to flooding and erosion. With the renewed intervention efforts of all agencies involved at all levels, the stage is set for proffering lasting solutions to all environmental concerns which had plagued us hitherto. Also, in addition to the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) put in place by the incumbent administration, local governments and the Osun State House of Assembly, having fully come under the control of a single party – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – it is hoped that appropriate legislations will come in due course to sanitize, restore, enrich and beautify our environment; our home. NIYI OLASINDE dedicates this final report and the preceding one to this year’s World Environment Day.
Continued from last week
So far, the seven and a half years of the Oyinlola administration has caused Osun State to condescend from its esteemed pedestal as the State of the Living Spring to a wasted flooding terrain. The flooding saga recorded all through the years of that administration has proven this beyond all reasonable doubts. Last year (2010) in particular, the floods and erosion dealt most fatal and horrendous blow on residents of Osogbo and other areas in the interior parts of the state. While it is partially true that floods are mostly occasioned by heavy rains which fall in their due seasons, it is not tenable an excuse that most of these disasters are God-sent or “natural”. Natural disasters are those that are brought about by forces of nature. In the case of Osun State under the ‘regime’ of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, heavy rains caused rivers, lakes, streams and springs in the State of the Living Spring to overflow their banks. In similar cases elsewhere, especially where the sanity and devotion of people at the helm of affairs have not been eroded, the rains may not have wrought havoc, as provisions would have been made in advance to pave way for heavy flow of water. Apart from capitalizing on rivers and streams; in Oyinlola years, rains caused disasters as water could not find definite courses to follow. For this reason, among several others, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine asserts that the floods and erosion that had plagued Osogbo and other locations in Osun State were not natural.
Considering the fact that when water gathers on the earth’s surface in great volumes, it must move; then it should be understood that if water finds no defined course to follow, it must define one for itself. If it is further considered that rains must fall in their due seasons, and that there are many positive sides to rainfall, especially its contribution to man’s convenient and productive habitation on the planet-earth; then it would be quite wrong to blame God Almighty, or some gods at that, for flooding that are attendant to rains.
At it is today, residents of Osogbo and other parts of Osun State are in most urgent need of help and intervention to put an end to the perennial threats imposed by erosion and floods. The situation, as Oyinlola left it, made residents highly susceptible to grave dangers of life-threatening magnitude. With a whole length of rainy season ahead of us this year therefore, there are fears and apprehension in various quarters over possible reoccurrence of flooding, erosion, collapse of buildings, further damage of roads, culverts, bridges and existing drainages. These fears are necessary, as the predisposing factors for the flood siege of yesteryears, bequeathed by the last administration, still stare us in the eye. More so, the victims of last year’s disasters and of previous years’ mishaps were not given meaningful relief by that administration. A soothing relief is underway, as Governor Aregbesola-led administration is currently busy exploring ways of combating the predisposing conditions which made the disasters of yesteryears inevitable.
Specifically, trouble spots where the new administration of Engineer Rauf Aregbesola should give priority attention to are quite many. In Osogbo, the state capital, areas that are most vulnerable to perennial flooding are mostly those areas that lie along the course of the Ogbaagbaa stream. They, include Rasco, Iso Pako, Alekuwodo, Trumpeters’ Church, Old Coca-Cola and Osun Bridge areas. These areas have been found to be highly susceptible to flood annually between June and August. This last fact notwithstanding, uncertainty in climatic conditions and climate change could bring about occurrences of flood in earlier months.
Findings also revealed that at Ayetoro/Oke-Onitea axis, there are canals that have become yearly bowels to high torrents of flood. These include areas in the suburb of Oja Anaye, beyond the railway line. It is saddening that these canals have turned to death traps with their bowels wide agape to swallow victims alive and destroy properties worth millions of naira. In addition, Oke-Baale, Oremeji, MDS and Nawairud-deen Central Mosque areas are equally susceptible to flood disaster.
Part of the gory and heart-rending stories of loss of lives occasioned by last year’s flooding saga in Osogbo, Osun State capital was the incident of two primary school pupils who got drowned at Okoko stream; an aftermath of the heavy downpour of July 7 that year. Equally heart-rending was the reported sweeping away of an infant who was to be named on that same fateful day. The one that was much talked about, and which drew tears of sorrow and compassion from people was that of a nursing mother who combined suicide with murder. Apparently fed up with life struggles and vicissitudes, the woman, reported to have just emerged from a church where she had worshipped early that morning threw her baby into the river before she also took the plunge. That incident reportedly took place at Osun River, Coca-Cola area of Osogbo. Information had it that the woman, having first lost two of her children to the flood mishap became frustrated and distraught. She was said to have unstrapped the baby from her back, threw him into the stream before she followed suit.
The foregoing are just few out of the numerous cases of mishaps and irreparable damages inflicted by the year 2010 flood saga in Osogbo. Apart from Osogbo, other areas of the state had long required the attention and intervention of government to alleviate their sufferings from the dastardly effects of erosion and perennial flooding. Unfortunately, none came their way in the past years of misrule, tyranny, agony and anguish. The Osun State Broadcasting Corporation Television (OSBCTV) once carried a documentary on a collapsed bridge in Ilesa East Local Government Council Area of the State. The bridge, it was reported, connected the ancient city of Ilesa to some of the farming settlements. Incidentally, the same bridge conveys pedestrian school children, teachers and farmers to their school and farms located in the city of Ilesa. The bridge, it was reported, had been dislocated and abandoned by motorists. As at the time of broadcast, the bridge was in an imminent state of collapse, but it was still being “managed”! Yet, the inept administration in vogue at the time did nothing to avert possible loss of lives that the actual collapse could cause. However, hope springs eternal. With the emergence of the Aregbesola administration, people look up to their emancipation and deliverance from bondage and shackles of backwardness. This edition of OSUN DEFENDER Magazine serves as reminder to this effect.
OTHER areas of Osun State also reeled painfully under the yoke and threat of flooding and erosion. In Iragbiji, the seat of Boripe Local Government Council area, Otapete and Lakuta streams are reported to be a source of terror to inhabitants of areas near their courses. In the ancient town of Ede, Olubonko stream is on every lip. Iwo has Aiba, Ajigbagun and Onitete streams, constituting serious flooding concerns on yearly basis. In the ancient city of Ilesa, Adeti, Ajagbarakin, Akara, Orogba, Elera and Eruru streams are said to be dealing the annual devastating blow. Ikirun’s flood concerns emanate from Afo and Osere, while in Ile-Ife, Esinmirin, Ogboku and Agbare streams are tormentors to dwellers. In addition to the ones mentioned for Osogbo, Okoko stream is another cause of worry to residents.
The cases cited above are few in the endless list of flood-prone areas within the length and breadth of the state. While it is true that a number of reasons apart from rainfall as natural phenomenon predispose flooding and erosion, accusing fingers are directed to the ousted administration in the state and the various local government administrations under it for their failure to rise up to the challenges of channelising the courses of the streams.
Among other causes, failure of the ousted administrations at the state and local government levels to put in place necessary proactive measures for proper waste disposal throughout the length and breadth of the state has been identified as another cause of the menace of flood and erosion in the state. Similarly, apart from inadvertent waste disposal practices which reigned supreme or which the citizens had been compelled to resort to, indiscriminate deforestation, lack of proper drainages, derelict state of infrastructure such as roads and lack of stringent town planning policies by that administration have contributed largely to the perennial albatross called water flooding.
These factors which predisposed the ugly, bitter experiences of flood and water erosion in the state shall be specifically discussed in the details under another segment of this report. The most saddening part of the harrowing experiences of the past years is that huge annual budgetary allocation running into several hundreds of millions of naira had gone to flood and erosion control and channelisation of streams, water channels and canals without any meaningful impact. As if to add insult to injury, huge amount of money from the Federation Accounts were released to governments at state and local levels in form of Ecological Funds to combat this life-claiming menace. The question as to where these monies went is an issue of discussion under a separate part of this report. This aspect has been published in our last week edition.
In the entire life-span of the Oyinlola administration, environmental degradation and challenges poised by poor sanitation and waste disposal measures were serious challenges that the people faced. Heaps of garbage and foul odour released by stenches arising from improper disposal of waste was a common feature of the state. In spite of spurious efforts by the ousted administration, especially after the July 2010 flood saga, to combat these serious challenges which predisposed floods and erosion, nothing could be found on ground to justify that proactive measures had been put in place to forestall future occurrences.
Few months to the sack of the administration of the ousted impostor ‘governor’, several hundreds of millions of naira was expended on the procurement of waste carriage vans for the thirty local government areas in the state and the Ife East Area Office. No traces of these vehicles or their positive impact are visible anywhere in the state. Also, in response to the said 2010 disasters in the state, the ousted administration was to embark on demolition exercise of the buildings and structures which were identified to have constituted blockages to river courses, streams, springs, canals and water channels in the state. The exercise was seen to have kicked off but today, it could not be said to have stood us a better stead. Even while it lasted during the month of August, various voices of dissent were raised against the witch-hunting, victimization and lack of fairness that characterised the demolition exercise.
In most quarters, it was argued that far beyond flood and erosion control and management, the demolition of structures embarked upon by the ousted administration had other strings attached to it. A passer-by in Osogbo could only notice the demolition of kiosks, stalls and temporary structures which was carried out at Alekuwodo/Olaiya/Fakunle axis of the state capital; he could not however explain the basis or rationale for the exercise. Also he could not fully appreciate the impact of the exercise. Also, residents of the state capital could not, in actual terms, appraise the exercise to have made any impact in alleviating the sufferings caused by the flood.
According to a cross section of residents, the demolition exercise was simply carried out as mere beautification effort at giving Osogbo a befitting outlook of a state capital. This was attributed to the Global Conference of Black Nationalities hosted by the ousted government in August 2010. This cross section of people reasoned that since the conference drew contingents from virtually all parts of the globe, the attempt by the administration was just to employ a fire-brigade approach towards making Osogbo a decent place which was beautiful to behold in the sight of those visitors.
Another cross section of residents assessed the demolition exercise as measure employed by Oyinlola to pay a segment of the people back in their own coin. That segment of the people comprised those who were perceived to give their support, compassion and political patronage to the opposition party in the state as at then, that is, the ACN. To Oyinlola, certain parts of the state gave support to the ACN. On these grounds, he did not see reasons why such should be allowed to enjoy good gestures from his administration.
Traders generally and residents of some areas in Osogbo were branded by Oyinlola and his cohorts as ACN supporters. Also, areas like Ilesa, Ikirun and Ila-Orangun and their environs were said to have been considered as trouble spots for the ousted ‘governor’ and as threat to his future ambition.
For traders in particular, reports had it that Oyinlola had the ill-feeling that their failure to hail him by chanting the “Oyin Ni O” slogan whenever his convoy passed along the major streets of Osogbo and other parts of the state was big minus for him and a punishable offence for them.
Whatever reason there could be for the absolute inertia of that ousted administration; it has been proven beyond contradiction that Oyinlola lacked the political will to combat the flood, erosion and other environmental challenges that faced the state in his days. The reason was largely due to his unquenchable and insatiable desire to siphon all available funds to build an empire for himself after his inglorious exit from office.