Those Flooding Terrains Of Yesteryears: What Made Them Inevitable (II)

Continued from last week

The environmental challenges of the past years were mostly caused by factors which constituted environmental degradation. Beyond natural predisposing factors, much havoc is wrought when man, through his various activities, actions, inactions, efforts and exertions degrade his environment. As defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, environment means “conditions, circumstances, etc. affecting a person’s life”. The same dictionary defines environment further as “the natural conditions, e.g. land, air and water, in which people, animals and plants live.” The dictionary identifies categories of environment in which man subsists in exhaustive numbers but cites “physical,” “social”, “political”, “competitive”, “unhappy home”, and “political” environments as instances. Of these cited environmental settings, it is certain that the relevance of unhappy and polluted environment is more down-to-earth when circumstances that characterised the past few years in the state come under critical scrutiny. To a large and reasonable extent, environment has far-reaching influence on the life of man, his growth, development and the cope he makes of life. On the other hand, through his various activities and exertions, man either makes or mars his environment.
An environment with aura of ambience and homeliness is what a responsible government and well-oriented citizenry are mandated to provide. Unfortunately, these culture and traditions, which once formed the integral part of our ethos, had been violated by a focusless, visionless irresponsible and irresponsive administration. The result was a society that was out of joint – a physical and social environment that was bastardised and corrupted by degradation and socio-political pandemonia.
Degradation, on the other hand, is defined by the above-cited dictionary as “extreme poverty,” while it defines :”to degrade” as “to cause somebody or oneself to be less respected or have lower status, to cause something to become worse in quality.” In a sentence-use example, the dictionary states that: “pollution is degrading the environment”. Going by these illustrations, it becomes clear that features of denigration, abuse, violation and debasement were preponderating and rampant during Oyinlola’s years of siege in the State of the Virtuious. The ugly after-effects are yet to be recovered from today. The indices for identifying these unbecoming trends are bad roads, tall heaps of garbage arising from indiscriminate disposal of refuse, poor environmental sanitation and hygiene measures, poor water conservation and provision, poor drainage and channelisation, diversion and frivolous squandering of public funds, especially those tagged Ecological Funds. Specific reasons which made the deplorable state of environment inevitable in the past years are not far-fetched. They are here dissected to reminisce on the past and to caution government and the governed against the reoccurrence of the same mistakes which brought about dire environmental setbacks and disasters in our state.

•Absence of Proper Drainages and Water Channels
With the recent trend of water erosion in the far-North, it is an act of deliberate wickedness on the part of any administration in this Rain Forest belt of Nigeria not to invest in good drainage systems. This was the fundamental feature of the Oyinlola administration in Osun State. This failure proves clearly that Oyinlola and his henchmen were mere adventurers who came to plunder the people and devastate their environment and their heritage. Failure of that administration to build on, and strive to overtake the laudable achievements of the Bisi Akande administration in this area has caused serious havoc for the people and the society. It has been pointed out earlier in this report that most of the times; man errs in these activities due to the various actions and inactions he carries out. However, more excruciating and painful are the inactions of an irresponsible government, failing in its regulatory duties in matters concerning the environment. That was the case with the erstwhile Oyinlola administration.
In the last week edition of OSUN DEFENDER Magazine, it has been traced how the foisted administration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola misappropriated funds allocated to channelisation of streams and erosion paths in the state since its inception in 2003. It is vividly visible that apart from the channelisation projects executed by the administration of Chief Bisi Akande, no further efforts were made by the ousted administration. This was against the necessity imposed by the great expansionary activities taking place in Osogbo in particular and Osun State at large.

•Heavy Downpour vis-à-vis Poor Drainage
While it is not disputed that the rainfall experienced in this part of the country is heavy indeed, this fact does not absolve any government form blame for non-performance, especially in the area of life–threatening disasters like erosion and flood. In the Oyinlola years, erosion and water floods were highly rampant in Osun State. The allegations making the rounds, concerning the conducts of citizens, which predisposed floods, are rampant. On the one hand, it was alleged that blockage of drains and water canals by people’s inadvertent waste-disposal practices usually caused the menace. This could be true. But it was fallout from the inept administration’s failure to put in place a good waste disposal measure. Oyinlola’s noise over the purchase of Refuse Carrying vehicles for the thirty local government council areas in the state and the Ife East Area Office to the tune of over N750 Million shortly before his inglorious removal from office did not bring any improvement whatsoever.
On the other hand, it was alleged that citizens of the state failed to observe fundamental rules and guidelines governing building and construction when building their houses. This includes the rule that one should not build houses and other structures on courses of rivers, streams and canals. Also, there are rules governing spacing of houses and distance of houses from roads, drainages and river courses, this allegation, like the first one, could also be correct. But the fault lies mainly with that failed administration. The Oyinlola administration failed in government’s policy of Land Housing, Urban and Physical Planning. Citizens could only embark on indiscriminate building of houses and erection of illegal structures where government is inexistent or where government is lacking in initiatives and discretion for development and advancement of people’s welfare.
It is important to stress again that the ousted administration could not have been credited to have one single channelisation project executed to its eternal credit. Instead of embarking on life-changing projects, great sums of money vouched annually for these life-saving sanitation and welfare projects have been diverted to the lining of the captors’ pockets. As an aftermath, the people suffered, as many became victims of the unpleasant effects of incessant flooding. Many houses collapsed, rendering a good percentage of victims homeless. Many lives were lost through the carelessness and irresponsibility of that administration.

•High Incidence of Windstorm Disasters
Windstorm disasters were on the increase. Many houses were devastated on account of this. The time of greatest incidence was at the outset of rains in February March every year. This translates to the fact that at that time, citizens became subjected to debilitating fears of double disasters- those of water flooding erosion and of windstorms. This latter tragedy lasted till the end of rains in October/December. If victims of these disasters over the years are cross-examined, many of them would doubtless have tales of woe to tell as to lack of emergency relief from the government of that time. When reliefs were given, they went only to sycophants, hangers-on and boot-lickers who mostly were actually not in need of such reliefs. Such was the practice under that devilish dispensation. Surely, the practice was prophetic of a subtle way of inviting curses of disaster on the heads of functionaries of that satanic administration.

•Bad Road Network
Under the administration of the ousted ‘Governor’ Olagunsoye Oyinlola, roads were in a derelict state. Roads and streets were simply turned into pathways for water erosion, rendering them non-motorable thereby. Thus, our roads were transformed into death-traps. The roads became high contributors to deaths and disabilities, arising from road and traffic mishaps. The few roads claimed to be constructed or rehabilitated were make-believe projects which were haphazardly executed. Such roads became non-motorable no sooner than they were constructed ore rehabilitated.
Under the circumstances imposed by that administration, our roads turned rapidly to erosion paths. There was obviously no other part of our physical land terrain where gully was as visible as on the roads. This ugly situation was worsened by widespread incidence of erection of temporary or permanent structures which constituted obstruction to flow of water brought about by the trends of erosion. In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, deplorable state of roads is most prevalent. From Kobo N’ Gbogbo e to Igbonna; Oke-Ijetu to Ilobu Road; Olaiya to Abere; which are noticeable to passers-by, to the most interior parts, roads have become unserviceable.
Local government councils, which are the tiers of government that are closest to the people at the grassroots, have become dormant. Mere sanitation functions by the councils have become impossibility.
This is not to talk of road construction by the councils which had become a forbidden function. With the poor standard of few road projects implemented while the time of that administration lasted, it is hard to believe that such roads had a life span of less than a decade. This is because of their substandard quality which fastens the rate of deterioration.

•Indiscriminate Refuse
Dumping WASTE disposal was an aspect of life which constituted a plague during the time span of the ousted administration. Waste disposal, apart from its effects on aesthetics of the environment, has a telling effect on sanitation, welfare and hygiene of dwellers within any specific physical and social environment. In the absence of proper refuse disposal system, people resort to indiscriminate disposal of waste, which result in pollution, ill-health, outbreak of diseases and eventual death. One more terrible effect is the blockage that refuse dropped indiscriminately causes on river courses, erosion paths, canals and drainages.
Unlike many states where waste disposal has been explored and converted to an advantage in the aspect of agricultural productivity, revenue boost and employment generation, the Oyinlola administration folded its arms in a poise of gross ineptitude. In other places, wastes are being converted to “clean and green” and inorganic fertilizers are recycled form them. Some forms of waste are also being used for power generation, in form of biogas. Unfortunately, under the discretionless administration of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, waste became a menace, a serious cause of nausea, irritation and terrible repulsion. As earlier pointed out, the indiscriminate dumping of waste causes water floods during rainy seasons. It is a sorry sight to behold gutters and canals during dry seasons as they are filled up with solid waste. During the rains, people are seen hurriedly dumping their wastes into gutters at the slightest approach of a rain. This practice is governed by an admixture of ignorance and helplessness, and which people indulge in with the hope that what they could not dispose through other conventional means would be washed off by rainwater. At it turned out, the same water causes floods that wash lives and valuables away instead!
Today, many residential buildings and public places in Osun State have no provision for toilet facilities. Any passer-by at motor parts, streets, marketplaces and school sites risks being suffocated to death by pollution emanating from indiscriminate disposal of human solid and liquid wastes. The stench is so terrible that one doubts if there is anything left of the old- time sanitary inspectors. The current advent of a new era in the State however brings a great relief that the living spring state shall live an abundant life once again.

•Lack Of Central Refuse-Damping Centres And Collective Units
Due to lack of proper waste-disposal arrangements and orientation, greater proportion of our populace resorted to disposing their wastes wrongly, and at improper places. Drainages and river courses were blocked and this led to flooding, which exposed the lives of the people to grave jeopardy. Under the watch of the lethargic administration of Prince Olagunsouye Oyinlola, people were found dumping wastes on road margins, sideways, and road medians and across fences and undeveloped plots of land. This uncivilised practice subsisted in metropolitan areas and cities. This eye-sore was a common feature of our towns, turning them to horrible sites. As a result, pollution was generated through the stench created by decomposing wastes. On several occasions, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine had cried foul on dangers inherent in the spate of decomposing corpses and animal carcasses on our streets-even in Osogbo, the state capital. All these issues portrayed the ousted administration as grossly irresponsible, careless and irresponsive.

•Ineffectiveness of Hygiene, Health and Sanitation Agencies
The situation under discussion also reflected the absence of a government in the real context of the institution. This was true of governments at the state and local tiers. The various sanitation agencies OSEPA, OSEMC, State Ministry of Environment, Community Health and Sanitation Departments of local governments and RUWESA existed merely as physical formations with little or no impact. Market places, eateries, parks, restaurants and other public places were there to distribute and disseminate diseases and ailments free of charge to the masses.

•Ineffectiveness of Land, Urban and Town Planning Agencies
It has been mentioned in the earlier part of this report how building structures built without plans, approval and/or conformity with known standards and in wrong places could cause obstruction to flow of water. These structures in effect cause floods which lead to colossal losses of lives and valuables of inestimable value.
Under the last administration, structures of various kinds sprang up on our landscape, littering all the drainages and canals. This ugly trend caused blockage for water during rains, hence, the attendant disasters which occurred nearly on yearly basis. The attempt of that administration to demolish such structures that constituted blockage to waterways in August last year, following the last flood disaster was fraught with corruption and double standards. This very fact was concomitant to the administration’s lack of political will. The same fact caused it not to have a firm control over issues bordering on physical planning throughout its entire tenure.

•Poor Water Conservation And Attendant Acute Shortage Of Potable Water
In earlier part of this segment of current OSUN DEFENDER Magazine edition it was brought to the fore that Osun State has several streams, springs and rivers which criss-cross its territory. It was also mentioned that at height of rainy seasons, these bodies of water become swelled up before taking exit into the Atlantic Ocean. But they do so, not until they have, in most cases, wrought great havoc, due to various factors under enumeration. The fact that is intended to elucidate here is that lots of water and water resources are lost during the rains.
The experience in Osun State under the past siege mounted by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was harrowing indeed. It was that of acute shortage of potable water, in and out of season. Then, what difference it would have made if the high volumes of water wasted during the rains were conserved for household and industrial use! In other countries where rains are farther apart, used water from drainage and sewages is being recycled to make it potable. In such countries, water shortage is a rarity. Even, countries located in desert, arid and semi-arid regions of the world are well-abreast of limitations imposed by acute water shortage. It became worrisome during the Oyinlola years that residents of Osun State in the most suffered a great deal to get drinking water, even during the rains! This is not to talk of the dry seasons.
Out of the numerous mini water schemes claimed to have been executed to completion stage by that administration; hardly could we find one that really supplied water beyond commissioning date.  While the administration bragged over dam construction, irrigation, all-year-round farming and other concepts which eventually turned out a mirage, the same water, which formed the central part of it all ceased to be an essential commodity but became a threat which washed away many lives and inestimable properties. Indeed, it was as if Coleridge’s verses held ominous promise for Osun State when he wrote:
“…Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink…”
The situation was clearly that of scarcity in the midst of plenty.

•Environmental Pollution
Thiswas another in the long list of “dividends of democracy” dispensed by the Oyinlola administration. This particular item on the list deserves mentioning because it is an attendant feature in any place where heaps of garbage or decomposing animals or humans is noticeable. Pollution could arise following the heaping up of refuse, prior to flooding; or after flooding has actually dealt its fatal blow. All these, combined, characterised the entire years of the Oyinlola administration in Osun State.

•Widespread Bush-Burning Practices and Deforestation
Though these twin practices are mostly blamed on the governed (citizens); bulk of the blame should be apportioned to government for failing to enact and enforce laws that could put them in check. These activities expose our land to evaporation from sunlight and devastation by wind or water erosion. By so doing, our soil is being drastically depleted due to washing away of top soil. In addition, flooding becomes intense due to excessive exposure to direct touch of rain drops.
The last administration in Osun State paid much lip-service to afforestation, prohibition of bush burning, prohibition of deforestation, etc yet these negative practices continued. Activities of bush-burners and forest encroachers, who spare no means to fell trees indiscriminately from our forests and devastate our land, thrived under the Oyinlola administration. Forest reserves owned by the state government and claimed to be maintained by the administration were not spared from this sabotage. The sabotage was indeed the exclusive preserve of the high and mighty – those closely connected to the corridors of power in that ousted government – top functionaries, influential figures and stalwarts of the devilish PDP.
Gladly now, the wishes, yearnings and aspiration of the great majority of Osun State citizens; and their collective mandate have eventually prevailed. Their dreams of progressive, people-oriented governance have come true. The struggle for true democracy and genuine emancipation from bondage and captivity has yielded deserved dividends. The snare is broken. The siege is over. As the long gloomy night breaks into a new dawn of glory and splendour, what else could be more deserving than to unite to justify the whole essence of the past struggle? During the struggle; men, women and children sweated blood. Many paid the supreme sacrifice. Many were terrorized, maimed and brutalised. Many were unjustly incarcerated. The good side now is that the victory has been won in the long last.
OSUN DEFENDER Magazine enjoins the entire peace loving, long-suffering and progress-minded people of the State of the Virtuous to give a rallying support to the government of our Governor, the man of the people, Engineer Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola. The political will, drive and impetus of any truly democratic government derive from the degree of support accorded it by the people.
Through its six-point action plan, the administration of Engineer Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola is set to put paid to all sufferings and afflictions which have hitherto plagued the people. The government of the day is up to the task to make the perennial flood disaster that had been a recurring decimal in Osun Sate a thing of the past. We, I mean all of us, are on our way to enjoying to the fullest a people-friendly government. The genuine Emancipator is here. We are having the last laugh, and the best. Brighten up, Osun State, the State of the Virtuous; yea, the Omoluabi State shall live again.