Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Where is the environment in our Elections?

On March 28th 2015, it is expected that Nigerians would troop out to elect a new president or continue to be managed according to the blueprint of the present administration of the PDP. Whatever reason was given for the shift of the presidential elections from February to March 2015 and the conspiracy theories that trailed the shift is immaterial now. We believe that what is key to this discussion is not just that a whopping sum of nearly N15billion will have been spent towards the election of the shifted polls of February; what is key to this discussion is that as a nation, we have a predilection for misplaced priorities and a tendency to convert our wealth to waste instead of the other way round.


Therefore, as we prepare for the elections, our world and its entire essence have ground to a halt. Nothing economically viable is going on if it is not an activity that supports the elections – the ideas, the strategies, the policies, everything today and now is about the elections of March 2015. Many homes are going hungry and unable to meet their daily needs and obligations - I know a certain business man who has had to go a-borrowing to survive, and this is simply because he has not been paid for business and services rendered. ‘Come collect your money after the elections’, he said he is often told, and I cannot help but wonder how he would pick up his check if he unfortunately passes on before the elections.


Most politicians do not seem to be interested in our environment. The party manifestoes of both candidates,  and indeed that of the political class is confined either to using the broom to sweep the one party from power, or to use the umbrella to cover up a lot of the sleaze that the present government is said to be good at.  We are not sure what the parties are saying concerning desertification, the effects which the depletion of the ozone layer is causing to weather, and what they are likely to do to mitigate the effects of our undue reliance on fossil fuels as the mainstay of our economy. The most of what the parties are focused on is security, poverty alleviation or corruption. But can we really be secure if the Rivers Niger or Benue overflow their banks once again, of if the Bar Beach washes off the whole of the Lagos Island? Can we claim that we are really diversifying our economy when most of what the government is doing is throwing money at Nigerian farmers from tractors bought at over-inflated and over-invoiced costs? What is the position of any of the candidates on global warming, and how do they plan to cut down on the emission of green house gases and gas flaring in environmentally challenged states of the Niger Delta?

And sadly, all of the billions of dollars that have come at great cost as income to Nigeria through gas flaring and environmental degradation are usually stolen. What makes this sadder is that while other nations of the world like the US and the EU make climate change a big issue in and around elections, not one of the parties has developed a blueprint on how it intends to tackle issues of diversification of our economy from a reliance on fossil fuels. We are furthermore bewildered at the reaction of some of our elite, and who are in a position to bridge the gap between the nonchalance of the political parties and the outright ignorance of the ordinary man on the street. In a recent discussion on climate change, I was to be utterly disappointed that while the EU and the US, and their citizens are working hard to mitigate the nearly irreversible effects of climate change, and developing basic infrastructure to curtail the coming catastrophe, most of our elite and politicians still hold on to the comfort of their air- conditioners and the luxury of big cars that guzzle a lot of fuel. ‘We’re not the ones who started the flipping climate change rubbish’, they were to tell me. ‘The Europeans and Americans did – they messed the whole place up, they have used fossil fuels to develop their countries and they’re asking us not to contribute our quota to the calamity?’


But these are specious arguments, yes they are.  The calamity of climate change is no different from the calamity of a Chernobyl or of a Hiroshima or of a Nagasaki. Just so as the mushroom of the Atomic Bomb rose and was swept by the winds in whatever direction the wind chose, and just as the radioactivity of Chernobyl left no one in any doubt about its impartiality in devastation, so does the challenge posed by the debacle of climate change. The Nigerian voter therefore must know who, between the duo of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, best articulates a vision for a green and clean Nigeria, and whose body language clearly indicates that matters concerning our environment would get reasonable attention.  




Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku is communications Manager with Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ.  majirioghene@aneej.org