Nigeria’s Housing Deficit – We Must Act Now, lest the “Angry gods” Be Enraged
I recall, with a copious mix of laughter and feelings of disappointment, a fable I circumstantially heard repeatedly and believed. I can’t trace the origin of such tales but I recall coming in contact with it when a section of a major road that runs through my town failed. The road was practically cut into two by unforgiving floods which insisted it must empty itself into the nearest water body, even if it means washing away people’s houses and cutting an expressway into two to achieve that purpose.
The erosion site was massive. Hearing the sound of floods raging through the erosion site each time it rains is enough to send any six year old into panic. I don’t recall specifically interviewing people to ascertain the cause of such menace but the popular rhetoric then was that “the gods were angry at the people and therefore plagued them with such erosion as a punishment for their preferred lifestyle.”
Before you jeer at my folly (for those who find sufficient reasons to do so), please note that I was young, naïve and innocently gullible. It is needless to argue whether I would have believed such fables if I were to be an adult at the material time but I know that adults (my uncles inclusive), local chiefs/titleholders, the religious who were calling for fervent prayers, school teachers who didn’t fail to communicate such to their hapless students and even some intellectuals people looked up to, believed the angry gods fable. It took the intervention of the Obasanjo–led Federal Government to arrest the situation, fix the erosion site and unshackle the minds of the people.
David-Chyddy Eleke of Thisday Newspaper, in his November 2016 report, said; “there are over 960 active erosion sites in Anambra State, and these have in most communities swallowed up houses, making residents lose their places of abode.” It is safer not to imagine what fables some of these traumatized people might still hold on to.
Not too long ago, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum offered his thoughts on a variant of a known infectious disease – Type C Meningitis, which threatened the peace, security and orderliness of the state he governs. He opened his mouth, as widely reported by the media, to say; “What we used to know as far as meningitis is concerned is the type A virus…however, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities, God now decided to send Type C virus, which has no vaccination. People have turned away from God and he has promised that ‘if you do anyhow, you see anyhow’ that is just the cause of this outbreak as far as I am concerned. There is no way fornication will be so rampant and God will not send a disease that cannot be cured.”
It is either the governor sincerely expressed what he believes in or that he resorted to telling fables because he knows his people will buy into such tales. And any of these two points to the magnitude of scientific and civic illiteracy still ravaging our society even in this 21st century.
A little digression. This call for repentance, is it not coming from the same Gov. Yari who is now being accused by the EFCC of stealing (diverting, to be politically correct) a substantial part of the money that would have been deployed to combat the epidemic, pay workers’ salaries and attend to other needs of the people and allegedly used same to service his personal debts and acquire a $3Million hotel? Without acquiescing with Gov. Yari’s accusers, which is tantamount to striping him off his presumption of innocence, I tend to wonder what type of Meningitis the angry gods will visit the governor with if he indeed committed the alleged crimes. Type D, E or F? Who knows?
Back to my point. At the risk of running into philosophical or theological arguments with Gov. Yari and the people he shares similar views with, I beg to be allowed to think aloud for a few more minutes. Had my State Government enforced total compliance with the state’s master plan and prohibited people from erecting buildings on areas mapped out for drainages, cleared clogged drainage facilities and reinforced or replaced existing ones when they showed signs of weakness, perhaps the gods wouldn’t have been so angry to strike the people with a devastating gully erosion. Had Zamfara State Government provided the people of the state with affordable well-ventilated houses and was proactive enough, perhaps the angry gods would have spared them the agony of burying hundreds of their kinsmen who died by the sword of Type C Meningitis like they spared other people who “do anyhow” but live in well ventilated houses and have access to proper medication.
The danger with angry gods fables is that, though they pass responsibility to the people, they misdirect the people’s collective energy into seeking solutions where there are none, thereby killing creativity and elongating (if not perpetuating) the problems. Nigeria has continued to under develop herself by cheaply resorting to prayers where she ought to think and act. Will there be situations that call for prayers? Yes. Do all situations call for prayers? No. Even those situations that call for prayers also call for folding up of sleeves after those prayers. Nigeria is very privileged, imagine for a second, what would have happened if we have earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and things like that.
This author has repeatedly observed that Nigeria is plagued by terrible leadership, but a lot more damage is done by gullible followership. We must, by all possible means, invest in massive civic and scientific literacy – both for the leaders and the led, but essentially for the later. The gullibility of our people, the exploitation of such by the political class, and the attendant consequences have now assumed a rather dangerous dimension.
Nigeria, with a population of about 180 million people, is presently challenged with a threatening national housing deficit. In 1991, the deficit was 7 million units. It has since increased from 7 million units in 1991 to 14 million units in 2010 and currently 17 million units. By 2050, exactly 33 years from today, popular estimates say Nigeria will be the third most populous nation, with a projected population of about 390 million people. If we do not, as a matter of priority, build well ventilated and affordable houses for our teeming population in this era of global warming, let Gov. Yari and his followers be assured that the gods were just test running their anger in Type C Meningitis.
__________Chima is a good governance advocate and a public policy analyst. He writes in from Nnewi, Anambra State. He can be contacted on email@example.com and can also be connected with on Twitter via @ChimaCChristian