Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate Crisis – A Review – Part 1

Climate Change Trailer- HD from Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation on Vimeo.


What is the weather like today?
It may not feel like so, but the climate is actually changing.

In anticipation of the most optimistic climate change conference yet (December 2015, in Paris), the winds of change are rattling the leaves on the tree of life. Or is someone orchestrating the leaves, mimicking a passing wind? The anticipated change is the “international community’s” attitude to global warming, which is intricately related to other crises of nature and its resources, with significant implication on our economic culture. Let the future come to pass and we shall judge this change. For now we can observe the trembling “leaves” which includes: international community’s resolve to embark on sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Sept 2015, global climate march which is ongoing at the time of this post, French embassy’s one-week events on climate change in Nigeria, premier of the documentary Nowhere to Run: Climate Crisis in Nigeria. It is this premier that I shall expand on.

It was called a “green carpet” premier because of its theme on nature, not as many Muslims would suppose that it has something to do with the Prophet’s favorite colour. The host was Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation.

Within an hour, the documentary managed to cover important issues around Climate Change with references to the Nigerian experience: desertification, oil spillage, gas flaring, toxic waste, rising sea level, deforestation, mud slide, scarcity of natural resources, efficient cooking energy, etc. This is quite comprehensive and succinct. The main message of the movie was communicated well through the movie, because at the end one feels the imminent crisis as well as appreciates the connection between some of our daily activities and the impact on the environment. The film could be made longer to strengthen connection between audience and issues especially those that affect domestic practices. In its present form, the film is more likely to influence policy than mindset and practices of people. Given the context of global discussions, that may be the aim of the film anyway.

Certain cause-effect relationships were put forward in the documentary. This approach to advocacy is a popular one, where fear and empathy are invoked in an audience to move them towards action; fear for what would befall you and your descendants, empathy towards direct victims of the resulting frequent natural disasters, fear of being an indirect victim. This would work. In the case of oil spillage, gas flaring and toxic waste that occurs in the South-South, it is easier to link the effect of poor health to un-farmable lands. In the case of the North East, it is not as easy to argue that desertification (and the drying up of lake chad) is the cause of social instability and insecurity, so it was argued to be a contributing factor; though it is presented as if it is the sole cause competing with other stale causes like poverty and “education”. The ethno-religious attacks between cattle herders and farmers, which has opened an opportunity for cattle rustlers, was also explained in the film to be largely due to competition on natural resources. Similar argument has been made about the Syrian uprising, and even the “Arab Spring”. I don’t know about the Arab Spring, however in Nigeria these seem to be contributors but not causes.

There is the inspirational community of Ekuri in Cross-Rivers state, which mobilised “construction” of its infrastructure and maintains stewardship of a virgin forest autonomously in the absence of the government effort. Other inspiring projects are the Rimi wind power farm and the Songhai Project of scientific farming both in Katsina state; the documentary showed the latter to be making considerable progress. However, an important subject that was missing in the film is resilience. Cities, any settlement with appreciable risk of climate crisis, should aim to become more resilient. This is particularly important to cover because there is a home grown solution designed by a Nigerian, as part of the solution to the rising sea level of Lagos state, which is called Makoko Floating School. These are floating structures that could allow people to survive in post risen sea-level Lagos.

Read Part 2 of the post.



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