By Timi Alaibe
For the past few weeks, we have watched with helpless agony and unimaginable pain, the massive destruction of properties by the flood that has ravaged Bayelsa State.
We have seen, as if in slow motion, some houses submerged in water with the occupants trapped. We have helplessly witnessed human beings in vehicles swallowed up even on our Niger Delta highways, in endless journeys to eternity. Our children and elders—both men and women, have perished.
In some cases, several familiess have woken up from sleep to find themselves being helplessly driven by water to unknown destinations. In other situations, families have gone to bed in the comfort of their homes, only to be drowned, never able to wake up again.
Schools have been destroyed. Churches have been swept away. Hospitals with patients and staff have come under attack and destruction. Farmlands have become mere memories. At the peak of the flood, our local airport and the Niger Delta University were rendered inaccessible until government initiated moves to restore the over-flooded section of Yenogoa—Amassoma Road.
Those who have died do not deserve to die. It could have been you and I. Without any fault of theirs, they have died avoidable and painful death. Some of the corpses have not been traced. Those that have been traced cannot even be buried. It’s water and more water everywhere.
Bayelsa State is under attack. There is no pretension about that. These attack cuts across party lines and ethnic groupings. This is a case for national emergency and not merely an expression of sympathy. It is not business as usual. The state government is doing its best, but we need more help.
Those who have narrowly escaped this catastrophe are homeless. They have no place to sleep. Some are sick but cannot be treated, because our hospitals no longer exist.
In all the years we have faced this kind of destruction, every year always present a worst-case scenario. This year seems to be the very worst. We have never witnessed it at this level before—not in my lifetime. And before next year comes with something worse than the worst, it’s time to wake up. Several communities have been completely flooded. Our roads have been submerged. Several buildings are now the water.
Bayelsa is naturally a water-logged state. This kind of terrain serves as a natural attraction to flood, and requires that something sustainable be done to remedy the situation.
As individuals, we are doing the best we can to help our people—in the areas of food and accommodation. But this is like a drop in the ocean of need. There is no doubting the fact that we need help at a massive level. The state government can hardly contain this situation alone. We need a massive federal might and international agencies intervention.
Bayelsa is an oil and gas producing state. Inside its belly is the treasure of Nigeria. It is the legendary goose that bears the golden egg. This is its moment of need. Both the oil companies, their affiliates and the federal government must come to the rescue of Bayelsa people.
While we cherish the usual deployment of relief materials at times like this, this can only grant temporary succour. There is need to seek a permanent solution to this problem. This devastation is not caused merely by heavy down pour. Several people, in and outside government, know the source of this flood. The Federal Government has to employ exceptional diplomatic and business skills to halt this menace so that it doesn’t reoccur.
With proper planning and implementation, this same water that is destroying our state, can be turned into a huge economic resource and employment opportunities for Nigerians. Every avenue must be explored and exploited to end this scourge.
It must be noted that Bayelsa State is not an exception. Several states and communities within the Niger Delta region have come under this devastation this season. No one is safe in these circumstances. A massive land mass of the Niger Delta has been decimated.
But to the people of Bayelsa State, I sympathise with you. We have lost our fathers, mothers and children. We have lost our houses and properties. In fact, we have lost most of what we value most—both human and material. Government properties and individual investments have been destroyed. But we must not lose hope.
Despite the tears in our eyes and the heaviness in our hearts, we must keep hope alive. We must not give up. There are some of us who spend day and night planning and making contacts in high places on how to reverse this situation in future. We need your cooperation and prayer.
Let us keep hope alive. Give every support to the state government. This darkness will soon be over. The sun will shine again. God bless you.
Mr Alaibe, a one-time Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), wrote from Yenogoa.