Thursday, 16 April 2015

Buhari’s green options

“I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against climate change…”
-President-elect Muhammadu Buhari
Now that Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress’ candidate in the last presidential election, has won and the euphoria of victory has died down, Nigeria is now faced with the hard realities of national life. My guess is that with the prevailing economic hardship still biting hard, and many politicians defecting from every shady corner to the victorious party, the question now on every lip is: “How exactly will this CHANGE come?”
The Nigeria of today reminds me of a popular track by the late hip hop icon, Heavy D, which goes: “Now that we found love what are we gonna do with it?” Yes, Nigeria wanted an alternative. Yes, Nigeria wanted change. Yes, Nigeria wanted Buhari. And we got them. But now, what are we going to do with them? Some public commentators are already asserting that Nigerians are impatient; and should they wait in vain without seeing immediate change in their socio-economic lives, their shouts of “Hosanna!” shall soon turn to “Crucify him!”
This is why I do not envy Buhari. Honestly, many are not ready to accept his candid explanation of “I am not a miracle worker.” They just want him to work miracles; after all, his coming to power is simply a work of miracle.
The international community is not left behind. They have their own expectations. In fact, it was Buhari that wet their appetite. During his acceptance speech, he was clear in his message to the world: Expect Nigeria to become more forceful in the global fight against climate change. The truth is that Nigeria’s stance on climate change is deemed critical, given it is Africa’s largest economy, the continent’s top oil producer and among the world’s largest suppliers of natural gas.
The moment Buhari told the world his incoming government would lead Nigeria in a more pronounced and concentrated fight against climate change, the global green community fell in love with him. That less-than-a-sentence expression of green commitment went viral in the world media. Buhari, being a man of few, but “bankable,” words, attracted an instant faith from concerned stakeholders. In fact, a couple of my green friends in Nigeria and abroad called to express their pleasant surprise at the manifest renaissance the environmental sector was about to witness under the President-elect. More so, coming on the heels of a report that predicted that Nigeria is now set to become Africa’s only global superpower, there could not be a better indication of assertion of power than this. Of course, climate change is the new chessboard in the global power game.
In addition, as the student of history that I am, I could not help but notice another sentimental slant to the whole scenario. Buhari’s remarks cut an instant tableau of a perfect déjà vu. Being an aged man in a world ravaged by ecological disasters right, left and centre, he instantly reminded me of World War II; when Britain’s equally aged war-time leader, Sir Winston Churchill, stubbornly assured the world of victory under an atmosphere of fear and total sense of defeat brought about by ruthless bombardment from the ubiquitous war machine of the Axis Powers.
History beckons on President-elect Buhari. Just like Churchill, he could become his country’s most historic statesman. Faced with a trailer load of national emergencies amidst fast-disappearing oil wealth, it will take superhuman genius to navigate Nigeria into safe waters. Yet, it is in times like this – when a country is in its most critical epoch of national survival – that Providence throws legendary leaders to a struggling citizenry.
Surely, there are very tough decisions that must be made by the incoming government, but a few viable options before it, because we have tried many things and even abandoned a few along the way; and Nigerians do not have the patience for fresh merry-go-round trips. But thank goodness, there are green options before Buhari.
To start with, it will not be out of character for him to go for green solutions. He is a natural green. Clean, calm and conservative in taste and habits, Buhari is a man that can understand energy efficiency as a matter of policy — which is at the core of green economy.
Secondly, Nigerians are easily impressed, and are really good people with good taste. Applying green options to governance will have the expected wow effect among the populace; and this could potentially become the miracle we have all been waiting for. I am positive that if the funds wasted in bogus projects are rightly channelled into green solutions in all aspects of the national infrastructure, our country shall become a global player overnight.
During Buhari’s first coming as military head of state, he introduced the nationwide environmental sanitation programme. At that time, the project resonated with a people that yearned for a better Nigeria; and actually brought sanity to the country’s environment. This can only mean that the President-elect has his personality and natural proclivity going for him, though one would be forgiven for doubting the green credentials of the men that currently surround him and that will run his government with him.
Nevertheless, Nigeria today is more complicated and needs more than mere sanitation. We need green jobs, green homes, green power supply, and in fact, a green future, where coastal community dwellers could go to sleep without fear of being submerged by a surging ocean before they wake in the morning. Where people living at the fringes of Northern Nigeria could still farm in dry land without fear of sudden drought or an overnight sandstorm that could bury all they laboured for.
Nigeria needs to become a giant not in words, but in deeds. It is just as well that the General declared that our country would become proactive in the fight against climate change; and that is good news for people like me, because today we are so weak in that fight that we really ‘suck’!
For instance, Gabon two weeks ago became the first African country to submit its new climate action plan to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The whole world agreed that every party to the Kyoto Protocol should submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution as its plan of action: a precursor to the climate change agreement which will be reached at the UNFCCC COP 21 to take place in Paris this December.
Including Gabon, 35 parties to the UNFCCC have formally submitted their INDCs, covering all the countries under the European Union plus the European Commission, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and the United States. If you asked me, a serious giant of Africa should be in this early list.
And because Buhari has vowed to fight corruption, I must comment that corruption is about to totally destroy the renewable energy industry in Nigeria. Instructively, Buhari has said in one of his campaign outings that if the country does not kill corruption, corruption will kill it. So, he must start by removing the rot in the country’s green sector. Indubitably, this sector has the potential to create millions of jobs, engender a pollution and disease-free country; and on top of that, generate enough power to bring us at par with any developed nation. To be sincere, the benefits of embracing green options are enormous. But next week, we shall look at these options we have been talking about.
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