Monday, November 21, 2016 9:03 pm
By Ignonekwu Ogazimaora
Well, it is no longer news that a debilitating famine is about descending on Nigeria.
But I wonder if any effort is made to explain it. It is called “ugha, or ukporo, or ugbuu/ugbu/ogbu,” in some dialects of Igbo Language. It is present in the memories of my people.
It was even fully reported in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The rains never came as expected, the planting season was deceptive, and crops were lost. Some men simply took the ropes and mounted tree branches and hanged themselves. They couldn’t take it.
That is just a tip of what Nigerians, in and out of corridors of power, are mentioning with such banality. A smoldering tragedy approaching the ship of society and nobody is even worried. For all that you do not care aboug, famine is like war. War arrives with instant, shocking, deaths of people in large numbers, especially those who may come or stay along the line of fire. Famine arrives and hits everybody. The vegetations dry up. The streams, rivers and ponds dry up. Crops wither and burn up under the soil. Fruits do not come up as trees die off. Water to drink even becomes a problem. The soil cakes up and hardens like concrete slabs.
Then, the death toll takes the upward swing. First the animals; then the humans. The sick, old, weak, young, children, before it swings back for the strong who has been weakened by the era. The problem of famine reaches its zenith in its socio-political influences. Population movements take confusing turns. Those in the northern fringes where it starts are forced to embark on waves of migration, resettlement and re-culturation, sown south.
Prior to present era, this led to wars. Stronger migrants force their ways, disperse sitting populations or impose their wills. Territories are seized and values changed by force of arms. For you to get a picture of this, consider the methods of the herdsmen as they impose themselves on locals each place they find a footing.
In his book, Famine and Changes in the Benue Basin, 1020 AD – 1578, Prof Sargant contests the claim of autochthony among many Southern Nigerians. He insists that many had come from the North – during the greatest famine of all times – in search of water, green regions and life, and had either occupied open, virgin, forests and savannas or had forced the natives out. In very good cases, they simply began a good mix of what you have today as federating villages across Southern towns and villages.
Yes, your mind can now go back to your village, like mine. A section, we know, actually accept coming from somewhere in the North. I also remember a small book on Abriba, the prosperous Abia town, where the writer speculated migration from a Beriberi group from the North.
Since research funds dried up, we couldn’t complete the work “waves of migration in the Igbo areas of South Eastern Nigeria,” and so we are not sure of the reasons for the perfect federating systems in the Igbo areas where a community made of eight villages bear eight such accounts of foundation and inclusion in the town.
But are there likely to be those kinds of migration today? Hmmmmmm. Yes! But will be very, very difficult. People are more settled and possessive of territories. Attempts to force such shifts will only result in adding wars to the approaching famine. Something like adding fuel to the flame.
But wait a minute, so, since we have been having oil booms, making subsidy billionaires, US Dollar exchange Billionaires, we have not learnt how desert regions are turned into lush green regions?
At least, we know, or read about Israelis turning deserts into green areas in the Middle East, right from 1948, when the State of Israel was born. We read about high dust regions of Saudi Arabia where sprawling oasis were built by American engineering and water has been everywhere.
When calls were made for rich Nigerians – especially owners of the cattle roaming the lower Benue and Niger basins – to create such vegetation areas in the North, if only to reduce the tension between herdsmen and other Nigerians, people in authority have treated this with levity.
Well, just be ready for the worst. Hunger, population dislocation, huge population movement, battles over territories, etc, are on their way! It is your lot, our lot, as the famine approaches!