It looked like buildings were deliberately constructed in the middle of the sea. Canoes are used to crisscross communities. Gates of houses are flung open. No fears about criminals. People took refuge in camps. Beautiful houses soaked in water; some caving-in and falling over. Corpses are washed up. Trees provide suitable vegetation. If not experienced, it will be believed these are in the middle of the sea in cartoons and movies. The silence of the waters and then, silence from the leaders. These are some of the experiences of many communities in Anambra, Bayelsa states and other states where flooding has ravaged the communities.
Natural calamity is often no one’s fault in particular but demands efforts from the leaders to counter the effect of the devastation. It is the time people show humanity. The victims need kindness, support and motivation especially from their leaders. The people look forward to hearing from their leaders and seeing them experience the calamity with them by simply visiting to assure the people that as their leaders, they are sensitive to their pains, being seen and can be solved. At the time, leaders become more endearing to their people.
In the seven years of his leadership, President Buhari has not learned to visit a scene of calamity nor communities affected by any tragedy. The much response he shows is to pose often as shocked to any news of calamity, release press statements or convoke a committee to look into the situation and report back.
In the current flooding situation, President Buhari under whose leadership various communities in 33 states are suffering from flooding and are submerged under water, made a statement directing NEMA to send speedy relief to the affected communities. He directed the Minister of Water Resources to coordinate and “to develop a Comprehensive Plan of Action for Preventing Flood Disaster in Nigeria”and report to him in 90 days as he left for South Korea for a “The Future of Vaccine and Bio-Health” summit.
Ninety days for a calamity that deserves urgency and declaration of emergency? Probably to be forgotten by the time they will finish organising and then wait for another flooding cycle.
The president behaved as showing to be doing something about the flooding situation and at the same time kicking the can down the road. This is akin to the fiddling Nero as Rome burned.
What is more important than to show empathy and be seen as a leader at the forefront of comforting the affected people? A leader is not only felt by the strength of his policies, and projects but also how he relates with the fellow citizens at their time of suffering. Policies do not assess calamity or comfort those in need. Human beings do.
Nigerians are used to not having such empathy from their leaders and that’s why politics and political activities continued even when such devastating flooding has consumed many people, farmlands, property, livestock and means of livelihood and at the risk of an outbreak of disease.
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The presidential candidates of the ruling party APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and opposition party PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did not also see empathy as a virtue. That is why when the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi called for a pause to politics and campaigns, and began visiting the ravaged communities, their supporters began to mock and alleged that it was for show and that it was hypocrisy. The PDP presidential candidate, out of political expediency has begun his visitation, while APC candidate visits by proxy.
There is no hypocrisy in showing empathy and comforting the suffering and finding a solution to the problem.
If Nigerians are used to empathy, these political leaders will not be cajoled to pause their campaigns, visit the communities and the people and find the lasting solution to deal with the recurrent flooding.
The politicians, by their actions, believe that Nigerians do not deserve such humanity from them but except for their votes. This is why they often pretend to be empathic during the elections.
In a meeting in South Korea, President Buhari told former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon that Nigeria is “experiencing the negative fallout of climate change seen in the flooding in different parts of the country as well as encroaching desertification and drought in northern Nigeria.”
President Buhari does not fail to label any natural disaster as an after effect of desertification of northern Nigeria where he is from and climate change. Again, flooding devastating southern Nigeria is partly the ineffectiveness of his government to proactively construct dams or artificial lakes to take care of the overflow of the dams including that from Cameroon.
Nigerians do not expect empathy from their leaders but with the Labour Party presidential candidate leading the way in empathising with the devastated communities, empathy from the leaders could be expected to be ingrained in the culture of Nigerians should he win the election and the search will end.