Governor Ayade and the Politics of Climate Change

Climate Change is the theme for the 2016 Calabar Carnival

R-L: The Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. John Gaul Lebo, Wife of the Cross River State Governor, Dr. Mrs. Linda Ayade, His Excellency, Professor Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, his Deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, Leader of Seagulls Carnival Band, Princess Florence Ita Giwa and the Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry, Dr. Mrs. Alice Ekwu, during the 2016 Calabar Green Carnival in Calabar.

By Inyali Peter

Climate change has become a huge threat to man overtime. The danger posed by the scourge such as change in weather- intense rainfall, flooding, frequent and severe heat waves among others have given world leaders great concern as its effects spread across every aspect of human life ranging from health, agriculture and food security, energy, water resources, infrastructure, hence the entire environment

A research conducted by Takepart revealed that even a small increase in earth’s temperature cause by climate change has severe effects. According to the study, the earth’s average temperature has gone up 1.4°F over the past century and is expected to rise as much as 11.5°F over the next. It detailed that although that might not amount to a significant change, but the average temperature during the last Ice Age was 4°F lower than it is today.

Reports revealed that although the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the primary carbon dioxide is the major cause of climate change, human activities such as agriculture and deforestation also contribute to the proliferation on greenhouse gases that causes climate change.

To mitigate the effects, there have been concerted efforts by the international community on how to find a sustainable solution. Little wonder, world leaders have been so restless on this issue since US President-Elect, Donald Trump threatened during his campaign to pull the country out of the world’s Paris climate change agreement.

Countries all over the world especially those who have ratified the Paris agreement, have intensified efforts to mitigate this ravaging phenomenon. Nigeria, as one of the first countries who ratified the agreement have not been left out on this.

Almost all the 36 states governors including the federal capital territory have given much attention to the issue over the past few years. For instance, Lagos state for the past eight years have been holding annual submits where experts from across the globe are brought to discuss measures to tackle the phenomenon.

In Delta, the state government has set up a special unit under the supervision of the Commissioner for Environment to as a preventive measure look into the possibility of carbon dioxide reduction, water management, public issues, climate protection as well as reduction of greenhouse gas.

Many other states have engaged in the campaign for trees planting. In Ebonyi, the campaign is led by a young Cross Riverian, Godshield Kanjal who is currently serving in that state as a member of the National Youth Service Corps. The level of corporation and support he is enjoying from the state government clearly shows the value and importance the state places on the issue of climate change.

However, in Cross River which is the first and only state in Nigeria to have a full fledge Ministry of Climate Change, the story is not the same. It is more unfortunate when you consider that Kanjal who is leading the campaign in neighboring Ebonyi almost aborted the dream of tackling climate change through trees planting due to lack of support and encouragement from his state government before leaving for service.

This is after the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade controversially separated the ministry from that of Environment to allow for proper coordination of issues regarding climate change. At the birth of the ministry, many political watchers grumbled and questioned the job description of the two ministries. But Ayade in his traditional verbal convincing antics, humbled them by sitting the world’s attention on climate change and the threat it poses to human as his reasons. He explained how the state will benefit from international organizations via the ministry adding that the ministry will specifically work to actualize his ambition of planting 5 million trees within his first year in office.

Similarly, the governor further set up ‘Young Green Brigade organization’ which is supposed to implement the 5 million trees policies under the supervision of the ministry but till today, there has been no implementation of the project

Besides, Mr Ayade’s emergence as a member of the ‘Global Task Force’ on climate and forest, an international committee with the stated goal of putting an end to deforestation and forest conservation may not be unconnected to some of the ’empty’ commitment he has made about climate change using the ministry and the organization.

Within the 19 months of the administration, Ayade has spent billions of naira to host functions themed : “Preventing Climate Change” without replicating it in reality. These include, the 2015 carnival, the Miss Africa Climate Change Pageantry and the 2016 Calabar Carnival. All these events have been designed around climate change but without any single realistic plans to match the talk with work.

As an Environmental Micro Biologist, one would have expected that the self-styled ‘digital’ governor would lead the campaign for implementation of policies to prevent climate change in Nigeria beyond the pages of newspapers. Despite having a ministry and a unit to deliver the 5 million trees he (Ayade) promised to plant in his first year in office, 19 months down the line, no single tree has been planted by the administration.

Even to maintain the trees he inherited from past administration is a feat that’s gradually proving too difficult for Ayade to achieve. Millions of dollars were gotten from the United Nations to conserve the forests in the state but due to misplacement of priority the funds were used for jamboree. A government that is serious about the dangers of climate change should not be talking about destroying the state forest reserves to construct a controversial superhighway. To say the least, the media hype and talk about climate change is nothing but demonstration of Ayade unbridled lip services.

Till today, there is no single structure on ground to tackle carbon dioxide reduction, water management, climate protection, reduction of greenhouse gas or to plant trees. Rather than think of how to buy energy efficient products, conserve energy, reduce reuse amongst other preventive and control measures, the governor has resorted to using an unpopular approach of organising pageantry and theming carnivals to deplete the state’s lean resources

The politics of climate change by Ayade should stop. Climate change is not fought through pageantry or carnivals. No amount of pageantry or carnivals with the theme Preventing Climate Change’ will prevent or control it without action. A government that promised to check the scourge with millions of trees in one year but has failed to start with even one is not serious about the dangers of climate change and the country and international community must be aware of this

The state chapter of the National Youths Council of Nigeria concluded plans about nine months ago to embark on a campaign tagged “One youth, One tree” but have not received any form of support from government or any government agency. The threat posed by climate change is so serious that no responsible government should play politics with it. therefore Ayade must go beyond media hype and deceitful political tactics to the reality of initiating policies that will not only match his talk but justify his membership of the Global Task Force on Climate and Forest.

Inyali Peter is a Social Change Crusader based in Calabar, Cross River State. He is the Spokesman of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations In Nigeria. He can be reached via: inyalipeter@gmail.com

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