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Lagos rain of ruin Residents count losses in tears
Christopher Okigbo’s plea to Mother Idoto for her rejuvenating watery presence runs contrary to the plight of many Lagos residents under the torture of this year’s rain. From Badiya to Aboru, Iwaya to Arowojoba, Owo Elede to Ajegunle, Agiliti to Idimu, it is a tearful tie that binds them. KEHINDE OYETIMI provides details of the victims’ agony.
E sir, won ti de o (Sir, the journalist has arrived). Recognising the voice of his caller, Mr Lawal came out of his house with a bedraggled disposition. His caftan flowed freely at first. His gaze was long and lean as he descended the flight of stairs. As he came down the last staircase, he unconsciously picked up the edges of his tunic and wearily waded through the flood that has forcefully refused to abate in front of his house.
As he approached this reporter, he maintained a steady stare at the water that had taken possession of his house. As much as Lawal tried, it was impossible to conceal the blighted bitterness in his eyes. It was clear that he was at his wits’ end. What had stood over the years as the testament of his labour appeared to be under the cruelly grip of the flood.
Unlike Christopher Okigbo’s Mother Idoto where he calls on the watery presence of the goddess of fertility, Mr Lawal and his fellow landlords looked lost on whom to call to help them out of the perennial disaster of flooding. The terrain smacked of one that had been subdued by water. Each house bore the biting brutality of the flood; the children could not freely roam the streets. They were nowhere to be found. Whole families had been scattered; they had been sacked, driven out of their houses. They were landlords with borrowed roofs over their heads.
Akin Olugbade Street was eerie at noon. There was searing silence. For residents of Akin Olugbade under the aegis of Irepodun Community Development Association in Idimu Local Council Development Area in Lagos, it has been four years of flighty and fragile safety. It was the call from one neighbor to the other that tore through the silence of the residential area.
They came one after another. The atmosphere spoke of seething agony waiting for secretion. They were ruffled; their manly essence was disemboweled. Yes, a watery sun hung in their autumn sky. Since the rains started, it had been one long, lingering frustration for many Lagos residents.
“My tenants have deserted my house; they lost all their belongings”
Mr. Ganiu Lawal’s escape and that of his tenants at the middle of the night was miraculous. The flood rose in its fury chasing out both landlord and tenants, destroying all in its path.
“I moved in here in 2003. At the point of purchasing the piece of land where I built my house, there was no sign of probable perennial flooding. By the time people began to build houses, it became necessary to fix the street going through Olowokere. When they did that we discovered that the water was gradually building up from left and right. When we discovered this, we made efforts to speak with the contractor working on the project because we discovered also that they were diverting the course of the water flow to our end. He promised that they were going to channel the water flow out of the place.
“Eventually, he stopped at a point which became worrisome for us.
“All my tenants who lived downstairs could not recover any of their property because the rain started in the evening and by 12 midnight it had become disastrous.
“We had to carry my 67-yr-old lame father to escape at 3 a.m. when the flood ravaged our house”
If none had been around that night when it rained from 6 p.m. till 8 a.m., Pa Olawale would have died a watery death. He would have cursed his lameness which would have prevented him from escape. He had slept, with one of his children (Ajayi) in the house. The rain drummed heavily. At 3 a.m., Ajayi cried out to neighbors to come to his aid. The entire house was besieged by the flood. The flood level had risen to the window sill. His lame father was almost drowning. But his neighbors appeared not to be too neighborly that night. They were trying to salvage their lives and what was left of their belongings. Ajayi screamed until help came.
According to him, “It was terrible. My 67-yr-old father who is unable to walk had to be rushed out of the house around 3 a.m. when the flood entered into our house and began to lift our properties. Before we could even rescue any of our possessions, the house had been flooded. It was midnight; we had to abandon our properties and run for dear life. We have not returned to the house because of the level of damage and the destruction of our belongings. The water is still there. Everything has gotten spoilt. We have been putting up with friends and other extended family members.
“I lost over 400 chickens; my family is scattered”
Mr. R. A. Kazeem struggled to house his vituperation. A retired civil servant, his house was the only proof of investing over 35 years in active government service. His was a livid visage; anger made him puny. His steps were brisk with bitterness as he took Sunday Tribune to his house to assess the level of damage both to his house and to his farm.
“The losses are too much. I had about 400 chickens. They all died when the flood started. The flood level was so bad that it destroyed all the computers in my house. Where I kept some of my most valued possessions, thinking that the flood would not get there, it not only got there but destroyed all of them. I am six feet tall. The water level got to my chest. My entire family has been scattered. I only came home to do some cleaning after the rain subsided in the last two days.
“My children had a close shave with death; they almost drowned”
He would not speak; it was obvious he was seething with rage. Olamilekan only went about looking for what remained from the ruinous reign of the Lagos rain. He wondered aloud what he would have done if his siblings had not been around to help him carry his children to safety on that night. His pace was petrifying.
As he remarked after much persuasion, he regretted voting for the first time in his life and ending up being disappointed. According to him, “It was God who rescued my family and me. It started raining around 6 p.m. and did not stop until around 8 a.m. the following day. The flood level got to my window sill. It was my younger brothers who helped me rescue my children. We earlier had confidence that the rain would not enter, but before we knew it the whole house was flooded and we began to scamper for our dear lives. All my belongings have been destroyed. How can we stay here without drainages?
“I bought my land in 2001. I would not have bought the place if I had known that this would happen. We never had flood problems until four years ago. In fact this year’s flood was disastrous. The present local government chairman promised to do something about it if re-elected. We voted again but nothing as usual.”
“I have lost vital documents which are irretrievable”
For Mr. Rotimi Adebayo, the memory of the ruin occasioned by the rain will linger for long. As a journalist and Chief Press Secretary to the Honourable Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, the loss of certain documents at his disposal will be a minus for his job.
According to him, “I bought this property in 2004 and moved here in December 2009. When I bought it, there was no flood here. But the consistent blockage of drainages here and there and the lack of the construction of drainages started bringing the flood to settle here. This place is not waterlogged. It has been getting worse year in, year out.
But the most painful loss to me as a journalist is the loss of my documents and my references that I have kept all over the years.”
“We moved with canoes for over a month in Agiliti”
For residents in Agiliti, Mile 12, it has been one year of ruin to the other. According to Chief Bayo Ojubono, “I took over this place over 20 years ago. We didn’t have any flooding problem. But our problems have increased since we started having more dams. The moment those dams are opened then our problems begin. We had to move about in canoes for over a month when the flood came.”
“It is a miracle when we wake up each morning without flood”
According to Evangelist Abiodun Opawale, chairman of community development area of Agiliti, it would be counted as a miracle when they wake up each morning without witnessing any flood. According to him, “The problem we are facing is not caused by the people living here. We don’t find it easy here at all. We used canoe here for over a month. It is a miracle when we wake up each morning without any flood.”
While the residents of these communities continue to count their loss, the Lagos State commissioner for environment, Mr Tunji Bello, was reported to have called on residents of Iwaya, Owode, Badiya, Aboru, Arowojoba, Ajegunle, and some parts of Ajegunle to relocate. The fear registered by these residents is captured in the statement of Mr. Kazeem, one of the victims. “Where do we go? Should we live now, the state government will only take over this place and that will be all. Not everybody is an illegal occupant. Let them address the situation.Share