Susty Stories

Who Kidnapped Our Harmattan?

Today is November 17th, 2016; 1 month and 8 days to Christmas. The sun is still shinning like it did in February when I interviewed Nigeria’s Minister for Environment, Amina J. Mohammed—whom my twin sister and I fondly call Mama—to complain about the heat and discuss what we can do about it. I may have to call her again, this time to ask why our favourite season of the year is taking forever to come, especially in Southern Nigeria (Rivers State to be precise). The average Nigerian views Climate Change as a “foreign concept”; a topic for oyinbo men wearing tie and speaking “fune” to “blow grammar” and drink tea in fancy teacups—coincidentally COP22 is currently on-going in Marrakech, Morroco, where that kind of discussion takes place—but with all we see today; floods, delayed Harmattan, irregular seasons, and wild fires; can we really continue to say Climate Change is their thing not ours?

Merry Christmas and Happy Harmattan

Christmas will not be the same this year in Nigeria. Some people have predicted that rice and stew will not be very plenty as usual. I don’t know about the rest of you 7 billion people on earth, but see me, I like rice. When Chief Audu Ogbe (Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture) was complaining during the start of the rice scarcity that Nigerians eat too much rice, it was me he was referring to. He was just being polite so he said “Nigerians”—I’m serious, people close to me can explain this better to you. I can’t even imagine this season without rice. If you don’t have rice, don’t even invite me to your house. See, in fact just travel to your village if you don’t cook rice this Christmas. But more than rice, what I can’t even think about this season without is Harmattan!

The Wikipedia page on Harmattan has some great information on the season. Yes, “…it is cold in some places, hot in some places…” I agree, “…It is a dry and dusty north-easterly trade wind which blows from the Sahara Desert over the West African subcontinent into the Gulf of Guinea…”, true that, that’s us! “It happens between the end of November and the middle of March…” Na lie, which end of November? Don’t tell me that!

Wait guys, so if you’re a 90s kid like me and you grew up watching Flinstones, Dexter’s Lab, and Catch the Pidgin; then you are the perfect person to test this end-of-November assertion. I personally remember my days in secondary school. We usually graduate into new classes in September yeah? Men and brethren, I remember vividly, from October, almost immediately after resumption and covering my new books with old newspaper, I usually go to school with a cardigan and we find it difficult to sweep the class without sprinkling water on the floor. Don’t you guys remember? Back in the good old days, by first week of November we have already started borrowing wet lips from girls in class to save our cracking lips. Wait you guys still don’t remember? I even recall that Independence Day march pasts, some years ago, used to be very cold—I mean Harmattan-cold. And usually that cold sunshine in our lives is sustained till we finish our last exam in the second week of December, sing Christmas Carols and bring cabin biscuit for class party hoping that others will bring rice and Ribena. I’m sure the real 90s kids understand all of this.

Like Haramattan, Like Winter

You might be saying, give Wikipedia a break….they only said end of November. It’s just 1 month delay we’re dragging here right? Okay oh. It will interest you to know that the US and Canada are both experiencing delayed winter this year.

Executive Director of UN Environment, Mr Erik Solheim, recently tweeted about this and studies also show that 2016 is turning out to be the hottest year in the history of the world; the third consecutive year that we have broken our hottest-year-record after 2014, and 2015. Now I’m worried about 2017—I hope it’s not planning to break any ‘hot’ records.

Some friends are even arguing that Harmattan is already here but I can’t see it, and that’s what annoys me most. I washed my towel two days ago and it had been on the line for close to two days to get dried.[clickToTweet tweet=”Harmattan that cannot dry towel in 30 minutes is that one Harmattan? ” quote=” Tweet this: Harmattan that cannot dry towel in 30 minutes is that one Harmattan? “] Harmattan that rain falls every evening in Rivers State, is that one Harmattan?

There’s no doubt most parts of Northern Nigeria are already enjoying the cold treat. I hear Jos is already experiencing Harmattan. Okay, should we even count Jos in this thing? To be fair, Jos has Harmattan 24/7/365! In Oyo State everyone is white like powdered women looking after a new-born baby, thanks to the Harmattan dust, Gombe State is chilly; in fact, my friend Hosea says the bucket of water laughs at you every morning when you try to take a shower.

So maybe I should rearrange the argument. The problem may not be that Harmattan is not around, but perhaps it’s very irregular and not evenly spread—just like the irregular climatic conditions the world has been experiencing for a while now. Which is why global leaders after, several meetings (and when I say several, I mean SEVERAL, in UN Geneva alone, Mr Moller told me they have over 12,000 meetings every year) and these meetings went on for a couple of years before eventually in 2015 they reached an agreement at COP21; and agreement that is famously called ‘The Paris Agreement’.

Agreement is Agreement

Much more than signatures and diplomatic phrases, the Paris agreement calls on all of us as individuals to collectively work together to protect the earth for posterity. Failure to do this will result in a situation not very far from us. China is a perfect example. Industrialization without sustainability is what we call, “blood money” in Nollywood (Money gotten from Human sacrifice or other illegitimate means). You get the “money” quite alright but hardly live to enjoy it. Thanks to massive industrialization China is now one of the super powers on the global scene and her citizens have some of the highest purchasing power on earth. However, that same massive industrialization has led to massive pollution and smog covered cities such that the Chinese in cities like Beijing and Shangai can’t even breathe to enjoy their purchasing power. So they have to buy canned air to stay alive. No, I mean this literally; canned fresh air is a ‘thing’ in China.

Seeing such an example I’m sure we don’t need anyone to advise us. As good as the Paris agreement is for Nigeria—and I know Mama Amina is very passionate about this—we can only achieve much if we all change and start living sustainably in our individual lives. My Sister, Jennifer Uchendu and other passionate environmentalists have been leading a movement tagged, #StareDownOnPollutionto discourage Nigerians from dumping waste indiscriminately. Many waste sensitization programmes are currently on going around the nation and we really hope all this will yield something positive in recalibrating our minds towards the path of sustainability.

My favourite way to summarize a sustainable lifestyle was broken down by whoever came up with these three simple words; Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. That’s it guys, this culture of excess is taking us nowhere, we need to cut down on the things we buy and collect. When we collect much more than what we need, we eventually waste it. Also there are things we can use over and over again, or better still use in a different way; like old tires used for landscaping or empty plastic bottles used as a pretty flower vase when cut in two. My Mom recycles empty ‘pure water’ sachets to grow in her nursery at her flower garden. There’s so much we can reuse—let’s stop wasting stuff. Actions as simple as turning off a light bulb you don’t need can go a long way in saving much more energy than we can imagine—if all of us do it!

On recycling, there are many social enterprises focussed on solving this problem Aunty Bilikiss is doing a great job with Wecyclers, there’s also Recycle Points, SheRecycles, and many more of such enterprises. I think these Eco-Businesses should be given all the necessary support they need. We can start instilling the recycling consciousness in little children right from primary school by having 3 waste bins in their classroom; one for paper, one for plastic, and one for everything else. These are just limited suggestions, there’s a whole lot more we can do to translate the Green on our flag into our systems and economy. I sincerely hope we all individually begin to not just discuss climate change (or even worse not even discuss it) but also start making these small changes in our individual lives to make the earth even healthier for generations that will come after us, if Jesus tarries.

In the end, we are the ones who kidnapped our Harmattan; we’re the ones making the river overflowing its banks; we’re the ones holding ourselves captive by the little “brown things” we do every day. I really miss Harmattan.


(Image Credit: Ventures Africa)

Ebenezar Wikina
Ebenezar Wikina is a Mobile Journalist and Development Communications Expert whose experience in the media space is drawn from working in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors respectively. He is passionate about covering stories related to new media, technology, digital education, diplomacy, and Africa’s evolving development landscape. Ebenezar is best known for "The Stroll Live"—his international podcast series which has featured over 120 global leaders from over 30 countries around the world. His writing has been featured on various local and International Platforms including The United Nations Website (Geneva and New York), the World Economic Forum blog, The Huffington Post (US and South Africa), UNICEF Voices of Youth, Ventures Africa, YNaija, to mention a few. He is also a TEDx Organizer, World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and Sustainable Development Goals Advocate.

1 Comment

  1. Beautifully written! Love the local detail. Nice to read a piece on climate change that is set somewhere besides ski resorts in North America. Well done!

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