By Ambassador Usman Sarki
This piece is still on Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, CON, FNSE, mni, of Borno State but on the question of deployment of power to resolve existential crisis. One such crisis that needs to be studied closely is climate change and the responsibilities of sub-national administrations in the mitigation and adaptation debate.
This cannot of course be divorced from the exercise of power and demonstration of capacity in leadership. The idea of power exists in the context of its deployment and exercise to create opportunities and the conditions necessary for progress. In itself, as an abstract concept, power is truly transient and therefore; of limited value. However, when deployed as a tool, and aggregated with other factors like competence, it becomes a tremendous transformative force in society.
Leadership is an aspect of power, therefore; looking at its exercise in Borno State calls for an appreciation of the dynamic and momentum that power creates in specific contexts. The case of Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, presents an opportunity for introspection regarding the exercise of power and the deployment of leadership in managing expectations and confronting challenges.
We can celebrate the achievements of Governor Zulum in dignified and somber observance, without the exuberant enthusiasm and outward display of ostentation and revelry that have become the features of our political landscape today. Celebrating Governor Zulum is not just a show of appreciation, but more so, an understanding of the deeper meaning of commitment and honesty of purpose in an individual.
I was in Maiduguri at the kick-off of this year’s tree planting campaign in Borno State, and the launching of a comprehensive state-wide climate action initiative by Governor Zulum on Monday, 4th September, 2023. Coincidentally, the first ever Africa Climate Summit also opened the same day in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of His Excellency, President William Samoei Ruto.
The 2023 Africa Climate Summit aims among other things, to situate the global discourse on climate change around possibilities and the meeting of commitments that have been voluntarily made by states. The discrepancy between what have been pledged by the rich nations and their redeemed contributions so far seem to be an issue of concern.
The provisioning of $100 billion every year towards meeting climate related problems should be a matter of interest not only to the federal government, but also to state governments in Nigeria. This expectation pales into insignificance for instance, when compared with the amounts so far given to Ukraine to prosecute its war with Russia.
In itself, launching a tree planting campaign in any state in Nigeria is nothing special to write home about, since this has become a symbolic gesture, almost a cliche and a routinised ploy that is repeated every year across the country without effect. More trees apparently are being felled for making charcoal and meeting other day-to-day needs of communities and households than are planted. State governments have failed to track and tackle this wanton and unsustainable destruction of one of our nation’s finite resource.
In the case of Borno State however, the issue of climate is a cross-cutting factor that affects both the present prospects of the state as well as its future well-being and stability. Trees are essential to the stabilisation of the environment and mitigation of climate- induced problems like extreme heat, water scarcity and top soil loss.
This realisation is critical in meeting targets and goals set by global initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the various Conferences of Parties (COP) that have taken place in several continents. Of immediate consequence for Borno State, Nigeria and Africa as a whole, are the outcomes of COP21 in Paris and Cop27 in Cairo. African leaders meeting in Nairobi, Kenya this week, will examine the features of the COP21 and COP27, with a view to determining the critical areas associated with loss and damage and the responsible approaches towards meeting commitments that have been made to the continent.
The Nairobi Climate Change Declaration should, therefore; feature prominently in the deliberations of governments both at the national and sub-national levels. Matters related to loss and damage that affect Africa more than other continents also impact disproportionately on Nigeria and Borno State. This realisation should drive initiatives at the sub-national levels in Nigeria towards benchmarking of targets and establishing policies and programmes on adaptation and mitigation that are culturally and scientifically contextualised and focused.
Nationally determined contributions (NCDs) can only be met with the active participation of sub-national level governments especially in matters related to reduction of greenhouse emissions such as by reducing bush burning and indiscriminate felling of trees.
As Governor Zulum is very much aware, the annual ritual of tree planting in itself may not be the magic panacea to the widespread environmental and climate challenges that we are faced with in our various communities. What matter more are sustainability and community involvement in the drive to create a critical mass of responses that would amount to a significant reversal of the loss of vegetal assets and natural ecosystems in our states and all over the country.
The much anticipated construction of the Great Green Wall of the Sahel stretching from Senegal to Eritrea, is hesitatingly being realised in Nigeria. This should warrant both concern and indignation on our parts because of the direct relevance of the project to our present and future security and prosperity.
Sustainability of programmes and community involvement in their execution would need to be backed up by purposeful leadership that recognises the intrinsic values of the environment and the role that trees play in keeping us safe from the ravages of natural disasters and homo induced calamities like the depletion of the ozone layer, widespread wildfires, over exploitation of natural resources etc.
Creating an economic value chain around climate change is also a critical undertaking that should attract the interest of sub-national governments in Nigeria. The drive to expand the possibilities of the use of renewable energy and sustainable exploitation of natural resources are matters that are within the competence of state governments. These opportunities should be used maximally to drive a new economic agenda and productive environment that are all-encompassing, leading to the pivotal reordering of our priorities and interests.
The concept of the tree-economy for instance, that centralises the sustainable use of trees as a resource-base, should also be determined by a purposeful initiative led by knowledge and expanded plantation type of agriculture and forestry initiative. Here in lies the significance of tree planting campaign that was flagged off by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum in Borno State!