Nigeria, modernisation and climate change

As the world will have it, we are confronted by a potential ecological catastrophe known as climate change or global warming. Which is characterised by extreme weather conditions caused by humanity’s insatiable drive for material progress or as it is better known as ‘development’. Many critics have pointed to the fact that; the ecological crisis facing humanity today, is a consequence of a fundamental trait of the modern world. That is, the industrial activities of production and consumption of material goods and services at the cost of nature.

This article will look at the interaction of Nigeria with modernity and the reality of climate change facing the world as a whole.

Nigeria and modernity/modernisation

To begin with, Nigeria like many other countries is modern. And what is meant by modern or modernity relates to the ‘state of affairs.’Which is the era we live and breathe in. One distinctive feature of this era is the industrial-technological activities, advancements and the fact that technology has become an integral part of humanity’s everyday life. From the aeroplanes in the skies, to the cars we drive, to the phones we use and the honks of metals used for construction all around us show we live in the modern era.

Nigeria’s encounter with modernity no doubt started with colonialism. As Britain along with its European colonial counterparts dominated the rest of the world; that marked the spread of the concurrent elements of what constitute modernityculturally and materially. Hence, Modernization became the primary goal of Nigeria after colonialism. This period ‘after colonialism’ is known as ‘the post-colonial era’. Unlike modernity which as mentioned above refers to the ‘state of affairs’, modernization is the ‘process’ of achieving the modern ‘state of affairs.’ This process of modernization among many things is principally defined by the pursuit of technology and industrialisation.

It is no doubt that Nigeria is still in the process of modernization. A country rich in oil and natural gas. What significance does this have? Many observers have pointed to the reality that crude oil (or fossil fuel as it is otherwise known) is the very oxygen of global economy. In other words, it is the very thing that powers’ and drive our industrial-technological age. It is common knowledge highlighted by historians and economists that the main driver of Nigerian modernization and quest for progress during much of the post-colonial era and to this very dayis its oil and gas industry. Accounting for 85 percent of government revenue. As at the 1970s and 80s Nigeria was known worldwide to be a major oil producer and exporter with unprecedented wealth as compared to other African countries. Nevertheless, it is far from being a ‘first world’ country (i.e. developed)

One main feature of the country’s modernisation was in factoil wealth, which paradoxically didnot lead to the industrialization of other sectors of the economy, which wouldhave transformed the country as a ‘mass producer’ of goods and services, as western industrial countries are known for. That is, Nigeria did not industrialize as such but had an industry propelling its modernisation. In a rather paradoxical way, the countrybecame a ‘mass consumer’. In other words, Nigeria became a ‘country of importers.’ The country literally lives and breath on oil revenue.

A great challenge looms over Nigeria and its future. As the world moves away fromfossil fuel (oil, coal etc) to renewable energy; what will be the impact of this shift on a country that is heavily dependent on oil?

Climate change

It is a reality stressed by world-class scientists and has been recognised by the United Nations that the world is facing an ecological transformation that is threatening all life on earth. Caused by the advent of our industrial-technological age driven by burning gas of coal and oil, also known as ‘fossil fuel’.  The gas omission produced by the most valuable structures of our time, -the various production plants and factories that symbolise progress in our technologically advanced age. Greenhouse gases as it is called is no doubt the cause ofour present ecological concern. 

The United Nations considers Third world (developing or underdeveloped) countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Although much of the fault can be directed to developed countries, it does not exclude the place of third world countries like Nigeria in the whole fiasco. Commendable steps are being taken; as numerous strategies and programmes are devised to tackle the predicted catastrophic shock of climate change at all levels of community across the globe by the U.N. With Third world countries being of course the global centres for poverty and misery of tens of millions of people; can Nigeria keep up? Unfortunately, recent reports have shown that Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world with the highest number of masses living in extreme poverty. This places’ a great deal of weight on the country’s future governments. Can corruption and self-aggrandizement give way to humanitarian and ecological concern?

Signs of environmental pollution and destructionare visible for all eyes to see in the ever-expanding urban centres in Nigeria. As many analysts and commentators have highlighted about Nigeria- which is just about the same reality with regards to other Third world countries- that it is undergoing ‘modernisation without development’. Open sewers, open defecation, unclean air, stagnant waters virtually everywhere. Talk less of diseases from typhoid, malaria, cholera etc. Not to mention COVID 19- along with various other unknown ailments.

The most interesting case of pollution in Nigeria and a great concern for climate change action is the issue of ‘gas flaring’. Ironically ‘gas flaring’ signifies the wealth and materially prosperity of Nigeria. How so? To put it simply; it is the refuse of the country’s oil economy. In other words, ‘gas flaring’ is a result of oil production. And many studies have shown how destructive ‘gas flaring’ is to the atmosphere by weakening the ozone layer and also its cancerous effect on nearby communities. This is can be seen in the Niger Delta region of the country. The region has one of the worst cases of environmental pollutions. The locals who have traditionally been fishermen dependent on the mangrove for their survival for centuries; now the mangrove has been damaged and destroyed by the production and exploitation of the most valuable resource of our industrial-technological age; oil. The paradox in this case lies in the fact that; oil brought poverty, misery and the destruction of the natural environment rather than progress and development. And as the challenge of climate change looms, the country is faced with developmental difficulties and uncertainties.

What will be the future of Nigeria, its modernisation and climate change adaptation? It seems one can only wait.

Mr Bashir writes from Abuja via [email protected]