A former Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, says over 100 million or 50 percent of Nigerians are directly or indirectly threatened by desertification, deforestation and erosion.
Ohakim made this known in a paper he delivered at the 2019 Public Service Lecture and Award Series of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Imo State Branch.
The lecture, which held in Owerri, the Imo State capital, had “Nigeria: The Leadership Question” as its theme.
Ohakim said that the annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria stood approximately at four per cent or about 400,000 hectares to 450,000 hectares.
According to him, out of 909.890km2 of the country’s land area, about 600,000km2 or 65.94 per cent of the total land area had been lost to desert encroachment.
“Over 100 million people or 50 per cent of our citizens are directly or indirectly being threatened by desertification, deforestation and gully erosion,” he said.
Ohakim called on Nigerians to cooperate with governments in curbing deforestation by stopping what he called “people’s bizarre behaviour such as refuse madness, indiscriminate cutting of trees, open defaecation, over grazing and others in the midst of climate emergency”.
“It is an inescapable fact that we have got to the point of profound disconnect from our environment and one another.
“We have behaved in a short-sighted way, dealing heavy blows to the environment, and the environment is fighting back,” he said.
The former governor said that leadership transcended politics, adding that Nigerians must take serious account of leadership at the family, community, church, institutions and organisational levels, ‘otherwise those at the helm of affairs would escape scrutiny’.
He described leadership as the ability to inspire change and make a paradigm shift, urging that leadership must move a people or an organisation to the next level.
According to him, a leader must be a man of courage and conviction if he must change the status quo, as well as be visionary to effect the desired change.
Ohakim added that leadership was essentially a selfless enterprise that often attracted a heavy price.
“The urgency of our situation demands a new, clear and different structure through which our people will be organised to face the 21st century challenges,” he said.
The Chairman of the occasion, Mr Mike Okiro, a former Inspector-General of Police, represented by Amb. Pascal Asor hailed the alumni association for the programme.
He urged the members of the association to live up to people’s expectations by bringing their wealth of experience to bear on the development of the country.
The Chairman of the state branch of the alumni association, Mr Richmond Amaechi, noted that the lecture was the second edition.
He said that the first held in 2018 with theme “Restructuring and National Development in Nigeria”, was delivered by Chief Jerry Alagbooso, Member representing Orlu, Osu and Oru East Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
He said that the association had, through the lecture, been contributing its quota to nation-building and sustenance of democracy.
Amaechi said that the association would give honour to Nigerians who had distinguished themselves in their chosen professions.
He hoped that the lecture and responses from it would add value to the nation’s quest for good leadership.
Eight distinguished Nigerians received various awards including the Imo Gov. Emeka Ihedioha, who received the Leadership Award of Excellence.
Ohakim received the Leadership Award of Excellence as Founder of Clean and Green Africa Initiative.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Sen. Theodore Orji, a former Governor of Abia, received Alumnus Award of Excellence.
Ohakim, on behalf of the award recipients, thanked the association for finding them worthy of the award, and promised to continue to support it.
By Chidi Opara