As Nigerians vote on Saturday to elect a new president, none of the four leading candidates presented a promising and convincing climate justice strategy, a PREMIUM TIMES review of their manifestoes has shown.
A manifesto is a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer (candidate or political party) before an election which contains the set of policies that the candidate or party stands for and would wish to implement if elected.
This is mainly a promise, an implied contract between the people and a political party or candidate, presented to the voters on which basis their votes are sought.
However, despite the existential threats of climate change (flood, drought, rising sea levels, weather fluctuations, desertification, and so on), the manifestoes released by the four leading candidates—Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC)— gunning to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari do not properly address the critical issues of climate change bedevilling the country.
The candidates made promises on issues such as Nigeria’s degenerating national security, energy, education, economy, women empowerment, agricultural production and the health sector among others. But they failed to highlight how they would practically upscale climate change adaptation, mitigation and even financing solutions plaguing the country amidst Nigeria’s ambitious targets captured in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a signatory to the Paris accord.
Over the past decade, efforts to upscale Nigeria’s climate change adaptation, mitigation and financing in order to gradually reverse the impacts of climate change have encountered bottlenecks.
Although Nigeria has an existing climate change policy, it has not been significantly felt due to climate change knowledge gaps among the states and vulnerable communities in the country.
Last year, Nigeria suffered one of its worst flooding disasters in a decade. Within three months (August-October), many communities in more than 26 of the country’s 36 States were submerged by water. According to official data from the Humanitarian Ministry, the incident displaced more than 2.4 million residents, and over 600 deaths were recorded. Critical infrastructural facilities (roads, buildings, farmlands and drainages) valued at billions of naira were destroyed.
Many Nigerians described the flooding incident as the worst effect of climate change Nigeria has witnessed since the nation recorded a similar disaster in 2012. However, experts have argued that the impact of the floods would have been minimal had the necessary infrastructure needed to control floods across zones in the country been properly maintained by the government.
Based on this recent experience, environmentalists and climate enthusiasts in Nigeria called for proactive measures to mitigate or prevent the future by the government.
In this report, PREMIUM TIMES highlights the plans of the presidential candidates on climate change impact.
Bola Tinubu – APC
The former Governor of Lagos State and candidate of the ruling APC, Bola Tinubu, said he would become a voice advocating for a more attentive international policy regarding climate change and how it affects Africa.
He said: “We need to lend our weight to this important issue so that Africa and Nigeria are not asked to pay a heavy cost for the environmental damage caused by nations on other continents.”
However, the APC candidate did not highlight any practical ways to achieve this or speak about how he would implement the existing climate change policy in the country to curb further loss and damages recorded annually.
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) last year, the urgent need for developed countries to compensate vulnerable countries, including in Africa for losses and damages caused by the climate change crisis was part of the agenda promoted by the African Group of Negotiators ( AGN), which led to the historic “Loss and Damage” deal reached in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Rabiu Kwankwaso – NNPP
On his part, the candidate of the NNPP, Mr Kwankwaso, in his manifesto titled: “My Pledge to You,” said he will work assiduously to combat climate change and its negative impact such as flood, erosion and desertification, among others.
Mr Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State, said: “We will work to improve the conditions and preserve the natural beauty of the environment.”
“We shall beautify our cities and ensure the creation of parks and gardens as well as green belts across the country. We shall ensure the preservation of the natural flora and fauna of our country and work deliberately to save all endangered species,” he said.
Peter Obi – Labour Party
On his part, the LP candidate, Mr Obi plans to create a “Green Army” to harness opportunities in the $3 trillion international climate finance.”
This, he said, will engineer economic growth and employment for millions of Nigerian youths and transition the country to the green epoch.
Mr Obi promised to shift emphasis from consumption to production by running a production-centred economy that is driven by an agrarian revolution and export-oriented industrialisation.
Atiku Abubakar – PDP
In his manifesto, the candidate of the PDP, Atiku, did not specify any major climate change plans he hopes to implement if elected president. However, in a statement in September, he highlighted issues surrounding climate change and urged everyone to take appropriate responsive actions.
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“Climate change is real. The flooding that has followed torrential downpours in towns and villages in Nigeria—like other places around the globe, confirms this,” the PDP candidate said.
“The damage that has been occasioned on account of the floods are troubling. Public social facilities like schools and hospitals have been impacted.”
Major concerns and suggestions
Concerned about the poor attention given to climate change issues by the leading candidates, the Team Lead at Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), David Terungwa, said he is worried that Climate Change is under-represented in the campaigns.
“Climate Action is critical to the survival of democracy and for sustainable development. We are worried,” he said.
Mr Terungwa, who has been championing the movement he called #Vote4climate, explained that climate change issues are too important to be left in the hands of deniers.
“Climate Change, like voting in a democracy, is a collective action problem. And that is why we are calling on citizens, especially those in communities impacted by climate change, to ensure that they collect their PVCs and look beyond empty campaign promises and other forms of inducement to vote for candidates that understand climate change issues and have a climate action plan,” he said.
The environmentalist said it is not enough to have a plan; it must be a workable plan and not a textbook plan.
Similarly, the founder of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, said the reality is that the focus of political leaders on the environment is tokenism.
He said the indicator that they (politicians) care at all about the environment is often only when they move to destroy underserved and largely autonomous communities considered slums.
“It is this mindset that led to the destruction of Maroko (which was inhabited by over 300,000 people) in July 1990 and is now threatening the Makoko community in Lagos,” Mr Bassey said.
Mr Bassey said although there is a designated ecological fund, its impact has been minimal because of political considerations.
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