Rain doctors, floods and other summer misfortunes

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 8 Jul 2007

About a decade ago, my family had cause to engage the services of a rain doctor. It was during the burial rites of my grandmother, Akudogwa. Though the weather turned cloudy soon after some local orchestra came in, we were confident that it would not shower. Heavy wind blew intermittently. That, we thought, signalled that our man was battling the heavenly water.

But no sooner had the dancers changed to some acrobatic dance steps than thunder added its drumbeats. Torrential rain followed. The rhythm of the falling water provided alternative music as drummers and dancers crammed themselves inside canopies. The downpour did not stop until late in the night. In anger, we moved to hijack the so-called rain doctor in his shrine. But the man was wiser than we thought. He had disappeared.

Rain. It is said to be a blessing. Without it, rain doctors will be out of business. Without it, our crops will wither and die. Without it, lazy workers will not have any excuse for coming late to office. And without it, Nigerians living in the rural and some urban areas will not have water to drink or even to cook. It has a cooling effect on the brain and the entire body system. And whenever it falls late in the night, lovers wish it never stops.

But it has also brought devastating flood, anguish and deaths to mankind. Last month, for instance, it affected electricity supply in over 80,000 homes in South Yorkshire and the Midlands in the United Kingdom. Thousands of people fled their homes. At least seven people reportedly died. In north Doncaster, a river burst its banks. Hundreds of people were evacuated.

The same June, somebody flushed a bra and a pair of knickers down a toilet in County Durham, England. The underwear caused a blockage in a sewage pipe and a build-up of grease and fat. Then heavy rain came, and the pipe burst. Consequently, the road above collapsed and flood took over. Northumbrian Water officials reportedly estimated that repairs would cost more than £15,000. Every year, insurers in Britain receive about 13,700 claims for damage from bad weather. The Association of British Insurers estimated that the clean-up costs of the past few weeks‘ rain and flooding alone could reach £1bn.

The MET Office in the UK said this June was the wettest in Britain since records began in 1914. The month recorded about 134.5 millimetres of rain as against the average of about 72.6mm in previous years. Weather experts blamed this phenomenon on an area of low pressure becoming anchored over Britain this summer. In previous summers, it was high-pressure areas with their attendant warm and sunny weather that developed over the UK.

Elsewhere in Europe, especially in Greece, heat wave was the problem. At a point, temperature rose to 46°C in Athens even as rescuers battled wildfires that broke out across the country because of the heat. The heat was also reported in Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. Scores of people died.

As if the crazy weather was not enough misfortune this summer, terrorists attempted to re-enact their 7 July 2005 attacks in London. They parked two cars with explosives near a nightclub in London to blow up fun seekers. They also drove a blazing car into the terminal building at Glasgow Airport in Scotland.

Some clergymen have attributed some of these summer misfortunes to perceived rising immorality in Britain. God is said to be angry. Maybe. Or how else does one describe the fact that despite the current terror alerts and bad weather, thousands of people marched to Trafalgar Square in London on 30 June to celebrate what they call gay pride. Remember that God, according to the scriptures, had earlier destroyed the earth with flood because of the wickedness and immorality that engulfed the human race then.

Perhaps, God is also not happy with Nigeria. Apart from the menace of armed robbers and assassins, we now have flood to also contend with. In the early hours of Friday, 29 June, flood, occasioned by heavy rain, reportedly brought down a building at Karaole Estate in Ifako/Ijaiye area of Lagos. Some people lost their lives. Some others sustained serious injuries. In Ikeja, Orile, Lekki, Ajah and most parts of Lagos and beyond, rain has left trails of woe.

A few years ago, Majek Fashek cried to God in his popular song, ‘Send down the rain.‘ God answered his prayers and sent down rain in torrents. That year, rain knocked down some huts in the north, blew off some roofs in the south and generally caused some devastation in the country. We took that incident in our stride just as we always withstand the shock of any tragedy.

The rainy season should be the period any right thinking person should look for a house. This is because if you pack into a house in the dry season, chances are that you may encounter a leaking roof or flooded compound when rain comes. The irritation rain causes may have inspired whoever composed the nursery rhyme, ”Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…”

The prayer point for our prayer warriors today should be that this rain should go away for now and come again some other time. This is to enable tourists and fun seekers to enjoy their summer. It is also to enable flood victims to pick the pieces of their broken furniture and mop up their waterlogged floors. Whenever it comes back, we pray it should not come with its fury. Most Nigerians may never survive that again.

The UK authorities were able to mobilise troops, emergency staff, fire crews and police constables to fight the recent flood in that country. Not only did they evacuate victims, they used hi-tech pumps to drain the floodwater. To them, public safety is paramount.

For us in Nigeria, self-help is the guiding principle. Our own government may never be bothered about such minor things as flood. Our troops are better suited to mount roadblocks and guard electoral fortunes of riggers. And our legislators are at their best in calculating increases in car maintenance allowance and some other allowances. After the rains, we will count our losses. We will levy ourselves to tackle the havoc these floods have caused us. Perhaps, we will mount prayer pressures on God to save us from the pits dug on Benin-Ore Road and some other dangerous roads by rain.

We will also count our blessings and name them one by one. One such blessing is that we are still alive in spite of all odds. Another one is that soon, the rain will fully run its course and life will return to normal. That is when some towns in Igboland will celebrate the New Yam Festival to thank God for good harvests, made possible, ironically, by rain. And that is also when our rain scientists will resurface to seek patronage. Smart alecs.

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