You have been speaking about the climate crisis from a very young age I must say, and I just want to know, what was your personal experience with environmental in justices that pushed you to become involved in the fight for climate justice?
What really propelled me was looking at the crisis of the shrinking Lake Chad and Chibok girls who were kidnapped. So I thought I could see the interplay of the shrinking Lake Chad, how it's affecting women and girls in this region. So when I was researching I found out that we have climate sensitive factors in Nigeria, that are decimating our livelihoods. I found out that the Lake Chad had dropped by 90 percent and many people are being displaced and losing their livelihoods. And that is a powerful weapon against peace and security. So I started advocating for climate justice when I saw that, where I schooled, there were also some farmer heardsmen clashes and blame was put on the two with no regard to the climate sensitive factors that both had to deal with. Both depended on land, agriculture and water to survive and this was being threatened by climate change so that’s where the clashes started. So when I saw that this issue was happening year in year out, leading to loss of lives, I realised that it's fundamental to work on the mind-set of the people and educate them about climate change.
I know you've spoken a lot about the relationship between the environment and women, and especially in the Lake Chad region, where you come from and how women are the most affected by the climate crisis. Do you think that is the case in other parts of the world other than the Lake Chad region?
In any part of the world where there is a climate change crisis. From environmental degradation you see that women are mostly affected. In every part of the world where we are seeing environmental crisis, we could see that there is a rise in violence against women being raped, or all being forced to marry at early stage or being forced into prostitution or sex trafficking. And there are no other alternatives for them to feed their families, the men probably would have left the community in search of greener pastures. So it's happening women are being affected. Women in various parts of the world, not only in Africa, but there's more to do in Africa.
You are talking about women being subjected to various kinds of injustices such as sex trafficking and the like; the issues you're describing, are also subjects talked about in the women's rights movement. So why do you think it's important to talk about such issues of gender inequalities through an environmental lens?
When we tackle these issues with a gender lens, we could see that it's good for the society in general. Women are often denied opportunities such as education. If we use the gender perspective to tackle environmental issues, you can see that women spend up to 20 hours a week fetching water. Approximately three hours in a day or four hours in a day is spent doing other chores. So if there's renewable sources of energy available for these people, then they could channel those 20 hours in a week to do several entrepreneurial activities.
What sets Pan Africanist grassroots climate justice action apart from climate justice action practiced around the world?
Pan-Africanism dwells on African issues which include climate induced factors as they relate to Africa and the reporting of the issues by Africans who tell these stories for themselves. There is a need for us to cast a spotlight on what is happening on our continent, just like with the issue of Lake Chad. Many people who are not from the Lake Chad Basin are publishing stories about this area. So, it is our responsibility to tell the people that the lake is not stable yet. There is no stability in something that is affecting millions of people by displacing them away from their livelihoods.
The Lake Chad issue is also Pan-African because the lake stretches into other African countries. Through my advocacy I’m trying to see how we can get stability not only in the Lake Chad region but regional stability through the Congo, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and the other sub African countries that Lake Chad passes through. Pan Africanism is reporting issues that have to do with Africa by Africans, and it is about many people taking the action that is needed to see how we can get international support and collaboration on tackling issues because if we don't report these issues, there's no way the world will know what we’re going through.
In reference to the shrinking of Lake Chad, if you could see into the future, what would you predict would be the consequences if Lake Chad was not restored?
If Lake Chad is not restored, then just know that we are in danger. There will be increased armed conflicts and also an increase in armed groups. The terrorist group is going to keep expanding their territory and as they keep gaining territory, they'll keep recruiting more people to join their group. People are also losing their livelihoods in the Lake Chad region. Already there are several humanitarian crises going on and humanitarian aid is not enough to go around. If Lake Chad is not restored it might increase the number of refugees which might mean that the West will have to accommodate more refugees in the coming decades if it disappears totally. We will also be faced with several famines because there’ll be no food, no water which could lead to further farmers displacement. The crises can lead to other new conflicts that we have not seen yet.
In a world consumed by the Covid-19 pandemic, what would you say to the youth to shift their focus back to the climate change and climate justice dialogue?
So COVID-19 has also shown us that the environment should be part of whatever we are doing. We are part of the environment and the environment as part of us. That means we can't do without the environment and the environment cannot do without us, it needs us. COVID-19 has taught us a lesson and we should all be sensitive to it, because it has shown us that pandemic is inevitable once we keep intruding into the landscape of the environment. The pandemic has also shown us that we need to include the environment into our respective democracies, in that the democracy must be one for the people and their environments and by the people and the environment. So, the environment has to have a say, we have to give the environment a voice of its own. We have to frame the pandemic as an environmental condition because millions of people have been infected and millions of lives have been lost. The pandemic and lockdowns have resulted in a lot of activities stopping and this has reduced carbon emissions somewhat which is a breakthrough, but it’s at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of people. We don't need this kind of emission reduction methodology, we should be able to strategize in the natural form by giving the environment a voice and by maintaining the landscape of the environment. We must not intrude into the landscape of the environment, by doing this we should be able to respect our biodiversity and be able to conserve it and sustain it. These lessons that we have learnt from the pandemic need to be put into the recovery process. This needs to be done so we can withstand the test of time when it comes to climate change induced factors to be able to meet the deadline of the 10 years left for us to take the necessary actions for us to mitigate or stop climate change crisis so that we don't get to 2050 and get stranded at the point of no return.