In a recent art exhibit, Unoma Numero, unreins her worries for Nigeria’s physical environment – the mother earth, and how Nigerians relate with her.
The four art pieces not only represent the artist’s perspective of environmental sustainability measures in the country – unequal at best, but also reveals her fears – that an industrialized Nigeria, without an environmental development approach, equals disaster.
Occupying a smaller space, a partitioned wall, precisely, of her exhibition La Nigritude, the large framed statement Global Warming – with the ‘warming’ ruled over and rewritten as Warning, on a brown wrapping paper canvass, and three 1×1 inch unframed and zoomed perspective paintings of molue buses, including a symbolic reference to a popular Lagos bridge – had attracted moderate but fleeting reflection from the audience.
From a keen observation of the polarizing climate in southern Nigeria and the frontiers of northern Nigeria, Numero, notes that as often the case, environmental projects rarely reach the masses who occupy the denser areas of Idumota Lagos, Bariga, and third mainland bridge, or the residents of Katsina and Zamfara who battle encroaching desert. This fact, she buttresses illustrating government’s decision to build a bridge for residents of Victoria Island, who already breathe less polluted air, than occupants of the other side of Lagos, where molue buses and vehicles in gridlock traffic, owing to a denser population, emit tons of carbon monoxide pollutes the atmosphere.
La Nigritude strongly highlights the need for enhanced manufacturing in Nigeria to counter her destructive bent on consumerism. Nevertheless, fears of the effects of industrialization on Nigeria’s environment leaves Numero divided. While thoughts of a power-efficient and manufacturing nation make her happy, discovering manufacturing wastes on rivers and water-ways leaves her apprehensive. The long-time nature of man to steer to the wrong, with the absence of penalty, she says, is a universal practice, more so in Nigeria, where the absence of political will neutralizes available legislative and regulatory laws. “If people know they can dump manufacturing wastes wherever they can, and no one will hold them responsible, they will do so,” Numero sadly averred.
Numero insists that until there are simultaneous development of industries and the environment, as well as uniform environmental sustainability measures and actions at all levels of the society, progress will be stalled.
She argued strongly for a ban on plastics and nylons, as practiced in Rwanda. Such action she believes will not only generate a louder and initial outcry from the public, largely from the manufacturers of nylon, it will herald the desired change.
“For whatever regulation put in place, they will always be an initial resistance. Human resistance to change is natural, that is why we have change managers whose job it is to manage resistance to changes. The day that the existence of plastic bags is banned, then we are ready to progress.”
Progress, the artist averred can be achieved via the activation of socio-political will amongst the people. She believes that educating the younger generation of Nigerians, who make up a greater demographic of the nation, is vital. Likewise, developing a critical mass of consciousness.
“We need to raise awareness. We must let them know that the non-biodegradable wastes they dump carelessly, like pure water satchets, nylon bags, do not decompose even in the next 100 years. If they are made aware of how toxic their small habits are to the environment, which is their environment, and the environment their children will inherit, we can make progress.”