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Lagos rain; before science opened my eyes

Growing up in Lagos as a kid, I was very inquisitive and always trying to find answers to things I don't understand. I lost counts of number of times I received admonitory smack for putting my nose where it should not be.

I could remember my early years and those myths bandied around me. From Awolowo living in the moon to the world is ending soon. As I get older and get to discover that the world is not all about my house; then my street and so on. I dropped layers after layers of myths and misconceptions that enveloped the young me and craved even more understanding of the events and narrations that are too good to be true.

One of the best thing my dad did was to buy me an Atlas. The book was precious to me as I get to discovered the other "worlds" and communities that made me even more inquisitive. How did they get there? Why are we different? I couldn't stop asking myself. And no one is there to provide answer.

One area that I however was sold without question, at least in my early years, is as regard Lagos rain. As kids, naturally we got excited when it is raining and took delight in playing in it. The cold we contracted afterwards was insignificant compared to the fun of relishing nature. Of course parents scrambled to get us back inside and locked us up till the rain stops.

Before I found out about the changing nature of seasons and weather, I observed, for instance, a particular period when "prophets" and "seers" would troop to our street and others in the vicinity. They would saunter to and fro with their bell clanging loudly as they captured  attention of the multitude. The first attraction is often their funny dance.

I can remember my first encounter.  As the man in the white garment darted to and fro... Singing and clanging his bell and then dancing hysterically across the street. I asked the person near me... "Se o ya were ni. ?" "is he mad?" The girl replied. "Se oju e fo ni?" (Are you blind) .. I didn't like the hostile response so I moved to another person. This time, an adult to find out what was going on. After all, only mad man can my young mind envisaged to be acting that strange.  The next person didn't indulge me. I was sent inside. No explanation was made for my dismissal even as I noticed that there were many onlookers outside. I guess I asked stupid questions. I soon found out later they are seers; the Prophets.

Once they have gathered enough curious observers who would leave their chores and trades behind to hear "the new revelation" they will roll out their prophecies. Most common of the prophecies are "there is someone thinking of doing evil towards another person on that street and he or she should not do it." "Someone will record trade loss in her business, he should be prayerful i avert heavy loss" "someone will be sick." And many more. But for this piece the one on flooding interests me most.

"There will be a non stop torrential rain in coming days and many houses will be flooded. People should pray fervently to avert the disaster, the flood and loss of properties and lives" The prophet will  warn in terrifying  voice. You can see some old women clutch their hands on their chest in reverence to the words of God and the fear of the bad times ahead. Often, such occurrences were linked to sins among the evil doers and the story of Noah is often the rallying point.

True to their "prophecies" there will be heavy downpours and there will be massive flooding in some areas. I know of places where this flooding were frequent and many homes recorded damages to their properties.
People began to believe these "prophecies" since this happen every time they come to warn. Many would collect address and visit them in their place of worship. As a kid, I was so fascinated by the accuracy and I got more curious but no one helped.
There was also another group of prophets that came to warn people to be vigilant and pray and against fire disaster.. My little mind later found that fire outbreak was common because that period of the season is dry and many people had reckless attitude to handling fire during the period with attendant loses to inferno.

As with many other myths, science opened my eyes as i gained more knowledge of science of nature. I found that there are two seasons. I observed that the prophets  warned of flooding at the approaching of the raining season.  And most of all I found that our city's drainage system was so bad. When it rains, the water all converge at a place we called "Ajagbandu". And should it rains so heavily, the water accumulated in that location and then flooded the nearby streets. The incessant flooding was checked when government cleared 'Ajagbandu' and constructed a proper channel for the water to exit the area and later turned it into a modern market now known as MKO Abiola Market.

Most of all I found that Lagos has such rainfall because of its geography and its location. And trough weather forecast one can e warned in advance of such occurrence.  Each discovery of the reality got me a bit more skeptical about manipulation of religion. And this was part of the reason I decided to take deep interest in religion studies from early age.. to find out what is motivating them and to know as much as I can.

As I grew up and more restless in mind. I got answers to some of my childhood curiosities. Thanks to science.. And I went fully into it and decided that is where my vocation will be.
Today, when I read about floods in some parts Lagos and the reactions on social media. I smiled at myself as took walk down memory of my childhood where some smart folks who had learned about weather forecast and aware of our poor drainage system had brainwashed many into parting with their hard earned money for prayer to avert what proper sanitation and drainage will have prevented.
Ironically they have not disappeared. They have only transferred their "services" into other areas. This time it is poverty, unemployment, late marriage and ill health that is driving many today.

Rains are blessing to mankind. They are natural event that balance the seasons. without rain there will be no harvest of crops. And of course we know what will happen after that. But rains crave natural path to their destination in the seas and rivers  When man's activities and impropriety has led into obstruction of their natural paths, they overflow and flood our streets.

Looking back. I wonder how many people who were conned by "prayer warriors and prophets" are as angry as I am and more determined to ensure that their future generations are not deprived of basic science knowledge and common sense. For Africa to develop and fully return to its glory days, the myths and superstitions are first needed to be shattered and prayer put into use where they should be.
Basic understanding of science behind natural events and how nature works will save a lot of people from losses relating to environment. They can get updated through weather forecast and they can be assisted in understanding what to or not do in the event of natural disaster and how minimize or avoid loss of life and properties.

Science is fun and beautiful. And being science-literate will liberate a lot of people from unnecessary myth and personal loss to conmen in religion garb. Those who do not understand it tend to get confused. It is just commonsense.  But Edwin Hubble captures it perfectly when he said; "Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure 'science.''

I am Isqil Najim @isqilnajim on twitter 

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