Fear Of Rainfall: A Personal Flood Experience In Lagos

 

I enjoy sleeping when the rain is falling, I guess most people do. I love the breeze and the accompanied cold. I love hearing it beat the roof of my house. I usually have the best feeling when the power company keeps the light on amidst the downpour. I would usually hide under the duvet and stay busy on my mobile phone or probably stay glued to the television set.

All these changed when I finally moved to Lagos from Ibadan where I grew up. Rainfall spells doom in the financial capital of Nigeria. It would trap vehicles, cause accidents on major roads, traffic, invade the house of people and destroy their properties and worse still, sweep human beings away. Streets are also flooded and the inconvenience could be severe in most cases.

The mind-boggling thing about the challenge of flooding in Lagos is that nobody learns from the disaster. It happens every year. When the rain begins to fall incessantly, there will be advocacies by influencers and the media to draw the attention of the government to affected areas; the government is used to the 'noises'. The officials pretend as if they are working to assuage the anger of the people when the rains subside, everybody moves on like nothing ever happened till flooding occurs again the next year. 


It is like a yearly ritual

Lagosians are very resilient people; the mentality here is different and unique. The mental strength of Lagosians is fantastic. They never allow societal challenges to weigh them down. They gnash their teeth as they navigate through flooded areas and head to their various destinations. The amazing thing about Lagos flood is that it could be severe for some hours and a novice might be thinking of getting into Noah's Ark to survive the flood, but in the next hour or two, after the rain stops, the flood would ease. In the evening time or probably the following day, it is like the flood never happened at all.

Moving into the wrong house

Enough of the digression. Let's go to my personal experience which entails years of battling with the flood. On the 4th of July, 2017, I moved to Ago Palace Way, Okota - Oshodi/Isolo LGA in Lagos. I rented a one-bedroom flat in a one-storey building in one of the streets. What attracted me to the place was the constant supply of electricity as told by the estate agent. Apart from the power supply making life more comfortable, I needed it because I was working from home a lot as at then. The roads were flooded and untarred but I never bothered, as I felt it was bearable. I also noticed the drainage structures were blocked and filled to their brims but ignored the red flags and was excited about moving into the apartment. I just needed privacy which was a luxury where I was coming from. When the mother of the lady I was dating then, heard I was going to be residing in an apartment located downstairs, she was worried about my safety. According to her, the water level in Lagos could be unpredictable and this is why most Lagosians prefer to stay upstairs. The woman ended up being a prophetess that saw the future. From that day, I indirectly signed a contract with the flood. 


My unwinnable battle with flood

As I continued staying in the apartment, I soon realized that my end was an after-thought. A selfish landlord who felt he could make money from the extra space in the compound decided to alter the building. The idea which added reasonable bucks to the pocket of the landlord meant hell to any unfortunate tenant that occupies the apartment. The first signal I got that fire was on the mountain, was when I woke up to a flooded kitchen. It was so embarrassing. The rainfall which I was excited about all through the night had invaded my kitchen from the foundation. From that day, I got more vigilante to prevent electrocution. Flood soon became an irregular visitor I managed with deep pains in my heart but in February 2019, I got the shock of my life. It was the last stroke that broke the camel's back!

I woke up to prepare for work on this fateful day. As I put feet on the ground in the bedroom, I noticed the ground was wet but I couldn't see clearly as the light bulb was switched off. Initially, I thought it was the sachet of water I drank before going to bed that poured on the floor. When I eventually got the light on, I observed water was flowing from the sitting room. I was so scared at first. I couldn't believe my eyes, I sensed something was wrong. As I dashed into the sitting room, I ran into a pool of water which I later learned emerged from the foundation of the house as the compound was already heavily flooded. I was disoriented instantly. My saving grace that day was that my extension box which my refrigerator was plugged to, was switched off. Before I went to bed, I decided to switch it off, because the fridge was empty. If not for that singular action, I could have been electrocuted. 


I almost lost my job

I spent some hours scooping the water in my apartment and also rescuing my properties from the water. Neighbours gathered around my house to sympathize with me. As a shy and quiet young man who hates attention, this didn't go down well with me but I appreciated their sympathy and concerns. My boss at work then, who purposely failed to understand the circumstances that kept me off work, decided to sanction me. I almost lost my job. My absence from work cost me some good money but it was all fine even though I was pained. From that moment onward, flood became my housemate which visited at irregular intervals. The challenge was demoralizing. The landlord tried to rally round to get structural engineers to deal with it but all his efforts failed.

Sounds of the rains sparked a fear factor in me

During the dry season, the house was good, but when the rain starts, it becomes a pool that could house a crocodile or any dangerous reptile. It ruined some of my properties. In no time, the sounds of rainfall which used to give me joy and excitement became a source of pains, mood swings and anxiety. When it begins to rain and I am at work, I would call some trusted neighbours on the ground to check on my apartment if all was well. Sometimes, the news could be good, most times, they are always bad. I would keep my cool and continue with work as nothing happened. After being exhausted at work and on my way home, I would spend extra hours mopping my apartment and cleaning up the water. I contemplated moving out immediately but I soon realized I couldn't afford the high cost of a fresh rent, so I stayed and lived with the anomaly. I still remember how my family members in the know used to call me when news about flooding in Lagos starts to trend. This is because I am a regular victim. During the rainy season, I was always concerned about leaving anything which could be destroyed by water on the floor, as anything could happen overnight or during my absence.


Fear of flooding in the presence of a female visitor

I could remember when a female visitor was with me and the rain kept falling for hours. I was disturbed; I sensed my apartment was going to be flooded again. I could bear the pains but not the shame of an august visitor experiencing it. I kept going around the apartment to check the water level. It was getting to the critical point. In no time, relief came when she said she was going to order a taxi and go home that day. I felt Providence saved me from disgrace on that fateful day. 

Last month, the monster struck again. I had a busy at work. I knew the rain was raging but I didn't pay attention to it. I was later told it lasted for hours. Immediately I got to my street, I sensed the day was going to be longer than expected. The whole street had been transformed into a river, hyperbolically speaking. I had to walk barefooted in the flood to my house. I could hear the lamentations of residents about the damage caused by the heavy downpour. This time around, I didn't need to make consultations with my neighbours to ask if my apartment was safe. I was convinced it was flooded, I was only concerned about the extent of the damage.

When I opened one of the doors of my apartment, I realized my end was massively invaded again. I quietly went to my neighbour's house to eat and rest before going back to salvage a few things and managing to sleep in the bedroom with water around me. The bed stand saved the bed. I struggled to sleep but I needed it because the following day was a working day. From that moment, I felt I had had enough. I temporarily relocated to a friend's apartment where I stayed for two weeks. During this period, I got a better apartment which was far more expensive than the problematic one, but I didn't mind. I had given up on the house.


The rains say a final goodbye

The rains finally bid me goodbye. At the beginning of the month, July, I was supposed to leave the house. I tried to arrange my properties as I waited for a truck to assist me in moving them to my new place. The rains soon started again and never stopped for hours. Before the vehicle arrived, my house was solidly flooded in a way I have never experienced before. This time around, even my bedroom which used to be safe and secure to an extent, was swamped. I was so embarrassed, but I smiled because I knew it was going to be my last day of experiencing such. I moved out that day to a better place in the mainland area of Lagos. Over here, the roads are tarred but there are a few manageable potholes; the gutters are flowing. Its a storey building and I live upstairs. The rains have nothing on me. When I hear the sounds of the rains again, I just grin cheerfully deep inside my heart and appreciate God for his blessings. Never again will I fear the rains or be harassed by rainfall. I presently long for the day I will get the 'Ibadan feeling' when I will be able to cover myself up with the duvet as the rain beats my roof and serenades the atmosphere with romantic coldness.

There is no more fears, worries or anxiety in me when I hear the sounds of rainfall. The rains mean joy to me right now. This is my Lagos flood experience, my name is Osayimwen Osahon George.

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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