When Nigerians think or fantasize about leaving the shores of Africa, they imagine luxurious trips to Dubai, the UK or the US. They romanticize about phenomenally acquiring a first-class ticket and enjoying a pleasure-soaked fiesta all the way to their destination. Perhaps a miraculous green card will be offered up on a golden tray upon arrival…dreams.
Jibunoh Newton seems to be cut from a different cloth however, for his own fantasies revolve around the Sahara desert; crossing it, living in it, taming it and ultimately conquering it. The orphan boy who was passed from home to home has come a long way indeed. His 75+ years on planet earth have been fulfilled and accounted for in more ways than one. Rising to head Costain [West Africa] PLC-one of the biggest construction organisations in Nigeria-the corporation where he had worked for 15 years- the soil engineer and academician has been privileged to meet with the powers that be in polity making in other to further his climate agenda. He is currently the Chairman of Dolphin Properties Limited, and Dolphin Works Limited. Jibunoh Newton is also the founder of FADE-Fight Against Desert Encroachment, an NGO which is accredited to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF).
“If you fly and drive across the countries of the world as I have done in the last 45 years, you will notice that our planet earth that was so blue and green has become grey and brown in the last 25 years. That was about the time the effects of climate change began to be noticed by the discerning minds. But climate change phenomenon had been with us all the while; we just could not admit it, and sometimes feigned complete ignorance.”– Dr. Jibunoh.
In 1965, Jibunoh journeyed through the Sahara in a vehicle. He was alone and his trip was fraught with constant dangers from the difficult sandy terrain, to the terror of attack from marauders, to assaults on one’s sanity by endless days of solitude. The trip educated him immensely, and he spent the next 35 years- while building his career and family- researching on, writing about and attending Global climate summits all over the world. A common trend he observed was that the global community was focused on the disappearing rain forests, the melting ice caps, and CO2 emission. No one seemed to remember that the Sahara desert was a major threat to the entire continent; no one but Jibunoh that is.
In 2000, Jibunoh founded the afore-mentioned FADE to spear head his battle against desert encroachment. He also embarked on another foray into the desert, better prepared than the initial journey; older and wiser as they say. Despite familial resistance, Jibunoh was convinced that he was the crusader that would bring the required attention to the myriad issues occasioned by the fast expanding Sahara desert. Issues such as the disappearance of vegetation, water tables, the problem of migration, and the effects on food production.
So off he went again; through the desert by car to Europe and back again. Sounds terribly challenging doesn’t it? Chalk it up to passion. Jibunoh’s battle to tame the Sahara has achieved national and international interest with Governments and Organisations throwing their weight behind him and the FADE group.
Paramount on his mind though, is growing a new crop of desert warriors who will be as passionate about taming the desert as he is; people who will carry on his legacy to its expected end. Are you one of those?
How can you the urban dweller do your part to prevent desertification? Plant and protect trees, Jibunoh preaches. I aint no soil engineer, but I do know this. Tree roots stabilize the soil, and the canopy shades the top soil which holds in the moisture for other plants to grow. Can we play our part in saving our world?
In recognition of his works and contributions to the Engineering sector and the environment, Jibunoh has received the following awards, honours, and appointments:
Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building, FNIOB; Institutionalization of Newton Jibunoh’s Annual Lecture by the Nigerian Institute of Building; Doctor of Science, Honoris Corsa, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria; Doctor of Science, Honoris Corsa, University of Benin, Nigeria; Vice-Chairman of the Abuja Green Society; Ambassador Emeritus for Lagos State, Nigeria in their Greening Programme; and The National Honour of Order of the Niger, OON of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jibunoh’s book, ‘Me. My Desert and I’ chronicles his journeys to and fro the sand swept Sahara. For more information, visit www.fadeafrica.org.
Have a passion-filled and purpose-driven week.