The question has often been asked why we fail to take care of our environment and why we live in filth, dropping and littering our spaces mindlessly with refuse of all sorts. Is it a Nigerian thing? Why can’t we have clean homes and environments like the oyibo people we love to copy so much? Why do our roads suffer so much degradation even within two days of patching? While the lazy/cheating workman (government) factor is relevant, the question is who makes it possible for the workman to cheat? A little detour will be appropriate at this point. Before the oyibo took over our villages, we had our communal systems of governance that regulated our social, economic, and political lives. Appropriate rewards for positive and negative behaviors were put in place, enforced and it yielded good dividends including secure, clean and organised communities. Most of the trending communicable diseases were unknown to our people. When the oyibo introduced their form of governance, they improved upon the natives sanitary ways using a monitoring system and organizing monthly inspection of premises. The three cleanest homes were issued awards. I can still remember my mother boasting of her prized award letters and daring us to best her. The competition for clean and healthy homes earned her mother the sobriquet of “omeka oyibo” meaning the one that behaves like oyibo.
End of colonialism and the pseudo-colonialists (the first natives that succeeded the oyibo) took over, and things began to fall apart. Why? It seems these first educated natives were too busy trying to be oyibo and act the ogre part that they failed to realize that the oyibo had developed naturally with little interruption in their growth process/ evolution. Through this natural trajectory/ evolution, they acquired and built up a group culture and lifestyle that made it possible for them to leave their shores, conquer and rule tribes in faraway lands, different in intent and purpose from them. This lack of self knowledge I think was the reason for abandoning our traditional values and without being grounded in the oyibo self/soul, we are unable to really live like the oyibo. This I believe explains why 99% of us, live, eat, dance and make merry in squalor, without batting an eye lid. The oyibo protects and guards his environment, giving us the phrase “cleanliness is nearest to godliness”. Some people will express righteous indignation at this narrative, as Nigerians are wont to do when faced with the awful truth of themselves that they, like the ostrich refuse to acknowledge.
Nigerians have unfortunately imbibed the self defeatist and disease incubating mindset that the stretch of road that lies outside their walled compound does not belong to them. As such they have no personal responsibility for its upkeep.
To some degree they are correct, for infrastructural development is a collective responsibility domiciled with government for the public good. This is one government function, for the collective good.
The citizens however are ultimately responsible, as they pay for this function, in forms of taxes and charges to government to enable it perform. It can be looked at from the perspective of an individual hiring labor or an organization to do a job he can do, but could not due to the constraints of time and circumstances of sharing. This allows for a proper understanding of who is responsible for maintaining the immediate environment.
From this perspective, it becomes imperative that individuals take full responsibility to ensure that the “public” spaces that abut their real estate are kept in tandem with their private spaces. A failure to appreciate this fact has a costly consequence on their purses and health due to repair of damages to their vehicles from bad roads, or contracting communicable/ infectious diseases from clogged gutters and upturned decaying refuse.
A good percentage of damages to estate/ secondary state roads are caused by the way individuals use their private spaces. Roads are damaged by effluents, water and corrosive fluids from home car/tank washing, wastes from generator servicing, disposed unto the roads and of course the road side food sellers that use the roads as sinks for oil waste water. There are those that turn the roads into septic tanks – soakaways, as they litter the surrounding with empty water sachets and bottles.
The first person to suffer the environmental decay when you abuse the road is you from health challenges and aesthetics. The second is you from cost of repairs to vehicles .The third is you, from increased government taxes.
Keep that road clean and safe for you. People tend to hold back from littering a clean space when they see one. If you misuse your space, and by the time the government gets round to repair your road, the access to your home is already broken and who suffers? YOU.
Claire Chizea PP