Uncle & Aunty, ‘mbok’ #PickThatTrash!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness so everybody screams, but somehow in Nigeria the case seems different. There’s one thing in common in most African towns and cities and that is the lack of sanitation and waste management. African cities and towns are the dirtiest the world over even black neighbourhoods in the US and other countries are not an exception. What could be the reason?

I once travelled to a city in Southern Nigeria called Aba. It is a commercial city with lots of business activities; it is a place where entrepreneurship, innovation, commerce and indigenous technology converge. I’m sure you must have come across a product of this city tagged, ‘Aba made’, yes, that’s it! Aba city by itself is a market. You find shops everywhere. It also has one of the biggest markets in Nigeria called Ariaria International Market. This city is dirty, filthy and smelly! I cannot really get words to describe the stench or the magnitude of the smell! This is not about Aba or any other city I’ll mention but our attitude towards our environment.

It seems the typical African dislikes clean environments and orderliness. The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa attested to the level of dirtiness in Africa! Before Ebola started infecting people in Africa, people did not really pay attention to hand washing before and after eating, after using toilets, after arriving home from work, school, market and also keeping their surroundings clean but somehow Africans were forced to start living the clean life and cultivating the cleanliness habit after the outbreak of the deadly disease.

When Ebola was first announced, I was so worried because I know the hygienic level of a typical African and Nigerian. I thought of how dirty our markets are, the motor parks, hospitals, schools, government offices. I was afraid it was going to wipe out the whole continent due to our dirtiness! Did we need to wait for Ebola to remind us to live a clean life? Thank God Ebola is gone, but guess what Africans have returned to dirtiness and have suddenly forgotten to continue to keep simple personal hygiene?

Malaria and other diseases seem to thrive in Africa because of the dirty environment. Even though we might not eradicate it completely, it can be reduced if our habits are right. What could be the reason for this dirtiness? Is it laziness or are Africans just naturally dirty people?

I am an African and I am clean so I would not subscribe to the last proposition. The thing is being clean doesn’t take much, all you need is a broom, brush and a dust pan. If you live in an electricity friendly city, then a vacuum cleaner can get the job done even faster. Habits such as hand washing, disposing of waste appropriately, sweeping the house and clearing the surroundings of grasses should be inculcated by every Nigerian. This is what I was taught in my Primary School, I can remember the lesson vividly and also disposing of refuse on the streets and into gutters and other public places should not be the norm. Most times it is also common to see an adult urinating by the roadside into gutters or even defecating into rivers and other water bodies.

Lagos has one of the largest slums in Nigeria and these slums are very dirty and a ticking ‘disease time bomb’. Some people even live on the refuse dump itself! I remember my trip to Aba, immediately I reached my house, I went straight to the bathroom to take a shower and wash my clothes. I did this because I felt dirty myself.

The dirt in that city is sickening. I asked myself, how do people cope with such dirt? I could barely survive few hours there. A trip to places in Lagos like Mushin, Ojuelegba, Ajegunle is no different. The people dispose refuse on the streets, into the drains and they lack sanitation as well. One needs to wear rain boots in these places when it rains because the streets are flooded and dirts earlier dumped will flow on the streets. Like I said earlier, it is not just Aba alone or Lagos, there are other cities in Nigeria; Nnewi, Onitsha, Port Harcourt and it’s not just about these cities mentioned here but about our attitude as a people who inhabit these cities. Most of our cities have no open parks or green areas and the existing ones sometimes are littered with polyethylene bags, paper, empty can drinks and worse still some people choose to dump their refuse there.

In Nigeria before visiting someone’s house, you need to give them a few days’ notice, this is not in any way for courtesy sake but to give them time to clean up their houses. One will question why the prior notice? If our houses are clean the entire time, do we really need time to ‘fix things’? I asked myself, is it that difficult to imbibe cleanliness as a habit?

A trip to even government office leaves one in a state of shock as well. I visited a Hospital in Southern Nigeria and the whole environment was overgrown with weeds, some taller that the hospital buildings itself, sounds like an exaggeration right? The flowers and trees planted were not trimmed and they grew wild littering the place with dead leaves. This is a hospital that should not joke with cleanliness but unfortunately, it has failed to purge itself from dirtiness.

Public toilets especially in schools, airports, shopping malls are also not left out in the dirty frenzy. Markets in Nigeria are the worst hit, they are synonymous with dirt but surprisingly this is where everybody in the particular city goes shopping. These markets are usually open air markets with lock up stores and shades, the ground is not usually cemented and therefore the ground is mostly water logged and since waste generated in the market are also dumped there, the market becomes filthy and smelly.

Clean environment brings serenity and fresh air. Let’s start keeping our surroundings clean! Change your #Mindset.