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This Littering Burden We All Bear

Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe writes that while it’s fashionable to blame the ruling class for all of the country’s woes, Nigerians must begin to take responsibility for many of social ills we face daily.

Sweepers on Abuja streets / Photo credit: www.von.gov.ng
Sweepers on Abuja streets / Photo credit: www.von.gov.ng

Sometime ago, I was driving home when I saw a hand from a posh looking car throw out a black plastic bag on to the road. Typically, I drove up to the car, honking to get the attention of its occupants. I told them that what they did was wrong.

While they all looked at me like I had just been recently evicted from Mars, the driver, a man, asked if I was a Nigerian. I looked at him, rolled my eyes and responded, “No, I’m from the moon”.

The four of them (three women and a man) burst into a derisive laughter even as one of the women sitting at the back called out in scorn; ‘Nigerian woman!’

Driving away with the echo of their mocking laughter trailing behind me was incredibly saddening.

Tomorrow, any one of the four of them would sit in their ‘village meeting’ and lament how Nigeria wasn’t making any progress.

But then, it is what it is.

So, it’s with uncommon glee that I’ve been replaying the now viral video of a woman picking dirt along a Lagos road and throwing them into her car.

The story behind that news video is that someone had thrown trash from the car and the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) task force that was nearby swung into action immediately.

The result is the video. Our ‘madam’ spent time picking trash while her companion trailed behind with the car, which front seat also served as the garbage bag.

While it’s fashionable – and deservedly so – to rant against our leaders at different levels for gross negligence and unforgivable incompetence, we the led are also on life support in these matters

The message is simple. And you can’t watch that video without getting it.
I wish I had the powers to subject the occupants of the car I had accosted the other day to the same treatment.

But I also wish there were more sustainable ways to deal with this menace.

What if the lady had resisted when the officials decided to punish her that way; what then? Would she have been arrested and charged to court?

What if she were a prominent member of the society? Would the team have enforced the same kind of punishment or would they have hailed and waved on?

The rains are coming. And that should be a good thing.

But in this part of the world, drainages we have blocked with our garbage will revolt, and with dire consequences too.

It won’t be long before we start appealing to the god of floods to hold its peace. Roads and streets will be impassable. People will be sacked from their homes, and properties and even lives will be destroyed.

It happened the year before, and the year before the year before…and so on.
It will still happen this year.

Then, everyone and their dog will start pontificating about how the government has failed them and their ancestors.

Even those of us who have turned the roads into our dumpster will be among the pundits, telling anyone who cares to listen how other countries keep their streets and roads eternally clean.

While it’s fashionable – and deservedly so – to rant against our leaders at different levels for gross negligence and unforgivable incompetence, we the led are also on life support in these matters.

I live in a city where the government has made provision for paid personnel who sweep the streets daily. The so-called supposedly illiterate will sweep the streets while the educated elite will litter them with their wastes over and over again.

It’s also a city with traffic lights in almost all the places they’re needed but the same elite who knows all the highfalutin words in Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary will drive through red lights on their way to the next conference on “How To Make Nigeria Great”.

Worse is that you don’t get to see the outrage from the rest of us even these societal hypocritical misfits are unveiled.

The so-called supposedly illiterate will sweep the streets while the educated elite will litter them with their wastes over and over again

Some years ago when public urination became an epidemic in India, the citizens took charge. An anonymous anti-public urination group known as ‘The Clean Indian’ came up with a scheme that would curb the nasty habit.

The Pissing Tanker (which is what they called the scheme) was a huge yellow water tanker. Through the day, the tanker would roam around the city in search of men urinating in public spaces.

Once they found anyone, the tanker would spray water canon on them. Sometimes, the tanker would find three or even more men pissing together on the wall of building, as though in a competition.

Of course, it would drench them all with water, even as they scramble away in discomfort and perhaps, shame.
Usually the group members would wear face masks in order to conceal their identities.

Well, I can’t say now how successfully that campaign was especially as their Agriculture Minister, Radha Singh, was caught in camera urinating in public about two years ago.

Nonetheless, that the people acted against their fellow citizens must have made an impact, one way or the other.

But here, we are always misplacing our outrage and focusing on the inanities once they’re dressed in big and colourful robes.

However, in ignoring those so called insignificant things, we lose the very kernel upon which greatness and excellence are built.

Little wonder then we’re so blessed with our kind of leaders.

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