I have always thought environmental sanitation was part of the Nigerian constitution. As a child I remember waking up on Saturday mornings and my Mum would say I couldn’t go for catholic girls meeting because it was environmental sanitation day. I’ll have to join her in the kitchen to make moi-moi or akara while my dad and brothers cleared gutters and cut grass.
How I hated sanitation days, and it is not only because I am forced to wash beans for moi-moi or sent to grind pepper, it is also the smell. Sanitation days are smelly. People dig out black grime from their gutters and leave it by the side of the road. Grasses are cut, clothes are washed, the whole general cleaning just leaves the air smelly, and when the sun later comes out to heat up all the dirt and oh the smell!
Imagine my surprise when I found out a certain economy wrecking Baba introduced it as a latter part of his War Against Indiscipline(WAI) project in 1985!
My dislike for sanitation days didn’t stop as I grew up. Apart from the extra work and smelly day, my plans are disrupted. I also realised how futile the idea was, forcing people to remain at home and clean their houses. They get dirt out of gutters, leave them by the side of the road, during the week the dirt goes back in the gutter and it becomes the circle of life.
Now, sanitation days are for me to sleep in. I wouldn’t leave my environment dirty until the last Saturday of the month to clean it. That is what I was doing some years ago, sleeping, when I heard a knock on my door. It was our landlord, he said sanitation people were around so we should come and clean outside the compound. Grudgingly, I dragged myself out of bed and went outside. Lo and behold it was an army of local government workers in different shades of green uniforms, LASEPA staff, accompanied by pot-bellied policemen swinging guns. Ahn Ahn. You people dragged the whole state to come and inspect streets?
Because they were around people started removing dirt from their gutters, cutting grass, sweeping corridors, etc, etc. I stood outside my gate with droopy eyes, thinking what’s all these nonsense? The streets itself is muddy, road is a disaster. The gutters are not even proper gutters. You people will not come and fix the road and gutters?
Well, they continued their parade, going from house to house; they had to use the sides of the road because the centre was filled with murky water. Ehen, who will clean that one?
After their parade, they left and people went back to their lives, me, I went back to sleep. Dirt was piled along gutters in separate clusters. In the evening, the heavens opened up its basket and showered us. Everything moved back to the gutters, by Sunday Lagos was flooded.
Until next month again. Happy Sanitation Day.