By Busuyi Mekusi
Homo sapiens get busied with various activities as part of the inevitable exercise of Samuel Beckett’s ‘waiting for Godot’, with sicknesses and diseases pulsing the speed, and death signaling a permanent stoppage. With these simulating shadowing and untenable mirage, most human ambitions and quests are treasures meant to end as wastes on the long run. To this end, man is gripped by the notion of eclectic waste; nullity of accumulated certificates; dilapidation and degradation of palaces built; fading and tattering of valuable traditional and customised wears; sagging of expansive physical frame and shoulders; wobbling of one-time straight legs, hooked to curved hips, disjointed teeth estranged to tough meats, etc.
It could be summated that both living and non living things grow in order to glow, then to waste. All objects of waste were one time sources of satisfaction, until the expiration that dawned their wasting. Unmitigated human avarice and consumerism have continuously precipitated a pressurised environment, which has in turn protested the many ecological violations that human activities have caused. Little wonder that the earth got ‘famished’ and ‘angry’, supported by the depleted ozone layer, that it keeps swallowing both the young and the old. May we not journey when the roads are famished! The huge toxics that get released to the environment are metaphorically poison-laced ‘chocolates’ of our many technological outputs. My earlier article titled “Shallow Graves, Groundwater and the Making of Cannibals in Nigeria” clearly underscored human acts and the art of contamination of the ecological space.
Nigeria has often been described as dunghill, or the popular variant, dumping-ground to developed nations, most especially China, who are enlisted by cut-throat Nigerian importers to manufacture substandard products, with which they flood the Nigerian markets, leaving economically disempowered Nigerians to spend scarce resources on items that would not stand the test of time. Worse still is the fact that sensitive items like foods and medications also get compromised, with the intention to milk unsuspecting buyers, thereby notoriously compromising the health and wellbeing of the people. Regulatory agencies who should curtail this anomaly are either too complacent or overwhelmed to act. Low standard foods, drinks and drugs are the latest putative poisons that kill, in instalments, more than either Lassa fever or the various variants of COVID-19.
Waste disposals in Nigerian villages contrast remarkably with those of the cities, as village dunghills become sites of cross-mammals conversations. Human agencies produce morning smells that are admixtures of watery faeces, drenched in conk overnight urine, with tolerable animal scavengers such as pigs, goats and hens, scrambling for their different pieces of the edible parts of the concrete wastes emptied by human players. Some humans also visit the sites to empty their bowels, making some to accompany the process by smoking either local or refined tobacco, including weed that has been reduced to the staple of many youths, or sing relishing songs of either traditional or western religion. God must be present early on the dunghills as well! Cities have accredited basins with which wastes are collected before being towed to dumping grounds. This does not, nonetheless, stop streets being dotted with wraps and packages of wastes which usually spill from the road medians that serve as the illegal sites to the mostly barely motoring roads that play hosts to vehicles that are both either roadworthy or not.
For a very long time, Ojota-Lagos dumping site was an emblem of an arrival to a space in ruins. The burning smokes from the site produced irritating smells, and thick clouds that did not just presage the depletion of the ozone layer but the impending worrisome ‘rains’, provoked by human indecent acts. Little wonder, atrocious terminal diseases are assuming reckoning, while life expectancy dwindles by the day. To rejuvenate the ozone layer, planting of trees was at the centre of ‘quick returns’, just like COVID-19 is the new bride. The two-week ‘littering festivals’ witnessed recently in Akure, Ondo State capital, was an abnormality that must be permanently confronted with the kind of alacrity that Arákùnrin deployed. Privatisation is meant to bring efficiency, and should not be allowed to recede to liability!
The ‘waste to wealth’ cliché in Nigeria discourses remains a journey to no destination. It is not untrue, as variously avowed, that wealth is buried in the rubbles of wastes. However, human scavengers on waste dumps are not yet candidates in Guinness Books. Wealth has been difficult for Nigeria political leaders to make in the face of the handouts coming from the centre, as proceeds from crude oil, the latter gradually becoming a product for poor nations because of the alternatives being found for crude oil, are expended lavishly. With the call to recover the tomorrow we dumped on the dunghill yesterday, wastes in Nigeria cities are fast becoming objects of adornment, and evidence of a wasteful or ‘wasted generation’.
Waste disposals in Nigeria have once again revved up the matters of individual irresponsibility and institutional culpability. Individuals dispose wastes irresponsibly, as factories generate wastes as pollutants, which add up with indiscriminate dumping sites to create pervasive modes of poisonous deposits. Dumping wastes in gutters has led to rain-induced erosions, which have consistently led to blockages of waterways, resulting in dangerous flooding. Concentrated plastic clogging of culverts and bridges does cause overflows into major roads, leading to the vitiation of already vulnerable or poorly constructed roads. We need no prophet to predict the negative consequences of contaminated environments in relation to the possible ecological assaults on residents. This is as the proliferation of burning of wastes would produce more than enough sickening smokes to be uncontrollably inhaled by unhealthy ‘dying’ Nigerians. With the new wave of gastrological cancerous growths, Nigerians amuse one with their over-familiarity with death.
Amidst the lacklustre attitudes to waste disposal in Nigeria, there is the urgent need to find the ‘wealth’ in wastes. This is more so as what ants treasure and survive on are mostly what humans see as wastes. Feeds droppings from the cages of chickens are valuable food-sources for lucky lizards and rats. Organic wastes remain sources of enrichment, with convoluted waste generation in Nigeria leading to disaggregated approach in management and disposal. We need no rocket science to step up waste recycling and re-use, as done in developed nations, with the determination to create employment and revenues from waste management and disposals. Nature abhors wastage, and we must learn from it!
In order to tame the wastages of a wasteful ‘wasted’ generation, there is the need to convert the untapped energies of the teaming uncoordinated youths to productive engagements, with the avaricious accumulations by privileged Nigerians put in check. Stolen monies ferried and stacked in overseas secret accounts must be traced and repatriated. The present wastages of time, resources, and individual ambition and progression must be avoided with a departure from double-speak (standard) on sensitive health matters such as COVID-19. The wastes and wastages occasioned by the present warped political structures in the country should be curtailed, with excessive political behaviours, humongous political remunerations, and other ‘wastes’ in governance mitigated, for a reordered framework that could guarantee sustainable growth and development – moving from waste to wealth.
We must all think like Luis von Ahn who opines that “basically, I want to make all of humanity more efficient by exploiting the human cycles that get wasted”. Whereas one is sickened by Donald Trump’s vulgarity and the ‘waste’ in democratic ideals, I remain devastated by the sudden and premature departure of my Comrade old-school mate, friend and brother, Olabanji Kumuyi, who danced the last dance, and whose memories remain useful ashes of a dying ember. Adieu, my jolly good fellow!