Dr Suomi Sakai is not likely to be known to the “average” Nigerian; but he makes very telling comments about our country. Dr Sakai is UNICEF’s Country Representative and Chief Ambassador. Last week he reminded about the level of our underdevelopment: “It is estimated that about 33 million Nigerians defecate in the open, depositing about 1.7million tones of faeces into the environment annually”. Dr Sakai described the practice as a “most worrisome…unsanitary practice[…] We confront the sight each day; an individual on a motorcycle or driving a car suddenly stops and chooses a space to either urinate or just bends and defecate, openly.
I was in a taxi to Ikoyi, Lagos one day, when, from the gridlock, a man perched on a pavement near-by, unconcerned about the scores of eyes trained on him as he contributed his own share of the annual 1.7m tones of s**t (pardon me please!) to the Nigerian open space. In the world of the 21st Century, public toilets have not become de rigeuer, in our cities and towns, as if humans will not be human. People build houses and forget that the guard post too deserves a toilet; so the Maigadi sneaks around the walls of houses looking for space to defecate.
Ours is truly a very backward society. Fantasy, miracle and delusion, have captured the social imagination while the depth of philistinism is mind-boggling! People do not read except tracts/books from the “prosperity preachers” of Nigerian Pentecostal churches or tracts/books from Saudi sources, in the case of Muslims. The counterpart read is material about getting rich fast or what is generally referred to as ‘motivational’ literature, part of the delusional baggage of making capitalist exploitation and the accompanying poison palatable inside the sugary coating of ‘hope’ that you too can ‘make’ it!
Well, last week, a new page of delusion was opened in Nigeria, with the absurd text which most people received, and I did too: “Pls be careful in receiving call especially new numbers. Over 10 people lost their lives in Wukari LGA Taraba state 2day in answering call. Dis are d no 09141 only 5 digit. Pass it 2 other pls 2 save life”. It generated panic, precisely because we live in a society that does not interrogate phenomena nor ask basic rational questions. How plausible is it that death can occur from telephone calls? Which service provider issued the number? Could 09-14-1 not be September 14, 2011? Was someone not playing games with the Nigerian, as a sucker for mystery and the deification of myth, especially in a world where people confront the real fears of poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, infant mortality, disease and inadequate social provisions? It was also in our country that panic was generated last year, when a certain date was also announced for an “acid rain”. I got the text from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and wondered why he and others couldn’t have simply Googled “acid rain” and then spare themselves of the panic? When a society vacates rationality and superstitious mumbo-jumbo and other mind-bending belief systems take them over, this is what reigns.