Which city was dirtiest in 2017?
If we were in the United States, the question “ Which is the dirtiest city in 2017?” would not arise at all. This is because we all know that Los Angeles is not just one of the dirtiest and most polluted cities in “God’s Own Country””.
We equally know that that city is dirty for a purpose. It is dirty and polluted because the city has probably one of the best economies in the US and in the world. This is the reason Los Angeles does not sleep. Los Angeles cannot sleep.
If it were a country, the city’s $2.6 trillion economy would be the sixth biggest in the world behind the United Kingdom. Los Angeles represents fourteen percent of the U.S. economy. The humongous quantity of its dirt and detritus is a metaphor for its wealth. In advanced economies, no waste goes to waste; in advanced cities like New York, your fart has dollar implications!
But this is about Nigeria; it is about cities in United States of Nigeria. It never was my intention to act the sanitary inspector today. After all most of my compatriots are still wishing one another “Happy New Year”. We are in the season of beauty! On occasions like this, we prefer to see beauty and the beautiful.
Thus it was never in my plan to remind us all of the abyss which stared us all in the face throughout 2017 and against which no sustainable and effective action was taken by some state governments across the federation particularly those most affected by lack of capacity in refuse handling. Here I gesture at that ‘abyss’ which stare you in the face each time you go to the city centre; an abyss from which sanitary inspectors would have earned their full pay were today to be ‘yesterday’. But today is unlike yesterday.
Yesterday is past. I always long for the past; I long for the days gone by; I look at the past with nostalgia. I longed for that era when sanitary inspectors used to visit our house. Remember, what used to be my home, our home, had long ceased to be mine, to be ours. I lost it; I lost my first home when I lost my father. It was the first time I had a taste of the world, the real world. I lost my father when the world meant nothing to me but my father.
Brethren, today’s sermon was birthed on 1 January, 2018. It was the New Year. I ventured out of my apartment, out of the campus, into the city. I wanted to go in search of the “New Year”. I wanted to chance upon, as I mentioned in our sermon last week, that which is ‘new’ in the New Year. I was looking for that which would be positively unfamiliar in order for me to fully satiate myself and probably indulge in some revelry.
Eventually I found myself at the city centre. All around me were my compatriots. Most of them wore new dresses and attires. “Happy New Year”, one lady shouted on top of her voice as she greeted an old acquaintance of hers. Despite the feelings of the moment, I noticed that the streets all around the city were as dirty as they were on 31 December, 2017.
Thus while my compatriots were celebrating the so-called “crossover”, the roads in our cities were busy ‘bemoaning’ their destinies. It has indeed been their destinies that they now perform dual functions in our cities. In other words, in addition to being the roads on which we commute for our daily living, our roads have also become refuse collection centres. Yes. From Kano to Kaduna, from Lagos to Lafia, some of our roads have lost their beauty. They are now home to gook, they are now home to scum, they are home to crud.
The roads have become host to scum simply because that now serve as ‘refuse dumps’ and collection ‘centres’ for private refuse collector companies. The refuse collectors in that city of magic won the contract for the collection even in the knowledge that they did not have either the man power or the technical and infrastructural capacities for the job. It was not that they did not collect the refuse from the roads. They always did.
However, each time they did, the refuse were off-loaded bit by bit as their trucks trudged and jerked along the road. What a sight, and an insuperable one to behold. Meanwhile the road from Government House to Government Office remained decked in that greenery which reminds you of paradise promised to the believers on the day of resurrection.
But is it actually true that our cities were dirty in 2017? I suppose not. Our cities were not dirty, we were the ones that were dirty. Our cities were beautiful, we were ugly and beastly. Throughout 2017, it felt as if we have lost our sense of dignity and sanity; we throw dirt and garbage on the road without compunctions; we pollute the environment with ease. It appears as if we have all gone through a process of desensitization to dirt and scum. We are now back to the Shakespearean realm where what is fair is foul and what is foul is fair.
Thus if in the title of this sermon I have asked the rhetorical question- which city is the dirtiest in 2017?, it was actually meant to awaken you to our mutually-shared destiny in this country. Keep this in mind- no disease.
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