Recently, I read a beautiful opinion piece written by Mr. Uche Nworah. This is not a rejoinder to that article of his, but instead, his article constitutes a reference point for this.
Mr. Nworah wrote eloquently about the negative impact of garbage and erosion on the good people of Aba. Aba, in case you did not know, is a major city in Abia state, and beyond Abia state, Aba is actually renowned as a major commercial nerve center for the entire Eastern region, South of Onitsha. Aba, it must be added, is a major metropolis in Abia state currently presided over by PDP enfant terrible, Governor Orji Kalu, my former school mate.
Aba has rich culture, and the people in Aba have strong work ethic and extraordinary business acumen! But Aba has also suffered historical neglect beyond wanton!
Unfortunately, Aba as bad as its luck has been with utter neglect of garbage removal and disposal, outrageous environmental degradation through the scourge of urban erosion, Aba sadly, is in “good” with Onitsha in garbage and erosion gully crises.
Aba is in the unsavory company of our megalopolis of Lagos. Lagos has enough filth and erosion combined with flooding to stop the flow of the Atlantic Ocean! Lagos, is sadly, not remarkably different from the plight of Benin City in these categories of the most garbage filled streets, erosion gullies and urban decay. And the same can be said of our sister city of Kano.
I think garbage removal is the most elemental form of governmental functions. And I think the responsibility to remove garbage falls squarely on the shoulders of municipal authorities, or local government councils, as municipal authorities are known in Nigeria, in most parts of the world, it is beyond dispute, as to whose responsibility it is, to gather, remove and haul garbage. It is clearly so, in most parts of the world that I have traveled, including Nigeria.
But why do we have garbage encroachments in most major cities in Nigeria? Why is garbage collection, garbage removal, such clearly elemental public hygiene, seemingly regarded as unimportant by municipal authorities in Nigeria? What can the states do about the invasion of our public space by unchecked growth of garbage in public, which is so unseemly?
Why am I talking about garbage here? Please do not dismiss this as just rubbish! Or garbage talk; It is actually more than a story about filth and pollution in Nigerian cities and towns.
I am really not interested in a single story about garbage collection, garbage removal and disposal, as I am interested in the attitude that has become pervasive among too many Nigerians. This attitude that I here talk about has to do with apparent misunderstanding of the duties and functions of our different strata of government in our democratic Nigeria.
In a federal structure, there is of course the central government at the federal level, then, there is the state governments and the most basic strata of government with the most basic functions, the strata of government that has the closest contacts and dealings with the average citizen in a huge federation such as ours…in the municipal or local government authorities of our 774 local government areas, or LGAs, as we fondly call them in Nigeria. Why is it more sexy, or fashionable, to attack the president, but OK to ignore the failings, ineptitudes and thievery of the governors and councilors, Senators, House of Rep members and House of assembly members?
Why are too many Nigerians uninterested in the push and pull of democracy? Why are many Nigerians not concerned with the call and response of participatory democracy? Why are so many Nigerians infinitely unmoved by the ineffectiveness of state governments and municipal governments or local government authorities?
Why is it that we are not vigorous and robust in our pursuit of accountability and transparency at state and local levels of governments in Nigeria?
When will the majority of Nigerian citizens wake up and realize that democracy is not a spectator sport? When will some us, wake up to the duty, responsibility, and corresponding obligations on the parts of citizens and government and vice versa?
Why is it that some Nigerians tend to or seem to ignore or even condone the abuse and misuse of power right in their backyard? Why is it that citizens of Edo state are not protesting the high crime rate of robberies and general insecurity in Benin City? Where my niece, Mrs. Ogbu, informed me that her husband can no longer travel with his mobile telephone as nobody does that anymore for fear of being attacked and robbed of the mobile telephone! What is a mobile phone if you cannot be mobile with it? If you cannot take your mobile phone with you, what the heck is the use?
Why is it, that Governor Kalu Orji is frequently visiting the United States to tout himself as a presidential candidate, when the local government council in Aba, Governor Orji’s domain, cannot remove garbage from the streets of Aba? Why is it that Governor Orji has support for his Sun newspapers and Slok Airlines, when erosion has taken over major roads in Aba, roads that are municipal or local government roads and NOT federal roads!
How does Governor Kalu Orji, alias “blabber-mouth” plan to be a good president? When he currently presides over a state, his small domain, where garbage collection, removal and disposal is not tackled by the local government or municipal authorities, and the state government of Governor blabber-mouth does nothing?
I suppose that most Nigerians have, during the military government administrations in Nigeria, gotten accustomed to expecting a unitary form of government actions, in a purely federal setting and systems! For decades, Nigerians expected and received federally mandated rules and command-performance of military administrators and so, we now expect the same in a democratic civilian government in a federal system?
This complete misunderstanding, misperception and even ignorance, probably explains why the federal government of President Obasanjo is blamed by so many Nigerians for matters and issues
that are clearly state matters, that are clearly local government or municipal province and exclusive preserves, even mundane municipal issues such as garbage collection, garbage haul and disposal.
Little wonder then, that so many Nigerians are unwilling or unaware, that they ought to hold their governors’ feet to the fire for local issues, and further hold the feet of their local government councilors and ward members and local council chairpersons accountable for the existence or provision of local public infrastructures and social amenities, instead, we have Nigerians always accusing the federal government, when in fact, the issue is just a mere failure on the part of a local government or a state authority to live to its bidding and responsibility.