“For Today’s youth, no issue ranks as high as the environment in shaping the world in which they are growing up.” The Peter .D. Hart Research Associates Report.
In 1984, when the military government of Major-General Buhari promulgated a decree (War Against Indiscipline) forbidding street trading in the capital of Lagos, a major source of income for many thousands of Lagos people, many people screamed foul but it seemed a good idea to many others who were tired of the corruption and ill-manners of many Nigerians.
Deaf to protests, Police arrested street vendors and confiscated their wares, chased away beggars and locked up touts, flogged civil servants for late coming. It was generally a doomsday period. The evils corrupt Nigerians perpetuated have come to roost and it had no plans of leaving.
The campaign was designed to foster greater personal and social discipline amongst Nigerians, with Nigerians being made to queue for buses in an orderly fashion and keep the nation clean but Major-General Buhari went about it in a tyrannical manner. Many Nigerians were degraded and publicly humiliated, the sentences outweighed the offenses- its no wonder his government was overthrown some 17months later. He was not much liked.
28years later, we need to wage another war against indiscipline. Environmental pollution is on the rise. Dirt has become an accepted norm along side corruption, crime and underdevelopment. Let’s say together: Enough is enough!
My office is in Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, so every morning and evening I am subjected to the appalling dirt in this brash suburb called Obalende. Each day, I pause and marvel at the uncleanliness manifested by our unemployed youth who scout the plains of Obalende Bus Terminus for their daily bread. They are a colorful, uncouth, and rumbustious lot. Immune to their dirty smelly environment, they spit out phlegm indiscriminately, and defecate and urinate under the bridges and by the side walks – it is obvious, most of them “live” there.
And, I wonder: what will become of these youths ten/twenty years from now? How many of them will survive the harsh conditions of “living” in such a polluted environment? How many of them will escape life as touts, beggars and street urchins? How many of them will get to “see” old age. I am not God neither am I a Seer but the answer is dishearteningly – on the surface – negative. Very few of these young men and women will be able to “make it” without any education, skill or trade. Some will resort to petty theft, some prostitution, some may progress to armed robbery, but whatever the case, most will die young. The prostitutes will catch deadly diseases maybe HIV/AIDS or Syphilis which they do not have the resources to fight off, and they will die or they may follow home a ritualist who will sacrifice their heads on a pike to a heathen god for money. The petty thieves and robbers will fall into the arms of jungle judges and be burnt alive with tires strewn round their necks or they will be caught by men of the Nigerian Police Force and rot in jail without being arraigned to talk more of tried, sentenced and convicted. The ones who did not succumb to a life of crime and sin, will struggle to survive, but after endless fruitless struggles for a 0-1-0 meal a day, they will give up and wither away.
It is indeed a polluted existence for these homeless “children” of Obalende Bus Terminal. The BIG question is: does their homeless state excuse their uncleanliness and disregard for aesthetics? No! In-as-much-as, I understand their woes and sympathize with them, I do not think it is sufficient excuse for their further pollution of a polluted suburb, which is home to a thousand and one other residents, but neither do I have a personal solution to their problems- asides, of course, the obvious one: the government should sit up and do something; anything. So long as our nation is rid of pollution, poverty and crime. So long as our children no longer cite their abode as “under the bridge”. So long as our taxes and revenues are being utilized for our greater good.
I know that every city of the world has its slums and homeless but Lagos has been ranked the top 4 worst city to live in. Lagos should borrow a leaf (or even the whole damn tree) from cosmopolitan cities like Johannesburg, Sydney, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, and control environmental pollution while maintaining a solid economy where there are jobs for skilled workers and means of skill acquisition. Lagos should aspire to become a city, free of pollution, touts and street urchins.