With the emergence of the Ebola pandemic in West Africa and even Nigeria, there has been a lot of awareness given to hygiene and ancillary issues. In Nigeria, there were awareness campaigns on what to do to prevent the spread of the virus. Washing of hands, and how to even wash said hands became the focal point of many health workers. Wash your hands under running water, not in a wash hand basin. Yes, running water.
You see, running water is a luxury in Nigeria. Let’s not kid ourselves and say it is not. One of the major reasons I panic when there’s a power cut that lasts longer than 3 days is the absence of water. ‘No light’ means ‘no water’. How will we put on the water pump without incurring the costs of running the diesel guzzling power generator? Water doesn’t flow from our taps without us assisting it by drilling boreholes (which cost an arm and a leg). It’s either that or you have water tankers supply your in-house tank with water – which you in turn pump into your house. God help you if there’s no ‘Big gen’ available. Or if your neighbour, whose generator the water pump is connected to, travels… and NEPA is on break. You’d have to resort to having ‘Mai ruwa’ bring you kegs of water on a weekly basis.
The absence of readily available running water is why we are skilled in the art of washing up with ‘bucket and bowl’. Buckets are tools of preparedness. Imagine being in the shower and the water stops running? Don’t panic. Just reach out for the bowl inside your back up bucket and wash the soap off your face.
The absence of running water is probably the explanation for why Nigerians have very little regard for toilets and toilet ethics. For a room that is very susceptible to harbouring a lot germs and infections, is there a reason why we don’t make a little more effort to make them nice and clean?
To understand our issue with toilets, we have to take a few steps back to our thoughts on the function of a toilet. If you’ve ever gone house hunting in Lagos, woe betide you if you ask an agent or a landlord why the bathroom facilities are not bigger or better. Between builders and architects there seems to be a disregard for an adequate number of bathroom facilities. You find an office building with an average of 20 people on one floor having to ‘just manage’ two toilets. One of the toilets would be padlocked of course. That’s for the oga‘s exclusive use. The minions can share the other one. Is there a reason why property owners ‘hoard’ toilets? Or is it just part of the Nigerian deal of making things more difficult for people when you can make it easier?
The short supply of available toilets, coupled with the absence of running water makes this fundamental facility a big deal. Add that to the fact that not enough people have the basic knowledge of toilet ethics and you have a BIG societal problem. A substantial part of this problem comes from the fact that many people have the ‘Na So I meet Am'(NSIMA) mentality. Na so I meet am is a close relative of ‘Everybody is kuku doing it’ (EIKDI). The NSIMA is why a person would pee and not flush the toilet… because the toilet wasn’t flushed when they got there. They only contributed their quota to an already dirty toilet. (This is oddly reminiscent of the whole Nigerian picture). From boarding school, to Fagunwa hall, nobody tells the Jane Joe that the right thing to do is to discard the NSIMA attitude. So, Jane never sees what is wrong with it, and so the cycle continues. Good hygiene practice flies out of the window, but let’s blame that on the absence of water.
Then there’s also the issue of inherent dirty behaviour. Some people are JUST disgustingly dirty. The fact that you take dumps in your toilet doesn’t mean it has to be dirty. If you use a toilet, be sure to leave it sparkling clean… even if you have to pour 8 buckets of water down the bowl. Your toilet bowl should be so clean that someone can eat off it. Really! If you notice stains, don’t leave it for the landlord… buy baking soda (if it’s a stubborn stain) and clean it. If there’s no running water, ensure that there’s a drum constantly filled with water. And a bucket and bowl of course. Forget what you heard about buckets being crude. It’ll do in this case.
Employers should also note that providing a functional room for your staff is not a luxury… it’s a basic necessity. You can’t have your staff having to stroll to TFC every time they have to use the bathroom. Let’s not even address the issue of how dirty some restaurant toilets are. LawdyLordLawd!
If you go and visit someone and you run out of water after you’re done with your business, the most polite thing to do is to inform your host that you need some water to push your load down the pipes. There’s no point leaving a mess because you’re too ashamed to say there’s no water.
I know this article is about water
-ish , but can we address the issue of hiding of toilet paper? Ah I’m about to go off point now, so I’ll stop here.
Let’s ponder upon these things. The may seem irrelevant in the big scheme of things but you’d be amazed at how these things form the building blocks of our society.
Oh, don’t forget to share some of your toilet stories, because toilets are soooo underrated. I hear some people don’t like the word ‘toilet’… but it is what it is. If it’s clean, airy and dry, I bet you won’t have any problems saying that word out loud… TOILET! 😀 Oh, and if someone knows why we can’t just have water flowing through our taps… please tell us. Or is it one of those things that Nigerians should never expect to have? Like constant electricity? Good roads? Functional healthcare system? The horn of a unicorn?
Have an awesome month ahead! Be healthy, be clean, be selfless and be hygienic.
Peace, love & cucumber.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang