Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Jos, Nigeria

he announcement of the Executive Order 9 took a great number of Nigerians unawares. It caught many asking questions like: what is our business with open defecation-free Nigeria? Is this the reduction in the price of a 50kg bag of rice that Nigerians wished to see? Why is this government chasing shadows instead of being proactive about salvaging her hungered citizens from starving to death? By the way, will this Order also stop the practice of ablution in public places by our Muslim brothers?

An Executive Order is a presidential directive that has the force of law. It is not expressly provided for in our constitution or even in the Americas’ from whom we have borrowed leaf. Nevertheless, as long as the directive is in consonance with the tenets of democracy; it has been used to achieve certain important and necessary objectives. Since 2015, executive orders have become a common phenomenon of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government beginning with executive order 5.

The directive for mandatory compliance with executive order 9 which promulgates for an open defecation-free Nigeria is no doubt a laudable directive and one that seeks to bring sanity. However, in his explanation of the scope of the order the honorable minister of water resources – Engr. Suleiman Adamu – concentrated more on the defecation side of what the order sought to achieve while completely leaving out the public urination and public washing of one’s private parts angle of the matter.

Unfortunately, while on the NTA, Nigerians did not have the luxury of talking one-on-one with the minister via a phone-in and so the whole idea of an open defecation-free Nigeria as presented by the minister will stay as an unbalanced or a one-sided argument. We all know that the human body almost always urinates every time it tries to pass out the solid waste and, overtime the religious belief in the washing of hands and feet before prayer has made some Muslim brothers to wash their manhood as well.

Beside the mosque in any locality, one can observe a space built like a restroom but mostly without a roof over them and the waste that runs from those places are not channeled into any soak-away or pit rather they are allowed to run off unto places meant for foot path. Most of the market centers do have these kinds of structures and the stench that comes out from them chokes and are strongly offensive to the nose. In rainy seasons, they are not a beautiful sight to behold at all.

Therefore, going forward, one would’ve applauded this executive order the more if it included an outright ban on this practice in public view. We must not forget that public urination is a practice that every Nigerian was guilty of and, wouldn’t it have been great if the order covered this matter too? Most water-borne diseases originate from human feces and urine carried off by flood waters or through percolation to rivers and the earth beneath and if we neglected a holistic approach to curbing this trend; it’ll only be half-baked as the water-borne diseases will never disappear.

Equally important are the menace of lavatories whose waste are channeled either to nearby water bodies or disposed open-aired. From the ministers’ explanation, even though he was not detailed there was also no mention of this aspect. The basic characteristics of most slums with urban cities are smelly gutters that run directly from restrooms and residential or commercial building without soak ways nor septic tanks and, this is precisely the reason slums are an administrators’ nightmare.

One thing is sure and that is the fact that if we go by the order’s title, chances are that its contents are mutually exclusive of these other sundry issues. If this becomes the case, then you wonder the difference between open defecation and smelly gutters and stuff and, why they are not captured in the first instances. More importantly, although executive orders are directives with a predetermined goal that is to be achieved within a given time; Nigerians must begin to develop the mindset of doing the right thing with or without executive orders.

It is insulting – so to speak – for a people to wait for executive orders before they can actually begin to do the right things. Open defecation is certainly a habit that does not have to wait for an executive order because it is as dangerous and unhealthy as public urination and poor disposal of lavatory wastes. Not only are they potential sources of epidemics, they are signs of barbarism and un-civilization. Imagine that what we read of the early man’s life still existed pretty much within and around our urban centers.

Does this show that we are striving for civilization as people of other climes do? In case we have forgotten, civilization’s start began with a conscious and deliberate shift in the mindset of the people and, unless and until we began to take responsibility for our actions and conducts; we can as well quit thinking of a better Nigeria because that’s never going to happen. ‘God go help this country’ will remain a national song on our lips until we realize that WE ARE THE gODS THAT WILL CHANGE NIGERIA FOR THE BETTER.

Again, it just shows how redundant government has made the NOA. I don’t know another effective method of reworking the mindset of the Nigerian people away from indiscipline and lawlessness if not through the national orientation agency. As the country continues to break into new frontiers in her fight against illiteracy so also is she expected to mount the campaign for enlightenment; for it has been discovered that education is only a step towards awareness and information and, enlightenment means to be informed beyond your disciple or field of specialization.

You will agree with me that not every educated Nigerian understood basic sanitary measures. This is why people still built houses but cared less about providing spacious and well-ventilated restrooms. Some even build very big bungalows and provide just one restroom. Others build lavatories and channel the waste into a body of water flowing in nearby streams. But an enlightened person will take a rational approach instead.

Another proof for the urgent need for enlightenment has to do with the religious and political intolerance witnessed in our polity. Enlightened people hardly hurt fellow citizens because of faith or political leaning. Therefore, it is my sincere hope that the NOA will play an active role in collaboration with the ministry of water resources and ministry of information and culture in the enforcement of the executive order 9.