THE NIGERIAN DEVELOPMENT FIASCO – THE NEED TO AVOID FUTURE EPIDEMY
BY OLUSEGUN PHILIPS-ALONGE
The promise of word class civil infrastructure dominates the local and national airwaves during every election cycle simply because the availability of functional infrastructure suggests modernization.
These empty promises are only a means to an end; they are designed to woo the people, score votes, and win elections. However, the zeal to make good the infrastructure promises made some governors overcommit their states to infrastructure loans to the point of insolvency.
In some instances, a few poor roads, hospitals, and school buildings are constructed and touted as the best of its kind on earth just to cajole the people. In reality, we are yet to fully embrace the effects of the four principal development variables on mobility, accessibility, cost of doing business, human hygiene, pollution, healthy living, quality of life, and longevity. We often tend to associate the short life expectancy in Nigeria with financial stress and lack of quality healthcare, our unhealthy environment, and harmful living culture is the biggest offender.
Real development includes underground, on-the-ground, above ground, and space systems. In Nigeria, modernization and development mostly mean on-the-ground systems such as roads, rail systems, and buildings. We seldom remember the importance of elements such as underground sanitary systems and potable water, power and the other above ground systems.
The underground systems transport human biomedical liquid wastes and storm water for effective treatment and deliver fresh water for daily needs. On-the-ground systems provide habitation, business places, access, mobility, material production and processing systems, and the plants to treat and disinfect the liquid and solid biochemical wastes that we generate daily. The above ground systems transport and deliver power and communication systems for our needs.
Our communities are expanding in response to population growth, but we are not paying attention to the need for full-scale development of healthy environment. Our streets are a field of decaying solid wastes which eventually blocks a significant percentage of our open storm drainage systems. The majority of Nigerians get their drinking water from artisan wells located near the soak away pits and pit latrines leaking human biochemical wastes into the formation. Most of the fresh waterways are polluted by toxic industrial wastes; the air is also polluted by toxic industrial and automobile fumes.
As the population of Nigeria approaches the 200 million mark, the challenges of maintaining clean and healthy environment will increase. I know it is going to be difficult to develop underground systems in built environment, it is doable at a higher than normal costs. Nigeria cannot fall asleep or pretend the outbreak of epidemic disease from the unhealthy environment is not a possibility. We must build roads to improve access and mobility, and develop functional sanitary and solid waste treatment systems to prevent pollution, improve quality of life, healthy living, and longevity.
We cannot overlook the obvious; over-centralization of planning and development and failed leadership are the reasons we cannot achieve world class development. We can solve these problems by allowing every community to set and enforce its planning and development standards and by electing visionary leaders. As far as I am concerned, a deliberate and determine grassroots effort is necessary to avoid the impending troubles.
Leadership is all of us; whether we like it or not some of us now complaining of leadership failure we someday assume leadership positions. Someone from those who are not aware of this discourse, those who ignore it, those who like it, and the contributors will someday become a leader. Even without political or royal positions, we can be a voice for positive change in our communities; we can influence the leaders to do the right thing.
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