DR Amos Akingba Pro- Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of Ondo State University of Science and Technology took a studied look at the ultra modern Dome newly constructed by Governor Olusegun Mimiko in Akure and breathed a huge sigh and exclaimed ‘Irunmole, come to this beautiful pavilion in 10 years time and you would be sorry for Africa!’. He went on and on bemoaning Africa’s shoddy attitude to maintenance culture and wondered whether it was a fault in our stars or in our being.
“Go to the National Stadium in Lagos or the National Stadium in Abuja. Visit the once eye catching Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi Lagos and wonder to high heavens what kind of people we are. Go to the Bulgarian style National Theatre in Iganmu Lagos and see what would confront your eyes. The list is endless” he submitted.
For most of that evening even while Professor Kole Omotoso’s stage drama was running, the thoughts provoked by Dr Akingba’s lamentation shared my attention with watching the highly thought-provoking dance drama on stage. My mind raced to several edifices of remarkable significance that are now begging undertakers to tarry a little before consigning them to the grave.
You wonder and wonder trying to find reasons why once celebrated projects have become eye sores in the country, and in almost all the countries of Africa. Could it be because African countries led by Nigeria suffer heavy turnovers in leadership? But that suggestion is immediately dismissed when you consider Italy that changes her Prime Ministers and governments as a woman changes her under-pants has one of the best maintenance cultures in the world. All their places of historical and anthropological importance are well preserved. Could it be because of the craziness with which one government changes or abandons projects put in place by their predecessors?
Succeeding governors, chairmen of councils and even presidents and prime ministers will watch unconcerned while the good works of their predecessors crumble and decay. This may explain in part while performing governors always struggle to ensure continuity by trying to have their preferred choices succeed them in office.
Our maintenance culture in this part of the world is perhaps the worst in the whole world. Nigerians will not bother about the health of their vehicles until the vehicles start gasping for breath. One wonders why Nigerians tend to forget that the imported second-hand vehicles that look like new when they arrive are actually four to six years old pre-used. The reason those vehicles look new is because in the countries where they come from maintenance culture is quite high. It has become a way of life in those countries. Here in Nigeria roads will not be serviced until potholes consume a large chunk of the roads and several lives are needlessly sacrificed to Ogun the God of war, arms, metals, and roads
Our I-don’t care-attitude to maintenance is not limited to public properties. Even private properties are treated with levity. Many buildings will be left unattended until the roofs start falling off, windows falling apart, and the walls cracking and the whole house about to cave in that panicky measures will start rearing their heads. It is not uncommon to find buildings collapsing on the heads of their occupants. These are occupants who watch the buildings deteriorate until the point of no return and the buildings simply give way.
All plumbing fixtures are allowed to deteriorate and fall apart one after another and the occupants who use these appliances on daily basis would continue to shrug their shoulders until all the sinks leak and the rooms are flooded or the sinks and toilet bowls are irredeemably blocked. Even fixtures as ordinary as electric bulbs will be left unattended to until all the bulbs are burnt and the entire house is in darkness.
But there is no area where absence of maintenance is more evident than in personal matters. Just as many vehicle owners would wait until their vehicles refuse to move before they rush to the mechanic, it is the same attitude to personal health and well being.
A lot of people wait until they can no longer drag their body before they start looking for help from doctors, pharmacists, apothecaries, and spiritual healers. In fact quite often, matters would have seriously gone out of hand that the lot to prevent the careless individual from untimely death now falls on the shoulders of relatives and friends.
People do not maintain and sustain their once trim figures until their bellies start competing with drums and they start looking like Sunmitomo wrestlers. People watch and allow cataracts cover all of their eyes, allow small ailments to grow into giant diseases and indulge in eating and drinking habits that erode the wellness of their bodies.
As Dr Akingba and I were lamenting the lack of maintenance culture which has claimed the lives of many legacy icons of the past, Dr Akingba threw another jab: Do we as a people maintain our families? How many husbands care a hoot about the maintenance of their wives? How many husbands care about the health of their wives who toil and labour in the sun day-in-day-out until such wives virtually collapse and cannot go to the market or farm? How many wives worry about the worsening appearance of their spouses? How many parents care about their children?
How many people maintain their homes?
It is okay and easy to condemn governments for their lack of maintenance culture, but how many of us in our private and personal lives can beat our chests and say that maintenance is our way of life? How many people go back home to fix the old and crumbling houses of their parents where they enjoyed a happy youth? How many people believe that it is their mandatory responsibility to prevent the legacies of their grandparents from ruins?
We must make maintenance culture a way of life. We must pay attention to our homes, our families, our bodies and our environment. We must look after our utilities and maintain them and prevent them from falling apart. Our vehicles, our houses, our apartments and our clothing apparel will all endure longer if we take sustained care of them.
As for public properties, the cardinal thing to remember is that we jointly and collectively own those prestigious icons. All of them were/ are built with OUR money.
We must take possession. If we possess them, we love them, care for them, and prevent any government from abandoning them.
Do you maintain your family?