The Oasis Reporters
February 05, 2017
By Omolola Ajayi
I once talked about how dirty toilets tell a lot about an organisation and could reveal deeper secrets, like negligent management. Now I’d like to talk about how the way we treat the issue of toilets and rest rooms reveal some of our values and priorities in this society.
I believe that the way many people relate to the issue of toilets or convenience in Nigeria is a testament to the fact that we have not embraced the mind-set of service and providing value. We generally seem to be concerned only about what we can get and hardly ever about what we can do to add value or better our immediate environment; our toilet culture shows our grab-what-you–can, non-service oriented mind-set. Let me give a few examples.
This nonchalant and immediate-gain mind-set is why someone will build a shopping complex containing about 15-20 shops and put only one or two toilets somewhere in an obscure corner of the premises. His/her prayer is that all his shops get occupied and that the business of the occupants flourish so that they can keep paying their rent but his/her vision never extends to providing suitable conveniences that would be able to cater to the kind of prosperity (s)he has envisioned. All (s)he wants is for prospective tenants to bring their money and for their customers to bring their money so (s)he can “enjoy”.
For someone who is planning a building where the tenants will strictly be those with businesses that are come-in-come-out and hardly ever require customers to hang around for long, this might not be a big deal. But for someone who’s looking for tenants involved in all sorts of businesses, why wouldn’t the best be put in place for all possible scenarios? The attitude seems to be – If the shop owners and customers (male and female) like, they can all share one toilet and if they can’t, the roadsides are there. The shop owners themselves hardly ever notice because they also just want the customers to come and drop their money. After all is it not just to pee or poo? Such an owner doesn’t even realize that providing convenience that is commensurate to intended functions of a building will help it’s maintenance in the long run.
Another example is the landlord who builds and can’t just spare some extra cash to put in quality fixtures for the bathrooms and toilets because(s) he doesn’t really think it’s important but begins to complain down the road that his tenants haven’t maintained the buildings well or that they are not decent people. Well, maybe “decent” people would rather pay some extra money to find buildings with “decent” landlord that invested in better fittings and not the ones where somebody just wants to be called “Landlord” and make money from it without any thought for the living conditions of those who will eventually be called tenants.
And why do we still have so many Face-Me-I-Face-You buildings with 20 tenants (or even families) and one toilet/bathroom? Or rather I should ask; why are people still building those kinds of facilities? I know that a lot of people are not able to afford houses that are much more comfortable but for those new landlords, why couldn’t it just be a self-contained house with a toilet for each tenant? Is that still supposed to be a big deal in this age?
While it may be said that some of these things are caused by financial constraints, I still maintain that a major factor is that the desire to make money or have increase is not often accompanied by the desire to serve or add value. If it was, there’d be many more instances of someone who wanted to be the owner of a block of maybe 8 flats deciding to bring it down to 4, so that (s)he can use the resources at his/her disposal to build a more solid and service-oriented homes .