Friday, August 23, 2019
open defecation in Nigeria
A humorous exploration of why Nigeria brazenly remains a country of shit slinging people even in the face of Trump’s shithole comment.

In Nigeria, shot put stands for something entirely different. To many Nigerians, shot put equates with shit slinging, which is just a glorified name for a technique of collecting your shit in a plastic bag and flinging it very far from you (a crude imitation of the game, shot put) so that it lands someplace else, away from you, freeing you from the responsibility of handling your own shit. Because in Nigeria, people just don't want to take care of their own shit.

You don't believe me? Because you have for yourself the solid comfort of a flush toilet, its ceramic bowl gleaming and dependable to swallow your shit, no matter the size or appearance or smell. You don't think it a luxury when you sit on your toilet bowl, feeding it the sludge of your body's digestive process, turning the toilet's handle to unleash a flood of water and watching your shit swirl in that pool until it all disappears. Gone, in a septic tank you don't concern yourself with. You take care of your own shit. You are a responsible human being. With all your responsibility and high-mindedness, you wonder: Do people still fling their shit in this country? Are these people real human beings or are they mere primitive bush dwellers who cannot help but wallow in their barbarism?

Here is the answer to your question: People still fling their shit in Nigeria and UNICEF says it's just a matter of time before we overtake India (even with all the glamour and melodrama of their Zeeworld) and become the world's "Shit Capital."

The apartment building I live in is in a way nested by farmlands—lush green bushes of cassava and cocoyam and tall unwanted weeds. Some months ago, I stood by my window and watched as a woman stood in her farm to hurl curses on the people who had defecated on her land—people who did not like to burden themselves with the responsibility of taking care of their own shit.  She seemed like a woman accustomed to hurling curses. The movement of her hands, the tempo of her voice and her choice of words, all burnished with an inflamed rage, showed she was a person who understood well the mechanics of placing curses.

"Nwu kwa nu onwu ike," she said. Die a sudden death. Perhaps this enraged woman also attended a prayer house whose members smacked their open palms on the ground and commanded their enemies to fall down and die. Perhaps people came up to the microphone to give testimonies of how they prayed and a certain uncle who had somehow managed to get hold of their destiny and lock it up had died in an accident, his skull cracked open, his brain spilled on the pot-holed road, and now they expected that things would start picking up for them because after all, their enemy is dead. With her voice raised and her words infused with the requisite amount of venom, she seemed to me like an accomplished dispenser of curses.

Nobody dreams of handling another person's shit. As a mother, I am saddled with the unpleasant task of handling my baby's shit. I don't sit around and fantasize about when next I'm going to change a soiled diaper. Beholding a baby's shit comes with the motherhood terrain and I earnestly look forward to when my son would begin to take care of his own shit. The joy that would bring me!

There is just something revolting about being made to handle another person's shit. It almost seems wicked, coming face to face with a mound of excreta that does not belong to you, and there isn't a measure to quantify the grave annoyance that begins to simmer when you are left without choice and must summon the courage to take care of another person's shit. And indeed it takes courage and not many people have the stamina to reach inside themselves and summon courage for something as ignoble as handling another person's shit. So they curse or go all voodoo on these people who refuse to take care of their shit.

During my secondary school days, it wasn't unusual to sometimes come upon grossly smeared shit in the classrooms or on the stairs. One cannot begin to understand the motivation of some of these students who seemed averse to the use of toilets but preferred the perverse joy of grieving their classmates by defecating in the class. And woe betide the group of students who had the responsibility of sweeping the classroom on a day like that. Saying that the classroom sweepers were irked does not even come close to doing justice in describing the anger that often boiled in the hearts of these teenage students. Therefore, it came as no surprise, when these classroom sweepers went all voodoo against their 'defecating' classmates. These classroom sweepers would sprinkle a good amount of finely ground dry pepper on the offending mound of shit, pour some kerosene and light the shit up with matchsticks. They believed that doing this would set fire to the butts of the culprits, leaving them with the feeling of having pepper in their arse. Whether it was effective, I certainly cannot say.

 I, though, certainly understand the pain of the woman who hurled curses on the people who had defecated in her farmland. It is indeed such a pain to have to handle shit that isn't yours. I knew the people desecrating her land with their offensive shit. I live on the topmost floor of my apartment building and have the aerial privilege of spying on neighbouring houses, which often are bungalows. The 'open defecators' are a group of young men in a neighboring bungalow who strangely enjoy the company of themselves when they shit. They shit together. Usually, people want privacy when they handle their toilet business but these loud and boisterous young men take the whole buddy-buddy thing to a new level. They hang out to shit together. Unfortunately, the venue for the hangout was the farmland of the woman who has shown to be quite well-versed in the language of curses.

The all seeing eye is everywhere, watching. Sometimes, the all seeing eye is a neighbor who lives in a tall building and that is why you shouldn't walk around in your underwear in your premises if you have tall buildings around your house. I digress. The all seeing eye is everywhere. And many times in my neighborhood, I have been the all seeing eye, watching people who do not know that they are being watched—who do not know that what they are doing can end up on a blog on the Internet and people would read about them and know things they weren't trying to tell anyone.

On one of those days when I transformed into the Eye of Providence, I stood my window with my husband and we watched a young man take a dump. It was funny. It was a bright afternoon, the weather was hot and there was a slowness about. We saw this young man head out from the neighboring bungalow into the farm, hide by the cassava plants, squat and do his thing. When he had satisfied the proverbial call of nature, he reached out to tear some cocoyam leaves to wipe himself. Cocoyam leaves, how multi-utilitarian can they get? In my childhood, we used them as "natural umbrellas"  to shield ourselves from rain that was not too heavy. Now, here was a young man showing us some other use of these wonderful leaves. Wiping arses. When he was finished with defiling someone else's land with his shit, he pulled up his shorts, walked out of the cassava bushes and into the street, then lifted a little child with those hands of his—unwashed hands that had reached out to wipe his behind some mere seconds ago. My husband suddenly become nauseous.

I broke into laughter. Watching that young man hold that child reminded me of people who are strongly fixated on hand sanitizers and are forever on the lookout for germs. They would certainly gag at this. I once had a roommate in the university who was strongly opposed to germs (Is there anyone who even loves germs?) and once, she expressed her fears about shaking hands with males. She just could not understand why males would stop in their tracks, unzip their trousers, urinate and later on shake hands with people like nothing happened. "I just don't like shaking hands with guys," she used to say. I find it to be terribly expensive, this disposition to be overtly aware of germs. It would feel like prison—caged in a bubble of hand sanitizers and repellants, always trying to defend against an unseen army of germs. How far can one run from germs?

The young men in the bungalow beside my house understand a 'guys night out' as hooking up together to take a dump. If that isn't the height of masculine comradeship, I don't know what else it could possibly be. They leave their premises at night, usually around 10 pm when the street has quieted down. I still cannot comprehend why they choose to handle their toilet business outside, when I am certain that they have toilets installed in their flats. Other families in their bungalow never come outside to handle their toilet issues. Perhaps it is simply irresistible, that feeling of having the cool night breeze cascade their behinds while they deposit excreta on a farmland a woman has worked hard to till. Or could it be a lust for something adventurous? It certainly isn't adventurous sitting on toilet seat and afterwards turning a handle to flush. But the adrenaline sure kicks in when you're where you're not supposed to be, in someone's farm, shitting and taking cover from the bright lights of a car driving past the street.

I knew the young men responsible for soiling that woman's land but I did nothing. I merely watched her from my window as she hurled curses on them, hoping that they died sudden deaths. But those young are still alive, so it appears her curse may have lacked the correct amount of rage to send a person to the grave.

I understand that I have said the word "shit" for an almost indecent amount of time in this post. Nevertheless, I am unrelenting and will conclude this post quoting a verse from one of my favorite poems by the Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor, for this simple reason: it contains the keyword "faeces". It is from the poem, Songs of Sorrow. Here it is:
"The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces into which I have stepped. When I clean, it cannot go."

Thank you for reading. Comment and share.

You may also like this post: Understanding the peculiarities of Nigerian Christianity: A crash course for perplexed people or this post where I bash lecturers that annoy me.


  1. Lol. I laughed hard. A pleasant read 😊big ups Bigsis🤗

    1. Thank you, my Anonymous little sister! ��

  2. Las Las there is a certain allure about taking a dump in the open. I'm almost ashamed to admit it.

  3. Hahahaha. What an allure! Every Nigerian that went through a boarding secondary school would definitely know that allure. Thank you for reading, Animashaun.

  4. wonderful write up. the world is yours...


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