Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Naija Bucket Mentality by BabaWilly

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If all the buckets in Nigeria should get raptured into Pail Heaven tonight, the country would be thrown into utter confusion. Life without buckets in Nigeria would mean no life at all. (The Rapture, to the uninitiated is when all Christians will suddenly varnish from the face of the earth when the last trumpet sounds).

If such a fate befalls the ubiquitous buckets of Naija there will be cases  of confused church ushers scratching their heads when their Pastor shouts out ’pass the bucket round for offering time is blessing time!’

Instances of naked men running out of the bathroom with soap in their eyes will be common place. Paranoid minds will be flung into panic when a sudden puddle of water caresses their feet as buckets exit Nigeria’s territorial space to the after -life.

It will be a sad night as mama bom-boi walks into her kitchen to find three small hills of garri, rice and beans in the place of her three virgin buckets. These were her vessels of honour complete with tight lids that had never once seen the soapy face of a human in the bathroom.  Buckets destined for great things on their day of purchase. Washed and dried and then comissioned to that high office of being the custodians of food stuffs. Alas the buckets are gone with the wind and the house wives cry.

Tales will be told of maidens walking back from the stream with buckets of water balanced on their heads all experiencing a sudden baptism they had not signed up for. Strong men pulling buckets out of wells will find themselves on the floor as the resistance against which they pull varnishes. Drivers will have to skip washing the cars as the weak tap pressures of Naija prevents washing cars with a hose pipe. Woe to those burdened with gastroenteritis on such a night. Having spent all night committing their vomitus and diarrhoea into the bucket, they will be saddled with guilt when their carers tell of how the bucket’s contents splashed onto the new carpets en-route to the toilet.

There will is cries of horror as buckets of paint splash around in the boots of jeeps and ice-cream finds its freedom in freezers everywhere. Those with no washing machines who had ‘soaked’ clothes in a bucket with soap as part of their pre –wash ritual, would all awake to a soapy mess of water and wet clothes all over the house. Surviving the thunderstorm and leaky roof would be in vain in the wet parts of the country as the buckets of salvation get translated leaving behind their contents on the carpet.

The good news is that the great icon that is the Naija bucket is going nowhere. I just spoke about the rapture to pail heaven to flog the dead horse of a point that buckets are more important to Nigerian life than the Kola nut (No mind those jerry cans wey dey form levels). However even if the buckets sprout wings and fly away only to send a post card pledging never to return, overnight all the taps and showers in Nigeria will start to flow at a good pressure for no country in the world can match Naija when it comes to improvisation in a crisis. Our politicians and engineers can do things very quickly when push comes to push me-push you. So where did all this talk about buckets come from anyway?

Well, I needed a new bucket and asked my son where we should go for a new blue model. We brain stormed a bit and various shops were mentioned. He discounted a particular store as their clientele was predominantly White and as he put it, ‘white people do not keep buckets in their bathrooms’. It set me on a course of meditation that has brought me to this point. I have examined myself and concluded that I have a Naija Bucket Mentality. A unique mindset derived from a very simple necessity to avoid pain and embarrassment.

Getting stranded during a shower when the water stops, you learn to know a pain that will never be forgotten. Unable to open the eyes you call for help and when it arrives, opening the locked bathroom door is a struggle. It only needs to happen once for you to understand the importance of a bucket of water as insurance. When you grow up not trusting the utilities, your paranoia means you have buckets inside the house and an electric generator and bore hole outside. Must add that one man’s paranoia is another man’s common sense.

My personal journey into bucketism started as a class monitor in primary school. Part of the job description was to go and fetch the break time snacks; puff- puff and squash in two buckets. The squash was then served into plastic cups by dipping the master cup into the bucket and filling the cups held out by fellow pupils. It was indeed a position of power. On the school playground you heard stories of the famed Ojukwu bucket alias Ogbunigwe, a kind of anti-armoured vehicle weapon made in Biafra. No this bucket did not contain water to wash you clean. It exploded on impact.  At home, the low pressure of the water supplies meant you had no running water upstairs and had to fetch water from the down stairs tap. When it was time to go into boarding school, you got a list of essentials to bring in and the bucket was usually high up the list. The same applied to going to university. Everyone packed his bucket, sometimes before the books.

So having been fully bucketanized mentally, it is no wonder that having moved to the UK, where the taps run at a reasonable pressure, I still haven’t changed gears mentally as regards to my bathroom rituals. It is just an irrational habit for I know that I only need a mop bucket at present. On holidays or when ever I check into hotels, I do not expect to see a bucket in bathrooms and never notice the absence of one. However once I am back into a home I call my own, I look forward to having a bath out of a bucket and having a small bowl with which to throw water on my body.

So why is this important?  I look at myself and I wonder. The ‘normal’ of yesterday has not given way to the ‘new normal’ of today in some departments of my brain. The brain and head are out of Suru-lere but parts of Suru-lere still exists in my frontal lobe. As seasons change, being stuck in the past becomes a weight. Since different countries exist in different ‘seasons of advancement’ one needs to ‘change gears’ when one travels to another country.

Being used to something is not a good enough excuse. Naija says, ‘shine your eyes’. A skill or daily chore that has become obsolete must be forgotten. The great hand washer of clothes with skills honed through washing senior students’ clothes in boarding school must find new things to do with the hands once they move into a country with washing machines, light and free flowing water; rather than insist that ‘dis washing machine no dey wash cloth well’.

Of course the skills should return if he travels back to his native country. There was this lady I stood next too while we awaited the arrival of our luggage on the conveyor belt at Murtala Mohammed airport, Lagos. This lady had no Naija Bucket mentality at all. She complained more that the Europeans with an accent like beans wey never done well.  She said over twenty times that, ‘dis Nigeria is too hot’. I looked at her and wondered how being in Europe for 3 weeks had taken away her acclimatisation to heat talents. She was fanning her face with some brightly painted nail extensions studded with fake tiny diamonds. She paused from fanning once in a while to scratch her weave. She was just acting like an Ajebuta  that she was not.

I advocate losing eighty to ninety per cent of our bucket mentality but not a hundred per cent abeg. You must still know how to endure tropical climate and slap-to-kill at mosquitoes without complaining, as the tropics will never become Europe.

In summary (African style), I hope I have convinced you that the Bucket is mightier than the Basket and it holds a significant place in Nigeria. It also sits on the mantel piece of my heart as my early life was spent lifting water holding onto the arched handles that so calloused my palms. (Now everyone who shakes me says my hands are soft, how embarrassing). The lessons to learn must be spelt out clearly. The old normal is gone. Just because you had adapted to low water pressures in the past and were happy and content with life does not mean that you must keep using these adaption skills till you kick the bucket. Seasons will change and so must we.


Dr Wilson Orhiunu


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