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Friday Environment with Odoh Diego Okenyodo

Rasheed Yusuf, the Managing Director of NatureNews was in my office today (Wednesday)to request me to write a weekly column in NatureNews. We have been colleagues who have great respect for what the other person does. I reflected on my attempts at such enterprises in the past: in Kaduna Chronicle, in Leadership on Sunday, and somewhere else I can’t remember. But all I remember is that it has always been a challenge having to do these things together with all other things bundled in the daily grind. I have got Akweya TV to worry about, and many other things.

Now, I want to take it up again. Rasheed said there would be space for Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, if I remember correctly. Now, that’s tough. I am looking at Wednesday or Friday, given that whichever I choose, I would have to turn in my material some days before. I go to school on Fridays, when the Federal Government has not told ASUU and the entire education sector to go to hell. So, that might be my best day to choose, out of all the days. That means, by the time I am on my way to school, the column would be out and I am not having to think about writing it. And Friday is a beginning of the weekend; that may be a plus and a minus for readership.

But who is really reading? I am not aiming to be a Farooq Kperogi or a Pius Adesanmi. I think of writing columns as some form of logging of one’s thoughts, and since I have been doing it in my closet, because of the constantly complicating nature of Nigeria where opinions are hard to hold, I guess I should just publicise it and let them stay there, naked. So, let my readers–whoever has the misfortune of encountering and not ignoring this stuff–bear the torture or torment, whichever is worse.

That said, I have decided to start wondering what I should do in the column and what to name it. I am not an expert on the environment. Neither am I one on the issues of nature, climate change, and all. My only expertise is in being one of the people who pollute the earth, naturally. I am one of those Nigerians accepting nylon bags indiscriminately and disposing of them by just throwing them in a waste basket and let my guilt perish there, because I have satisfied my conscience that I did not behave like one of those who fling trash out of the cars on the highways. But have I ever been curious about the journey my trash makes after I neatly tucked it into the basket? Even before then, did I try to sort it out so that I could make it easy for someone to recycle or reuse? Are my bottles stored separately from other perishable materials? Are my baby’s diapers taken into separate containers? I have not. Most likely you have not. Nigeria is too hard for you to think about all those in addition to drilling your own borehole and wondering when the public water supply would ever get to you. In fact, if it should, since most times such water is not really potable.

So, these are some of the things I would like to be drawing our attention to. I would like to look at our individual and collective behaviours, institutional actions, capacities or lack thereof, and see where we can all chip in. I will be guided by the socioecological model of development communication interventions and use that to identify what to say, do, or how I do them. I will look at laws and policies too, and instances when nature is not the best way to help nature. For example, we all naturally defecate; and the artificial way of defecating is by doing so in the toilet, not in the open.

I shall be welcoming comments from people. Those of you who know me before now know that I think everything can be helped by development communication with its emphasis on popular participation (you know how a carpenter sees that every problem can be solved by a hammer. Aha! You get the point!). So, please, bear with me; it’s part of the torture I am here to inflict on you, hoping that my friend Rasheed would get tired of me and kick me out and it won’t be said that I didn’t try when he called on me. I am reliable like that!

So what’s the name for the column? There are two things you should not ask me to decide upon: a colour and a title. (In fact, three things: what to have for breakfast.) I thought of many names and could not find something suitable. I said ‘Naturally’, ‘Actually’, and ‘No Trash Talk’. I thought of the whole ‘Development Insight’ or ‘Environment Insight’ and these two immediately told me themselves that I am an imposter. “You are not a development expert, so who are you to lay claim to having insights there? You are not an expert on the environment (what do you do with a board that has Nnimmo Bassey sitting vicariously on it? You must be on the sidewalks of Insanity Avenue).” Those were the nice words I heard in my head. So, as I write this, know that I know not what the name of the column finally became. Whatever you see on top of it now is a consequence of people like you on whom I would be dumping my uncertainties every week. In your interest, when you see these things from me, don’t bother to read: just forward to any frenemy, someone you need to punish. What are fiends for?!

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