Spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar is an old wise saying which means destroying something big due to nonchalance or allowing something of great value to decay for lack of timely repair. This truly reflects in many Nigerians’ private and public lives. It would seem maintenance culture is alien to us given the way we go about our lives recklessly. Many of us do not care a hoot about our health or well-being. We hardly go for medical check- up and when sick, indulge in self-medication. Any wonder many now give up the ghost after “a brief illness”. That will mostly happen when we don’t nurture our bodies and fail to seek timely medical assistance from appropriate quarters when indisposed. As with our bodies, so with our personal belongings such as cars and household items. When the car wiper is not working, we ignore it as being insignificant particularly if it’s not during the rainy season. When the rear lights or head lamps are not working, many of us ignore and avoid night driving instead of fixing them promptly. It may be one of the tyres that is bad; we would rather manage until “God provides money to buy another one”. Even routine servicing of vehicles is a luxury to many car owners. When accidents occur arising from these little problems, we blame it on the devil.
In most houses, when the roof starts to leak, we ignore because it’s not the rainy season; we fail to fix the bad electrical sockets; the blocked drain-pipes and a thousand and one small defects or damage around the house when noticed. The day disaster strikes in the form of flooding or fire outbreak or building collapse, we blame everyone else but ourselves. Even considering our attitude to our environment, many of us are unhygienic. We dump refuse indiscriminately, litter our surroundings and build houses on waterways. These are largely responsible for the many environmental hazards we now face as human beings. Had it been that we properly maintain our environment, we possibly would have averted many of the catastrophes.
These lackadaisical attitudes also reflect on our work culture. It is not uncommon to see burst water pipes spilling water on the highways, yet maintenance staff at the water board or corporation will look on as if it is a normal thing to have such spills. Thus, while taps in many homes are dry, the road is flooded with water that should have been put to better use in the homes and offices. Same with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s electricity cables. When cables snapped from the electric polls, they are hardly promptly repaired. In some instances, these had caused electrocution of many people. What about our roads? A lack of proper maintenance had made many potholes on the roads to turn to gullies thereby causing fatal road accidents with attendant deaths and damage to the vehicles involved. These are colossal and irreparable losses which are avoidable if necessary care had been taken.
I travel a lot and use hotel facilities in the course of my assignments. I am always shocked at the neglect and quick degeneration many of the hotels undergo in a short span of time after their inauguration. Often times, hotels established within two years would start experiencing decrepit facilities such as leaking sewage, noisy air conditioning systems, bad lightening, damp rooms, smelly blankets, stained bedspread, broken chairs and tables, dysfunctional television sets, etc. When you complain, you are asked to bear with them and that the hotel management would soon effect the needed repairs. Often times, these are never done on time, all because little or no money is voted for facility maintenance.
Have you recently been to any of the federal or state Ministries, Departments and Agencies? You will nearly puke at the sorry sight that welcomes you into some of the offices. Files carelessly dumped everywhere, dilapidated office furniture, stinking toilets, bushy environment, fans and air-conditioning systems that work like grinding machines and many more. You will need to pray for journey mercies when you ride in their elevators as many of them are in bad shape and could trap those who commute in them as a result of a lack of proper maintenance. In some states running mass transit projects, many of the buses and other vehicles have broken down due to lack of maintenance. Eventually, many of the ramshackle vehicles are sold off as scraps to motor spare part dealers. These are vehicles bought for millions of naira. If we had embraced maintenance culture, perhaps, our beloved national carrier, Nigeria Airways, our Nigeria National Shipping Line, our Nigeria Railways and Inland Waterways Corporation would not have become comatose or mere relics that they are now.
It is to our collective shame that we do not consider maintenance a priority issue in management. We are such a wasteful lot! It is high time we as individuals and government shed this toga of indifference to the issue of maintenance. Prompt maintenance is economical, promotes the lifespan of the objects and prevents avoidable disasters. We need to vote sufficient funds to maintain our public utilities and even private ones. You and I need to embrace maintenance culture if indeed we are serious about making this nation a better place for all.