The passable view of roads in Southwest Nigeria
By Abiodun Komolafe
From time immemorial, the masses have relied on constituted governments to implement road projects for the socio-political economy of the society.
Whichever government got the construction right would be praised while those who focused on the maintenance would also be eulogised by the masses.
However, those who neither got the construction nor the maintenance right would be recorded in the psyche of the people. Hence the adage: ‘The king who sits on the throne in halcyon times, his name shall not be forgotten. Same for that whose reign is turbulent.’
To say the truth, an emergency should be declared on the Nigerian roads. Without sounding alarmist, there is no road in any part of the country that is recommended, either as passable or standard; not even in Abuja, the nation’s seat of power. It is that bad! It is after we have accepted this that we may begin to appreciate the enormity of our problems. Whether “a minister has more than three Land Cruisers, Prado and other vehicles” or a Senator Sunday Karimi “spends a lot on” his N160 million Prado Jeep “because our roads are bad” is perhaps the least of our problems.
For God’s sake, how can we be talking about movement of goods and services when our roads have become appallingly impassable? How can we relish the domestic economy or may attract foreign investments to the country when our roads have practically become death traps, and the standard of living is affected immediately? Exchange is inhibited locally and physically if and when movement is impossible on a daily basis. Energy sector is an important driver of growth but, talking about the wonkiness of our development, power outages have sadly become Nigeria’s middle name. Even the waterways that are supposed to bridge the gap are already filled with filth.
Once upon a time in Nigeria, whenever we said that a contract has been given to the Germans, the thinking then was that the Germans were full of iron and that the job they would do would be solid. It used to be with former President Muhammadu Buhari but, now, it is President Bola Tinubu. The question is: is it in terms of the structure or quality of the job that’s being done? In terms of Buhari and Tinubu, what do we now have?
Ilesa – Ijebu-Jesa – Ado-Ekiti Road! Lagos – Abeokuta Road! Lagos – Badagry Road! Lagos – Epe Road! Gbongan – Osogbo – Ilorin Road! The Southwest is the worst hit! From Ibadan – Ogbomoso – Ilorin Road which has been under construction since my days at the University of Ilorin, to Ibadan – Ile-Ife – Akure Road which has been under construction for over-15 years, the trouble is that there’s no vision; and, where there’s no vision, one can’t really move because concrete vision signposts development. Evidently, it is because governance has lost its meaning that we continue to eat our seed instead of sowing it. And if we may ask: interconnectedness in the Southwest, is it anything to write home about for a country that has become independent since October 1, 1960?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo died on May 9, 1987. But isn’t it a big shame that, as of today, Saturday, October 28, 2023, people still refer to ‘Awo Roads’? Bisi Akande also governed Osun State between 1999 and 2003. This is 2023, yet Nigerians still refer to ‘Bisi Akande Roads’. Whereas elsewhere, people are talking about 14 lanes, what we have in the Southwest, which are mostly single lanes, remain unattended to.
So, when exactly is Nigeria ever going to develop? If goods must exchange hands – and there must be exchange – how many roads are there, linking, say, Ijebu-Jesa to Ilesa in Osun State? We talk about Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, yet it is difficult to maintain it. So, where exactly are we developing into? Nigerians started fighting one another over subsidy and all kinds of indiscreet things. They strived to earn resources, but … they didn’t know how to spend resources; and that’s unfortunate! Take it or leave it, ability to spend resources wisely is in itself an innovation and a motivation for development. These are the issues!
That Nigeria has no capacity to maintain its extant roads is a shame. It is also a shame that governance in this part of the world has lost its meaning. Of course, that’s what gave the military the effrontery that it could do and undo, and ignore the people.
In his days as Nigeria’s Head of State, Yakubu Gowon didn’t know that Nigerians were so powerless until he was told that they were mere rabble-rousers, that they didn’t know much and that they were not in any way organised. Gowon was thankful to his informants. The rest is history! The military predators who came after ‘Jack’ only perfected the art. Is it any wonder that Nigeria has found herself in this mess?
Back then, only in extreme cases would the military roll out tanks and fire one or two bullets in the air before everybody would talk to his or her feet because nobody wanted to die. As such, nobody wanted to know what his or her rights entailed, and that’s even if they knew that they had any rights in the first place. So, it is simple mathematics that where we have now found ourselves has a history. We are where we are because our leaders are asleep. But again, everything boils down to visionary leadership. It is the lack of vision that has brought Nigeria to her knees. Contractors look for higher pay in Nigeria, not because higher pay will make the job better, but higher pay will surely balloon the leisure; and that’s annoying. Until we change that orientation, nothing is going to change.
Nigerians have been thrown into the mud due to lack of concrete knowledge. Tragically, to rise from the mud is a very difficult voyage. It is like a struggling man from the swamp. But it is achievable; and it is never too late. So, let the architects come with plain sheets of paper to, say, the National Stadium in Lagos or Liberty Stadium in Ibadan with a view to recalibrating the roads for the Southwest. What are we saying? That I used to go through this place in the past doesn’t matter. If we don’t have people who can dream, then we are in trouble. Surely, the entire roads can be redrawn to reflect modern reality; and that’s what development in the Southwest is all about. It is eternally on; and it will never stop. To stop is for development to stop. But nothing stops and rests except in docile societies.
To sum up, it needs to be noted that, except one wants to be mischievous, the opposition now has a credible landing site. The Supreme Court said it; and that settled it. As things stand, nobody will say that the Atiku Abubakars and the Peter Obis of Nigeria ran away from the battle.
No, not at all! Instead, they waited for the highest court in the land; and that’s all! They have fought a good fight and it has ended. Impliedly, Tinubu has no excuses again. Let him now get to work. Let him work diligently at fixing our roads. Those who can work with the president, let them stay while those who have nothing to offer again should look for where their expertise will be in high demand. And for Nigerians, the only hope is to keep trying and keep pushing until it bursts. After all, it is in the history of revolutions: even when one is not expecting things to burst, something will surely give.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
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