About these Nigerian roads…

Oyinkan Medubi

 

I do not like that the minister has insinuated that the Oyo-Ogbomoso road is not too bad. That cannot go down well with the Nigerians who literally hold their lives in their hands while their hearts are palpitating in their mouths as they ply that route every day. Luckily, I am not angry; I am only explaining, civilly.

 

I’M sure you have heard how every home owner in this country is a local government. It is true. The reason is that he is not only a landlord, but his own electricity plant manager, water works operator, road constructor and repairer, children educator and chairman of his own local government. Then he begins to wonder why he reduced the size of his family, considering that much labour is required to man all the work units that go to make up the running of a Nigerian home – electrical unit, water unit, road construction, etc.

In this set up, I don’t know if you’re like me who asked, what then have we left the government to do for us? I will hazard a guess. I think the government people took one look at the people, smiled to themselves and declared, ‘it appears these people are doing perfectly well without us’. Yes, they thought that. So, they probably proceeded to play a game of football with the money that should have been used for these things. Nay, I err; they might have built some major roads to connect the towns that join the houses that the people built. As you and I can see though, they seem to be having a wee bit of trouble maintaining them.

What started all these, you must be wondering? It is something the present Minister of Works is said to have said. He is alleged to have said that Nigerian roads are not that bad after all. Since my English is not so good, I interpreted that in a most limited way and understood that the minister was saying we should please give him some peace and stop moaning about our roads to his ears.

Luckily, many people have taken him up on that utterance, so I do not need to snort angrily, scrape the ground with my hooves to raise some more dust of umbrage and charge angrily at him like the raging bull I am right now. Instead, I’ve chosen to explain a few things to him civilly, and that is that he needs to speak the English we can all understand. To the rest of us, Nigerian roads are worse than bad. Practically every Nigerian one of them is crying for attention, some more loudly than others. Heck, every Nigerian town is crying ‘Wolf’ right now!

Normally, estate developers should work hand in hand with specified banks to give people access to houses already constructed according to laid down laws. Such houses should also have been connected to the well-laid drainage systems that allow water to flow to the nearest pool specified for it rather than gather in pools and allowed to wreck the roads. Then, people can just be given easy access to loans that can help them pay for such houses.

What we have instead is that our towns seem to have ‘grown up’ by themselves without the requisite intervention from the relevant authorities. So, to all purposes, the citizens have built as their fancy has taken them without reference to any laid down procedures. In many towns, there are houses built right where roads should be or in the path of rain water. This means of course that there is no particular path designated for water to pass in most Nigerian towns. If there is one thing we have learnt, it is that water will have its way even if we will have our will.

Our towns are oddly constructed in Nigeria, and that has not helped our road system at all. Worse, this system has not allowed for any sophisticated means of constructing and maintaining the roads that connect these towns. The major roads that are at the mercy of the government all suffer this abysmal neglect.  Take the Oyo-Ogbomosho road.

Many years and many scandals after the contract to build an express road connecting those two towns was awarded and in all possibility re-awarded, motorists still find themselves tortuously plying a narrow road inundated with trailers, tankers and heavy lorries the type of which you can only see on the high seas. I do not like that the minister has insinuated that the Oyo-Ogbomosho road is not too bad. That cannot go down well with the Nigerians who literally hold their lives in their hands while their hearts are palpitating in their mouths as they ply that route every single day. Luckily, I am not angry; I am only explaining things, civilly. The truth is that Nigerians using Nigerian roads are enduring a lot of pain right now and the government is at fault in many ways. Listen as I tell you.

In the first place, the government is not solving the people’s housing problem; and the one single thing the government is supposed to do, construct good roads to join the towns that contain the houses that the people build, I say even that, they have problems with. I would have said ‘Shame, thrice shame’, but I think I’ve already said that. The principal reason they cannot do it, of course, is the monster we have been trying to tame: corruption. Contracts are given to the wrong people; supervising constructions is improperly done to ensure that every tarred road receives the nine layers of tar I hear it is supposed to get. How then can we say it is well with such roads that receive only one layer after dressing it with laterite? No sir, all is not well with our pothole-filled roads.

Secondly, Nigeria has a terrible sense of maintenance. Translation? No maintenance culture. Just look at any public building or construction like the nation’s stadia or roads. Seriously, you would wonder what kind of race we really belong to. I mean, they say we have Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid and Australoid races in the world but I have really been scratching my head to determine just where Nigerians belong in that classification. Did you say Caucasian, Asian or Australoid? Naaa! Our skin is too black. Did you say Negroid then? You’re still wrong: our hearts are too black. We are in a fifth classification and I think the Almighty is still working on a name for it. If not, how can a Nigerian govern a state, use the resources of the state to set up institutions, and then put those institutions under his own name and his bank account? It is senseless.

Third, the cost of building roads in Nigeria is the highest in the world, I hear. The other day, I shared a posting I received about the longest bridge in the world being built by China and how the cost was nowhere near what it costs to build a one-hundred kilometre road in Nigeria. Again, the reason is very simple: corruption. I hear that nearly a hundred people have to be settled to construct a hundred kilometer road. Is that true?

I am sure our Honourable Minister of Works has his reasons for talking about Nigerian roads as he did, but the jury is still out on whether they are good reasons. The experiences of most of us Nigerians, no matter how questionable our race might be, clearly contradict those of the minister. To have made that statement, the minister must have a set of data; the only problem is that it is different from ours.

I would prefer that the Honourable Minister of works quietly continues to carry on his work of making our roads passable. It is not yet time to give marks. When the time comes, marks will be given and by us, the road users.

 

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