After 100 days, our governors’ narratives sprout from a honeyed tongue, not the baleful patois of the boondocks. It is an aesthetic of seduction but like the sweet melody of the Sirens, it spirals like poisonous fumes, afflicting our land with a vapour of hanging participles and colourful hyperbole. The governors’ panegyric excites the passing tribute of a sigh.
Of the numerous achievements spuriously cited as each governor’s selling points, the phantasm of road projects attains the pride of pitch. To mark their ‘first 100 days’ in office, several state governors boastfully published pictures and literature depicting their ‘widely appreciated and celebrated road rehabilitation’ projects.
Like I said in last week’s piece, it defies reason and tact for a state governor or federal minister to roll out the drums to celebrate his commencement of repairs on a bad road, a decrepit school or public health facility – particularly when his claims are exaggerated or untrue.
He is only doing the work for which he was elected and is being handsomely rewarded. Thus any governor that would commit the state’s resources to such fluff is in dire need of counselling and civic education.
At the back drop of the specious figures being hurled around, Nigerians die for lack of good roads.
On several highways, the random pothole becomes a vector of death. It attains urgent symbolism as a testament of neglect and element of Nigeria’s grotto of bad governance. Think of them as earth fissures detailing the 36 states’ mutation into varnished tombs.
Several families have lost loved ones to avoidable accidents on the country’s bad roads. Many a job seeker have missed crucial interviews and lost promising employment opportunities because they got stuck in vehicle traffic caused by road craters.
Lives are lost on the Bauchi-Alkaleri road as drivers and passengers die in accidents caused by potholes. Similar carnage occur on the Lagos-Abeokuta and Lagos-Ibadan highways; the latter, constructed in 1978 and said to be the busiest in Africa, has about 6,000 vehicles plying it daily according to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). Due to government neglect, the road which connects Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States, leading to the northern, southern and eastern regions of the country, continually claims lives in ghastly auto accidents.
Lest we forget the Enugu-Onitsha highway, the Calabar-Itu road, Calabar-Ikom, Kano-Kaduna, and the Bayelsa State axis of the East-West Road, where commuters extinguish in potholes and road craters.
A tour across the states would avail our governors a more realistic experience of the inherent tragedy of plying bad roads, on which foul dust and mud spatter spring from the earth to discolour commuters’ vehicles, sully their clothes and corrupt their health.
Governance in the country is literally grotesque. Like the deathly pothole or road crater, it is borne of a grotto of shady public officers, who like their predecessors, nurture a special affinity for ornamenting one hideous gaffe with another.
They ignore crisis while it stews and hazard a knee-jerk reaction, when the crisis degenerates. Former Ogun governor, Ibikunle Amosun, and the Federal Ministry of Works, for instance, ignored the condition of the Lagos-Ibadan highway until a 20-feet container fell off a moving truck and crushed 12 students to death in a Toyota Hiace passenger bus, on a bad portion of the road.
One would expect that frequent travel abroad would furnish our governors, among other public officers, with the necessary exposure about rehabilitating for the long-term, the country’s dilapidated road network.
The value of good roads to a nation’s agricultural economy and financial regeneration cannot be overemphasised. The economies of the so-called ‘First World’ have been known to pirouette from a sound base of good roads and seamless transportation network. The evidences abound from Asia to Europe and America. In those climes, public officers walk their talk.
Many a Nigerian public officer, however, would rather dazzle with talk while presenting what’s supposed to be a routine, official duty as stagecraft. It is part of our pagan heritage and rites of governance, our inherited artifice.
The random imagery of a state governor donning a grim look while inspecting a bad road, predictably, excites applause among his lackeys and an illiterate populace. But it inspires in the observer, depending on his enlightenment, that stirring in the bowels identifiable as disgust or applause.
The state governors parade a cabinet and coterie of spin-doctors adept at flipping over disgust to applause, by reportage. Truth is in the telling. Knowing this, they recruit a pliant press to entertain and hoodwink the citizenry with exaggerated accounts of their ‘sterling exploits.’
The State House thus becomes our Versailles. Cradling doctored reports, the media evolves under its rule, into a class of courtiers; government publicists masquerading as journalists and pundits, cede their platforms to ‘friendly’ governors, for whom they spin, prevaricate and lie.
Consequently, we hear little about the stories of pain and desolation afflicting the victims of bad governance and policy failure.
In Lagos, however, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu supposedly means well; after all, he recently approved the commencement of repairs on bad roads across the state. And in fulfilment of his executive order on zero tolerance for potholes in the state, the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) has begun full scale routine repair and rehabilitation of roads across the state.
The General Manager of the LSPWC, Engr. Olufemi Daramola, during an inspection of the ongoing rehabilitation of Iju-Fagba road, recently, stated that
despite the incessant rainfall witnessed in the past few weeks, the state had been providing palliatives with the use of gravel and crushed stones on strategic roads across the state to ensure free flow of traffic.
This is, no doubt, a temporary palliative and is grossly inadequate as the patched spots eventually cave in, in less than two weeks.
Daramola cited rehabilitation works in 26 different locations across the state. It is, however, sad to note, that for the umpteenth time, the Lagos government has failed to treat the sad state of the Lagos-Abeokuta highway and bypasses with the urgency and care it deserves.
Like his predecessors, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode, Governor Sanwo-Olu’s palliative effort cuts off this neglected terrain of the coastal city.
The roads are very bad in Agbado-Kollington, Dalemo-Akera, and Ijaiye-Jankara axis. You need only travel the cratered paths and bypasses of Abule-Egba, Ahmadiyya, Meiran, and Alakuko to understand the extent of devastation and neglect afflicting the area.
Governor Sanwo-Olu has certainly got his work cut out for him. Its about time he understood that good roads and development must be evenly spread across Lagos; they should never be exclusive to the state’s supposedly posh, popular and gated communities.
Given the pride of place he occupies as governor of the state widely acknowledged as Nigeria’s commercial heartbeat, Sanwo-Olu must shun pedestrian praise and commit to his task with unparalleled gusto.
At the moment, he unfurls like a newbie at the State House’s pageant rites. Let him remember that his lackeys might be saboteurs and his critics may be friends; together, however, they constitute the periphery of governance. He is the man at the centre.
And he has less than four years to ennoble his office and dispel inherited stereotypes. This wisdom applies to his 35 fellow governors.