A major problem of leadership in Nigeria is not just lack but more disturbingly, complete emptiness of nationalism. This political defect is not necessarily just emerging under the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency.
He merely inherited the deplorable pattern, which has been in existence since independence in 1960. There is this deliberate or unconscious attitude in the man at the top to feel or be made to feel so by his kinsmen around him, that in developing other parts of the country, some kind of favour is being done to the area concerned.
The situation is so bad relationships between government and trade union leadership is determined largely by ethnic affinity.
If, for example, a trade union leadership is genuine or hypocritical in members/workers demand on the government, the truth lies in the identity of what part of the country are the dramatis personae.
If, on the other hand, the government concedes much or less to union demands, the determining factor is not Nigerian but from what part of the country are the negotiators (government leadership and union leadership.
In the process, government can prop up or destroy a trade union leadership as an achiever or destroy such leadership if not favoured along ethnic lines.
In the same vein, siting of projects in particular outside the state of origin of political leadership is always considered a favour, indeed a special favour to the beneficiary area.
Into this category must be placed the recently awarded contract for the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Nothing should be taken from President Goodluck Jonathan for embarking on this all-important road construction.
Afterall, throughout his tenure of eight consecutive years, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo never considered the expressway a necessity let alone a priority.
Unfortunately, the appreciation due to President Jonathan was still dented by the mentality surrounding the project, as inadvertently dropped by one of the public office holders that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, when completed, would “enhance” economic activities in South-west.
In short, the project is some kind of favour to South-west. He was and is still patently wrong because even President Jonathan, when confronted with the real picture, might not agree with him. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is the main Pan-Nigerian highway from Lagos to the North, Lagos to the East and Niger Delta.
The bulk of the traffic – private or business – serves areas outside the South-west. For traffic from Lagos across the South-west, there are so many alternative inter-state roads through Agege, Ota, Ikorodu, Epe, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode to Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ilaro. Lagos – Expressway, therefore, serves entire Nigeria rather than South-west and must be assessed, valued and maintained as such.
The expressway does not stop at Ibadan, as it is the only way leading to Ogbomosho, Ilorin, Jebba to the entire North.
The expressway also exits at Sagamu to Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and neighbouring states on the East of the Niger. Without Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, daily movement of non-South-Westerners resident or employed in Lagos to their respective parts of the country will be Herculean.
It was noteworthy that before the contract for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was awarded, the Federal Government made temporary arrangement to ease the journey for travelers last Christmas by parching up the potholes on the entire stretch of the highway.
The major beneficiaries were travelers to the East of the Niger, vivid proof that the expressway serves Nigeria rather than strictly the South-west. Before highlighting other critical aspects of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway construction, President Jonathan deserves commendation for giving the job to one of the few outstanding road construction firms in Nigeria.
With prospects of a good job, Jonathan and his Works Minister, Mike Onolememen, will be remembered for the durability of the standard of work. Before now, there was the tendency in government, federal and state, to patronise politicians and businessmen friends with major road contracts.
For example, Ibadan-Ife Road was constructed by West-regional government before Independence in 1960. With only one lane on either side and ever increasing traffic, fatal accidents, especially involving commercial vehicle drivers, compelled the military government to widen the road with two extra lanes.
Unfortunately, the contract was awarded to businessmen, who did a shoddy job. Today, the supposed new two lanes despite series of resurfacing, have turned death-trap for motorists in under twenty-years.
Meanwhile, the original two lanes from Ife to Ibadan, constructed over fifty years ago, remain some of the most solid in Nigeria. Similarly, the Ijebu-Ode-Ibadan Road constructed over fifty years ago is one of the best in Nigeria except that despite the regular avoidable fatal accidents, dualisation of that road had been annual feature in Federal Government budget for the past four or more years. The Ibadan-Ijebu Ode Road is federal, crying for dualisation.
My father was killed in an accident on that road on March 3, 1951. The carnage continues. Despite the commencement of work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, there are substantially critical aspects.
It is not clear yet if the project involves total reconstruction or mere additional two lanes on either side, to the existing three lanes. When the road opened to traffic in 1979, there were only two lanes on either side.
Within a short time, government’s lack of foresight emerged as the traffic increased, necessitating urgent extra lane on either side. Government should, therefore, have learnt from that shortsightedness when designing the newly-awarded contract. With the new five lanes on either side, can this expansion cope with the traffic in twenty to fifty years’ time? Certainly not.
We return to the mentality of doing some favour for or regarding the expressway as located in the South-west. We have just lost an opportunity to plan the main highway in Nigeria for the next one hundred to two hundred years, to meet longtime future needs whatever the motor traffic.
In a white man’s country, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway would have been designed for ten lanes on either side as the main exit from Lagos to any part of the country with exits on the right, left, under and over to any of the 36 states and Federal Capital of Abuja.
Today’s traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was not foreseen thirty years ago just as the government fails to project for the traffic on the same expressway in the next fifty to one hundred years.
A further eight lanes on either side of highway can be projected from Sagamu junction to Benin to Auchi and to Jebba. Not to be left out are Benin to Ugheli to Yenagoa and Benin to Asaba and to Onitsha.
Similar highways should be projected from Jebba to Kaduna and from Kaduna to state capitals in North west and North east. This is an opportunity for skeptics to pose questions on the source of the costs.
We only need to be serious as a people. Without disregarding the criticism of the cost of the new Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Some N162 billion widely ridiculed as one billion naira per kilometer of an expressway with five lanes on either side, the same project, if redesigned to expand to ten lanes on either side (double the present design), the new cost will be at the most three hundred and fifty billion.
That would still be money well-spent and the highway will be then for life as the evidence. Identical costs can be projected for other highways.
At the end of the day, the total costs can add up to trillions of naira but again, the evidence will be there as the entire country would have been opened up for easier, safer and quicker movement of Nigerians from one part to any other part of the country.
More than that, does such huge amount not compare better than free-looting of over one trillion naira fuel subsidy, fund, police equipment fund, outrageous emoluments for national and state Houses of Assembly members? Worse still, Jonathan should ask himself how it came about that within three years of his administration, over one hundred and twenty private jets were purchased and imported into the country by Nigerians.
With government concern, the looted government fund through various sources would easily pay for such seeming expensive highway projects. We must weep for this country. Some thirty years ago, a federal highway was projected for Lagos to Sokoto. Surely, that could not also have been a favour for the South-west. Should it have taken so long to complete such project?
Again, such should not be less than eight lanes on either side with exits to major states, cities and towns on the way. Such a project would also relieve traffic from the North to the South.
Easy movement from one part of the country to another has the advantage of solidifying the nation rather than the insincere daily political platitude about the unity of Nigeria which, at moments of political crisis always crash as a farce.
With the potential of being credited with the biggest highway network in Africa, opening up the country would focus world attention on Nigeria and thereby enhance tourism. There are these scare and blackmail of spending oil revenue to develop non-oil producing areas, as the intimidation goes every time.
It is a non-issue that should be confronted whatever the consequences. Before oil, there was cocoa revenue spent on developing the original defunct Western region, the component parts of which included present-day Edo and Delta states. Part of the products of the development of Western region were good solid roads among the best in Edo and Delta states till now.
By the way, even with the project only five lanes on either side of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, it is essential for the Federal Government to enforce a setback of between one to two kilometers for residential, industrial and commercial developers. Failine to insist on such setback from the highway resulted in the emergence of mushroom religious settlements, which hinder free flow of traffic.
Absence of such setback on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway created shanty towns, mainly slums around Mowe and Ibafo. Inevitably, the expressway will be expanded in the future. Now is the time to illegalise unlawful development around or on such lands to where the expressway will be expanded in twenty or thirty years’ time.
Otherwise, compulsory demolition of such developments will incur the anguish of those to be affected. When last did President Jonathan drive on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway? All the time, he is flown in helicopter to Abeokuta or Ijebu-Ode and he flies to Ibadan or Akure in the Presidential jet.
Zik resurrects in Egypt
Like his contemporaries, Nnamdi Azikiwe, left philosophical inheritances for Nigerians.
Among the lot was the memorable one that “history will vindicate the just.” When the July 3, military coup sacked the civilian government, especially televised to the viewing world via satellite, the unexpected development was highlighted in this column, especially against the self-serving declared zero-tolerance of military coup by African leaders.
A reader, Chukwura Ikedinma, was curious through a text to know if the coup in Egypt could be likened to the diarchy proposed by Dr. Azikiwe in 1972. Zik made the diarchy proposal in a lecture with the title “stability in Nigeria after military rule.” The venue was University of Lagos.
In a return text, I explained to Chukwura Ikedinma that “the latest military intervention in Egypt is not exactly diarchy since only civilians are running the show. In a diarchy, there will be military in the cabinet, holding, at least, the defence and possibly two other ministries.
If that had been the ease, Muslim fundamentalist, Mohammed Morsi, would have been checked. Military simply removed him, installed civilian and reverted to their national security duties.”
Only a week later, following fresh development in Eygpt, I had to update Chidinma in another text that “further to our chat last time, on the prospects of diarchy in Egypt, that now is the situation.
The head of the country’s army, who announced the sack of the civilian government, has now been appointed not only deputy prime minister but also specifically defence.” The Egyptian authorities were not privy to my conversation with the reader.
Nnandi Azikiwe himself delivered his lecture in 1972 and was specific on the head of army being defence minister.
Zik died twenty-four years after proposing diarchy. So long after his suggestion of diarchy and seventeen years after his death, making a total of forty-one years, Zik’s political theory emerged in the new government in Egypt. Zik was even contemplating an elected civilian regime with the Army Chief as Defence Minister. He was specific.
All of them – the well-meaning, the ignorant, the politically threatened and, of course, as was always the case, the elite – came down heavily against him, largely because the diarchy idea was not from one of their own.
As his critics would say, he died with his diarchy idea. The introduction of diarchy lately in Egypt is, in a way, the political/intellectual resurrection of the great Zik far away from his country. If not appreciated in Nigeria, it is now a question of history, vindicating him (Zik).