Truth is that we are not building Nigeria. We are only on a “walk of chance”. So many citizens have said this much but I saw it clearly again last week, when against all manner of talks, I chose to travel to some cities in the country by road. Traveling by air which has become the vogue for all really masks the true state of our efforts at development.

   Air travel enables us to «jump and pass» so many dysfunctions that ought to arrest our attention and focus. So, simple problems that would have been fixed at minimum cost are left to linger and multiply. Let me make this point and we continue: within the context of the topic in view it is very important to know that countries don›t just happen. There are procedures and processes that lead to establishing a country. Society is first molded into a country and there after into nation. That is how it rolls.

     The immutable words of Massim d Azeglio captures the point being made very clearly. In his bestseller memoir which he wrote in 1861, he made this important point about the making of Italy. He said, “We have made Italy. Now we must make the Italian.” Countries are “made” just as citizens are also “created.” We can see the point from where rain began to beat us. We have yet to create a country. We have not made the Nigerian.

    Now to the main points for today›s outing, the first would be this penchant of us to use our mouths to rubbish our society and to compound our challenges of development. I will explain. For a while the question of insecurity has been one of great concern. Everyday we hear stories in this regard that trouble the heart. The stories are such only few have the courage to venture outside their immediate location by road.

For a long time it seem that traveling by from the southeast to Abuja, the federal capita, is akin to a “death sentence.” An adventure into the unknown. Penultimate week the journalist in me set sail into the murky waters and discover for myself what the true situation is and I did. The experience was indeed a pleasant one. The transport companies were still in business. The sight of the stations convey the point of poor development strategy. The dirts, absence of facilities for passengers’ convenience and comfort tell a big storyf of lack of national policy on transportation.

    We have no standards at all. In societies that do know that making of a country is hard work, every area of national life has a policy drawn on the basis of national dreams and expectation. Transportation and human mobility that flow from it are key factors that drive sustainable development. Only diehards can travel by road in the country. This is not talking about affordability now but more of choice. In most cases the buses are near rickety.

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As already observed, the stations aren’t fit for human use. Most are not only very dirty, they lack essential facilities, especially decent toilets.

      The roads despite outlandish talks of insecurity are busy. But there are features that instill fears. For instance, the state of the roads at some points would make anyone wonder if we actually think out of developmental options very well before we embark on them. The Enugu to Makurdi expressway is in such a deplorable state that any sensible person would wonder if our country has had governments in place in the past. Why would such a vital link between food producing Middle Belt, South East and South South be left in such a sorry state?

    The Lokoja to Abuja stretch would make a true patriot to cry. That road that was recently reconstructed has failed especially from the Lokoja end and yet we spent billions, supposedly to fix it. The Uyo to Calabar road is a story that shouldn’t be told at all. It diminishes a country. One entry route, rendered near impassable and officials see that and look away? We do these and yet we go about talking about seeing a country rich and thriving. How can that be.? 

  Yes, the roads are in use, the point has been made already but there are very clear signs that do not align with proper development. The overwhelming presence of security personnel on the highways with checkpoints which are also serving as “extortion points” give out a sense of a country under siege. The sight alone is frightening. It speaks of a country at war. If we are truthful to ourselves we saw this for what it really is, indicators that we have not hit the right pathways to progressive national development. This is testament of pure failure.

     One question as we conclude: aren›t there better ways of gaining security outside the checkpoint system or method? What do the checkpoints really do? How effective are they in checking deviant behaviors? This question is against the background that most neither have communication gadgets and standby vehicles with which they can run after fleeing gangs if that becomes the case.

    The Southeast is the worst in all of this. The siege method is massive in the zone. Between Lokoja and Abuja there are virtually no security checkpoint yet one would have expected against the backdrop of insurgency the areas up northern hemisphere should have more of the security checkpoints. As already observed that isn’t the case. It tells a story and a very ugly one at that. There is something about discrimination in all of that. A country cannot be built on discriminatory policies. No. Never!

    What is the lesson in all this? We must resolve to build a «country». Resolve should lead to pathways. We must also agree on the need to «create» the citizen. This is very vital. At the heart of nation building efforts is the human element. It is not about laws essentially. It is the mindset of operators. Well nurtured people don’t need the dictates of regulations to act in the most reasonable ways. They know what is good and things that ought to be in the best interest of the far majority of the people.

    Those who are purveyors of violence and general state of insecurity are not spirits, they are humans living in the same space with the rest of society. They don’t need laws to know their nefarious acts are inimical to good conscience and the general well-being of the citizens. Those who compromise and leave us with poor quality roads, terrible state of the railway system, poorly organized aviation ought to know the harm they do to citizens and the quest for good development. Do they need law too to know the evil their acts throw up?