The thought alone of travelling from Lagos to Ibadan using the expressway is nightmarish. As you get to Oworonsoki the sensing of what may lie ahead, hits you, and this develops into fears as you surmount the Ojota flyover. Then comes the sight of long stretches of vehicles on both sides of the road from the old toll gate—heavy-duty vehicles: fuel tankers, trailers and tippers; cars of all shades and of all kinds; different models and varied sizes. The Otedola/Berger axis gives palpitations. By the time you approach the Isheri Bridge and overlooking OPIC Estate to the left, it is the face of ugliness and national shame. By the time you get into the thick of the traffic jam, the legs are already aching. When it gets to this stage, totally entrapped, you surrender and say to yourself, and loud enough to the hearing of the driver: We are in it; we have no choice. Tempers rise to your left and to your right, and there is hissing; there is foul language. It is confusion galore.
And typical of Nigerians, everywhere is road. Orderliness is alien to our lexicon. A neighbour of mine, a retired school principal, almost lost one of his legs on the road. He and his wife were returning from Ibadan last year. They had sat for two hours in the traffic after the now famous Long Bridge. The man got down from their vehicle to stretch his legs. He said to the driver: “You catch up with me in front; I want to stretch my legs.” He followed a footpath. Unsuspecting that any vehicle would want to use the rough road, he walked confidently. Alas, a commercial mini-bus we call ‘Danfo’came stealthily behind him, no blasting of horn, nothing, and ran over his left foot!
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was commissioned by General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978, built by Murtala Mohammed-Obasanjo Military Administration. A dual carriageway, it stretches from Apapa Port running through Liverpool Street, Oshodi, Oworonsoki off to the old Toll Gate and from there to Ibadan. By the time Obasanjo stage his second coming 21 years after, that is 1999, parts of the road had started to give way. By 2006 and 2007, he developed thoughts of fixing the road through the novel public–private partnership. When Umar Yar’Adua came to the saddle in 2007, he took over from there. Yar’Adua’s plan was to manifest properly in 2009. Thus, 31 years after the commissioning, the civilian Administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua commenced moves to reconstruct the damaged road through the public-private arrangement. The expressway is 127.6 kilometres long, that is 79.3 miles. The concession bid was won by Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited and was signed by the Federal Government.
The content of the 25-year concessionary agreement signed by the Federal Government in 2009 was Build, Operate, and Transfer. When after four years the concession was signed and the project could not take off, Yar’Adua’s successor, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan revoked the concession arrangement. He gave the project on contract to Julius Berger and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited in 2013 for a sum of N167 billion, equivalent to $838, 986,290 million. Dr. Wale Babalakin as the concessionaire was expected to source for his own funds and recoup his investment by mounting toll gates.
Julius Berger was given the Lagos end while RCC the Ibadan end to handle. President Jonathan promised that the work would be delivered within 48 months. Jonathan, too, did not get the contractors to deliver. The project was inherited by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Since then he has been struggling with it, announcing delivery dates three times. He is leaving on Monday with promises made three times and three times, promises not kept. He is passing the baton to Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
For 14 years, Nigerians have had to endure pains daily in untold harrowing gridlocks on the expressway that has also claimed several lives, and there is not yet light at the end of the long dark tunnel. Following are complaints uploaded from a platform being run by some of the people who live in areas abutting the expressway and mailed to me:
* I just enter now oo… (16: 53 p.m.) from 6.18 a.m. wey I comot house..jbn God dey o. Na so my hubby spent over 7hrs on Monday. People wey still dey road, una go land safely oo.
* “Are JBN not tired of partitioning? In short, if a genuine, effective and efficient constructing six lanes from Benin Republic to Ghana, they would have finished by now but JBN wants to incapacitate Nigerians before completion of less than four kilometre road. God will help us, but we need to shout if possible or else, the gridlock will consume road users.”
* The truth is that they care less about the wellbeing of the masses. Lives have lost in the course of this so-called road rehabilitation and the government has decided to turn a deaf ear to the cry of the people,”
* For me, I’m not happy with JB lackadaisical attitude. After about 1hour 30mins spent between Kara to Otedola. I saw LASMA officials using leg to remove blockages on Otedola Bridge around 8.30 a.m. I think JB can do better than this.
* Three hours from Magboro and still counting. Now at Kara Bridge. If you have little or nothing urgent to do in Lagos just rest today and save your life from stress.
* Yes, the traffic from Long Bridge to Berger is thick…
* E pass thick ooo.
* Traffic start from second Red Roof inward Lagos.
* There is a multiple accident involving a tanker truck and about five/seven cars.
* Good afternoon, JBN is working at New Garage outward Lagos; they are demarcating the road. Hmmmm, they are just compounding our stress, or have they opened any other area out of the previous demarcations?
* OPIC end of Lagos Expressway inward Lagos is experiencing heavy traffic due to diversion point at new garage as at 6.56 a.m.
* A country full of lawlessness everywhere. Those that make the laws are seen at the fore front of breaking it. May God continue to keep us safe.
* The carnage on this their (our?) road is indescribable. Must it be this administration to commission the road? Are you commissioning the road for the living or the dead? If the tempo being used ab initi, by now we would have forgotten about the untold sufferings inflicted on us. Y are we like this as a people?”
Last year, the Federal announced yet another deadline for the completion of the reconstruction works on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Fielding questions on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on the way out of the perennial gridlock, the Director, Federal Highway—South-West Zone, Federal Ministry of Works, Mr. Adedamola Kuti, said: “We are working very hard to meet the December 2022 deadline for the completion of works on the road.
He added: “On the Lagos end, which is Section 1 from the old Toll Gate, around the secretariat down towards Kara, as we speak, a section up to Otedola Bridge will be completed and opened in the next few days. The OPIC Area that is just 1.3km will also be completed. On the stretch, altogether is 6.1km.
“When you go towards Section 2, we have just about 20 kilometres on both sides. We are working very hard to make sure the work is completed on time, by December this year.”
Twice after Kuti’s assurances, the deadline was shifted to January and then to April 30. April ending has come and gone. This is May already running to an end. Rains have begun and meteorological service officials have alerted the nation that rains this year will be more than last year’s. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is the busiest in Africa with 250, 000 vehicles plying the road daily. It connects the East, the North, the North-Central, South-South and South-West with Lagos. By the time Buhari vacates office on Monday, the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway would have passed through the hands of four Presidents. And it has taken 14 years to rebuild a road of 127.6 kilometres! What further evidence is there to prove to the world that we as Nigerians are indeed a unique people? Where there is no shame, there can be no embarrassment!
The creation question
I HAVE run what now amounts to a two-part series on how Creation came into existence. I must state that I only gave hints, leaving out the details to anyone serious about knowledge of life and existence to dig out by himself. Seek, we are admonished, and ye shall find. It is a Law of Creation that he who seeks finds. This column, as has been stated, is to awaken souls to seek higher knowledge; to seek what is high and noble; to ask the most important question: Who am I? Where does my path lead me when I depart earthly life.
Treating the issue of Creation, I did not, for example, mention the roles of the Four Conscious Animals at the Throne of the Most High God in creating nor did I mention at all the Queen of Heaven who is eternal nor Parsifal, a unique Name that students of Literature must find familiar when they recall the Parsifal legend—in the sublimity of His unapproachable Throne. What do we men know? We must bow in worshipful adoration of the Lord and Creator, in adoration of His Holy Name.