Sanwo-Olu and Lagos deplorable roads
The state of roads in Lagos State, ‘‘the state of aquatic splendour,’’ also generally believed to be the economic capital of West Africa, is currently very deplorable. It has become a reproach to the people and the nation. The state appears to be increasingly becoming dysfunctional to the extent that this negative turn of events needs to be arrested immediately. The situation is worse within the inner roads across the five divisions of the state. A drive through the nooks and crannies of the Lagos metropolis as well as the surrounding suburbs gives a totally different picture from what is visible along the major roads of Ikorodu Road, Funso Williams Avenue and those in parts of Ikoyi, Lekki and Victoria Island. What appears obvious is that the significant strides in road infrastructural development made by previous administrations in the state appear to have lost momentum. Hue and cry of bad experiences by regular road users appear to be the order of the day. However, it is heart-warming that the current state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu himself appears to have come to terms with these reproachful voices among the populace and has appealed for patience, promising to attend to the problem after the rains. Aside from merely making promises, which people hardly take seriously from politicians, infrastructural development in a state such as Lagos is often multifaceted and even complicated. But leaders of such high-profile states should muster enough executive intelligence to handle such exigencies with dispatch and conviction.
First, Lagos is just too important in the country’s development equation to be treated haphazardly when it comes to overall economic, social and political development. Even the Federal Government under previous heads of state such as Murtala Muhammed and Ibrahim Babangida acknowledged the uniqueness of Lagos as a unique commercial capital while proclaiming and legalising Abuja as the nation’s capital.
Specifically, on February 3, 1976 when General Muhammed, then Head of State proclaimed Abuja as the new capital of the federation, in an address to the nation, he designated Lagos as a Federal Territory and ‘‘Special Area’’ that would continue to be given special attention and special status. In fact, he had pledged that the significant status would be worked into the 1979 Constitution then in the works. He equally proposed Port Harcourt (in the South South and Kaduna in the far North as special cities that deserve special attention too – to defuse pressure on Abuja. Besides, the same General Muhammed 43 years ago, also noted (in the same address) the two ports in Apapa, Lagos as national security assets that would continue to be maintained as a matter of national priority. Hence, the current Federal Government has a role to play in ensuring that the Lagos metropolis has a functional infrastructure. The Lagos State governor should also keep himself abreast of these facts and ensure that the city and its environs do not degenerate into a mighty slum that could be difficult to salvage in any future urban renewal programme.
No doubt, infrastructural development is the backbone of economic development and growth as exemplified by the advanced and emerging economies globally. China today is increasingly threatening the dominance of the U.S. as the global economic powerhouse, basically by investing heavily in infrastructure and providing a very solid base for the enhancement of productive activities across the length and breadth of its vast country. In Nigeria, the infrastructural deficit is not limited to Lagos. It is a nationwide problem. However, the peculiarity of Lagos places some extra burden on the governor since the city is widely regarded as the commercial capital of Nigeria and as such poor infrastructure in Lagos, adversely affects the growth and development of the Nigerian economy – being the major port, the entry point for most of the goods that come into Nigeria. Even though many have called for the decentralisation of the operations of the port system, to other ports outside Lagos, the city will still be very critical in the movement of finished and intermediate goods into and within the country. Lagos is indeed unique in many respects at the moment.
It is however worrisome that Sanwo-Olu does not appear to appreciate the enormousness of the responsibility placed on him in providing and maintaining functional infrastructure in the state. One of the first moves of the governor was the signing of an Executive Order on traffic control, as if the problems of Lagos were solely caused by the populace who are daily struggling to eke out a living for themselves and their families, under very difficult road conditions. With dilapidated and non-functional roads, vehicle breakdowns have been a common occurrence across the state. The government usually requires vehicle owners to ensure that their vehicles are road-worthy whereas most of the roads in Lagos are not vehicle-worthy. The blame for the traffic chaos cannot be rightfully placed at the doorsteps of the struggling road-users alone. That first move by the governor tends to suggest that he does not really appreciate the real problems behind the traffic bottlenecks across the state. Of the three elements of road safety, namely, the road, the vehicle and the driver, the most important is the road. Most of the roads within Lagos are bad and require urgent attention.
Meanwhile, we need to recognise that Sanwo-Olu inherited most of the decrepit road networks barely six months ago. There is a history of poor road construction in Lagos. If there had been quality control, he would not have inherited the scale of poor quality we are lamenting here. This is where we need to appeal to him to ensure that as he begins repairs quality control by the road authorities should be a ‘‘fundamental objective’’ and directive principle of state policy.
It can be recalled that official vehicles of government officials in the country, which used to be the Peugeot saloon cars in years past have now been changed to SUVs, probably as government’s own curious response to the preponderance of bad roads they can’t fly over across the country. It has been a sad commentary that our leaders have always chosen to fly over all the bad roads – even while visiting their constituencies. Currently, due to corrupt practices among government officials, supervision of road construction is generally poor and contracts appear not to be designed to serve the overwhelming public interest.
Meanwhile, this newspaper would like to note that the development of critical infrastructure in Lagos should be spread across the state and not the current focus on Oshodi and other visible locations by virtually all the administrations. This deprives other parts the needed attention in basic infrastructural development. As the governor is calling for patience until the rainy season ends, it is hoped that, that would not just be an empty promise to push off the public outcry at the sorry state of affairs of infrastructure development in the state. We dare to encourage Sanwo-Olu to prove his critics wrong by rising to the occasion and ensuring that the euphoria that greeted his ascension to power in the state is not misplaced. Lagos currently deserves better than it is currently having.
In the main, we also hope that the federal authorities in Abuja will also wake up to their responsibility to Lagos, which makes for them a large chunk of the money they spend in the nation’s capital.