The 10-lane road as metaphor
“We have built this six-lane road but made the bridge a ten-lane. Another whiz kid may come in ten or twenty years’ time and decides to expand this road to ten lanes. He will not need to break and reconstruct the bridge.”
That was the voice of the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at the Isale-Oko bridge in Sagamu, during the “see-with-your-own-eyes tour” with media executives in 2014. It was equally the most affecting moment of the trip to the three senatorial districts of the state.
All the international standard highways constructed by the Amosun administration across Ogun State have 10-lane bridges (built over rivers). For those familiar with highway construction, the bulk of the money goes to the construction of bridges once there are rivers on the road. A bridge can take as much as 30 per cent of the entire cost of a road. While you can easily construct a motorway on a dry land, it is a colossal economic cost to have to destroy a bridge in order to expand it from, say, four lanes to six lanes or from six to 10 lanes.
Amosun’s foresight, therefore, deserves plaudits. And this point was not lost on the editors who saw the massive infrastructural development across the state and futuristic considerations of the governor.
It can then be safely concluded that Amosun’s 10-lane bridge or the ongoing Abeokuta-Sagamu 10-lane road is a metaphor for foresight, development and prosperity.
Of course, I have lately heard and read the “lectures” of the opposition elements. But wait a minute! Were they the ones who taught Amosun how to raise the Internally Generated Revenue of Ogun State from a paltry sum of N750 million per month he inherited to a whopping N5 billion per month within a space of two years without imposing any burden on the people of the state but simply blocking the loopholes through the introduction of cashless system? Does Amosun need any sermon from the opposition on when to complete a particular project or the other?
Do these opposition elements have any facts about the Abeokuta-Sagamu highway? Do they know the matrix and the socio-economic calculus that made the construction imperative at this time?
But does it really matter for these critics? I remember one notable politician who stated at a public forum that he was not aware of a road construction in his area, yet his own house directly overlooks a major six-lane road complete with modern furniture, constructed by the Amosun government! That is the ridiculous level criticisms have attained in our country. No explanation about the content and character of the Sagamu-Abeokuta motorway or any project for that matter will satisfy them.
By way of analogy, and only for illustration purposes, politicians still believe that in this 21st century, the best way to fight wars is to use same sticks, stones, bows and arrows. They can continue in such mentality. But we know we are in the age of armoured tanks, submarines, ballistic missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, etc. They may continue to use their hoes and cutlasses to farm. But we will make use of CAT bulldozers, MF 275 Xtra tractors, Baldan Disc Ploughs, Baldan Disc Harrows, Row-planters, and so on, provided by a visionary administration. Let them continue to use their pin-hole cameras, abacus or pascal’s calculators but we will scale up the use of digital cameras and computers.
Let there be no mistake about it. Criticisms, of course, are expected in a democracy. But what is clearly against the grain in a democracy is destructive criticisms, which appear to be the stock-in-trade of some of our politicians.
We should have expected these politicians to learn from history. You do not wait for tomorrow before you plan for it. Our revered leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was equally criticised for being ahead of his time. When he mooted the idea of free education, he was criticised.
When Awo built the first set of industrial and housing estates in Nigeria, what was the socio-economic situation at the time? When he established the first television service in Africa, how many Nigerians at the time had television sets? When he constructed the Liberty Stadium, the first in Nigeria, what was Western Region’s position in the world in relation to sports or how many children of the Region were in school? Yet, but for the mismanagement of the country that followed, which greatly upset the golden era that Awo had launched the region into and the pace of its developmentt, the Western Region would have been like Europe today.
But for visionary leadership, Ogun would have remained today the glorified rural community envisioned by opposition elements in their narrow-mindedness. They want foreign investors to come, and in the same breath want the state to remain a 17th century civilisation. Do investors flock to a place that lacks modern infrastructure and semblance of a forward-looking government?!
These critics now move about freely in the state without fear of insecurity, yet when Amosun bought the very latest technology of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) in 2012 at a discounted price, the first of such APCs in Nigeria, they criticised him for not buying relics of outdated technology The future, as earlier observed, belongs to those who prepare for it today. Ogun’s 10-lane project remains a metaphor for foresight, development and prosperity.
I shall end this exercise with a paraphrase of a portion of Awo’s address in the heyday of the Western Region:
This government will press forward in the execution of the laudable projects which our people have overwhelmingly endorsed, confident also that our beloved and trusting masses, when they begin to enjoy the delectable fruits of the current investments and sacrifices, will now and in future years, remember us with gratitude and adoration as their faithful and devoted servants, and their only true friends and benefactors.
Soyombo is Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Ogun State.