My Holiday! That would have been the title of the first essay to be written in English class if we were in Primary 3 in the 1980s.
Christmas holiday was great fun for me. Apart from meeting numerous friends, I think that finally, I had one Christmas without overeating. Very great achievement that has taken decades! One other very interesting thing for me was driving through various cities! I basically saw four cities. The attempt to visit a 5th was not successful. The 4 cities are in South West Nigeria: Lagos, Ibadan, Oshogbo and Ijebu-Ode. There were other smaller townships along the way that need not be discussed.
After “The Man that tamed Lagos” Babatunde Fashola left office as Governor of Lagos, complaints have been rife about the tardiness of the new Governor. Then two notable things made the news:
- The Police and other law enforcement agencies in Lagos were rebranded. For years, Lagos is the only state where I would drive around without policemen stopping me to look for what is not lost. Outside Lagos, Policemen could stop you and ask questions that I would leave you to determine the qualifying adjective: Where did a young man like you get money to buy this car?
- A road at Ayobo, a Lagos community, was said to have been constructed in 6 weeks! That is not a sign that impossible things are happening, but that Project Management is improving in Nigeria…at least in Lagos!
The city/state is relatively clean compared with the others.
More road projects seem to have been executed in the past 8 years than in any other time prior–so some development is noticeable. However, also noticeable is the return of refuse heaps.
In 1996, I was at my first job ever. My boss left the office and got into some road blockade that took so long. Eventually, they found that a train broke down at a road crossing! He would have waited, but there was a refuse heap by the road which made the experience hellish. So he wriggled out of the traffic and took another route trying to get home. Lo and behold, he got there and there was heavy traffic. Investigating, he found that the train he left at Bodija Crossing had been fixed. It got going and at the road crossing at Sango, it broke down again! He was irate…He left the country not long after. Things however got better with time.
Those refuse heaps are back on all major roads in Ibadan. Three things seem to be responsible:
- Ingrained poverty and culture of disconnection (what is my own with it??)
- Non-payment of salaries started by the state government
- I-don’t-care attitude on the part of the government officials. How do you drive around freely when your incompetence is on display??
I estimated my drive from Ibadan to Osogbo to take me not more than one hour; the last time I went on that trip was in 2004. I was very wrong. All the federal roads were fine, but to turn into the road leading to Osogbo at Gbongan (a town between Ibadan and Osogbo), I had to look for a motorable opening in the bush! The much heralded overhead bridge had been abandoned uncompleted, and overgrown with bush!
To be sure I was not mistaken, I asked someone for the way and he told me I was on course! It is unimaginable how bad the road now is. It took two hours to get to Oshogbo from Ibadan. Ultimately, I had to engage Google Maps as it kept appearing as if either I was on the wrong road or the town had moved to another location! I had to see the distance from a digital map.
The roads in the city showed signs of attempted-development. But everything had been abandoned. And there was plenty of red dust to show for it. I empathized with people living in that town! I actually blotted out at a point, “Are you guys sure you have a Governor in this state?” And they were quick to give me a sarcastic answer.
Here again, the heaps of refuse had taken over the highways. The incumbent Governor however succeeded in putting up two fly-overs in 4 years. Furthermore, the abandoned reconstruction of the arterial road has been resumed albeit at a slow pace.
We need all hands on deck, especially hands experienced at positive transformation. We should no longer stand aloof and watch others do whatever, while we criticize on social media or expect God to do something!
Be more involved in your nation in 2016!