President Jonathan Sagamu road-show

The image of President Jonathan behind the wheel of land-mover to mark the kick off of work on the long abandoned Lagos-Ibadan expressway was not only insensitive but equally an assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians who had been at one time or the other marooned on that road for hours, sometimes days or have lost loved ones in the harvest of deaths occasioned by PDP 14 years of misrule, of corruption and of abandoned projects spread across the nation. That the collapsed Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been the most visible is because of its impact on our overall socio-economic development. It is only in this part of the world that politicians behave as if they are doing those who elected them a favour.

Tragically, PDP that should be apologizing to Nigerians, victims of the party’s inept leadership, has been celebrating what was nothing but a ‘Sagamu charade’, as another manifestation of President Jonathan transformation agenda. The party has now said, through Caesar Okeke, its acting secretary, that the flag-off was a demonstration of President Jonathan’s love for the people of South-west as the exercise has ‘‘put the lie’ to the insinuation of marginalization against South-west by the Jonathan administration’. But PDP forgets that the people of South-west, like their true representatives, the ACN governors that snubbed the Sagamu charade, have the capacity to interpret even the motive behind greetings. These are highly principled and proud people who at the height of intimidation and oppression by federal government backed Akintola NNDP’s ‘Ijoba Tulasi’ (government by force) loudly proclaimed ‘if you see my hand, you cannot see my heart’. They can differentiate between those who treat them with contempt and those who treat them with respect.

Not even the Works Minister, Mike Onolememen’s statement that federal government renewed interest on the road was informed by the fact that “It is a major artery that connects Lagos, major Nigerian seaports, to other states of the federation and forms not only a part of the Trans-Saharan Highway that links Lagos on the Atlantic Ocean to Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea but also part of the Trans-African Highway”, has stopped the celebration of the absurd by PDP buccaneers who assumed the abandonment of this all important road for 14 years hurt the South-west more. But the truth of the matter is that the South-west that has many alternative inter-state roads through Agege, Ota, Ikorodu, Epe, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode to Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ilaro; is not the greatest victim of federal government 14 years of insensitivity. Those hit most are other Nigerians from South-south, South-east, North-central and North-west that have no alternative to traversing through the road to ferry their goods from the country’s major port and the nation’s economic nerve centre.

Governor Fashola of Lagos recently observed that ‘all manner of things happen in an election season’. But let us pretend we don’t know the president is a veteran of politics of subterfuge, politics of trade-off, that the flag off of work was motivated by politics of 2015, and that the acting PDP scribe was right about the president’s new found love for South-west. The problem however is that judging from PDP antecedents and the numerous abandoned projects all over the country; successful completion of the road in spite of the flag-off with fanfare is not assured. Indeed the only thing that appears certain in spite of PDP fraudulent celebration of yet to be implemented transformation agenda is that relief for motorists that ply Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a forlorn hope. The reasons are apparent.

First, we have passed through this same road before. Obasanjo, Jonathan’s godfather once embarked on similar road show when he flagged off with fanfare, the Ibadan-Ilorin expressway in 2001. Last week, after 13 years of politics of ‘motion without movement’, the current PDP minister of works assured Nigerians that efforts ‘are being made to complete the Oyo-Ogbomosho portion of the road.’

There were other road shows by successive PDP work ministers. Adeseye Ogunlewe flagged off the rehabilitation and reconstruction of this same Lagos-Ibadan expressway shortly before the 2003 election. Under Tony Anenih currently the chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority and chairman of PDP (BOT) as Minister of Works, over N300b budgetary allocation for roads construction, brought little relief to road users. There was also the road show by the current minster of petroleum that had, as minister of works, wept and sobbed like a baby while supervising the suffering of motorists on the collapsed Sagamu-Ore Benin expressway. The revered Oba of Benin who did not want his palace desecrated was said to have barred one PDP minister of works from entering his palace.

One other reason to assume the whole flag off was a political gimmick or a publicity stunt that is not likely to end the nightmares of motorists plying the Lagos-Ibadan expressway anytime soon can be deduced from the candor of the president who has already indirectly hinted that the funds to construct the road are not readily available. The president is more cautious than his PDP riotous merchants and celebrants.

This is understandable. He already has his cup full. The Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC) he set up in March 2011, to look into cases of abandoned federal government projects claimed that there were 11,886 abandoned projects that will cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete. The Institute of Project Management of Nigeria (IPMN) and the president’s Special Assistant on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Sylvester Monye have given the breakdown and the spread of some of the projects to the public. They include the 400 metre long Utor bridge along Asaba-Ebu-Uromi road awarded in 2006 but abandoned in 2009, Ikorodu-Sagamu road and Lagos-Otta road project awarded in 2001 but abandoned by both Impresit Bakolori PLC and Julius Berger because of ‘inadequate funding,’; the 36 kilometres Bodo-Bonny road in Rivers awarded in 2002; the abandoned 285 NNDC projects and 1,994 rural electrification projects among many others spread around the various geo-political zones of the country.

Experts have claimed that ‘it will take more than five years budgeting about N1.5trillion annually to complete these abandoned projects’, if government does not add new ones. But , as recently argued by Nasir El Rufai, ex minister for Abuja federal territory, “rather than these figures compelling the government to accelerate… the government would rather continue the weekly charade of awarding new contracts or re-awarding old ones at higher prices during its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.”

To many cynics and government critics, it is only logical to assume the Lagos-Ibadan expressway flag-off perfectly fits into this charade conceived in the main to raise money for 2015 which has already taken on the character of ‘do or die election’ as evidenced by the on-going PDP’s vicious intra-party battles.

Government’s failure to give sufficient information on the contract is further fueling this suspicion. For instance the public would like to be assured that N1.3b rate for a kilometre of road is competitive. And if according to the minister of works, “government concession agreement with Messrs Bi-Courtney to develop …, a distance of approximately 105 kilometres under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement” was at a cost of N98.5b in 2009, they want to know why 127 kilometres is now costing N167 billion. Although the money is not even there to start with, but a gloomier prospect is the project getting stagnated after the election, to be followed by an upward review of cost by a 100 percent as recently witnessed by the stagnated vice president’s official mansion and the abandoned Lagos-Otta road.

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