I must shelve this week’s original intervention and go into something entirely different. In my short odyssey I have endured countless tests and trials but the past few weeks have been the most harrowing. I have had to feel the bone and flesh of sorrow in ways that words can only lamely describe: I was deprived of my mother and my youngest brother less than a month apart. My father, immediate elder brother and immediate younger brother having all departed this terrestrial plane years ago, I never expected to lose my mum so soon. But no loss can change my testimony: The Lord is good and will be celebrated even when I cry.
The sorrow was so intense that the only way to plug the tap of tears was not to hear anything about my mum, yet the calls kept coming in. As I would later realize, I needed a break. And it came rather fortuitously. I’m extremely delighted it did, for I returned armed with insights into governance and a fresh perspective on the man certain crooks and political buccaneers love to claim is doing exactly nothing in Nigeria’s Gateway State.
Because when I write I stake my integrity on it, I had better begin by saying that I have pictures, transferrable on request, to back up the claims that I make in the lines that come below. The first surprise, and an extremely pleasant one, was the trip to Abeokuta. Having previously travelled to Abeokuta only via the Apata route in Ibadan, I had no idea how much had changed in so short a time. For the first time (and my fourth ever visit to Abeokuta), I was taken through a different route, connecting the Shagamu Interchange from the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The road, sparkling with solid infrastructure, is simply classy. It took less than 30 minutes for Abeokuta to come into view.
But greater surprises were in the offing as I joined a team of senior editors on a voyage around Ogun State. The itinerary, a rather expansive one, covered the Abeokuta-Sagamu expressway that I just described, the flyover bridge over the Sagamu-Benin expressway, the Ijebu-Ode Mojoda expressway, Molipa express on Ibadan road, Igan road in Ago Iwoye and many other places. I discovered, to my chagrin, that the portrayal of Governor Abiodun as a non-performer is not based on any objective reality. The problem is that instead of mere window dressing of the state capital, the man has been opening up the inner recesses of the state, doing phenomenal work in places that Nigerians in transit through Ogun State may not see. I saw this much when I set sight on the road linking Molusi College, upon which I think I saw an inscription saying “only the best is good for Africa” or something of that kind; Owode-Ilaro road and Atan-Lusada road, among others. By the way, the housing projects at Kemta and other areas are quite impressive.
If you have been to the Ilishan-Ago Iwoye road, the Sagamu-Iperu rounabout, Oba Eriwole road, the Ilaro-Owode road, Akute-Ishasi road, Somorin-Kemta road, Olomore-Sani road or the Mile 2-Ayetoro road, you cannot but marvel about how a man doing simultaneous work across all the zones of a state can receive so much negative coverage in the media simply because he has chosen to spread development evenly. How can anyone travel on the Ijebu-Ode Epe road and claim to have seen nothing? Built by Craneburg, it’s probably the best road in Nigeria right now. Do not take my word for it: go there. I was at the Atan-Lusada road and if you see the massive work ongoing there, you might want to refer certain critics to Aro for mental evaluation.
I visited the Ogun Agric airport and while there may be questions regarding the level of agricultural goods that may be produced and exported given the continuing menace of nomadic herdsmen, there can be no question that the project will open up economic opportunities for many communities. As Ade Akinsanya, the man whose presentation made my voyage around Ogun most memorable by reason of his intellectual depth, professional acumen and, far beyond that, commitment to excellence and probity, noted about the project, it is meant to take advantage of the export testing facility sited close to the airport. If people across Nigeria bring their produce to Ogun State to be certified for export and there’s an airport close by, they will use it instead of going all the way to Lagos.
Akinsanya, an engineer who has been honoured in the United States for his phenomenal work in designing and building bridges, is reported to have saved Lagos State tons of money through sheer professionalism and uprightness of character, and his tenure as Commissioner for Works in Ogun State has been phenomenal. Apart from making me to understand such engineering terms as stone base, priming, binder course and wearing course, he caused me to rethink the idea of PPP projects, revealing that all too often, the so-called private investors who claim they wish to partner with state governments actually have no money but wish to exploit the system for personal gain. As a matter of fact, many of the so-called consultants have ripped off state governments for years, interested in nothing but personal gain, and it’s not all the time that you have honest commissioners to curb the excesses of these pen robbers. Akinsanya, a commissioner with decades of experience in construction outside the shores of Nigeria, has his office is on the road.
Of the startling discoveries made during my two-day trip, two require special mention. The first, quite simply, is the disservice done to the Ogun populace by the Ibikunle Amosun administration through unwarranted demolition of houses. In Kemta, Abeokuta, Ilaro and many other places, I saw ghastly pictures of houses cut in half or quarter by that government, ostensibly for the sake of building roads. People’s properties were callously demolished without the administration executing the projects that provided the alibi for demolition. And worse still, the demolitions were entirely unnecessary because in most cases, all that was required was the rehabilitation, not needless expansion, of the roads built during the Western Region government. The urge to build multi-lane roads everywhere must be curbed. Besides, many of the bridges built by the administration were entirely unnecessary, and have actually become a nuisance. Again, the funds expended on the so-called model schools should have been used to open up and link communities like the present administration is doing.
Certain parts of Ogun (places like Oke Aro, Yaya Abatan, Alagbole, etc,) need urgent attention, and even though palliative work has begun in Sango Ota, it remains a mystery why the APC-led Federal Government has shied away from its duties in Ogun State. As a matter of fact, this has been the major lacuna latched unto by critics to paint the governor black. It’s up to him to find ways of reinventing diplomacy and getting Abuja to attend to its roads in Ogun State.
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