Osogbo-Gbongan road: Travellers express frustration over insecurity
For years, travellers have waited for the completion of the popular Osogbo-Gbongan road considering its economic importance. However, the condition of the road has worsened with succeeding governments’ inability to complete it. TUNDE BUSARI, after a trip, reports the frustrations of commuters and efforts by the government to complete the construction of the road.
A trip from Osogbo to Gbongan between daybreak and sunset has always posed some difficult to travellers, but the same journey after dusk is simply a nightmare, tale of which some unfortunate ones did not live to share. They perished in autocrashes caused by the deplorable state of that road.
A first time traveller who leaves Osogbo at 7pm, for instance, will drive from the popular Old Garage in the heart of state capital to the Government House under street light recently installed by the Gboyega Oyetola administration.
The road surface bears no potholes and other unfavourable impediments and the bright light improves visibility such that drivers can afford to switch off their headlights and still encounter no hitch. However, just a few metres after the Government Secretariat everything changes as the light gives way to total darkness, leading road users to a long stretch where potholes and numerous other obstacles await them.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration had commenced the expansion of the road in 2004 with the promise to complete it before the expiration of his first term in 2007. However, the government could only complete the Osogbo-Akoda section, leaving Akoda to Gbongan corridor for the Rauf Aregbesola administration which succeeded it in 2010.
Apparently knowing the economic significance of that road as it is the major link to Ibadan and Lagos, Aregbesola also signed a contract to construct the road from Gbongan junction on Ife-Ibadan expressway to Akoda. A trumpet-shaped interchange flyover was constructed at that junction, a development which attracted wild ovation for the Aregbesola administration and boosted public expectation on quick completion of the project.
Today, users of the road are counting their losses resulting from the present deplorable state of the road. Only few kilometres of the road after the interchange has been asphalted and opened for use. In other words, Gbogan section of the road is completed and terminated a few kilometres to the neighbouring Ode-Omu. The entire stretch of Ode-Omu township no longer has a sign of construction work. This sight extends through Ogi, Sekona and Akoda where road users endure endless pains and agonies.
Ode-Omu to Akoda section which used to take less than 20 minutes now consumes approximately 40 minutes with the rigour of averting potholes and other inconveniences along the road.
A commercial bus driver, one Mr Akeem Badru, who claimed to have been plying the road for about 30 years lamented the fate of the road, describing it as hopeless. He had great expectations on it when the government mobilised contractors to the road years ago.
“Any driver who plied the road when I started driving here in 1990 will tell you that it did not take us more than one hour from Osogbo to Ibadan then. Unless you had a flat tyre or there was a mechanical fault you could not spend up to one hour and 30 minutes to reach Ibadan from Osogbo. But for the past 10 years, we have been facing hardship on this road. Armed robbers have shifted here, especially at some points around Ogi. We have become easy prey to them. In 2010, I ran into them near Ogi and regretted that night. Others have also been caught by the robbers because of the bad road,” he said.
Another major cause for worry is the operation of two markets at Ode-Omu and Owode. The markets are sited at both sides of the road, attracting a cluster of local traders mostly from farms who display their goods and carry out brisk businesses, unmindful of the location.
Why has the road become a permanent headache to road users? This is a question daily asked by travellers. Findings revealed that the period of economic meltdown put both federal and state governments under intense pressure, and capital projects were most affected.
Federal and state governments became financially incapacitated and the situation literally crippled the nation’s economy and almost snuffed life out of states, like Osun, which depend heavily on monthly allocations from the Federal Government.
A Lagos-based indigene of Osun, Mr Adewale Tiamiyu, noted that the bad economy constituted hindrance to the completion of the road by the immediate past administration of Aregbesola, saying the former governor deserved no blame on the state of the road.
“I am not speaking for the government because I am not a part of the government, but I must say that what the nation experienced at that period affected everybody. Within me, I knew that the Gbongan-Osogbo road project would be affected because it was a big project. Aregbesola wanted a road that would stand out among other expressways in the country, but the bad economy turned him to a liar. But I won’t call him a liar because I know the worth of that road,” he said.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan strongly denied that the construction of the road has been abandoned. In a tone exuding confidence, Omipidan disclosed that since the Oyetola administration was inaugurated in November 2018, the alleged suspended work on the road had been resumed and had proceeded at assured pace.
“If you have passed through that road lately, you would agree with me that work is ongoing there. The construction company is working round the clock. Every traveller who plies that road sees them at work at the Ode-Omu end. So, there is nothing to worry about as far as that road is concerned.
“Let me, however, clarify that work only stopped during the rain season. But as soon as rain was over, we have recorded a tremendous improvement on the construction,” he said.
The optimism expressed by the chief press secretary encouraged members of a unit of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who unanimously appeal to the government to complete the road and make their work easy for the members of union.
The chairman of the Old Garage, Osogbo unit, Mr Owolabi Fatai, famously known as Fatty Action, told the Nigerian Tribune in his office that it was high time the government answered the transporters’ prayers to save them from the headache drivers experience plying the road. He recalled regrettably how bandits cash in on the state of the road to hold travellers hostage, especially in the hours after dusk.
“You may think we are strong but nobody dares those bad boys when they invade the road in the night. They are the lords of the road, freely dispossessing passengers of their money and goods. Our members have lost count of the number of incidents they had witnessed in the past.
“If the road is completed now, they will run away because they know no vehicle would drive slowly and easily caught.
“We are appealing to our good governor to look into that matter because transport is key to the economic development of every society,” he said.
Like the experience of drivers, market women and men also experience such frustrating experience, and they also added their voice to the call on the government to promptly fix the road so as to boost their source of livelihood. A leading voice in that request is the Babaloja of the Orisunbare Main Market, Old Garage, Osogbo, Kamorudeen Adeoti.
The outspoken market leader said the benefits of fixing the road on time outweigh its burden on government, saying his members’ votes were based on their trust on the government to improve their welfare.
He said, “There is no way we would talk of the market without talking of roads through which our goods are transported. A good road affects price of goods while a bad road also affects it. At Orisunbare market, we are known to be friends of the public, in terms of prices of our goods. We just want the government to fasttrack the completion of Osogbo-Gbongan road because of its importance to our business. There is no day our members do not based on that road. We have seen work resuming on the road, we hope it will be completed.”