By Ehi Braimah
Most of the roads in Nigeria are really in bad shape, it doesn’t matter whether they’re “federal” or “state” roads. So let it be known that bad roads are not peculiar to Ogun State alone. My aim is that all bad roads – wherever they are – should be fixed without any delay.
The other day, tanker drivers threatened to down tools because of the difficulty in distributing petroleum products on our miserable highways with many failed sections. NNPC saved the situation after promising to fix the roads with a hefty budget.
If individuals and organisations generally hate their idea of paying taxes, be it through evasion or avoidance, it is because they believe there is no guarantee that they will have value for their money in terms of social investments by the federal and state governments.
This belief is reinforced by a pattern of “never ending reckless and wasteful spending at all levels of government aided by widespread and mind boggling corruption”.
My recent trips to Ogun State which is just next door to Lagos revealed that the administration of former governor Ibikunle Amosun of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – he’s now a Senator in Abuja – paid more attention to the roads and overhead bridges in Abeokuta metropolis, Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode. The roads are smooth with little or no potholes.
However, the hinterland roads have been completely abandoned. Whereas Otunba Gbenga Daniel, also a former governor of Ogun State, connected rural towns with suburban areas, Amosun did not complete Akute-Arapala, Olambe and Agbado overhead bridges.
These abandoned bridges have become relics which cost the tax payers of Ogun State a lot of money. Amosun should tell the world how much was voted for these white elephant projects and how much was actually spent on them. He owes Ogun State people that explanation so that they can hear his own side of the story.
By the way, how would Amosun be remembered as governor of Ogun State? His legacy, as far as I know, will be defined more by the uncompleted bridges, a complete eye sore signposting failure of governance and waste of public funds. Yet, he sits comfortably in the Senate, the retirement comfort zone of former governors.
How do we then expect Nigeria to make progress when we are not ready to build and entrench a culture of efficiency, transparency and accountability in governance?
It was rumoured that Amosun suspended road construction projects in the Akute axis as a political bait to mobilise support for his anointed candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, who contested the 2019 governorship election on the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) platform but lost to Prince Dapo Abiodun, the current governor, who was the APC candidate.
The residents of Alagbole, Akute, Ajuwon, Ishashi, Denro, Arifanla up to Olambe communities believed so much in Amosun when he came with his “Mission to Rebuild” in 2013. His contractors moved to site immediately and began mapping out the roads for expansion and development from Ojodu Berger to Yakoyo, Alagbole, Akute, Giwa-Oke Aro and Alagbado.
There was excitement in the air. The construction works saw demolition of many houses to pave way for the road expansion. In truth, the residents hailed Amosun and embraced his development agenda with the pains and inconveniences that came with it.
They held onto Amosun’s promise that the road expansion project would be completed within 24 months. It included linking Akute directly to Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Abeokuta Expressways.
But several years later, residents are enduring unending discomfort of totally eroded roads from the Alagbole end of the overhead bridge, down to Akute and Alagbado. This was largely due to the haphazard execution of the project. Before he left office, Amosun could not fulfill his promise of completing the road network in the area.
The residents are bitter and angry but they’re more or less on their own as they continue to gnash their teeth and live with the nightmarish experience of plying the bad roads that is usually aggravated during the rainy season. They struggle with water logged areas and roads that are not just passable.
There is no clear indication when the abandoned project would be completed after previous failed promises. However, Governor Dapo Abiodun, according to media reports, recently promised to complete the roads in 2022 and toll them for the purpose of revenue generation to maintain the roads.
Although this was not part of the original deal, the residents don’t mind the tolling to the best of my knowledge. They just want the roads completed so that they can live a less stressful life.
During the dry season, residents in the communities grapple with a major public health challenge: upper respiratory tract infection caused by dusty roads. I passed through these roads not too long ago on a Saturday morning, December 4, 2021, with my colleagues.
We were heading to Akute-Osaro in Ifo local government area through Yakoyo Road, but we wanted to pass through Alagbole. The road was blocked by a petrol dispensing tanker that fell before the bridge where the sign, “Welcome to Ogun State”, is mounted.
We had to use an alternative route. So we turned back and headed towards Oremeta junction, through Kosofe Road to Adugbolija. Even with Google map, a Good Samaritan near the scene of the fallen truck who is a petrol attendant, offered to guide us.
On our way, we passed through Denro to Ishashi which is usually deserted in late evenings leaving commuters stranded because access to motor bikes (Okadas) – the popular means of transportation in the area – becomes difficult.
According to our guide, electric power supply is rotated among residents in the area – two days on and two days off. The road from Adugbolija all the way down to Akute is horrible, to put it mildly.
The colony of Okada riders and their passengers was overwhelming in the dusty environment. There was evidence of construction with the excavation on both sides of the road for drainage purpose but it was abandoned which further worsened the condition of the road.
Even as we managed to avoid the bad spots, the ride was still bumpy. We used the opportunity to explore the neighbourhood before we got to Alagbole where our Good Samaritan alighted at the MRS petrol station. We thanked him for his kindness and headed back to Akute-Osaro.
Meanwhile, on our way to Alagbole, we passed through Four Square Gospel Church (District Headquarters), Crystal Dove College, Enyo Petrol Station, Isolog School, Arit Prvate School, Peak Lane Schools – located on the right hand side of the road to Alagbole – while Darrens Shopping Complex and Mobil Petrol Station are on the left hand side.
One of the uncompleted overhead bridges remains an embarrassing landmark in Akute and it is mostly used by traders who set up shops right under it. On our return journey, we passed near the bridge into Ajuwon Road – which is also in bad shape but much better than Ishashi-Akute Road – until we connected Iju Road, as we headed back to Ikeja.
My intention is not to call out Prince Dapo Abiodun, the governor, because he’s been on the saddle for only two and half years but he’s obliged to tell his people what he is doing to fix the bad roads that are not fit for motorists and commuters who are suffering in silence.
Driving from Ota Tollgate to Abeokuta – that is the section through Sango flyover up to where Nigerian Breweries’ factory is located – was also a horrifying experience. It is a bit motorable at the moment because we’re in the dry season. The return journey was slightly better because of recent construction works on the old expressway.
When you are approaching Ifo from Ota all the way down to Abeokuta, there are not less than 15 bad and neglected sections of the road. From ICT Dauda Adegbenro to Arigbajo-Ifo on your way back remains a complete eyesore and the “punishment” meted out to motorists and commuters appears to be deliberate, a form of wickedness from the heart.
You can hardly drive for up to 50 metres stretch without trying to avoid bad portions on the hellish road – if you can – that can damage your vehicle; I mean pulling down the shock absorbers and condemning the suspension of your car.
On two separate trips from Abeokuta to Ijoko and Lagos to Itori, I couldn’t believe my eyes. After seeing the extent of the deterioration of the roads, I began to wonder what redeeming value, if any, is left.
Then when you also drive from Sango Ijoko through Oke Aro, Akute and Alagbole (all in Ogun State) leading to Ojodu (in Lagos State), pray not to have a spinal cord injury. You will literally have your heart in your mouth, and wishing that the stabilizer linkage and lower arm bushings as well as brake pads of your car don’t pack up otherwise you will be forced to abort the journey.
Although the old expressway is a federal road, a major gateway into Abeokuta from Lagos, former governor Ibikunle Amosun was interested in doing something about it.
I understand that Amosun – who spent two terms of eight years in office as an APC governor of Ogun State (2011 – 2019) – awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the road with not less than six ambitious overhead bridges.
As laudable as the project was, it was abandoned towards the tail end of his first term in office. This has left inhabitants of the area in a difficult, helpless and perplexing situation, and life on these roads is better imagined during the rainy season.
Meanwhile, these same people are expected to pay taxes to the government and vote during elections. What exactly then is the primary purpose of government?
For residents of Ota, especially those on both sides of Idiroko Road from Sango Bridge to Covenant University, their story is even worse. If they believe in reincarnation and they have the chance to return to this world, they will totally avoid this area of Ogun State – an abandoned and forbidden territory.
Not even in their wildest dreams would they want to have any historical or ancestral linkage to that place.
It is difficult to understand why the expressway has been abandoned for so long, including the period when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who hails from Ogun State was president of Nigeria for two terms of eight years (1999 – 2007).
Maybe former President Obasanjo has an explanation for the state of the federal highway to his home state. Each time he landed at the airport in Lagos, he moved with a presidential convoy; so making the trip to Abeokuta wasn’t a problem. But did he worry about the state of the road? If yes, what did his administration do about it?
It was during the brief tenure of Dimeji Bankole as Speaker of the House of Representatives, according to residents in the area, that he facilitated the completion of the Sango Ota Bridge. This was after a prolonged hue and cry of concerned stakeholders but even then, the quality of work was shoddy.
As you approach the foot of the bridge, you will find craters and potholes of varying sizes and shapes from perennial flooding. But who really cares?
The road from Atan Ota which leads to Igbesa, the Free Trade Zone Area and Agbara, the Industrial hub of Ogun State, is strategic but it is also a nightmare. Thankfully, it is being rehabilitated by Prince Dapo Abiodun’s administration and I hope he is able to sustain the tempo.
Construction work is ongoing from Agbara (Ogun State) to Ajara in Badagry (Lagos State) but the failed sections of the dual carriage way will damage your car during the journey of one hour 30 minutes.
Even if you’re driving an SUV, you will not be spared. Residents in the area confirmed that when it rains, vehicles break down easily making movement difficult and the inconveniences unbearable. They are forced to endure the frustrations until the next dry season.
It is ironical that Ado Odo Ota LGA which gives Ogun State government most of its IGR (internally generated revenue) has no semblance of any meaningful development. The roads are also deplorable and I just wonder how people live in these godforsaken neighbourhoods without displaying any sense of outrage.
Hopefully, things will turn around in 2022.
Happy New Year!
– Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times