It is indeed a sad commentary on our level of development in this country that in the 21st century we celebrate construction of roads and bridges. As governors troop out in fanfare with their convoys of government officials, politicians and some funnily bedecked traditional rulers, to commission a road project, as “dividends of democracy,” one would want to believe that the road has been built to last for eternity.
Unfortunately these roads built at unjustifiable humongous costs very rarely survive two seasons of heavy rains. But then they have been commissioned and readily get qualified for renovation contracts and the cycle continues endlessly.
Each budget year brings to the fore submissions for road constructions at both the Federal and State levels. But some are sickeningly perennial and recurringly embarrassing. Please permit me to mention just a few; namely the EAST-WEST ROAD, the PORT HARCOURT-ENUGU ROAD, the LAGOS-IBADAN ROAD and also the ABUJA-LOKOJA ROAD, as some of the many endless road projects. Their recurrence in annual budgets should worry Nigerians who have brilliant professionals in this sector and competent road construction companies that do start, build and commission quality roads and bridges. What is then the problem?
It is therefore not surprising that the House, at the ongoing ministerial 2021 budget defence has queried the allocation of N15bn earmarked for the East-West road. This road project has been on for the past 14 years, has consumed N423bn of which about N354bn has so far been paid to date, according to the supervising minister.
It does appear that such figures and statistics no longer mean anything to Nigerians. But this is really the time for soul-searching and introspection. The year 2020, as it begins to round up, is a year of lessons for whichever country that wants to reform its ways or whosoever individual that wants to benefit from sincere lessons. COVID-19 is a game changer. #ENDSARS is an attitude changer. Both reveal that politics has its limitations and that sound policies make for good governance.•Sir Jonas Odocha writes from Abuja