Their 8,300 kilometres of lies: A short story

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By FELIX OBOAGWINA

Brother Goke, could I have a word with you?

How are you, Deacon, and how are Madam and the children?

Everyone is fine, Bro. Madam is having their usual after-service meeting in the Choir. I will need to wait for her so we can go home together. I am sure you will not be leaving Madam behind too, since they are both in the choir.

Who born me? I must wait.

Let’s take a seat, meanwhile. I need to discuss something with you. That testimony you just shared during the service –are you really serious? I know that the import was that God granted you grace not to have any encounter with kidnappers when you travelled between Lagos and Calabar four times in two weeks. But do you really mean that your road trip from Lagos to Calabar took you two days?

We left Lagos –Ojuelegba to be specific– at 7am and we got to Calabar the following day at 7pm.

Did your vehicle break down?

Break down for where? Bad roads! Deacon, the road to and from Lagos and Calabar are bad horrible roads! Deacon, this country is finished! Muhammadu Buhari has finished Nigeria. I had to make the return journey twice. When we got to Calabar, we found that one of us must return to Lagos for some spare parts.

Why didn’t you just take a flight, Brother Goke, why would you take that kind of risk?

Actually, that was the initial plan. We felt that because of the incidents of kidnapping and banditry, we should just fly Lagos-Calabar. However, when we found that the ticket would take virtually N100,000 one way, something we spent N30,000 on last year, we decided travelling by air was a luxury we could not afford immediately.

Where exactly did you encounter bad roads on this journey?

Wrong question, Deacon, you should ask where we did not meet bad roads! The entire West-East coastline road is a total write-off! Palaver began right from Lagos. Leaving Lagos was hell. That Lagos-Ibadan road that President Buhari and his Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, have spent their entire tenure of seven years building, is nothing to write home about. This is a road that their predecessor President Goodluck Jonathan started –no actually, it was Obasanjo that started it through Bi-Courtney and wanted to toll it. Jonathan came and made it a Federal non-tolling project. A road that is less than 200 kilometres, Fashola has spent seven years on it and they are yet to finish it.

Lagos-Ibadan expressway is roughly 127-128 kilometres actually.

Shame! We spent no less than three hours there before we could exit Lagos.

Was it a tanker that fell as usual and spilt its content, or something?

Nothing of such happened. That is normal on that road. Then we veered off through the rough undulating patches at the Shagamu Interchange that the government has blatantly refused to make their business. This is something that FERMA and PWD can take care of in less than 48 hours. We then entered the road to Shagamu. At Ijebu, we jammed another go-slow around the overhead bridge. Then we headed to Ore, to Benin. Sometimes we would be diverted into one-way driving, facing oncoming traffic –terrible go-slows. I lost count of all the roadblocks by soldiers and police. At Benin Bypass, we jammed another hellhole. Standstill! Trailers and tankers parked thickly on both sides of the road.

Will they ever solve that Benin Bypass log jam –another problem that FERMA and PWD can take care of in less than one month? The thought of spending up to two hours on what should be a short 15-minute drive on that Benin Bypass discourages me from honouring invitations for marriage or burial ceremonies in the villa.

We spent at least two hours crawling through that bypass before we now faced the road to Sapele, Delta State. There the real nightmare began. Deacon, people suffer unnecessarily in this country. The road connecting Edo to Delta State, Deacon, is a glorified road; in reality, there is no road anymore. From Delta to Rivers, To Akwa Ibom to Cross River. Oh, I shudder to remember what I suffered.

Sorry, Brother Goke.

I have been so traumatised that I cannot just imagine doing that trip ever again.

I don’t blame you. No insurance can cater for wear and tear, man-hour loss and stress that man and machine suffer on Nigeria’s bad roads. The bad roads are what have turned Nigeria into the graveyard of vehicles from all over the world. Cars used here lack second-hand value. Abi have you heard of Nigeria exporting fairly used vehicles to anywhere, even to Cotonou or Cameroon?

Na wa o!

Didn’t the Minister of Works Babatunde Fashola say the other day that President Muhammadu Buhari had delivered 8,300 kilometres of roads?

It is a lie! He could not have said that!

Fashola did! I heard it with my own ears and saw him with my korokoro eyes! He spoke less than two months ago. And I have been wondering: Where are the 8,300 kilometres of roads?

Do you mind them? This is a government of propaganda. They got into office by peddling misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. Even as a government, they never weaned themselves off lies –lying all over the place! If this government tells you GOOD MORNING, you need to reconfirm from the clock or a cock.

Unfortunately, some people believed him. One Northerner, I don’t know his name now, went on social media to say they have no good roads in the North. He now said that since Fashola claimed the Buhari government has built 8,300 kilometres of roads so far, those roads must all be located in the South where Fashola hails from.

A northerner is complaining just like us in the South. We even thought that all the 8,300 kilometres they are claiming to have constructed were done up-North. Maybe that Hausa complainer needs to see the video that Esan people did in Edo State.

I saw it. They showed how the whole stretch from Benin to Auchi has been rendered impassable. Auchi through Okpella to Okene to Lokoja enroute Abuja is horrible. Esanland is completely cut off. You have to make a detour off the Benin-Auchi road and pass through villages then connect Agbede again, just as you do on the Mile 2 to Badagry road.

So where are the roads that Buhari worked on? Northerners are complaining, Southerners are complaining –so let Buhari and Fashola come and show us the over 8,000 kilometres of roads they claim to have constructed.

Fashola! How can someone who ruled Lagos State and everyone was hailing him now become such an underperformer at the Federal level. Today, under his watch, do you know that all the roads into Lagos are bad? Begin from the Apapa and Tin-Can ports. Let me tell you, that place is a nightmare. There is less than 20 kilometres between Oshodi and Apapa Port –that is an international route. They failed to do it. Dangote finally took over the road from the government to do concrete matting. They have been on it for God knows how many years and yet they have not finished.

Before you go on, Sir, let me tell you that Daddy Mike in our church here has been telling me about that route. He was the one in charge of their company’s haulage; and he supervises clearing agents handling imported pulp for the tissue paper they produce. He says that from about N70,000 for one trailer load of container prior to 2015, clearing agents gradually upped the price. Do you know how much they haul one container between Apapa and Ajao Estate now?

How much?

N700,000!

Times 10!

Yes, times 10! The distance is under 15 kilometres. Bad roads are the culprit! Tankers can be on the queue into and out of Apapa Port for two weeks, sometimes even two months. They keep crawling until they get into the port. And do you know the real sorrow, Sir?

No, I am all ears.

Some trailers load those containers and fall right after leaving the ports because they jam those potholes. Many have died untimely. Look, blood is on these people’s necks.

I was talking about all the entrances into Fashola’s Lagos. When last did you pass through the Abeokuta-Lagos expressway, through Sango-Ota. Have you seen the state of the road lately?

Blame Olusegun Obasanjo for not taking advantage of his eight years as President from 1999 to 2007 to give himself and his kinsmen a befitting highway there.

One day, I passed there –terrible! We had to go through the inner streets at a point after Meiran to emerge in front, before we could reconnect the road again. Boys stationed themselves there. If you dare, they would wade through the water to lead you, letting you know the shallow points so you don’t sink.

How about entering Lagos through the Badagry-Seme road to connect the Benin Republic, or the Ijoko road to connect the Benin Republic? All of them are such a disgrace. I imagine our West African brothers whose countries have great roads, travelling into Nigeria through that axis. They will be wondering what the whole hype is about Nigeria being the Giant of Africa.

Giant of Africa my foot! That is why the Okada business is booming in that axis. Motorbikes provide commuters the easiest getaway for anyone who does not want to lose his sanity sitting in endless go-slow. Sometimes, drivers would veer off into adjoining communities to beat the unusual expressways, and then they must pay boys who have set up blocks inside to collect tolls.

Na wa o!

Even the Mubi road in Yola State, connecting Nigeria and Cameroon, I saw recently in one video where the Customs man single-handedly stopped oil smugglers smuggling refined products to Cameroun. No single coal-tar can be seen on that road. Abuja-Kaduna road is a write-off too. Apart from the insecurity, the state of the road was why travelling on it became unattractive and people embraced the train.

So where are Fashola’s 8,300 kilometres of roads?

One musician, when beginning his song, will say, “ANOTHER BANGER!” This is another banger from Fashola. Just as he did in Power and Housing, he has performed woefully in handling the roads construction portfolio. Do you know that it appears that both Fashola and Buhari came to demystify themselves with this regime?

Don’t say that. At least, give them credit for delivering the Second Niger Bridge…..

…. which Goodluck Jonathan started!

Look at Sister Yinka over there, she went to her hometown Owo, recently. Their vehicle had to go through the Ore-Ondo single carriageway before connecting Akure again and then heading for Owo. That added no less than two hours to the journey. The driver lamented that the more direct route through Ibadan and Ilesha had gone terribly bad. They are rehabilitating it, but it is as if they are doing the job half-heartedly. Dat go-slow no be here.

In September, their Minister of Information, said they had budgeted over N1.584trn for works and housing in six years of Buhari’s government, between 2016 and 2021. Let me Google where he said it.

Where are the roads? Even tanker drivers and oil sector stakeholders lament that bad roads contribute largely to fuel scarcity. NNPC says it has 2 billion litres, capable of lasting 30 days or more for the whole country, but it is locked up because tankers cannot access the fuel depots to lift products.

Yes, here is the Google. Lai Mohammed told a press conference in Abuja this September, and let me quote him: “Whereas we met a budget of N18.132 billion for the roads component of the Federal Ministry of Works when we assumed office in 2015, the budget for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing increased exponentially to N260.082 billion in 2016; N274.252 billion in 2017, N356.773 billion in 2018, N223.255 billion in 2019, N227.963 billion in 2020 and N241.864 billion in 2021.” Mohammed went on to say that their APC government had constructed 8,352.94 kilometres of roads, rehabilitated 7,936.05 kilometres more, constructed 299 bridges, and maintained 312 bridges more. Where are the roads?

It’s time to go home, Deacon. My wife and your Madam are coming. The choristers must have finished their practice.

This is really a government of propaganda. However, they forget that no matter how long falsehood travels, truth will catch up in a twinkling of an eye.

See you at Midweek Service on Wednesday, Sir.

God keep us.


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