One of the expectations I have of any government in a democratic dispensation is respect for the dignity of the people, their time and an unmistakable, even jealous, assurance of their security.
Any government or official of government that fails on these fronts is to my mind out of tune with the demands of democratic governance. That system needs a quick revamp.
You will understand what I am talking about if you have had cause to travel to Lagos by road in the past six weeks or so. I understand that the construction work being executed by Julius Berger is necessary and ultimately aimed at making the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway safer for Nigerians, but an intervention of such magnitude should not bring the level of hardship that Nigerians currently face on that road.
I have heard stories of people who were in traffic for hours because of ongoing construction work. I have read of instances when commuters were held up overnight until the very early hours of the next day. Yet this is a major throughway into the nation’s commercial centre.
So if you are planning a trip to Lagos for a business meeting or some other business venture be rest assured that you will arrive late but what should worry you more is the fact that it is impossible to estimate how long you might be delayed on the expressway.
And here is the problem I have with decision makers in our country. Before any public works department embarks on this scale of construction or reconstruction in countries where the people mean anything, where time is of value and where the security of lives and property matter, there would be a massive awareness campaign to prepare the people, government and the construction entity would have designed alternative routes (and means of transportation where possible), sometimes, round the clock security would be provided (so criminals are not left in doubt) and a time-table that would give the populace an idea of the terminal date of their suffering would be in the public domain. In some instances, construction work will go on 24 hours of the day just to speed things up.
But that never happens in Nigeria. An alternative route was created on this particular road a few weeks back only after users complained about the unbearable suffering that they encountered. There has been no attempt to update the people on the state of the project, even as you cannot say that there is any dedicated plan to secure the lives of people on that road in spite of its porosity.
And then, you will find traffic building up sometimes for as long as six or seven kilometers while the only manifest evidence of activity would be at the tail end of the traffic. All these in a country where emergency services are nearly non-existent. And then, for exactly how long will this nightmare go on?
My suggestion is that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing lead his people to abbreviate this particular suffering and ensure that Nigerias gets better treatment from public works departments and their contractors in future. I do not think it speaks well of a country of the size and resources of Nigeria that citizens stay in traffic for hours on end on a daily basis.
This must be one of the priority items that we should have in this administration’s change package.