By Bukola Yusuf
To say that it’s been a mixed experience for Nigerians since democracy came calling again in I999 is probably an understatement. Progress has been made in different sectors, but much remains to be done. In particular, as Nigerians seek to navigate the business of stepping into the global modern economy, the perennial question of bad roads has tended to remain stark. Poor road network is one of the banes of the Nigerian economy: vehicles getting spoilt on the roads is a daily occurrence. For vast populations of Nigerians, the movement of goods from one place to the other remains herculean. Perishable goods get spoilt on farmlands. In Ogun, as in every other state, efforts have since 1999 been made in road construction, but far much more remains to be done than has been done over the years. And this is where, happily, the road revolution currently ongoing in Ogun State should engage critical attention.
Anyone visiting Ogun State in recent times will readily attest to the fact that it is fast becoming a huge construction site. Increasingly, people are beginning to see Governor Dapo Abiodun’s vast imprints in various sectors. To say the very least, the importance of good roads in Ogun, the closet neighbouring state to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, cannot be overemphasized. And no sooner had Prince Abiodun assumpted office last year than he directed the newly reinvigorated Ogun State Public Works Agency (OGPWA) to embark on rehabilitation and reconstruction of major roads across the state, access roads linking the hinterlands, and inner city roads, the objective being to give the state the befitting status it deserves.
There were houses demolished during the immediate past administration, ostensibly to pave way for road construction. The people waited but the roads never came, and the situation naturally also led to ecological problems. In this connection, it is cheering news that long abandoned roads are receiving attention. Only two weeks ago, there was jubilation among residents of Asero and Obantoko communities in Abeokuta, the state capital, as the Abiodun-led government completed work on the Fajol-American Junction-Gbonagun road. The residents comprising traders, motorists, okada riders and other road users expressed joy and appreciation to Prince Abiodun for coming to their rescue by fixing the road long neglected by previous administrations in the state. Their joy was not without context: traveling on the road, which cuts across two local government areas, namely Abeokuta South and Odeda, had been a nightmare for years. But the completion of the 7.2km road, an alternative route, had brought them great relief, eliminating the traffic gridlock daily experienced by motorists and other road users on the Abeokuta-Ibadan highway.
A fuel attendant in a fuel station located along the route could not contain her excitement. Hear her: “The reconstructed road is going to be a big relief to students, residents and motorists plying the route. Students in particular will heave a sigh of relief, because when the road was near impassable, it took a huge toll on them, as they got to their respective schools late. We witnessed heavy traffic jam on a daily basis along this route. Even with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the government to close all educational institutions, it was hell passing through this route.” Her views were shared by Alhaja Mutiat Kolawole, a provisions vendor who said: “I am one of the happiest souls in this community. This is a big relief to us here. We have had many governments in the past and they came, promising heaven and earth during campaigns, only to renege on their promises when they got into the exalted office. But this very governor, Dapo Abiodun, is God-sent and he is doing great with the many projects he has embarked upon since he assumed office a year ago. He is a man of his word. I pray that Almighty God continues to use him to turn the fortunes of the state around for good, for the benefit of all and sundry.”
The excitement in Abeokuta had hardly died down when the Abiodun government, in fulfillment of his 2019 pledge to reconstruct roads in the communities hit by flood, unveiled multiple roads across the state. These included the Asafa-Ayegun-Ojofa and Molipa-Fusigboye and Hospital roads in Ijebu-Ode, together with Baruwa Street in Sagamu local government area of the state. The 1.5km and 1.3km roads were built with the appropriate drainage, to avert a recurrence of tragic floods in the state, and were immediately left open for use by road users who commended the government’s efforts in the development of road infrastructure across the state. Apart from the roads in Ijebu Ode, work is currently ongoing on Odo Afá road and bridge, Agosasa, in Ipokia local government area of the state; the Awùjalè-Oke Àjé-Stadium road in Ijebu-Ode and the 4.7km Oru-Awa-Ilaporu road in Ijebu North Local Government, which is 75 per cent completed, as well as Oba Erinwole road. None of Governor Abiodun’s predecessors did up to 20km in his first year. But in the last one year, the total length of roads newly constructed is 87km, with 20.35km completed before May 29. The total length of roads rehabilitated is 68km.
The roads include: Obantoko road, Idi Aba- Elite-Oke Lantoro, Abeokuta; Abeokuta-Sagamu Interchange, Ikola/Navy-Osi Ota Road; Raypower Road, Ota, State Hospital, Ilaro Internal Road Network; Ota Owode-Idiroko; Molipa-Fusigboye-Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Asafa Oke-Asafa Isale-Ayegun- Ojofa Street, Ijebu-Ode; Bright Fashion Baruwa Street, Sagamu; Hospital Road, Sagamu; Oba Erinwole Dual Carriageway, Oru-Awa-Alaporu-Ibadan; Adigbe Bridge, Ikoritameje-Adenrele/Olose Titun-Vespa, Ifo, Iberekodo General Hospital Internal Road, Abeokuta, Iperu Ilishan, Sagamu Iperu Ode, Siun Ogere. Prince Abiodun is also constructing 14-kilometer Ijebu-Ode-Epe road. The road, which lies at the border area and connects Ogun to Lagos, has a dual-carriageway with 10 lanes, four on each side, a pull-out section, and a 14-lane toll plaza for easy payment of toll.
“This man is talk-and-do, not a propagandist,” Kayode Adewale, a resident of Imeko Afon, enthused. “With roads everywhere we can already see that agriculture and business have received a massive boost. Even with the limitations of Covid-19, we continue to see projects week after week. My advice is that the governor remains focused on his Build Our Future Together mantra even while critics seek to distract him.”
*Yusuf writes from Abeokuta