Despite the Amotekun palaver and the political heat generated by the illegality or not, of the regional security outfit, the North east still takes centre stage when it comes to public discourse. The recent wager by the No Boko guys, especially with the furore from the military personnel that didn’t take kindly to Gov. Zulum’s outburst over their conduct along the Maiduguri/ Damaturu (Yobe) expressway, has further complicated matters, and the fight against ‘ba boko’ has suffered huge setbacks, with the terrorists attacking commuters with reckless abandon, while the military personnel seem to have abandoned their posts, and innocent civilians are left with no succour in sight. The North east has driven political discourse since 2015, and the success or not of the government of that day, and today, will be gauged by its progress and development, and the insecurity pillaging the region. Reason, alongside Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have nipped the Ametokun fire in the bud and saner solutions have been found, which would see to government participation in the security outfit, as should be, constitutionally. Tinubu is such a leader after all, and the disclaimers to this attestation from certain South western quarters that believe otherwise, have once more been put to either shame or doubt, as 2023 approaches.
This leaves me with the North east, as of grave concern, and this concern centres around one of Tinubu’s ‘boys’, Fashola to be precise, as the Minister of Works,(and formerly of power & housing). It is worthy of note and commendation that the Federal Government, in collaboration with the Borno state government, is building over 10,000 houses, in addition to previous ones, to ameliorate the accommodation problems due to the insurgency in the state. Borno and Yobe state governments, over the years, had embarked on massive reconstruction projects, as the most ravaged states of the North east dilemma. Massive works have been carried out by the respective state governments, especially that of the former Borno state government of Kashim Shettima. Schools, hospitals and housing estates as well as rural housing, have been developed by Kashim, as rebuilding efforts that have seen the light of day — including an industrial park, housing various local production plants for plastics, tomatoes, furniture, and numerous other products.
The crux of the matter that I shall dwell upon are the roads in the North east, and other linkage roads, that are corridors and gateways for the people of the North east; which connect the region to the North west and North central, and eventually the FCT. The Abuja/ Kaduna highway has received some attention, especially that a considerable portion of Elrufai’s energy is almost wholly absorbed by the troubles of that road; that have been caused by banditry and other forms of terror. The Kaduna/ Kano highway cannot brag of the same, as the Abuja – Kaduna road had long found solace in the train route, which is preferred even by senior security officials. The more important citizens of Kano and Kaduna utilise air travel, and thus the condition of the road is not of much concern to them.
The more deplorable routes are the Abuja — Keffi — Akwanga — Jos road, or the Abuja — Keffi — Bade — Gidan Waya roads that all lead to Jos, the Plateau state capital. The Bauchi — Plateau road that used to be pothole-less, is now fast joining its Bade, Gidan waya counterparts, and every now and then, one encounters potholes and ditches, that are as deep as the height of a 50 litres jerry-can (if we can still figure that out as fuel scarcity has left us for a while). The most unkempt and horrid road is the Jos — Kaduna highway. Plying that road is the most horrifying and taxing driving experience ever. ‘Kukuma’ write-off your vehicles ball joints, lower arms and or upper arms, in just a trip or a little over a trip, and if you’re not lucky, even your shocks!
To be honest, those roads were more ply-able and better managed during the Jonathan administration, than what avails now. They have gotten worse. FERMA used to be one agency that does the maintenance exercise of filling the potholes which subsists, tops, for less than a year, and it’s the same repairs the following year. Now, even that is bleak and almost totally absent. Thank God, we have daily flights to Gombe and Bauchi states now, which cushions the destructive effect, those roads have on our hard earned tokunbo vehicles. We have now been forbidden from buying or using low profile tyres because if you do, the roads will cause you the loss of an arm and a limb. Your rims and tyres are history if you dare try. If one is travelling to Kano, Jos to Kaduna, or Bauchi to Gombe, or Gombe to Yola, you are only safer taking a commercial vehicle in either a Vectra saloon, or a Sharon wagon, hopefully with a sensible driver. Accidents are all over the road every day. People are dying in tens!
The roads have not changed if the government has changed. On a road trip to Maiduguri in 2018, I saw some SUKUK funded portions of the road, from Maiduguri to Damaturu, and that was it, but all the same, I was impressed. Somehow, the few splinters of road reconstruction that gave us hope, have fast disappeared. And just like my dear President, General Buhari would ask, “where is the power”? I put my question to the Hon. Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola Esq., where are the roads and the SUKUKs? Is the problem from the budget? Where is the budget? It’s not cash backed yet?
Abuja, Kaduna and perhaps Kano residents have ready transport in the re-invented railways. Lagos, Ibadan and Warri people too, have both the newly constructed roads and the railways to fall back to, and in due time, both will be ready God willing, for full utility. What about us in Plateau and Bauchi or Gombe? The Kano/ Maiduguri road is another sore-eye, as far as this administration’s road re-construction is concerned. I wish Fashola were on the proposed 2023 candidates for President and Vice-Presidency, then we would have a Fashola, running from pillar to post, trying to secure a North eastern support base for himself. As for now, the North east is suffering enough sufferage from both insecurity and poor infrastructure in the form of roads especially. The Keffi-Abuja contractor is so slow, we have no faith that the road will reach Jos, not to talk of Bauchi or Gombe, before PMB leaves. Please sir, Hon. Minister, these roads should be part of PMB’s legacy projects. The type of attention the 2nd Niger bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway are receiving is much needed over here, in the North east as well. Perhaps our North east agenda Forum should move for a Fashola presidential candidacy, maybe that will lure his attention here.