It is no longer news that Federal road infrastructure across the length and breadth of Ondo State has practically broken down for a while now. It is also a fact that the State government is grappling with the State and Municipal roads most of which had been decripit and riddled with potholes.
The unspoken open secret is that as it is today, Ondo State is on the brink of being excised out of the Federal Republic of Nigeria given the absolute neglect evidenced by the state of the federal roads that lead to and from the State from all directions particularly from the Seat of Power, Abuja.
To the untutored or the one who has not had to travel on those roads, this may be an exaggeration. I, on the other hand, has my hometown and Local Govt at the northern tip of the State and must therefore use those roads or what is left of them to get there if I must visit my people from Abuja.
Not minding the expected crucifixion from political jobbers and bootlickers, I have decided to bring to the fore this dehumanizing, demoralizing and economically disadvantageous anomaly called “bad roads” by sharing a bit of my personal experience as I journeyed from Abuja to Akure over the weekend.
Experience, they say is the best teacher, but in the light of the circumstances that surrounded mine, I would not even want my adversary (assuming without conceding that I have one) to pass through this kind of hardship that has been sheepishly tolerated by road users over the years.
I had secretly wished that the whole outcry about the decrepit state of the so-called Federal roads in Ondo State was an undue exaggeration but to my greatest consternation, it is far from being one. To say the roads are terrible and almost irreparably bad might just be the understatement of the year!
The journey to Ondo State was premised on the need to attend a Civic Reception held in Okeagbe Akoko, in honour of my brother, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo who is the current lawmaker representing Akoko North East/ North West Federal constituency at the Federal House of Representatives and to attend within the week the new Legal Year Ceremonies to which I was invited by the Chief Judge of Ondo State.
By my modest estimation, with a good road network, travelling from Abuja to Akure should not exceed four hours. It is sad and regrettable that I drove in a convoy of my friends and aides for more than eight hours before we could even get to Oke-Agbe, Akoko, let alone Akure.
The roads can at best be described as impassable and deplorable contraptions that should not be meant for human transportation in this 21st century. As a matter of fact, if cows and goats could speak, they would complain if made to traverse those roads! Yes, they are that bad!
The Akoko end of the road is beyond description as they are worse than mere dirt roads. For instance, the thirty kilometres stretch of road from Omuo-Ekiti to Okeagbe-Akoko which ordinarily should not be more than a 15-min drive is now a 2-hour journey while the Ishua-Ifira-Idoani-Ipele Road has totally collapsed with huge gulleys and craters at several points on the road.
By the time I got to Okeagbe, I was so desperately looking forward to speeaking with some of the senior public officials that were billed to attend the occasion. I had hoped that at the end of the “hellish” trip to the event which was expected to attract a lot of important dignitaries including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to Okeagbe Akoko, Ondo State, I would have the opportunity to take the issue up with the egregious Speaker and stir up yet another legislative debate on the issue of the deplorable roads in my dear State.
Unfortunately, and to my chagrin, the esteemed No 4 Citizen had not only left but I also received the news that he had come to Okeagbe, not by the poor roads but by chopper! I am however quite confident that it was a good thing that he did not come by road to the event to the extent that, had he so done, we would both have come into the venue only after the event!
Having said the above, I wish to decry the penchant of our public officials for travelling to every every event however remote by either plane or helicopter. I guess even their “jeeps” can no longer ply those roads!
Even if I had had the good fortune to meet the egregious Speaker of the House at that occasion, how was I to discuss meaningfully with him the import and weight of an experience which he has never had? It is often said that he who wears the shoe knows how and where it pinches, how therefore am I to discuss the issue of those deplorable roads with someone who elected to fly with an helicopter?
The Oka-Akungba-Owo Road which now primarily serves as the gateway to the North from the South-West is only slightly better as there are large portions of potholes and craters there too!
Needless to say, it took a large dose of analgesics to cope with the resultant aches and pains that I was afflicted with after journeying as if one was wrestling with a pack of wild wolves and a pride of lions.
It is therefore incumbent on me to place it on record that as far as road infrastructure in Ondo State is concerned, the much sought-after federal presence is still a mirage. It is almost non-existent.
This reeks of social injustice meted out by the Federal Government to a State that benefits the nation in terms of its vast human and mineral resources. It should sadden every right thinking individual that the 4th largest State-producer of oil in Nigeria has an almost inaccessible road network to the nation’s capital.
It should not be surprising that the State has been in the news for kidnappings and the likes as traversing to Akure from Akure is an eye-opener to all the forms of evil that commuters are exposed to daily on that route.
It stands to reason that criminals would capitalize on the poor state of these roads to carry out heinous and nefarious activities such as extortion, armed robbery and kidnapping. It is in fact easier to kidnap a person than to pick a snail on the roads.
Only recently, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo (Elizade), commendably had to use his personal resources to construct/repair some kilometres of roads in his hometown, Ilara Mokin, in Ondo State! However, how many of us can be like that? How many of us have such resources? Moreover, at what point does the Citizen stop being a government unto himself? When one considers the fact that the Citizen sources his own water, electricity, education, security, healthcare, etc by himself, you are constrained to ask if he must provide the road he travels upon too!
I must therefore on behalf of the people of Ondo State and the commuters who regularly use those roads state the imperative of an urgent intervention by the Federal Government in the matter of their roads in Ondo State.
At this juncture, I must acknowledge the efforts of the Governments of both Ondo and Ekiti States to repair some of the federal roads within their respective states in spite of the meagre resources at their disposal to ease the sufferings and hardships of commuters within their domain.
Not being unmindlful of the tier who bears the constitutional and fiscal responsiblity of constructing, repairing and maintaining those roads, I wish to call on the Federal Government to fulfill its own obligation by ensuring that the refunds on the road repairs done by States are effected on time to the respective States.
This is expedient because one of the imperatives of economic growth is the availability of a good road infrastructure without which, it is doubtful that the country and the respective states will make any meaningful progress.