As the rainy season has started rather early this year, many Nigerians are rejoicing. At least, the weather is now less harsh, making it a bit bearable to stay without public electric supply, if it ever comes though.
But for the people in such communities as Ajah, Langbasa, Addo and Badore on the Lekki Peninsula of Lagos State, these are terrifying times. The only road which links them to the rest of the state is in its worst shape ever, and the rains can only worse it.
On Saturday, February 24, 2018, motorists spent some four hours on this road, a journey which during the administrations of Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola would take just 10 minutes. The reason for the unprecedented traffic gridlock was the rainfall of the previous night which created potholes and expanded existing ones into craters. The drainage facilities have to this day remained blocked by silt.
The drains, called gutters in the layman’s language, have not been cleared for once since Akinwunmi Ambode became Lagos State governor in May, 2015. This is not a brilliant record.
Needless to add, motorists, passengers, pedestrians, and motorcyclists rained curses and abuses on the current Lagos State Government when they got stuck in traffic on February 24. They had reasons to feel betrayed by the state government. On August 22, 2017, Governor Ambode held the quarterly Town Hall Meeting in Badore. Conducted with pomp and circumstance, it was attended by thousands of people, including the Deputy Governor, senators, House of Representatives members and many other eminent personalities. The governor spoke well, and charmed the audience with his knowledge of the state.
In response to the request that he repair the eight-kilometre Ajah-Addo-Langbasa-Badore, which was expanded and reconstructed by Tinubu 11 years ago and completed by Fashola, the governor announced that he would overhaul the road and even expand it. He said that he would add the BRT lane so that special buses which charge competitive fares could ply in the area. The crowd clapped enthusiastically.
He was to get a greater ovation when he announced that the contract had been awarded, and that the contractor would start work by September, that’s, in a month’s time. Not done, the governor told the fawning crowd that the contract for the road linking the area from Okeira to the Abraham Adesanya Estate near the Lagos Business School, a distance of about five kilometres, had been awarded. The applause had hardly died down when, in a well-measured tone, he called the attention of the audience to his plans to link the Badore community to the Lekki Housing Estate Phase via the waterfront. The people now went wild with excitement.
They became uncontrollable with excitement when he spoke of plans to link the Ajah community to Tom Island by constructing a bridge on the Badore Lagoon, so that the people would stop going about in a terrible circuitous way to reach other parts of the state.
The bad news is that six months, or a whole half a year, later, no action whatsoever has been taken on any of these promises. The September dateline for road construction and reconstruction has turned out to be a fluke. The people are no longer expecting Ambode to construct any road or expand any one.
All they want him to do is just to patch the spots where the Ajah-Addo-Langbasa-Badore Road has failed, leading to easily the worst traffic gridlock in the country. The other thing they want him to do is just to clear the drainage of all the rubbish which blocks flood water.
The people have resorted to the simple requests because, I am afraid to report, their confidence in the Ambode administration to do such things as road construction or reconstruction in the area has been shaken at many points. Perhaps, the situation would not have been this bad if only the Lagos State Government had explained to the people the reason for the failure to start work last September or apologised to them, with a promise to start work anytime the situation changes. But the government has just ignored the people, an action the people regard as treating them with contempt.
Some of us have on various occasions requested the Lagos State Public Works Department to assist with repairs of the failed portions of the only road in our area which leads to over 40 housing estates. But on each occasion, we were told since last year, “Don’t worry. The state government is about to expand and reconstruct the road. So, there is no point fixing any portion right now”. To repeat the obvious, all we want the state government right now is to, in God’s name, patch the road. A situation where we spend a whole four hours on practically one spot is enough to make people mad. Worse, the rains are just beginning.
The situation on the Ajah area becomes more infuriating when we pass through Epe or go for sightseeing or whatever. Not only is work going at a frenetic speed in the whole of Epe, the quality of road construction and the number of roads being created or being expanded are unimaginable. You would think you are in the middle of Germany, which has the best road network in Europe. The roads in Epe, Ambode’s hometown, are so strongly built that it is unlikely that there could be a pothole on any of them in the next 20 years, even if a bomb should explode on any of them. The quality and pace of the work and the number are quite commendable. But when more critical parts of Lagos State like Ajah, a key component of the Lekki Peninsula, are abandoned so that they could become ghettoes in no time while a rural community like Epe is being turned into heaven on earth even when it has limited economic value, the Ambode administration is providing ammunition for critics to charge it with nepotism, the type worse than President Muhammadu Buhari’s.
Apart from the millions of naira which the Ambode administration generates regularly from the lands and choice properties in this part of Lagos which is an upscale market, it should be noted that much of the sand used in building houses in a substantial part of the Lagos metropolis is obtained from the Ajah community. In fact, the humungous sand dredging here and the endless fleet of big trucks which transport the sand are a major cause of the collapse of the Ajah-Addo-Langbasa-Badore Road. Of course, the state government collects huge taxes and levies from the business. Why Ambode has not been able to fix the road but spends a fortune on the transformation of his sleepy Epe community is a conundrum which only himself can unravel.
With the APC administration at the national level waning in popularity on account of President Buhari’s nepotism and generally poor record in office since 2015, Governor Ambode has to watch it in Lagos. An APC member myself, I advise Ambode to recognise the strategic nature of both of both his office and the state in the APC’s future. The line between success and failure is very thin, all the more so in politics.
Ambode should not add the mess which the Ajah area of the Lekki Peninsula has become to the list of such grand policy failures as the overtaking of Lagos State by garbage which could make the state foremost incubator of Lassa fever in Nigeria. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.