SOMETHING GOOD IS HAPPENING IN NIGERIA, AT THE LEAST IN THE STATES
For over a week now, our airports and motor parks are overflowing with passengers. People are hustling and pushing to get a seat to travel out to the States to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with their folks. A friend of mine was struggling to get a ticket to Calabar on his way to Calabar Carnival and then on to Obudu Cattle Ranch. If you live in Lagos you will have noticed that the traffic situation has gotten so terrible in the last two weeks and I am wondering what the matter is. During this week, I was in Abuja and I could not distinguish Abuja from Lagos when it came to traffic congestion. Where have all these cars come from? Are they owned by ghosts or aliens? Are the drivers on sightseeing? They must be pursuing economic activities and that can only happen where something is happening.
But if you read the headlines in our Newspapers or some of the commentaries, you are encouraged to think that nothing is happening in Nigeria, except of course Poltics. Yes Politics, that has become the "opium" for Nigerians. They consume it waking up and lying down to sleep. And the recent (in)famous letter from the two term or three term(two terms civilian and one term military) President Obasanjo to the one term or one and half term( that is plus the approximate half term of Yardua's term) President Jonathan has added to the 'high' of the Nigerian Consumers. Even the purported reply by Dr Iyabo Obasanjo- ( I can not quite remember the suffix on the compound name or has the suffix been dropped, I am not sure, please forgive my amnesia) has only added spice to the cocktail. Then with our eyes quite open, yet it looks as if we were in a dream or watching a new version of the sinking of the Titanic, we are seeing the behemoth PDP seemingly disintegrate by an internal implosion,with its Governors and house members scattering and the new Mega Party APC gaining size apparently effortlessly. The implosion is heating up the polity and I hope I can wake up and find its all a dream. But yet, with all these Some people insist on trying to persuade us that Nothing is happening in Nigeria. Are they blind or what?
If you travel often by air, you will see except you are having visual defects that our Airports are getting prettier as FAAN works feverishly to complete one of the biggest Airport remodelling and upgrading projects I have seen in my life. Last week, I returned from a trip abroad and was pleasantly ushered into a remodelled wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport with three new luggage conveyor belts, bringing the total to five in that wing and with so much space and welcoming ambiance that I felt like dancing. So this has finally come to happen,after many years of complaining, wishing and praying. A few days ago, on my flight from Owerri back to Lagos, the Captain of the Aero flight announced openly that we should thank the MD of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) and his Agency for the innovations they have brought into air Navigational services. I was told that there is now total Radar coverage of all the airports in Nigeria, and that the journey between airports is now shorter, helping the airlines save some money on aviation fuel. Men, something is happening in the aviation sector.
Those of us who travel by roads will admit,if they are fair minded that the conditions of our trunk A roads have improved dramatically over the last two years. The journey to Benin from Lagos is now between 3-4 hours as against 6-8 hours in the recent past. If you pass through, the Abuja- Abaji - Lokoja road, the Enugu- Onitsha road, the Enugu- Portharcout highway, the East- West road in the Niger delta or even the Kano-Yobe-Maiduguri road in the troubled North East region, you will be impressed by the amount of work going on on those major arteries, some even nearing completion, ably supported by the SURE-P funds. I think something real good is happening in the Road sector and with the restart of the Lagos-Kano Western rail line, we could even say something good is happening in the transport sector. I am told that the Eastern line,will reopen for traffic early next year. That is indeed goodnews. It will give me the opportunity to relive my youthful experience of going by train from PH to Kaduna. This will of course be helped if the new Railway bill outstanding in the National Assembly can be passed, so that Private carriers can bring modern coaches and put new investment in the sector to make the journey fast and enjoyable as it used to be. I made this case in this column last week.
Every where we look in this beleaguered and often evil-spoken-of Nation of ours, things are happening. Just very recently,large chunks of investments flowed into this Nation through the Power Privitisation programme and I am told, the new owners are sourcing funds and concluding plans to revolutionise services in this critical sector, even as the Federal Government is unrelenting in making new investments to complete ongoing projects especially in Transmission. Here again, we expect that the transmission lines will be concessioned if not totally privitised in the shortest possible time to further debottle all bottlenecks.
Something is happening indeed and every where you look, you will see the evidence.
Now if you can not see anything happening on the National scene, then let me take you to the Sub-National scene. Have you been to Ondo, the Sunshine State to see how that hitherto rural state is being transformed? In deed Ondo has been singled out by the UN agencies as one the best places to be born on this Earth today, because of the revolutionary work the government is doing in healthcare,particularly in Maternal and Childcare. Has any one gone to Ekiti State recently to witness the excitement created by the transformational thinking in Education or have you not seen what the government in Ogun State is doing to create attractive infrastructure that is attracting significant Private sector investment into the State. Despite the security challenges in the North, the sustained investment in heathcare and education is bringing a lot of excitement among the young in Bauchi State. I passed through Enugu and Ebonyi States recently and was completely blown by the fine networks of roads across the length and breadth of the states. I was particularly amazed by the attention being paid to rural development in Ebonyi State using the political structure of Development Areas created around Each Local Government adminstration. I could not easily recover from my pleasant surprise to see the Chairman of Ohaozara local government gather his management staff from all the development areas and the councillors to a two-day Leadership and Management training at the Local Government headquarters in Obiozara, at which I was invited to be one of the facilitators. Riding on the the beautiful roads linking Enugu-PH highway to ,Ishiagu, to MPU ( Senate Deputy President's home),to Uburu( Dr Ogbonnaya Onu,s home), to Obiozara, some built by the Federal Government and some by the Statement Governments, I was angrily looking for those chronically pessimistic and negative or perhaps ignorant Nigerians who are busy poisoning the minds of other Nigerians that 'Nothing is happening in Nigeria'.
Across the length and breadth of this Nation, things are happening in States, some more significant than others.In many cities today, the night is as bright as the day with blazing streetlights. The infrastructural transformation of Akwa Ibom for me must be counted as one of the wonders of our time. I was thinking that the Governor would slow down with Road construction, after demystifying road construction, urban renewal and Julius Berger. But I was 'embarrased' to see something that looked like a Six lane new highway being constructed between Uyo and Ikot Ekpene and perhaps beyond. No body can know with this 'bulldozer' of a governor will do next or how far he can push the frontiers of physical development. Even before Rivers State became politically challenged and some how got distracted, the rate of infrastructural development( both Economic and Social) was dizzying. Even in Abia State with a history of poor governance, things have picked up in the last two years or so. I passed through Umuahia last week on my way to Elu-Ohafia, and almost missed my way. I was looking for the central Umuahia market( Ogwumabiri) to take my bearing and was shocked that this old market that has occupied the centre of the State capital for decades,making the town retain its rural image had 'vanished'. On my way to Uzuakoli after retracing my way, I found a modern market tucked away in a nice spacious and serene environment. When I asked, I was told that was the Umuahia Central market reincarnated. The current government of Abia has been engaging in legacy projects like a befitting State House, a new Civil Service Secretariat, adequate court rooms, upgrading of health institutions, basic things which a state needs to function as a proper state, but which had been left unattended after nearly 12 years of Civil Democracy. So even in my own Abia something good is happening. And then when you come to Lagos, you will be proud to be a Nigerian. A city once touted as one of the dirtiest and most lawless in the World has become a beautiful and ordered city where many things are happening and many things are working. Guys, Nigeria is on the move and nothing can stop us, neither PDP nor APC, neither the Senate nor the House except WE Nigerians!
Of course I am not saying that Nigeria or its constituent parts has or have become Eldorado. No, far from that. Our Country is still underperforming,no doubt; we are not where we ought to be at this time, nor can we show commensurate results for all of our income and expenditure as a Nation. Unemployment and Poverty remain high in our Nation and we are struggling with security in many parts of our Country but good things are happening in our Country all the same. Indeed more good things than bad. And I believe that as we look forward to celebrating 2013 Christmas in a few days time, we should pause to count our blessings and give thanks to God.Merry Christmas Nigerians!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa ofr