Posted by Pat Utomi | 24 July 2013 | 3,943 times
An amazing thing about light is you can see the damage it does to darkness when just a ray shines through. It is often that opinions focus on what is not being done in Nigeria, the darkness, but on the road last week I felt some relief, I went from the heart of Port Harcourt to the Governor’s office in Asaba in two and half hours at rush hour peak.
Many years ago, living in the United States as a graduate student I learnt that the English Language could be violated by advertising. How do you spell relief? The answer was R-O-L-A-I-D-S. I did not quite begin to spell relief the way the antacid’s name reads but I found that I could spell relief in different ways. One naughty classmate of mine used to spell it SHIT. According to him, if you need to go badly and you go you will truly know how to spell relief. To that I used to respond with an even naughtier joke about the big Indian Chief that desired relief. He had not had bowel movement for days. So his emissary went to the medicine man and said: big chief, no shit. He got a dose of laxatives. To ensure relief he over administered the stuff, with deadly consequences. He returned to the medicine man panting: Big shit, no chief.
I have never thought relief from traffic jam in Port Harcourt could ever be big enough, certainly not so big that the outcome negates the goal like the death of the Indian chief. That’s how frightening I used to consider Port Harcourt traffic. You would be yourself if you slept in traffic inside Port Harcourt just trying to get to Owerri, only to arrive the following morning. After that experience from several years ago I came to think of Port Harcourt traffic the way Lagos traffic was in the 1970s when Ikorodu road was transiting from two – lane carriage and a trip to the airport could take longer, indeed much longer, than the flight from Lagos to London.
Recently I was to speak at the Rivers State job creation summit in Port Harcourt and the following morning at Asaba. I was so fixated on the traffic getting out of Port Harcourt and what was the bad road to Asaba. I asked that the driver arrives at 5: 00am. But as these things happen the driver was not there until 7:15am. You can just imagine my state of mind about how late I would be to the Asaba event.
The night before, I had, after my speech at the Summit, visited with the Governor. He asked if I was disposed to joining him on an inspection tour of construction sites. I affirmed. He stepped into the driver’s seat and another guest got in the car to begin a really interesting surprise visit to construction sites. Truly impressive stuff. I came back with much hope that some of those constructions would lift the load from Aba road. But I had put that to sometime next year. A note about governors as drivers. Having been driven round Jos, Owerri, Akure and now PH by an incumbent governor I think they drive better than their official drivers. But back to serious business.
When the driver came at 7:15 I figured it would take us till about 9:15 to get from the hotel, through the city to the road leading to Owerri. I then hoped I would be on the road another three and half hours, which it took me the last time I travelled from Port Harcourt. To my surprise we went from The Juanita Hotel to the highway in minutes. But for a short patch in Imo State where construction was still going on, the journey was motorway driving all the way. By 10:00am, I was in Asaba.
This led me to thinking that because we are often so distracted by bad politics the points of progress just slip by without becoming the energizer for more good outcomes. The bad politics was so much in the air as I visited Rivers state. The day before I arrived four governors from the North had come on a solidarity visit to Rotimi Amaechi, their Rivers counterpart, to express concern not only about goings-on in his state House of Assembly, a body he once presided over as Speaker, but in Nigeria. The motorcade of the visiting governors received pelting from a group of anti – Amaechi elements. Fortunately, the Governor managed to exercise restraint. Had he decided on fire for fire Rivers would have witnessed a blood bath, as I predicted on my blog when this crisis began. But the bottom line is that the bad politics was not allowing either the Federal Government or even the Amaechi government to focus on the various works at hand and showcase what I would enjoy that morning in my smooth cruise to Asaba.
Surely the Federal Government had overcome the long standing bogey and evil spirit that stood in the way of completing the Onitsha – Owerri highway. Same for ensuring a good window on the amazing construction work Amaechi is carrying out to save Port Harcourt from traffic hell.
We cannot continue like this. As I left town, Governors from the South West came to show solidarity with Chibuike Amaechi. All men of goodwill should surely stand up against impunity. There is more to life than politics.
•This piece originally appeared on the Facebook page of Prof Utomi late yesterday. Utomi (shown in photo) is a Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship based in Lagos. He is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
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