June 27, 2021
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Driving past Challenge, Ibadan, has a different feel these days. No longer can errant okada riders, impatient motorists and tricycle riders daring at every touch of the accelerator create ruckus while negotiating the maze that was Challenge Roundabout. The road, widened by the previous administration to ease flow of traffic, was large enough for at least three rows of vehicles to plow through unhindered, but the Roundabout almost always hosted chaos.

Here’s why:   motorists coming from Ring Road had different destinations in mind. Some wanted to negotiate the roundabout and head back to the Iyana Anfani-Iyana Adeoyo axis, some had Molete in mind, while others wanted to access Orita Challenge and Ibadan Toll Gate roads. But since there were no demarcations to link each turn, chaos reigned supreme. Then, further down from the Roundabout, there was the traffic hiccup at  Felele junction: motorists heading towards Ring Road, Orita Challenge or Molete shouted themselves hoarse. Tempers flared and clashes were frequent.

But no more: Challenge, its fortunes turned around by the Seyi Makinde administration, is now a picture of calm, of order imposed by engineering. These days, no motorist heading to Orita Challenge has any reason whatsover for a hold-up at Challenge: those intent on a U-turn have their lane, and the Challenge-Molete route is now clearly and masterfully marked out. Ditto for Felele. But that’s just one side of the coin. The other, the picture of aesthetics that envelopes the road user as (s)he traverses this newly minted junction in the ancient city, is in itself a massive cause for cheer. Challenge is now a beauty to behold, recalling the words on marble uttered by John Keats, a bard for all seasons: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty…” Keats had in mind many visions, but they were all inspired by the creative carvings on the Grecian urn that inflamed his creative genius. The beauty in Challenge is simply arresting. Watch out for the exploitation of this beauty by filmmakers of different hues in the days ahead…

It was only a little while ago that Governor Makinde  approved the contract for the execution of the junction improvement works at Challenge Roundabout and Felele/Idi-Odo Junction. The objective was clear: to ensure the installation of an intelligent transportation system: traffic signals, traffic signal installation, traffic signs, anti-finger metal security fence and other infrastructure with a control room and coordination traffic signal devices. According to him, the system would serve as a major catalyst for traffic solutions at the Challenge, Felele/Idi-Odo junctions. But the journey wasn’t always smooth, and many a road user expressed innocence regarding what really was being done. Was there going to be an overhead bridge in the manner of the structure at Molete, or was this just mere further widening of the road? The answer came two weeks ago with the finished product, complete with all the components of a modern intelligent transportation system, an ultramodern car park and anti-finger metal security fence that now provide order and comfort for all.

Inaugurating the projects as he clocked two years in office on May 29, Makinde said they would serve as a catalyst for traffic solutions. “I can report to you that we have been doing what we promised we would do,” he said  amid roaring applause. To Oyo residents, though, this is no surprise, as they have learnt to expect nothing below excellence from the man they proudly call GSM. “He is really doing well,” said Madam Adeniyi Agboola, a trader. “When you consider what we have here, the landfill at Awotan and the construction of link roads at Akobo, you can see that he is attending to projects that have immediate impact on the lives of the people. It is not only roads that he is constructing. He has resolved the LAUTECH problem. He abolished school fees in primary and secondary schools—he’s attending to the needs of traders, students, civil servants. We are happy.

Agboola was apparently referring to the roads linking the Ojoo expressway beside the General Gas-Akobo Bridge, and the one beside the NNPC Mega station, both aimed at bringing relief to road users constantly facing  traffic gridlock along the Akobo-Ojurin federal road, but residents of Ibadan can also point to the 21-kilometre Ajia-Airport road with a spur to Amuloko, the Apete-Awotan-Akufo road and many others described as dreams come true. But these projects are nothing compared with Makinde’s newly built 65-kilometre Moniya-Ojutaye-Ijaiye-Iseyin Road, a project targeted at opening up the state and expanding its economy, particularly its vast agricultural potential. In August 2019 when he revoked the N7 billion Moniya-Iseyin Road project while speaking at the launch of a $5 million Agribusiness Project Initiative by Farmcrowdy in Ibadan, citing the contractor’s lack of capacity, opposition elements put his submission down to bad politics. But as the governor had insisted: “Even though the owner of the firm is known to me, I cannot mix friendship with the business of governance.’’

All of that is history. In only 18 months, the project was done, leaving many astounded. Consider this testimony by a writer:  “Three years ago, I had a reason to go to the NYSC Orientation Camp in Iseyin. The road to take was the 65km Moniya (Ibadan)-Iseyin road. I was on that road as a reporter in 1996 or ‘97 when it was reworked and commissioned by Col. Ahmed Usman, now late. Twenty-three years after that reportorial experience, I met a road that was more ghastly than horror. As I groaned in the car, I pitied others, including poor, fragile corps members in creaky buses. There was also the ever-present fear of the grim terrain presenting a perfect field of play for marauding herdsmen. It was a 40-minute trip that took three hours; a journey I wouldn’t wish for my enemy. So when in 2019 Governor Makinde said he would reconstruct the road and deliver it in 18 months, I laughed and simply glazed his words in cynical frames. But, today, the road is ready, rebuilt and it is marvelous in our eyes. If I had not been a victim, perhaps I would be on the other cynical, sniggering side. But I suffered it, and I am bold to state that because of a decision that was right, a million others won’t go through what I went through.”

The reporter’s qualms are not without cause: Makinde exudes a calm demeanor, he does not scream in the name of speech, and he shies away from the gutter language that is the wont of many a miscreant in Government House. But as many across the country have come to discover, he is clinical in his presentation, broad in his vision, and unsparing in the execution of stated goals.

Dr. Samuel Ortom, special guest of honour during the road’s commissioning, commended Makinde for delivering such a massive project, among many others, despite the economic challenges and other odds that had befallen the nation, and for standing by his people. In his address, Makinde, at the occasion witnessed by the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji and other notable traditional rulers, especially from the Oke Ogun zone of the state, said the road would enhance the socioeconomic development of the state and play a major role in engineering a modern Oyo State. As he noted, the project aligned with his administration’s focus on lifting the people of the state from poverty to prosperity and seeking “a modern Oyo State where the prosperity of the people through economic integration serves as the fulcrum of government’s decisions.”

The people, enthralled by the project, came out in willing numbers. And Makinde traced its trajectory: “The state of this road kept people away from going from Moniya to Iseyin. On a good day, they would spend three hours out here. You can then imagine what it would be like on a bad day when perhaps a truck had broken down at one of the terrible spots.  Although a contract for the rehabilitation of this road was awarded by the previous administration, our initial inspection visits in 2019 revealed that the contractors had not even done 5 per cent of the work here before abandoning it. We therefore had to revoke and re-award the contract. I always say that whatever decisions we make at any point in this administration will be based on science, data and logic. So, we factored in that we wanted this road to be top grade and last at least 10 years before any rehabilitation. For this reason, we decided to increase the stubbing course from about 150mm to about 200mm, and we also changed the asphaltic wearing course from 40mm to 50mm. Looking at the initial design, we also realised that there was inadequate provision for drainage. So, we had to remedy that too. More importantly, the original contract was for what they called limited rehabilitation. This was just a fancy way of saying they would patch the road. What we have done here is the total reconstruction of this 65km road at N9.9 billion and this translates to N152 millio per kilometre. So again, based on science, data and logic, we made the best decision overall.”

That, certainly, is the stuff that governance should be made of. The science, date and logic that Governor Makinde reference apparently influenced the reduction of the state’s debt profile from N99.3bn N91.9bn, a difference of N7.4bn, in just two years, as data and statistics from the Debt Management Office indicates; the placing of 1,300 women beneficiaries on the Support to Women Entrepreneurship in the Agri-food sector in Nigeria (SEFAN/SWEAN); the ongoing rehabilitation of the Ilaju Garri Processing Factory in Ilaju community of Ido Local Government Area, a facility built by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and which can process one trailer-load of Cassava on a daily basis; the resolution of the LAUTECH debacle, among many others. Happily, if present developments are any indication, there’s so much more to come.

  • Oludire sent in this from Ibadan

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