(Published in The Nation, March 5, 2021)
By Abiodun Komolafe
The proposed Flyover Bridge at the popular Olaiya Junction in Osogbo, capital of the State of Osun, is the focus of this piece.
A section of Nigerians has canvassed the _“immediate stoppage”_ of the project because _“it is a needless expense for the state government at the moment and will amount to a waste of the state’s scarce resources.”_ Some were of the view that funds meant for that project could be used in reviving _“a plethora of moribund companies in Osogbo.”_
Well, let me start by saying that such occasional criticisms are welcome in a democracy. However, since most of such agitations are neither based on facts and informed knowledge, they are at best short-sighted, and thus, needless outbursts. The main purpose of a flyover bridge is to lessen the congestion of traffic. It also helps in holding the heaviest as well as the tallest vehicles. The question we will therefore like to raise is: do we need a flyover bridge at Olaiya Junction in Osogbo? All things being equal, the answer, of course, is yes! Next is the question of timing. Without doubt, this is where the roles and responsibilities of government take the centre-stage.
The economy of Osun is expanding; and the population is increasing. Feasible small- and medium-scale industries are also springing up with each passing day. In Osogbo, as we speak, the busiest spot is Olaiya Junction. The ones that may be close to it are Oke-Fia and Old Garage. Interestingly, they still lead to Olaiya Junction. Since free flow of traffic is synonymous with infrastructure development, a responsible government is expected to see beyond the immediate horizon. It is also expected to plan and make informed policy decisions, not like a pedestrian layman or an armchair theorist. If Olaiya is decongested, chances are that adjoining intersections will also enjoy a new lease of life. The basic argument is that, with the current trend of inflation in Nigeria, a flyover bridge constructed now will save cost for future governments; and it will also enable them to concentrate on some other areas of development. Moreover, availability of functional infrastructure in a state capital, which is supposed to be a model city, speaks volume about the viability of the state, even in terms of socio-political and economic activities. That is Governor Adegboyega Oyetola’s vision; and he’s driving it on many fronts.
That said, development-compliant Nigerians cannot but appreciate the fears of those who are expressing some forms of apprehension, and since eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, such criticisms are always welcome. However, going by happenings in the last two-years, it is quite clear where the Administration of Governor Oyetola is headed – Sustainable Development of Osun. Is it any wonder then that he’s has been transforming the state capital into what a true state capital should look like? The construction of Olaiya Flyover is just one of his many efforts in this direction. The governor is also touching other areas of development in the capital city in a silent way, without much noisemaking or fanfare. I doubt if the residents of Alekunwodo will forget this humane, liberal and people-friendly governor in a long time to come.
Let’s talk more about specificity, with government’s diverse interventions, urban renewal is becoming easier and more achievable. Now, old buildings are giving way to new ones. The good thing about the latter is that setbacks are accompanying them; which means this government is serious about road infrastructure in Osun. The governor has assured Nigerians that the flyover project will be completed in 9 months. So, let us wait and see what becomes of that promise.
An adage says that ‘nobody talks just because he wants to hear his own voice.’ While one cannot but empathize with the naysayers, more so as some administrations might not have been particularly above board, it is bad politics to accuse or condemn a government that has not been found guilty of any stated crime. But, if it’s just for the naysayers and traducers to be heard, then, Nigerians have heard them! Let it be known that Mr. Governor understands the meaning and burden of Public Service; therefore, he is concentrating more on the activities rather than the noise. He is separating mob noise from development reality. This governor is only pleading: let us ensure that our rivers are dredged so that we don’t have flooding. Let us ensure that our roads are safe, so that we won’t have accidents. Let us ensure that we have water supply, so that we won’t have epidemics.
What exactly does the opposition want? Is it about the development of the state capital? When a flyover bridge was constructed at Adebisi Akande bye-pass at Gbongan some years ago, there were sufficient hues and cries. Nearly everybody condemned it as a project with no economic value and of no urgent need. At that time, Olaiya was one of the spots that were suggested as the most crucial areas. Others included Oke-Fia Intersection, Lagere Junction in Ile-Ife and Ereja Square Roundabout in Ilesa. Today, the benefits of Adebisi Akande Bye-pass are obvious, and the project is tagged as one of the tangible Assets of the State of Osun. In the opinion of yours sincerely therefore, to say ‘no’ to a flyover bridge at Olaiya Junction must be in bad faith, and it is the height of insensitivity to the people’s crucial needs.
A time like this in the Nigeria’s chequered history should afford us all the opportunity of channelling our criticisms of this focussed government constructively and avoid being viewed as anti-progress. In New York alone, there are more than 2,000 bridges and tunnels, with Holland Tunnel, opened in 1927, being the world’s first mechanically ventilated underwater vehicular tunnel. In Hong Kong, there are about 1,300 vehicular crossings.
Let us come back home. Lagos, with a population of about 20 million, is still constructing and reconstructing flyover bridges. As we speak, plans are already at an advanced stage to construct the Fourth Mainland Bridge. Even, Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, is not without its fair share of these at-grade intersections.
We are in interesting times! But then, what is certain about this government is that corruption is well taken care of in that Governor Oyetola runs an open government. Whether we should use state funds to buy food or pay salaries is something that is oftentimes placed on a scale of preference and government has a final say on what is good for the people. That the governor has therefore, opted to stay on the side of the masses is something that deserves encouragement, not disparagement. The government deserves solidarity, not brickbats. Have we forgotten that no amount of money can be placed on a soul lost in an accident to bring it back to life? Besides, you don’t explain accident away by saying; ‘people were impatient.’ Let’s factor-in the impatience of the people, the multiple malfunctions of the traffic lights and others. With the flyover bridge in place, most of these challenges would have been addressed.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, make Gboyega Oyetola’s Administration the best ever in the history of the State of Osun!