One of the major challenges of excellent results is the inability to put adequate finishing touches. In Nigeria, many people deal with being admonished to ‘manage’ substandard quality by service providers. People are asked to ‘manage’ anything at all, they have been offered or presented with, so much so that excellence remains largely utopian. Unsurprisingly, governments at all levels in Nigeria do just the same. This time, not only that people are expected to ‘manage’, but they are further expected to be grateful. So, it’s absolutely normal for the government to provide roads with no drainage and no walkways and ask the people to ‘manage’. In fact, generally, it does appear now as though people are comfortable with anything at all, no matter the quality.
In Anambra State, a cursory observation will show that most roads now under construction were constructed by former governors of the state, particularly Peter Obi and Willie Obiano. Yet, less than twenty years later, the roads have become impassable. Although, many roads constructed by the government of Chris Ngige are still intact even as the roads are up to twenty years. Therefore, the first challenge of road infrastructure in Anambra state has to do with quality and durability. Chris Ngige delivered roads that are still in good shape between 2003 and 2006. But those constructed between 2006 and 2014 during Peter Obi’s tenure, have largely disappeared. Worst still, some constructed between 2014 and 2022 under Governor Willie Obiano have also disappeared or become very bad. Both Obi and Obiano have their strengths, but certainly not on road construction.
For that reason, clearly, the first task before Governor Soludo is to deliver quality roads to ndi Anambra so that the state would have no need to keep spending public money reconstructing roads that have been constructed only a few years back. It is within reason to suspect that this was why Soludo had promised to make Anambra State a huge construction site. During one of the hearings at the Anambra State House of Assembly early into Soludo’s administration, Finance Commissioner, Ifeatu Onejeme, revealed that the government is paying particular attention to the quality and durability of roads. He then assured that the government has mandated contractors to ensure that any road delivered would have a lifespan of about thirty years or more and that the government and its contractors agreed to that. So far, some of the road constructions across the state give hope that the quality is significantly different from what used to be the norm. Some internal roads in Awka, the state capital which is undergoing construction attest to this, among many others. Yet, time will tell. But at face value, it is encouraging that the roads look fortified, firm, and smooth; far better than what the government delivered in the past.
But even beyond delivering quality roads, Anambra roads are notorious for not having good and standard drainage as a result of which floods wash away the roads in a matter of months. Yet, there is another disturbing problem with Anambra roads and that is the problem of complete lack of walkways. Although Chris Ngige constructed quality roads many of which have standard drainages, yet without walkways. It is in fact hard to see roads in Anambra state with walkways. This is why pedestrians walk on the express road side by side with cars, motorcycles, and keke. The lack of walkways is another critical challenge facing the current government of Anambra, as it strives to provide road infrastructure. So far, what is the government doing? It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Ministry of Works is fixing walkways on the already completed Roban road in Awka. The road is usually active with vehicle and pedestrian users trying to access the busy Roban Shopping Mall, and all of the users have to struggle for space on the express road. Needless to say how chaotic and disturbing this struggle looks, or even how it could quickly become an emergency situation with any slightest error on the side of a driver or malfunction of car breaks. It is only better imagined. This effort by the government to give pedestrians their ‘right of way’ on the road, is deserving of commendation as it is a remarkable improvement on what used to be. But even more, the government should sustain it and ensure that at least; some critical or busy roads with considerable vehicle and pedestrian movement are paved and furnished with walkways to enhance both the ecstatic and safety of road users, which from every indication, it looks like this is what the government is doing.
Little things like pedestrian walkways on Anambra roads as seen on the Roban road, still under construction, are some of the things that symbolize excellence. Infrastructure matters, but when they are provided but not furnished with critical accessories, they often fell short of their full value or potential and thereby creating sustainability problems and other new challenges. For Anambra roads, this might just be a new dawn.
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