By Kayode Crown
The Ondo State Commissioner for Works is former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Taofiq Abdulsalam. Having held that high position, one can rest, assured that he has a vision that covers the whole state and has the love of the state at heart.
Though when in the house, he represented one constituency, being the Speaker meant he had to connect with and coordinate people from different backgrounds, able to share their view and act in their interest.
The Ministry should strive to make itself “extinct”, especially with regards to its present direction.
That will happen when all roads are constructed, paved and lighted, including the ones going to, and within all the towns, villages and hamlets. It will mean all bridges have been constructed to the highest standard.
But now the best the Ministry can do is prioritise. And the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has hinted at the fact that he wants to focus on rural roads.
That is definitely the way to go, if we want the state to come tops when it comes to agriculture and food sufficiency. The people in the hinterland, whose work is predominantly farming, deserve better than they have been given over the years.
Roads, good roads, add to the enjoyment of the people, it adds the aesthetics of the environment, it eases movement of goods, and people, eases living.
Roads affect everyone, and none can argue against the primary place of good roads in a modern society.
We need to ensure that when roads are constructed they last for long. Also, ingenious ways should be sought to ensure that the road construction and maintenance are well funded in view of the dwindling available resources.
For example, there is nothing wrong with toll gates, if intelligently conceived and properly package, with human face “painted” all over it.
There are parking lots in Akure, where people do not complain when they pay a token to conveniently park their cars.
If a road is constructed and 500 cars ply it a day, and each driver is asked, for example, to pay N20, that will be N10000 naira a day.
And in 100 days that will be N1m. That should be enough to maintain that road, further reducing the pressure on available funds, if the collection can somehow be corruption-proof.
And people can even buy many tickets for future use so that they reduce their down time at the “toll gates.”
What many have said Nigeria lacks is a maintenance culture. So, it is not just important to have a maintenance agency, we need a system for maintenance created that does not depend on if the government has money or not.
We can emplace a maintenance culture, set up a system in which potholes are closed almost before they develop. That is what we want.
The bidding process for road construction projects should be transparent, with probity and value for money the order of the day.
We should not have to break the bank to construct a kilometer of road, and release funds for road projects, should, by all means not be delayed to mitigate the incidents of abandoned projects which later become deathtraps.
There are many roads crying for attention, all across the state, so the first thing to do is to determine which roads can be done in a short time and would have a high impact factor.
You don’t want to spend billions of hard to get public funds, and the roads remain uncompleted after years and even abandoned. That would really be sad.
When making the choice of roads to construct we need to be smart, and not bite more than we can chew.
Also, there are people in the Ministry who have seen administrations “come and go”.
They already know ways in which others before now failed and how they succeeded. They are repositories of experience and intuition cum expertise. These should, by all means, be put to good use.
All loopholes where resources drain away should be blocked. Each kobo should be accounted for. High value for money should be the mantra.
That is what the people want, this is what they deserve. They are tired of hearing of billions of naira going in and when they compare that with work done, they feel disappointed. They feel input does not tally with the output.
What the people want is result and fast too. There is no time to waste to make a first impression. The impression that should be made on the people should be roads constructed, those leading to their houses, businesses, farms etc. That is not asking too much.
But the people have actually stopped expecting the government to do much when it comes to roads; they have even stopped complaining, they have stopped hoping and have chosen to cope with the situation as it is.
The government must ensure it makes a difference in the arena of roads and other mandate areas of the Ministry of Works.
And the Ministry of Works should device proactive measures in which the public can inform it of roads that are in need of urgent attention in their area.
What we have that barely serves that purpose are radio call-in programmes, with the producers hoping that the concerned government leadership is listening.
That provides an avenue for the public to express their minds, vent their frustration, and possibly get the government informed on the road and bridge needs in their area. But the jury is still out on how effective that has been, how that has translated to work on the ground.
What the Ministry should do is open a log book and provide a direct phone number for the people to reach the Ministry.
This will show the people that the government wants to hear them, wants to feel their pulse.
With that, their will be strong partnership between the government and the governed. With that level of responsiveness, we would have a new day dawn in government-people relationship.
And it should not just be about listening alone, there should be action taken based on that. Otherwise, this won’t be different from other failed government programmes in the past
Government may pick certain roads that it needs to focus on, but when they listen to the people, it may discover that their heart is somewhere else.
And when the roads constructed are what the people actually call for, it will increase their appreciation of government.
Trust is what binds the people to those they have elected into office.
And it starts with opening the door for the people to have their views heard.
And what is government in a democratic setting, if not something established to meet the needs of the people?
But things have gone wrong and the system has become disconnected from the people they should serve. This needs to change. It won’t cost much, just more attention paid to details.
And it is about time that people start to feel that the government is really there for them. Then they will start engaging more, listening more, contributing more and we can all make progress together.