By Chukwuemeka Okechukwu
The essence and need for good roads can never be over-flogged since its benefits are both personal and integrative. One of the dividends of good democratic governance is accessible roads that connect people, towns and communities. In this way boundaries are collapsed since one can easily connect to other people in other locations. Good roads make a people, their cultural heritage, environmental aesthetics and allied goods accessible beyond the people from the said community; it affords the community of the privilege of being present and accessible to others.
The democratic governance has proven progressive in Enugu State. It was a progressive governance by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This is no loyalty to any political party since Enugu has not been opportune with an alternative opposition political party since the wake of the present democracy in Nigeria. It was a relief from the decaying state of public infrastructure inherited from the autocratic military regime. His Excellency, Chimaroke Nnamani was the first to captain the political ship of Enugu State under the democratic dispensation. Many have their reservations about the performance of this regime. It will be no error to assert that Chimaroke gave back to the good people of Enugu, better roads and road network than he met in office.
The efforts to get better roads in Enugu seemed to be intensified after the Chimaroke regime. Sullivan Chime was dogged in his commitment to give Enugu State a better and working road network. This was the time that many streets and major roads alike were constructed and reconstructed in Enugu. It was not just the good roads, these roads adorned with street lights, traffic reflector signs, advert screens and other facilities that bespeak of modernity and contemporariness as it relates to road construction. The heavy machines of Arab Contractors and Setraco were easily sighted within the Enugu metropolis, doing new roads and rehabilitating bad ones. Despite the fact that no administration is free of pitfalls, only the deceitful will play blind to the road realities at the time of Sullivan Chime. Enugu hoped for something new because she deserves not just the better, but the best.
However, one may argue that things have taken a different turn in Enugu state especially in recent times. Many have observed that good and accessible roads may have become a luxury and the masses are at the receiving end.
Many would wish to offer explanations that the administration was launched in the wake of economic recession in Nigeria and as such, lacks the needed funds to embark on similar projects undertaken by her predecessors. To this camp, many thinkers will readily reply “we are not asking for new roads and allied infrastructure, all we seek is proper maintenance and inventory of the ones already put in place”. A tour round Enugu metropolis would leave the observer disappointed.
However, notwithstanding, the Governor Ugwuanyi led administration has also revitalised and in many cases freshly constructed road infrastructures in areas that were hitherto neglected. Kudos should be given to him for the bold step taken in fixing the Milikin Hill which was a death trap before his coming to Power as well as many other abandoned road projects left off from the past administration.
Meanwhile, Pot-holes on the existing roads are fast turning into death-traps and gullies and no one seems to care. These roads are apparently good but deceive the road users into risking the safety of their lives and vehicles. The road bypass that connects Four-Corners to Udi has a handful of such potholes that are deadly. An unsuspecting road user may be seduced into maintaining a good speed on the road only to be shocked by the depth of the pothole he encounters. These are causes of accidents and are capable of sending the driver into financial expenses never budgeted for. Instances these potholes are replicated in many major roads inside Enugu metropolis. They are truly death traps. The era of street lights and functional traffic lights have grown to be mere memories and the few surviving poles of light on the streets are observed to be on. The epileptic functioning of traffic lights in Enugu metropolis in recent times prove better distractions than serving the purpose of regulating traffic.
It is needless mentioning the state of the roads that connect Enugu to other states; people would readily trek to their destinations if that had been an option. The stress and risk of travelling out of Enugu state has heightened over the years. With the sorry state of such roads, people are constrained to spending almost twice the time they could have ordinarily spent on an inter-state journey.
Though this is also accrued to the in efficiency on the part of the federal government, many holds the hope that the state government can do a lot more in taking up measures to cushion the situation.
Yes, the state government took a bold steep during the last yuletide season to fix some flash points with the worst degradation; however, more needs to be done. This also has financial implications since commercial drivers adjust their fares to take care of these exigencies that the poor state of the roads has subjected them to. There are reasons also to doubt the safety and security of lives and property of travellers given the state of such roads.
The cost implication of living in Enugu is gradually taking sad turns. The state of these roads is a threat to security. Again, people spend money to fix their cars unlike they would normally do for routine maintenance. All thanks to the increasingly deplorable condition of roads in Enugu. Many human and natural resources in the hinterlands and rural areas remain hugely untapped simply because these set of people are locked out of reality since they could not be accessed.
Places like Nkerefi, Amagunze, Ihuokpara and many parts of Aninri and Awgu Local Government Areas and a good number of towns in Nsukka axis, all in Enugu state, are hallowed for their fertile soil and yet, such agricultural asset lay waste since such towns are inaccessible. Anyone who ends up visiting the likes of these towns, would fervently pray God for the rare privilege of having no cause to visit such towns again.
It is the duty of the government to do good and accessible roads for the masses; the government has also the duty of maintaining these roads after they are constructed. However, the general public has good roles to play especially in the maintenance of the existing road structure. It is unfair for people to wait for the government to clear the drainages close to their homes and business places. When such drainages are blocked, they have hygienic implications and they spell bad turns for the state of the roads. It is also dutiful that people should not litter the roads with wastes as this is not also healthy for the longevity of the roads. It is not common to find people who would stop their cars and remove stones, logs and other unwanted materials from the roads. Such humanitarian simple acts of kindness seems to have eluded the modern man. Such a simple act of kindness can save the next road user from accidents and the likes but people shy away from such acts of kindness simply because it does not suit their convenience.