Governor Wike’s Obsession With Flyovers: A Critic’s Perspective!

... Wike

RE: RSG SET TO COMMISSION OKORO-NU ODO AND RUMUOGBA FLYOVERS, OTHER PROJECTS

When I stumbled onto the screaming headlines captioned “RSG SET TO COMMISSION OKORO-NU ODO AND RUMUOGBA FLYOVERS, OTHER PROJECTS”, I wasted no time to go through the contents of the State Government’s press release signed by Mr. Paulinus Nsirim (Rivers State Commissioner for Information) and my countenance got altered immediately I understood that the gGoverno is planning another jamboree to flag-off new flyovers alongside the commissioning of already completed ones.

At that moment, the only thought that crept into my mind was that a man erroneously thinks that what he doesn’t know cannot destroy him. This incidentally is not so with God; scripturally, death is an ultimate end to crass ignorance. Even the Holy Bible was unequivocal when it stated inter alia, ” My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge….” Hosea 4:6.

Years ago, as a day student in the post-primary school annex of University of Port- Harcourt, I sat transfixed in class one rainy morning as my all-season-preferred Mathematics tutor cum Life Coach, the then Mr. Yanga Okrinya (now a university don) drummed character-moulding principles that communicated rational reflexes into our young fertile minds.
“When you know that you don’t know; you are alive and still on track but when you don’t know that you don’t know; you are a living corpse” he would repeatedly say. This became his sing-song for most part of that academic year. Each time he walked away after every lesson session, I would say to myself that one needed more than just O’level Mathematics to survive in life and thus, resolved at once never to be caught napping by ignorance.

Now to the crux of the matter. With some 21 months into the second tenure of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike’s administration and after a monotonous first term in office (riddled with patching of failed sections of some roads under the guise of road rehabilitation programmes), Wike is yet to match the people’s expectation with responsive and purposeful governance. The Governor’s inability to listen and learn from technocrats that the state is divinely blessed with, seems to be his greatest albatross. Interestingly, he has some of our best brains in his cabinet but for some unknown reasons shuts the door against them; reducing even revered eggheads to mere lame ducks.

A very nauseating experience is watching Mr. Governor compress all other administrative sectors of Government into one miniature strain — flyover constructions — which he has firmly tucked under his purview. Nobody dares to query if his incessant award of flyover contracts meet the provisions of the Public Procurement Law. Mr. Governor singularly identifies the project to be awarded, the sites/locations, names his preferred contracting firm — Julius Berger Nigeria Plc– without recourse to the fine art of scale of preference, wants of the people or opportunity costs of these money-guzzling projects. What a state chief executive we have! Does Wike who prides himself a lawyer understand the transgressions of the Law? The state budget cannot be accessed by the governed — an abeyance to global praxis of Freedom of Information (FOI) — and given the Governor’s penchant for spontaneity, one wonders if some of these flyovers were captured in the state’s annual budget for execution.

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Wike’s latest romance with elevated roads is becoming worrisome by the day. Moreso, the fact that these grade separators sprouting up every passing day like recurring decimals are just single linear overpasses without providing for bypass interchanges is clearly incomprehensible. This is assuming the original intent of this government is to curb the perennial traffic gridlock adorning the nerve centres of Rivers State, as she often boasts.

Not a few know that the only people benefitting from these spate of projects are the contracting firm (Julius Berger Plc), Mr. Governor and few of his cohorts. This school of thought explains the governor’s obsession with flyovers despite the deafening public outcry. Truth be told; Rivers State Flyover Projects are white elephant inventions serving as Governor Wike’s conduit pipes. Like change, which is an irrefragable constant in life events, elevated roads are no longer long-term panacea to traffic congestion in big cities like Port Harcourt. They were once temporary solutions in time past, but in the 21st Century, flyovers are delusions. Experts in Traffic Management posit that, flyovers merely pass the traffic gridlock to the next junction. This is currently the growing situation in Port Harcourt metropolis and parts of Obio Akpor LGA in Rivers State; hence the quest for more flyovers by Mr. Wike. For instance, the newly constructed flyover at the popular Garrison junction christened Rebisi Flyover, has worsened the easy flow of vehicular movements around that area and tacitly transferred a greater chunk to the Waterlines axis of the oil-rich State. This argument makes the proposed multi-billion Naira Waterlines Junction Flyover on Aba Road, a colossal waste of scarce resources.

It would have made better sense if government channeled greater efforts towards expanding and de-silting the Trunk C road transversing Rumukalagbor to Stadium Road and rehabilitation of adjoining feeder roads. Similarly, the ongoing flyover construction at Kaduna Street junction is unnecessary, as that axis is usually not prone to traffic congestion. The ongoing expansion of Nzimiro Street in Old GRA would have just been enough for the time being.

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Are flyovers the best traffic reduction mechanisms or are they just concrete junks reducing our city into a Civil Engineering jungle? How many flyovers do we need to sustain the ever-increasing vehicular traffic in PH? Can the Governor supply any useful remedies to tame this hydra-headed monster? These are questions only the PDP-led State Government should attempt answering to calm our frayed nerves.

If indeed, the Wike administration is all out beyond pecuniary greed to address the perennial traffic issues in Rivers State especially the city nerve centres, then one needs to inform them that what we need at this defining moment is the movement of people out of congestion and not vehicles, as newly constructed flyovers will ceaselessly attract more vehicles the way sugar attracts ants. The Governor should be schooled on the outstanding merits of massive infrastructural developments around satellite towns outside the already crowded state capital. Localities like Ahoada, Oyigbo, Bori, Eleme, Etche and Degema are earnestly begging for such infrastructural attention. The business of displacing homes and economies in the guise of erecting elevated roads have to be halted forthwith. An overbearing need to spread development to communities that are contiguous with Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor, I believe was chiefly the rationale that drove Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (the former governor) into sponsoring the Bill that eventually got signed into law, establishing the Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority (GPHDA) in 2008.

As important as road constructions may be, they cannot serve as the only tool for de-congesting a cosmopolitan city like Port-Harcourt and its environs. Alongside building strategic arterial thoroughfares to link suburbs, an organised Rapid Transit Scheme for buses and light rail systems that will survive beyond the lifespan of one administration is equally essential. This why the Wike administration would need to halt further flyover constructions and convoke an emergency summit on Transportation, wherein stakeholders will be allowed to revisit the programmes of the immediate past administration in order to articulate and formulate a blueprint for this purpose. Interestingly, the recommendations of a similar summit organised by the Amaechi administration is laden with dust in the shelves of the Rivers State Ministry of Transport and completely abandoned by the present administration. Alternatively, what Governor Wike needs to do is to dust the pages of this essential document and make useful adjustments where necessary. The Governor must also summon the political will to implement the recommendations to its logical end. It will be expected that the moribund Rivers State Transport Company (RTC) will be overhauled to live up to the dreams of our founding fathers although in full compliance with realities of the 21st Century. The abandoned Rivers Mono-Rail project should also not continue to lie dormant and idly overlooking the ever-busy Azikiwe Road but should rather be reconsidered, extended and completed for use. With the light rail system hitting Oyigbo LGA, the long stretches of vehicles littered around major intersections in Aba Road will disappear and become a thing of the past. Efforts to extend the project to riverine communities especially Kula — a thriving island playing host to Oil and Gas activities — from the UTC Junction axis will completely obliterate the toga of a “governor for just Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor” that Wike is shamelessly wearing.

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It will gladden the hearts of well meaning Rivers sons and daughters to see the completion of the Port Harcourt Ring Road designed by the previous government. A lot of our trunk B and C roads are due for reconstruction to dual carriageways. In this regard, the Rivers State Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency must be revamped from being a cash cow for the governor’s kith and kin to reflect its statutory obligations. Bus-stop terminals, lay-bys, traffic lights, traffic signals and robots should be installed at strategic road intersections to ensure free streams of traffic. This is where a proper agency beyond the untrained taskforce on road decongestion and illegal motor parks should be established to effectively manage this very important sector of our socio-economic development. No sane clime adopts the military-styled taskforce operatives being paraded with bravado by this government.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. would not allow the activist in me a deserved rest as I ponder daily on this administration’s malfeasance. Luther’s evergreen proclamation, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” keeps prodding me to ask if constructive criticism should be sacrificed on the altar of hopelessness because we are saddled with a ruler that has closed his ears to wise counsel?

The place of an efficient traffic management system as a catalyst for societal growth cannot be undermined in the vision of a New Rivers State. As the Governor of Rivers State continues to prance around in egotism, the harsh reality seem to be in agreement with the position taken by late American TV stage actor, Christopher Jones, who said: “The biggest idiot you will meet in life will be the person who thinks that they know it all”. Who then will kindly appeal to Mr. Wike that having the right knowledge of a matter is a precursor to getting things right and that the application of that knowledge begets wisdom?

▪️ Engr. Sunny Andy Dimkpa writes from Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

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