July 5, 2013 was a busy day on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, particularly at the Sagamu interchange. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was in town and as is customary with presidential movements in Nigeria, every other motorist had to wait for the president to conclude his business on the road.
And what did he come to do? To flag off the reconstruction and expansion of the 120-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a project that had been on the drawing board for too long that people were beginning to think it would never take off.
Not a few who ply that road almost on a daily basis were critical of the federal government for neglecting the only major road that links Lagos to the rest of the country and arguably the most important road in the south west region. The neglect did not start with Jonathan; even former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the ‘son of the soil’ didn’t touch the road during his eight years in power and so were his predecessors. So, nobody is blaming Jonathan solely for the sorry state of that road.
But when the president suddenly decided about 20 months ago that the Lagos –Ibadan Expressway was to be given a facelift, not a few applauded his government for this gesture heaving a sigh of relief that their sufferings on that road were about to end.
But in the euphoria of the flag off, some discerning members of the public, particularly in the south west cautioned the people not to be unduly carried away by the president’s promise of a brand new Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as he might just be playing politics with the project with his eyes set on the 2015 presidential election and the millions of votes available for grab in the region.
Twenty months on and they have been proved right. That road is not anywhere near completion even within the time frame given by the government for its completion, though work is going on albeit at snail’s speed. And given the present state of that road, the people in the region are surprised that Jonathan could even have the guts to come to them and ask for their votes for another term in office.
In the south west, people are very sentimental about that road and they have their reasons. Lagos is the commercial backbone of the region and every family in Yoruba land has one form of connection or another with the megacity. So, if the road connecting the hinterland to Lagos is ok, whoever was responsible would be ok with the people. And if it was in bad shape whoever was responsible would be punished for it at the right time. May be that time has come now and the people are ready to take their pound of flesh.
Apart from the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, there are other federal roads in the south west, as there are elsewhere in the country begging for Jonathan’s attention. My focus on Yoruba land is because the president has made more visits to the region in the last few weeks meeting with interests groups making promises and campaigning for re-election than probably all his entire visits since his presidency began. This is not saying the region is more important than the other regions, no, but Jonathan has been paying too many visits to Yoruba land pretending to be a friend of the region that many are beginning to wonder why. Is it because of our votes? If yes, then he has failed as he has done nothing here to deserve even one Yoruba vote.
He has met with the Alaafin of Oyo many times in the recent past and even visited the monarch in his palace at Oyo, where as usual his convoy/entourage disrupted the socio economic life of the people while his visit lasted. What is he looking for? Has he just now realized that there is an Alaafin in Oyo? Is he not aware that the Ibadan-Oyo-Ilorin Expressway, a federal government project has been abandoned for decades, especially the portion between Oyo and Ogbomoso which has remained a death trap? Does he seriously think the people in that area would be foolish to give him their votes after doing nothing for them?
Politics or public service to an average Yoruba person is not about what he can benefit from the office holder personally, although a few hungry people from this region surrounding Jonathan have resorted to doing that, but what that office holder can do for the larger society. When Yoruba voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan in 2011, it was with the expectation that he would do something meaningful with that office to benefit the people. But what has he done for them? Nothing!
Having squandered the little goodwill he got in the north four years ago, he cannot go back to that region now expecting their votes. The East-West road, the only road that traversed the entire south-south region where he comes from has remained uncompleted even after six years in office. And as he recently admitted at his campaign rally in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, he has done nothing for his people back home and yet he wants their votes.
The people of the south east that are ready to die for and with him politically, I do not know what Jonathan has done for the region that the people are ready to commit political suicide on his behalf. The roads in the south east are not better than the death traps called federal roads elsewhere in Nigeria.
I am using roads to illustrate Jonathan’s failure as a president because they are about the only public infrastructure that is shared by everybody, rich and poor, old and young. While the rich can provide houses for themselves, provide the light, water, education, health and even security, they cannot build the roads on which their expensive and exotic cars will travel; they still have to use public roads. So, with these roads in terrible shape, it means Jonathan has failed both the rich and the poor across the country, if only in that aspect.
So, where does the president expects to get the votes from on March 28 for a second term in office? This is the million-naira question. In addition to the decay in infrastructure in the north, there is insecurity there, so not much to expect from that region in terms of votes. If he managed to get the south east and south –south votes in the bag (which is doubtful), he would need the votes from the south west for the sums to add up. And as the second highest voting bloc in the country, Jonathan needs the Yoruba to back him if he is to return to the presidency on May 29, 2015. But will he get their votes? I don’t think so.
He has offended the people in so many ways apart from the infrastructure question mentioned above. The characters he has chosen to be his friends in Yoruba land are not the kind of people we consider as leaders here and as such they cannot influence votes for him here. I won’t mention their names, but you know them; the failed politicians who are only interested in their pockets. I pity Jonathan. It is too late in the day now to pretend to be a friend of the Yoruba, the people have seen through his deceit. Enough is enough.