By Sir Don Ubani; KSC, JP
Human-beings could be said to be guided and driven by perception. Perception, simply put, is the act or faculty of understanding an issue or even an environment with the use of senses or the mind. The perceptual process begins with receiving stimuli from an environment and ends with an interpretation of stimuli received.
In leadership, just like in any other human relationship, perception plays a determinant role in making or marring it. Therefore, the perception could be positive or negative. What the human mind perceives about any person or on any given situation or even development goes a long way in chatting and shaping opinions and attitude. It is, therefore, very important that, for purposes of a harmonious relationship, individuals should be mindful of stimuli they send out.
Of all areas of human engagement, perception is most important in the relationship between the Leader and the Led. The stimuli sent out by a Leader determines the Strength and Vehemence of his Followers.
If a President, after being elected, announced to the citizens of his country that he would use voting Strength as a major criterion for making appointments and siting projects, he would, knowingly or unknowingly, have sent out stimuli to the citizens that would have no option than interpret the probable significance and implication of such stimuli.
God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and everything on Earth, including human beings, are so equitably and fairly magnanimous that there is no section of the human Community that He did not endow with distinct talents. The Igbo in South-East of Nigeria, for instance, are known for their Ingenuity and Dexterity. They are also gifted in Trade and Commerce. These are people who, after a three-year war that was foisted on them between 1967 and 1970, with everything that they had laboured for all their lives devastated and shattered, came back to Nigeria to dominate the Transport Sector, Estate Industry, Hospitality Industry, Trade and Commerce and also Entertainment.
Going by the awkward peculiarities of the Nigerian federalism, it has long been established that there are hardly more than three out of thirty-six States of the Nigerian Federation that can survive on their own.
Even though by the contemporary structure of the Nigerian Federation, Trunk A Roads, otherwise known as Federal Roads, that link one State to another is the responsibility of the Federal Government, almost all of such roads in Abia State are in a very deplorable state. They have all become Death Traps.
In Abia State, there are Three of such roads. They are; (1) Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road, (2) Aba-Ikotekpene Road and (3) Umuahia-Ikotekpene Road. The level of deploration of these three roads is such that many users of the road could wonder if there is, indeed, a responsible and accountable government in control. Besides, lives have continued to be lost because of avoidable accidents that regularly occur on the roads.
The roads are so bad that the State Government, even if it would like to carry out some palliative measures which it had done in the past without any recompense from the Federal Government, may not have the financial muscle to embark on such projects any longer.
The state of the Federal Roads in Abia State has almost rendered the unprecedented efforts of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on road infrastructure minimal. So far, the Administration of Governor Ikpeazu has delivered about Ninety-Seven Roads in the State. It is known that the Administration does not commence any road project by laying its foundation by constructing a solid drainage system. Most of the roads it has, so far, done, we’re done with Rigid Pavement, otherwise known as Cement Technology.
The said Ninety-Seven Roads, as they are called, are State Roads. For outsiders to access and make use of them, they first have to drive on the Federal Roads.
Taking Ariaria International Market at Aba, for instance, any trader coming from Port-Harcourt would have to make use of Port-Harcourt-Aba-Enugu Express Road. The State road that leads to the Market, Faulks Road, has been worked upon by the Administration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Before the emergence of Dr Ikpeazu as Governor, no one ever dared make use of Faulks Road. The reality of the matter is, however, hinged on the fact that a Trader coming from Port-Harcourt will presently be confronted with a lot of challenges on the Federal Highway before accessing Faulks Road or Tonimas Road which is another entry-point to Ariaria International Market, which had also been recovered from its hitherto very deplorable state by the Ikpeazu administration.
For Traders coming from Umuahia to Ariaria International Market, the story is not different. The Osisioma end of Aba-Umuahia Express Road has been in a terrible State of infrastructural devastation. Though the Ikpeazu Administration, taking the bull by the horn, has done and delivered Aba-Owerri Road, which links the said portion to the Federal Government Express Road, driving on that portion remains a herculean task. Double of what a Trader could make a net profit on a trip to Ariaria International Market could be gulped by wears and tears sustained driving on that portion. Even the Aba-Owerri Road that was not in use four years before the election of Dr Ikpeazu is a Federal Government Road. Yet the Ikpeazu Administration reconstructed the road, using Concrete Pavement, otherwise known as Cement Technology. The main objective of the application of Cement Technology is to make sure that the Structural Integrity of any road done by the Ikpeazu Government will be sustainable for about Twenty Years. It is not certain the Federal Government has refunded the State Government the resources expended on that Federal Road.
The Abia axis of Ikot ekpene-Aba Federal road could be likened to a road that its dilapidation dates back to more than twenty years. No vehicle, no matter how strongly built, can ply on that road. The state of this very strategic road has badly affected the commercial link between Abia and the Akwa-Ibom States.
Determined not to be frustrated by the neglect of such roads by the Federal Government, Governor Ikpeazu, purely thinking out of the box, opted for an Alternative Route to Akwa-Ibom State from Aba. That road, Umuaro-Ekwereau-Ikot ekpene road, already successfully delivered, as at date, is the only road network that links Abia to Akwa-Ibom.
One needs not to wonder or query why the emphasis is placed on Traders from Umuahia, Owerri, Okigwe, Port-Harcourt, Ikot ekpene, Uyo and Calabar desiring to access markets in Aba. Lest it is forgotten, Aba has Twelve Markets; (1) Ariaria International Market, (2) Ekeoha Shopping Centre, (3) Ahiaohuru or Ngwa Road Market, (4) Cemetery Market, (5) There Market, (6) Ohabiam Electronics Market, (7) Importers’ Shops at Tenant Road, (8) Alaoji Motor Spare Parts Market, (9) Phone Market at St Michael’s Road, (10) Motor Cycle Market at Jubilee Road, (11) Livestock Market at Akwete Street and (12) Bicycle Market at School Road.
Apart from Lagos and Onitsha, there is no other city in Nigeria that has a galaxy and plurality of Importers in Nigeria compared to Aba.
In Aba, Merchants are in healthy competition with one another. This, naturally, is to the advantage of Traders whose ultimate goal is to make some profit. This is why there had always been an influx of Traders from across the country to Aba. Even in the days of the Military up to the time of President Shehu Shagari that Gen Buhari overthrew in a military coup, Traders from Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic flooded Aba for Merchandise.
As for Abia section of Ikot ekpene-Umuahia Federal Road, the fate that has befallen Federal Roads coming into Abia from Rivers State and from Umuahia to Aba applies to it almost in the same proportion.
The surprising aspect of this precariousness is that Federal Government, even during the days of President Goodluck Jonathan, had awarded these roads on contract to some Companies.
As it has always been clear, one thing is to award contracts, another is to fund the contract. According to common parlance in government circles, Approval Is Not Release.
Any Government that thinks or feels it has an axe to grind with any section of the polity could, just for purposes of playing to the gallery, award contracts for projects in that area and even spend much time and resources on publicizing such an award but that would be the highest it could go. To put it succinctly, the contract becomes dead on arrival.
Nigeria is witnessing another recession under the Presidency of General Muhammadu Buhari. It could be said to be one too many. The country’s economy can not be buoyant in the absence of good road infrastructure. If the roads are good, in the first instance, the cost of transportation of goods and services would be affordable. More importantly, the safety of travellers and goods would be guaranteed. These days, it has become a common practice for hoodlums to take advantage of numerous bad spots on highways to attack users of such roads in deplorable conditions.
Nigeria is one of the most governable countries in the world. The electorate here asks for only one thing, Road. Hardly do they ask for even water, which is the least a government should provide for her people. Rather, they sink their boreholes while those who can not, buy water from commercial borehole owners. The same thing applies to Electricity. Rarely do Communities worry Governments to provide them with Light. In most cases, Communities embark on launching ceremonies to raise money to install Electricity on their own. Even more, than Seventy Percent of Nigerian Elites depend more on their self-provided supply of Electricity through their Generators. This is informed by the epileptic nature of Generation and Distribution of Electricity in Nigeria.
The major thing, if not the only thing, apart from Security, that Nigerians earnestly request from their Government is Road. Why should these Roads not be provided? Even most of the deplorable roads were constructed by the British Colonial Administration!
Nigeria is such a country that, despite obvious differences, economic and social interaction remains very high amongst the citizenry. If, for example, the Federal Government of President Buhari decides to neglect Federal Roads in Abia State or South-East in general because their electorate voted massively for former President Jonathan in 2015 and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in 2019, the same effect the neglected roads would have on the indigenous people of the State or Zone is what Nigeria’s richest man, Alhaji Dangote who, like the President is Fulani, would equally suffer. His trucks are all over the place. Many have been falling on South-East roads because of infrastructural decay. Some critics may argue that Dangote trucks are insured but they forget that whatever money paid by an Insurance Company in this context is not a productive expenditure.
There is, therefore, need that the Federal Government takes an introspective look at the State of the infrastructure of its Roads in Abia. A situation where Arab Contractors of Nigeria, ACN, has been working from Abia Tower at Umuahia to Osisioma Junction at Aba for more than Eight Years without covering Half the distance of the Road does not, in any way, call for smiles. The speed at which the project is being pursued leaves much to be desired.
Coming back to Psychology and specifically to Perception, what President Buhari said in 2015 about his reward system for those who gave him 97% and the ones that gave him 5%, even though arithmetically incoherent, that speech could pass as a stimulus and the consequent interpretation of bad roads in the South-East has become the Perception.
Okwubunka of Asa.
25th November 2020.