Evidently, the stakeholders, particularly the locals, were contented with the diligence and enthusiasm with which the many rural road projects by the Federal Government were monitored across Edo State. Apparently, it was not only because the ageless wishes for tarred roads had just been met by the Federal Government, but also that a process had been evolved where they participated in matters that affect them. Stakeholders, consisting of the very local communities, watchdog civil society organizations and the media, etc., had joined the Federal Government’s delegation to undertake the rigorous exercises of ensuring the completion of the ongoing road construction.
The public monitoring was at the instance of Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, who said he was dispatched by President Muhammadu Buhari to the state, his constituency, as other serving ministers were also deployed in their various states of origin, for the purpose.
The underlying principles of the massive tarring (asphalting) of roads, however, portrayed the will and conviction of President Buhari, with a vision to give the best to rural communities, along the agro corridors, as well as vulnerable Nigerians that form a majority of the country’s population and the ones who ceaselessly bear the excruciating pains of the absence of basic social amenities and needs, whereupon there are social disconnections, post-agriculture produce wastages due to lack of storage facilities and access roads for evacuation, which worsen food insecurity.
President Buhari, according to Agba, was determined to open up Nigerian rural communities with infrastructure provisions, particularly in tandem with his agricultural policy on food sufficiency. His desire is to ensure that “Nigerians eat what we produce and produce what we eat”. Buhari, he also said, was resolute about a choice for asphalted roads that are more durable. The Federal Government is constructing 377 roads at N34 billion in 266 rural communities. Additional N60 billion was earmarked for rehabilitation of 276 federal roads across the country by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), while numerous rural electricity projects are to be accomplished.
Specifically, in Edo State, 17 km road work is ongoing from the famous Ekenwan Military Barracks – Benin City, through Obazuwa locality thus terminating at the Olodiama river, in Ikoro village, all in Ovia North East Local Government Area (LGA) of the state. The other is a 13.5 km road network linking seven agrarian communities in Etsako East LGA. The communities include Ivioghe, Iviebua, Iviakhua, Iviegbebua, Ivianokpodi, Ebele and linking Okpekpe, another important farming community that is the global spotlight for hosting the prize-winning annual hilltop marathon race.
Intense sloganeering of “Sai Buhari” rent the air by elated inhabitants of the various host villages, who also broke into affable songs of praises for President Buhari, whom they regarded as having brought the dividends of democracy to their corridors. An elaborate ceremony was held at the Ikoro community, where His Royal Highness, Godwin Oguoyibo, Alagba Bunafa III, the Pierre of Olodiaman Clan, thanked President Buhari, for answering their agelong supplications for a tarred road. Dr Nath Bununju and Chief Edwin Omatshola, leaders of the community, also joined others to eulogise Buhari.
Amid lively ceremonies in his palace, High Chief Saliu S. Izuagbe, Izuagbe III, the Onoghie of Iviukhua enjoined the folks to always support the President Buhari’s programmes to better Nigerians. At Ivianokpodi, Chief John Ologho, the Onoghie (its traditional head) spoke in the same vein. A High Chief, Kennedy Izuagbe, a community leader, who spoke on behalf of the seven communities lauded Agba and President Buhari over the road projects.
The massive road construction in Edo, were also said to be replicated in the other states, under the supervision of the Department of Rural Development (DRD) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). The DRD project officers and other engineers were compliant showing the monitors the spate of work done, with the aid of the original drawings, fed with undulations, culverts, asphalted bearings and placing of some other variations which had not been captured.
Agba professed to President Buhari’s ongoing silent revolution by his blocking of financial misuses and thefts; and its channelization to rural transformation and other development needs of Nigerians, ”without having to deploy propaganda”.
So far, works on all the roads evaluated across the two senatorial zones of the state, were generally adjudged to be satisfactory. Although respondents across the villages praised the spate of work as very diligent and fast, there was still left a heavy workload, which an enthusiastic Mr Bolaji Bakare, the Project Manager, said would be concluded in a record time of March, 2021 and that a half of the work had already been done.Perceptibly, two long stretches of the roads from the aforementioned Ekenwan Barracks and the Iviukhua intersection along the Auchi/Fugar/Agenebode road, respectively were already asphalted.
But the thorough scrutiny of the work by the Prince Agba led-team reminded all about the same manner he severally assisted in conceiving and supervising the construction projects of the immediate past government of Edo State, which he served as a commissioner. Evidently, those projects have come to stand the test of time, as sustainable and durable! The current federsl government rural road projects that he supervises will have the same imprimatur of sustainability and durability.
▪︎Tony Erha is a journalist and activist based in Benin City, Edo State