Oshiomhole’s Benin metropolis on my mind
By John Mayaki
My first distinctive memory of Ring Road is of traffic; the chaos and nightmare that characterized ring road now known as Oba Ovonramwen square. It is the widest, roundest most beautiful roundabouts in Nigeria; this claim is however, subject to scrutiny or superior argument.
Inside the roundabout is the National Museum, the most awesome water fountain in Nigeria, the Military cenotaph in honor of the unknown soldiers, and a beautiful park and garden. Just around there is one of the World’s most revered royalty, the palace of the Omo N Oba N Edo, the state House of Assembly complex, Central Bank of Nigeria, among other new generation banks.
This spot was highly mystified due to inability of successive governments-even refusal-to do anything about it all these years was the monster. It used to be the stinky popular commercial hub of the ancient city. Again, before now-the demystification, it was a paradox and a nemesis to Benin city. Although more or less a melting point that had provided over decades sundry materials for the visual arts. It was the place with no bedtime, and, therefore, no time for waking…..in the similitude of the pre-Raji Fashola Lagos Oshodi.
Like Ojuelegba, near Surulere in Lagos, it used to be one bedlam of confusion; I mean Oba Ovonramwen Square. It was characterized by filth and almost everything indecent under the earth- road side traders, rough-shod motorists, pickpockets, rapists, street urchins, the homeless and other wayward characters were always there with different missions.
It was never a question of Benin trying to accommodate Oba Ovonramwen Square but of the all-important roads accommodating Benin where traders hustle to sell their wares, motorists sweat profusely inside their vehicles in the usual traffic gridlock, occasioned by the lawless tuke-tuke bus drivers picking passengers discriminately in the middle of the road just as street hawkers thrust their wares at passers-by; all created a confused atmosphere.
Change is constant; Oshiomhole confronted the monster bare-handedly though not without planing. He restored sanity to the place. Today, we easily forget this picture formerly called Ring Road not that we have blurred memories, no.
In no uncertain terms, Oshiomhole vindicated himself, an idealistic and ambitious project that was doubted impossible. A new-look Ring Road sprang up to the bemusement of objective critics; making those who swore never to have anything to do with it eat their words. Today, most people transiting through or having to transact business on the Square, either in the day time or at night, have refreshing stories to tell.
All the roads leading into it, have been illuminated……Airport road, Sapele road, Sokponba road, Akpakpava road, Mission road, Forestry road and Oba Market road from where crowds surges in seamless motion with no one looking at the other with suspicion at night anymore. Lest I forget, there is now a musical water fountain right inside the Square.
“This is impossible”, Oshiomhole’s worst critics hollered on top of their voices when they were told of the plan to dualise Airport road. “Who told you it’s impossible? It is possible”, Oshiomhole would fire back.
One can confidently say that Oshiomhole out-performed the performers in history….all things being equal….there was no doubt that on sighting the parlous state of Airport road, would-be investors would pass an on-the-spot vote of no confidence on the state government’s investment drive. If you ask me, apart from it’s economic disadvantage, it was not a sight to behold whenever it rains in Benin city. It was so bad that an average rainfall would bring the metropolis to a stand-still due largely to the fact that it had no drainage system to evacuate the deluge into Ogba river, it’s major exit route.
“In reconstructing the road in the manner Oshiomhole envisaged, a large chunk of the wall bordering the palace of the Omo N Oba N Edo would needlessly be hacked down”, this was the height of the politicization of Airport road by critics. They whipped up sentiments and concluded in summary that Oshiomhole’s action was deliberately designed to undermine the palace and as such, a taboo, contemptuous of a benin culture and tradition.
The story is no longer on the impossibility of Airport road but, “it is the most priced road contract per kilometer the world over”, unrepentant critics insisted while deliberately failing to recognize the compliments such as side drains, walk ways, street lights, beautification and maintenance.
Today, it is a reality, even critics now agree. But, one will not understand the enormity of work done there until a visit to the road neither can one appreciate the effort of the state government, if we do not have a visual representation of what it used to be in our memories because, today is yesterday’s tomorrow.
The next road is Oba Market road complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; Sokponba road, complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; 2nd West Road complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; Akpkpava road complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; Sapele Road, dual-carriage way, complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; Siloko road complete with covered drains, walkways and street lights; Upper Siluko road among others one can easily remember.
In all of these mouth-watering achievements, the good people of Edo state and residents of Benin city must be commended for aiding the government with their tacit support. Oshiomhole would never have succeeded in achieving this feat if the ordinary people withdrew their active participation.
The first lesson to be learnt, of course, is that most people want good life and the majority will always stay behind a government that delivers the better life they seek. This public approval, therefore, provides the moral courage the leader needs to execute his plans. Without courage, of course, the evil and corrupt institutions that have held our state bound in poverty and chaos cannot be fell.
The second has to do with consistency, which is the major factor by which a leader acquires the trust of the led. This government is merely welfarist in nature; pursuing welfare programs, rehabilitation and reinstitution projects with as much tenacity as it pursues improvements in the landscape and structural frameworks in Benin city.
Vote Godwin Obaseki/Philip Shaibu for continuity!!