Rail Lines to Daura and Jibia: Why I am Confused
Prof. Abdussamad Umar Jibia
Since the announcement of the presidential approval for the construction of rail lines to Daura and Jibia among other places, I have been speechless. My wives who have been trying to find out what is wrong with me have not been successful. The duo have known me to be for the man Buhari and I have been able to convince them from the beginning that Buhari is one of the best things to happen to Nigeria. Fortunately, the two of them were not around when Buhari was the military Head of state in the 1980s. Thus, what I told them about the General Buhari regime is what they believe. Of course I did not tell them a lie. Buhari is incorruptible and he did as much as he could as a military leader to force all Nigerians to be like him through his WAI programme, his many decrees and imprisonment of corrupt politicians. But that is where he got it wrong, I have always told them. It is impossible for all Nigerians, nay majority of Nigerians to become Buharis. The reasons are not for this discussion.
My inability to utter a word on the issue either to my family, friends or in the social media as I usually do is due to the many questions that continue to puzzle my mind. Why these projects at this time when the president is more than half-way to the end of his first and hopefully the last term? Yes, hopefully the last term because those of us who love Buhari would never like him to contest in 2019 even if he gets much better before that date. Our reason is simple. He should stay and manage his health. Of course his ‘supporters’ would never like to hear this. They will continue to prod him to contest even if what remains of him is the skeleton so that the feeding bottle will remain in their mouth.
Another question is, are we witnessing another PDP approach to politics? The PDP understood the weaknesses of Northerners very well and it had always used them to win election. For example, Northerners have a very short memory. The only thing they seem to remember is what is happening now. The PDP thus started projects that have bearing on the life of Northerners few weeks to general elections. Immediately after the elections the projects were abandoned for another three and a half years. A handy example is the Kano-Kaduna dual carriageway. This road which links the administrative headquarters of the former Northern region to its commercial capital was constructed in the late 1980s by the Babangida administration. Despite being the busiest road in the far North it has been allowed to become a death trap due to lack of maintenance. The PDP administration severally promised to reconstruct it and the Minister of works was always shown on NTA inspecting the road when it was election time. This happened in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Today the road remains worse than it was 19 years ago. Incidentally, the Buhari administration has made a similar promise but there is nothing on the ground so far.
Assuming that the Buhari administration is serious about carrying out these projects, how realistic are they given the fact that more than half of his term is gone? It is obvious that given the slow pace with which projects in this part of the country are executed under Buhari administration it could take Buhari not less than ten terms of four years to execute the rail projects enumerated by the Minister of transport last week. The case of Kano-Katsina express road is a good example. This project began almost with the Buhari regime but the work was abandoned at Bichi which is a distance of about 30 kilometers out of 160 kilometers. This is happening when projects in the south are executed by this administration at an unbelievable speed.
Now, which is better? To manage what is on the ground or to pursue phantom dreams? The road network in the North is in a state of total disrepair. There is hardly a road linking any two state capitals that is in good condition. Few weeks ago I lost my new tire and nearly my life and lives of some of my family members to portholes along Kano-Dayi road which is the road linking Kano with Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and parts of Katsina state. Hardly will a day pass without an accident on that road just like the much talked about Kano-Maiduguri express road whose construction begins and ends between Kano and Wudil, another distance of 33 kilometres. These observations apply to other roads including Kano-Daura road which links the President’s hometown with the rest of the country. With all these, what makes sense is that our choice Government will do what it can to put back our roads into good condition instead of pursuing vividly unrealistic rail projects.
I still wonder how I can explain my position to my family and friends or even the person reading this. Nigerians are binary people. Most of them understand only two things, condemnation and praise. A critical observation means condemnation and withdrawal of support. But should we continue to blindly follow?