With heavy hearts, many friends and relations of the Dilosi’s Dynasty including this writer recently journeyed from Kaduna to Bomu in Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers state in honour of the amiable matriarch of the family, Mrs. Maria Tagalobari Dilosi who was cut short by the cold hands of death at the prime age of fifty one. In less than a decade and half, friends and relations had undertaken yet another sad visit to Bomu for the second time and for the same unfortunate and unavoidable reason. The sudden demise of the patriarch and loving husband of the deceased James Viloo Dilosi in 2003 was likewise the motive for the first journey thirteen years ago. Mrs. Maria Tagalobari Dilosi was described by her children, friends and associates as kind hearted, lovely and caring of all; an intercessor, a burden bearer, a wise counselor, compassionate and mother of all. Our journey to Bomu took us through the Enugu-Port Harcourt Express way instead of Lokoja-Okene-Auch Road which was the best option as a result of its terrible state.
It was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. In fact, the journey turned out an unforgettable nightmarish experience. The two hundred and twenty-eight kilometer stretch road: a federal one for that matter was too bad to be ignored without grumbling and outpour of invectives on those responsible for leaving it in that state of disrepair despite huge yearly budgetary allocations. It was the general consensus of all that; somebody has to be held accountable and responsible for the ugly state of that road and others in like manner. Evidence of the sorry state of the road can be seen in the number of broken down vehicles especially trucks which litter the road. Road users also make frequent detours to the other lane when it seems necessary. At Lokpanta axis of the road where a trailer load of goods broke down leading to the blockage of the major part of one lane, it was practically impossible for free vehicular movement. We came to a standstill and were all forced to alight from the vehicles as the situation deteriorated. Impatient road users as usual diverted to the adjacent lane creating a chaotic traffic situation. It took more than an hour before we wriggled out of the traffic situation. In our interactive session with predominantly Hausa inhabitants in the area, they revealed that with what we saw, the road was better and even motorable compared to between July and August which was the peak period of rainy season in the eastern Nigeria.
The dilapidated nature of that road has been in the news for several years but it has failed to attract the desired government attention in both federal and state levels. The endless-man-hour expended by travelers in utter frustration on that express way is better seen, experienced than imagined. Friends from Kaduna state who never travelled to the eastern and southern part of Nigeria save for the honour of the deceased like every other well-meaning Nigerian were of the view fact that urgent steps needed to be taken by government to put the road in good shape. Majority were surprise that a federal road of this deplorable nature exists in Nigeria. Some concluded that they have now seen why there is preponderance of armed robbery, incessant agitation for resource control and the pressure for the creation of the state of Biafra raging on in the two regions.
The energy wasted on that road daily, lives lost, resources and business opportunities missed or lost and the attendant health challenges it throws up later are seriously worrisome. Many of us who embarked on that journey took one form of medication or the other when we finally came back to Kaduna. The same must have been applicable too to majority, if not all of every other user of that road. A journey of less than three hours from Enugu to Rivers state consumes more. It was revealed that armed robbers and kidnappers have taken advantage of the bad road to ply their horrendous trades. This led to military and police check-points within every one kilometer range. The check-points as it was observed assist no one in particular except lining the pockets of those who mounted them. They are known as Automated Transfer Machines (ATM) positioned to draw monies from road users as the check points vanish into thin air on arrival of bandits and kidnappers only to resurface afterwards.
That road to say the least is a death trap and a constant reminder of failure of leaderships both at the federal and state levels. The strategic importance of the road as the gateway to the Eleme Petrochemical Company and the business city of Aba gave rise to the high level of vehicular movement on the road. This same strategic importance should have driven a sensible government to re-build the road and save the people from this man-made punishment. In fact it beats ones imagination that the road which traversed four states namely Enugu, Imo, Abia and Rivers did not catch the fancy of these state governments who saw nothing good in rehabilitating it. Governors build federal roads and later pick up their bills from the federal government.
Many governors who understood the reason for being in government have done it for the benefit of their people. Therefore, the reason for abandoning this road cannot be explained away. Government is a social contact between the leadership and the led. This contract is fulfilled by reason of engaging in policies and programmes positively affecting the lives of the governed by those in power. Enugu-Port Harcourt Express way cries for urgent attention. While urging the federal government to discharge its responsibility creditably on that road, governments of these states where the road traversed have no reason to endlessly wait for the federal government before the lives of their people are bettered.
Written by Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist