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Okorocha’s lamentation and pains of planlessness

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Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State slid into jeremiad lamentation last Monday while swearing in the new Secretary to the State Government, Mr Mark Uchendu. At the occasion, which also witnessed the inauguration of the new Chief of Staff as well as other aides of the governor, Okorocha whined over the state of disrepair many of the roads in the state had fallen into.

The governor was so peeved by the situation that he wondered whether the rains in Imo were acidic to have visited so much devastation on the roads. He, however, promised to roll out the caterpillars, bulldozers and graders to fix the roads again once the rains subsided.

Imo is not alone; many of the roads in almost all the states in the country have gone to the dogs. In fact, most of them are so deplorable that it would be inappropriate to refer to them as roads. They hinder rather than facilitate movement. Commuting from one part of the country to another is often a nightmare as many roads have become craters and caves. Bad roads have in no small measure contributed to the escalating transport fares and food prices that Nigerians have had to contend with.

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The immediate reason for the poor state of the roads and why they easily get washed away by rains is that they were not built to last. The governors know this. So do their commissioners as well as the contractors themselves. In many cases, the total money that went into the road construction was just a fraction of what was originally allocated. The contractor had to settle everyone that had to do with the contract award as well as the supervision of the project. Since this was not factored into the contract sum, the contractor had to scale down the quality of the road to be able to finish the work and make his own margin. So, what is left after all the deductions and donations is hardly enough to put together a road that can weather strong storms. But when the poorly constructed roads succumb to the weather, those who caused it switch to lamentation while the people are left to bear the brunt as they have to put up with the physical, mental and financial consequences of wasting quality man-hour travelling over a distance that should have been covered in no time.

The second and more fundamental reason for the roads being washed away by floods is that in Nigeria, we practise haphazard development. Elsewhere, development activities are holistic. There are master plans which take into cognizance the topography of towns and cities, thus making it possible to plan those areas in a way that puts nature under control. With the master plan in place, water flow is properly channeled, trees are deliberately planted in strategic places to absorb water, canals are directed in specific direction and no one is allowed to build in a manner that hinders water flow. Consequently, they are able to control the environment rather than throwing themselves at its mercy. That is why planning is central to development.

But what we have in many states of the country, and even at the federal level, is development without planning or better still, haphazard development. To win favours, a governor may just decide to put up a particular structure in a particular part of the state without giving thought to the effect of that structure on the environment. Even when everything points to the wrongness of the choice, he goes ahead with the structure because he has executive powers and leaves his people to lick their wounds later.

Many of the governors do not take time to draw up well-thought out plans. What many of them practice is governance by proposal. A friend approaches a governor with a proposal and the friend gets the go ahead to execute it, not minding whether the project syncs with the overall plan of the area. When the environment later resists this and causes disruption to the ecosystem, the governors become the chief mourners. For as long as we run our country like that, we shall remain subject to the ferocious anger of nature. We shall be at the mercy of the environment instead of controlling it.

So, rather than blaming the rains for destroying the roads, Okorocha should blame himself and those who work with him for daring to embark on developmental projects without putting a holistic plan in place. If we do the right things, we will get the right result. But for as long as we choose to turn things upside down, nature will resist our imposition of disorder on it and we will be left to count our woes.

Therefore, before embarking on another round of placebo road construction after the rains, Governor Okorocha would do well to start with having a master plan for the major cities and attune development in those cities with the theme of the plan.

The post Okorocha’s lamentation and pains of planlessness appeared first on Tribune.

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