THE NOISE ABOUT THE RAILWAYS:

I recall the fervour, the power and the passion my lecturers exude, when discussing the evils of colonialism and the legacy of colonial infrastructure in Nigeria.

The cold war between the two major powers of the world and the rise of Marxism literature in the Nigeria Universities, created a class of intellectuals who competed for dominance and intellectual superiority, with each arguing for or against the establishment of capitalism or socialism as political philosophy for Nigeria.

The push and pull by the capitalist and socialist Lectures to sway our nascent state just emerging from colonialism, to adopt capitalism or socialism as the nation’s political philosophy was phenomenal and unprecedented.

The socialist camps, saw nothing good in the colonial infrastructures, to them the railways running from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt and Lagos, the roads linking the North and the Southern Protectorate Regions were merely colonial arrangements aimed at siphoning the wealth of the colonised states.

To them the rails and the roads networks running from the North to the Seas in the South were colonial deliberate attempt aimed at moving raw materials to argument the industries in the West after the industrial revolution that took place in the middle of the 18th century.

The cold war also provided a period for the re examination of western science education and imperialism.

With the fall of the soviet union, the emergence of globalization and internet, the structure of global trade changed dramatically. Relations between Nation States also changed.

Geographical borders no longer constitute a barrier to international trade and human relations.

The dominant infrastructures built by colonialism that were treated with suspicion became the bed rock and instruments that were used for trade and movement of people across nations.

In Nigeria, these colonial legacies were abandon and left to rot and decay partly because of the failure of the bureaucracy and the historical apathy associated with them.

The National development plans that were developed after independence suffered so many contradictions, with each following the same colonial model of infrastructural development philosophy.

While the colonial infrastructures were guided by the demands for raw materials, the Nigeria approach lacked vision, foresight and policy direction.

The national transport policy that precede colonialism was badly articulated as it failed to deal with the needs of the emerging economy, rather it took comfort in extending whatever legacies the colonial arrangements left in place.

The road infrastructure also adopted the same pattern of development running from the North to the sea in the South.
The policy divided roads according to spheres of powers and influences. It granted the so called trunk “A” roads to the Federal Government, while the inter and intra state roads that were to link up with the trunk “A” roads and open the rural communities for the movements of goods, services were devolved to the local and state governments.

The Nigeria Airways, once the most vibrant airline on the continent suffered bad management and bureaucratic interferences and was ran to the ground.

The collapse of the government controlled transportation infrastructure heralded the emergence of businesses on the scene to try their hands in the transportation sector. But because of the massive capital required, the businesses that took over from the state soon crushed because of strangulating high interest rates charged by the banks.

In security on the roads and the unsafe nature of our airlines has forced the elites who control massive resources to became jittery and look for alternative means of transportation.

The fear of being abducted or killed on roads due its state of its dis repair brought about the need to push for the re building of the railways.

The airlines that would have provided safer means of transportation also become un safe as the airlines operators were un able to keep up with maintenance schedule of their fleets.

The Rising debt profile of the airline operators and aging fleets has forced them to cut corners in the maintenance schedules of their aircrafts thereby making flights un safe.

The only “safest” way to travel in Nigeria these days is by the trains.

The clamour to resuscitate the rail system and the Nigeria airline became a must for the elites, who now found comfort in the rail services that were introduced on select routes to solve their needs to escape to their hotspots for leisure.

The new found love for the rail ways was not therefore for the love of the masses or the economy.

The debate by the politicians as to who is doing more in returning the two dominant transportation system to move economy forward is short sighted and dangerous. As the process had already been politicised with two major political parties, each claiming credit for spear heading the restoration of the sector.

But before we decide who to credit for the move and cast our votes for the winner in the debate let us ponder on these

It is clear from the foregoing that the push to revive the transportation sector being championed by the political class falls short of the demands of sector.

An examination of currents efforts shows that we have not learnt from our past mistakes. The plans have not been well thought out. We are yet to see any empirical evidence to show that we understood the causes that led to the complete collapse of the transport sector.

Rather we are being carried away by the elitist sentiments of building the railways to serve their newly discovered love for safe transportation systems in the light of the constant threat to their lives by kidnappers and Boko Haram insurgence.

The other un spoken reason the politicians and the elites are not telling us is the available “soft” loans the Chinese are dangling in the face of our leaders to assist in the re building of the continents infrastructure.

We must not forget that the Chinese loans are not value free. A further examination of the arrangements for the loans reveals the Chinese Government grant the loan and the Chinese companies build the rails and deliver the wagons.

I challenge any government official to dispute the fact that due diligence and international tendering process were followed in the procurement and the re building of the railways.

Another short coming of the rail re building, was its emphasis on the movement of the people rather then for goods and services that would benefit the economy more.

Another point worth noting is why should we in the 21st century borrow funds to rebuild an archaic rail net network, while the whole world are moving to fast track rail system that cuts the travelling time to almost jet time.

In the last ten years Dubai has developed and modernised its rail system.

Saudi Arabia has also within the same period introduced the rail transportation system which was non existent. It has successfully built and linked the cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina a distance of over 500km with a fast track rail network.

The Chinese whom we are massively borrowing from have modernised their locomotive system and old gauge with the fast track systems connecting all its provinces.

Another beauty about the Chinese Model, is they did not destroy their old rail network they allowed it to run hand in hand with the fast track system. What these means is that the population was given the choice to decide how one intends to travel, depending on the size of your pocket.

In conclusion we are calling on the authorities in Nigeria to rethink the approach in re building the rails, roads and airlines network.
We must not allow politics to derail the efforts being put in place to revive these vital sectors of the economy.

Governments come and go and its expected that each and every one of them leaves behind an enduring legacy that impacts on the economy and the living condition of the people.

We must promote continuity and avoid wasting our time on who to give credit for what they have sworn to provide. They are not doing us any favour the government is doing what it ought to be doing. That was what they campaign for before we gave them our franchise.

Posterity is always there to give credit for the most accomplished persons, groups or governments.
The debate by the politicians as to who did what should be left to posterity to decide.

Nigerians are intelligent enough to discern and a portion credit, after all governments came with promises to change the way we live for the better.
Our collective aspirations must be guided by what we bequeath to Nigerians that are coming long after we have left the scene.

The memories of the Balewas, Awolowos, Sardaunas, Zikwes and many more good Nigerians that are no longer with us but their legacies and thoughts remain with the nation forever.

The nation has its own way of recognising its heroes.

We must ignore the credit seekers and do the right things.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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