Comrade Razaq Olokoba is the Convener, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), and the Leader, Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria. He spoke on the proposed rehabilitation of the Third Mainland Bridge. Excerpts…
What is your opinion on the proposed repairs of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos?
It is a welcome development and we have to commend the Federal Government under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for this thoughtfulness. The President has further confirmed his commitment to Nigeria’s unity and progress through his various efforts towards stabilising the polity, economic emancipation and infrastructure development in the country. The Third Mainland repair is another testimony that Buhari is a responsible leader, responsive administrator and caring father of the nation.
Why are you excited about the project?
I am excited because the ministry that would handle the project is under the supervision of Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF), who is known for perfection. It is on record that, when he was the governor of Lagos State for eight years, he moved thge state forward. His antecedents in performance are legendary. In addition to that, the bridge coincidentally falls within the state he once governed. That also is expected to further gear him towards doing a very good job. In fact, Fashola has never disappointed Nigerians with his performance, from a governor to when he was supervising three ministries; Works, Power and Housing, and uptill now, he has never failed our periodic integrity test. So, Nigerians can go to sleep because Fashola will do a good job on the bridge.
Won’t the six months proposed closure have negative effects, considering the importance of the bridge to the economic survival of the people?
I appreciate the fears of the people but we must quickly remind ourselves that, since the repairs are imperative, we have to cooperate with the Federal Government over its initiative to save lives and property. You and I know that, a stitch in time saves nine. The government realises that something drastic has to be done to prevent avoidable catastrophe because prevention is not only better but also cheaper than cure. We are appealing for people’s support and cooperation.
Does the Lagos State Government have any role to play in the repairs?
Governor Sanwo-Olu deserves commendation for proactive steps he has promised to take to ease up the hardship the closure would bring upon his people like unprecedented traffic hiccups and economic downturn. We learnt the governor has promised to provide alternative routes for motorists, commuters and pedestrians for easy movement. He has even assured that plans are on ground to assure that peace is not ruptured by any act of brigandage, banditry or robbery.
Do you think the six months promise is sacrosanct?
Fashola is aware of the importance of good roads to the economic wellbeing of the citizenry; he will not exceed the date to reopen the road for smooth movement. He has done that across the country and that of Third Mainland Bridge would not be a problem.
What role is your group playing in the project?
From the first day we learnt about the plan, we met and strategised on how we could be of help and assistance to the government and the generality of the people of the world. I say people of the world in the sense that the bridge, which is one of the longest in Africa, serves various nationals across the globe. So, all hands must be on deck to make sure that Nigeria lives up to her bidding as the giant of Africa. We have raised a team of 1000 traffic volunteers that would be distributed across the state to augment the duties of the law enforcement agencies and other officials saddled with traffic management responsibilities.Our intervention is never to usurp the responsibilities of those in charge, but just to assist in some critical areas where our helping hands would be required. It is not in doubt that the six month closure would overwhelm the federal, state and local council officials.
Aren’t you supposed to be engaging the masses before the job begins?
We have raised a sensitisation and enlightenment team to continuously update people about developments on the project and we will keep on appealing to them to be patient that the whole thing would soon be over. We advise motorists, especially the commercial vehicle drivers, tricycle operators and motorcycle riders to always be patient and endure the temporary hardship and remember that there is always gain after pain. They should obey the traffic lights and officials for our own good. All the residents are also advised to bear with the authorities for the period of the closure and beyond. They should also not forget to dial all the Toll Free lines whenever they suspect or observe untoward attitudes capable of causing preach of the peace in the metropolis. To the law enforcement agents and traffic control personnel, we appeal to them to appreciate the situation by not being overzealous in the discharge of the responsibilities. We are sure that, at the end of it all, we shall all be happy over the project.