There is an Igbo saying that a cow that belongs to the public or village as a whole usually dies of hunger. The simple reason is be that each person will expect the other person to feed the cow and as a result the cow goes hungry. That adage fits Nigeria perfectly. The number of tribes that make up Nigeria has been put at figures ranging from three hundred to three hundred and seventy one. Those tribes were distributed into the Northern and Southern Protectorates that were merged in 1914 by the British into what is now called Nigeria in a three region arrangement with the Northern region larger than the two southern regions. That lopsided arrangement caused problems for the nation from inception and those problems are increasing as the years go by and this has been compounded by the splintering of the country into thirty six mostly unviable states and a federal capital territory. So all the tribes and states are unable to provide for themselves and are jostling for the money obtained from the sale of the country’s mainstay, petroleum. And now the price of petroleum has dipped dramatically sending Nigeria into recession and absolute confusion, utter chaos!
Since independence the political and economic problems have been intense. To worsen matters the tribes that make up Nigeria are at different levels of enlightenment and development. Some tribes are closer to being in the stone or dark ages than in the present day electronic age. This has led to all sorts of retrogressive steps to `close the gap’ such as ethnic balancing and quota in distribution of employment, school admissions, distribution of development but these have not worked. The backward states remain backward. Hence the country takes three steps forward and two steps backwards. It has failed to advance as fast as countries at the same stage of development as at the time of independence like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong who do not have such multiplicity of tribes or which have been better governed.
Our problems are myriad. Nigeria seems like an adult human being that is getting more and more retarded as it grows older! An example is the Western Nigeria Broadcasting and Television systems which in 1960 announced to the whole world that they were the first in Africa! Where are they now? We are being dominated by Multichoice, a South African broadcast organisation. Shoprite is dominating supermarket business and indeed driving small local supermarkets out of business. Our telephone system is being dominated by foreigners, MTN, Airtel, Etisalat. The big contractors are foreigners. It even gets more ridiculous that some states would rather employ or do business with foreigners than with Nigerians from other states.
We cannot even maintain what we have built! When we were young we used to hear of the PWD – Public Works Department. It was created by our erstwhile colonial masters, the British. One of the features was the road camps. As you travel you see them, small buildings located along highways housing road maintenance officers who would patch up pot holes as soon as they occurred or remove fallen trees and other obstructions from our highways. Now these road camps have disappeared and potholes become craters and gullies and long stretches of our roads become unusable.
I spent the last two months at Ndike, my home town.  I did not have electricity supply for one day. But that is a matter for a later post. But what shocked me most was the state of the road from my town to Ekwulobia, six miles away. I did not drive my car to Ekwulobia for four reasons. The first was lack of parking space in Ekwulobia. The second was for fear of hitting, or being hit by, the okada, commercial motorcycle, or keke napep, the three-wheeler variety. The third were the hundreds of students milling around at Oko. The fourth and the reason for this section of the write-up were the potholes at Oko.
 When Obasanjo was seeking a second term as president in 2003 he was reported to have spent a night in Dr Ekwueme’s, a former vice president’s house, and was reported to have guaranteed to reconstruct the road from Amawbia through Ekwulobia to Oko if only he would get Igbos from the area to vote for him. Road construction is one of the instruments of political coercion. He won but I do not believe that he built the road as promised. But the road was eventually built. The road is deteriorating but a section of it, about two hundred metres is in a dreadful and disgraceful condition. The two hundred metres stretching from Total petrol station just by the road spur to Awgbu across the whole entrance to the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, past the entrance to Lincoln Hotel, Chalk Valley Hotel and FCMB is pot-holed, some as deep as valleys. It remained like that throughout my two months stay. The owners of the petrol station cannot fill up the potholes. A whole Polytechnic cannot take care of its major entrance and exit. It obviously does not care about its reputation. The proprietors of Lincoln Hotel and Chalk Valley Hotels may have the excuse that there is now hardly any business and they cannot afford it. But what of FCMB, a bank, the proud(?) owners a an ultra-modern new branch in front of which at least fifty or more Polytechnic students are usually queuing at the ATMs!

This road is a vivid example of the proverbial public goat! It is a road belonging to the almighty malfunctioning federal government which cannot maintain it. The bank, the petrol station and the hotels will do nothing about it. Even the state government will not touch it. But why should it leave its own crippling heap of problems and bother about this piece of federal road? So the people suffer. I have always believed that what government owes the average citizen are roads, electricity and water. In my home town area we do not have water and we do not have electricity. Now this particular road is dead to people like me! So what does government do for the citizens? For some people in Nigeria, life is the nearest thing to hell!   

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