Inaugurating A Long Road To Nowhere –

By Dele Sobowale

2 June, 2024 * Vanguard

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, he also believes to be true” – Demosthenes, 384-322 BC, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 224

IF YOU honestly believe that the Lagos-Calabar Road will be completed in seven years, then you probably have rocks where brains should be; and you represent one of the cardinal reasons Africa might never develop for centuries to come. Nothing is more distressing than watching highly educated, erudite, well-informed and apparently patriotic media commentators destroy their reputations once they become officials of the ruling party.

The transformation first struck me when President Yar’Adua was elected; and several highly-respected editors and columnists were appointed to high office. The less said about that episode, the better. But, the matter did not end there. Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua and individuals who were previously contemptuous of GEJ were again appointed to high office. Suddenly, they became ferocious defenders of the man they once condemned. Apparently, with regard to some Nigerian media personalities, “every man has his price”. Nobody should believe us until we are appointed to high office. Then media men reveal our true colours.

That is only a preamble to the matters arising concerning the biggest project in Nigerian history. My senior in the media, Dan Agbese, writing in the DAILY TRUST, two Sundays ago, had lamented the nation’s atrocious record with regard to abandoned projects. He briefly mentioned the Lagos-Calabar coastal road while expressing fears that the road might also join the league of such projects. I sent Dan a short message stating without fear that the road might never be completed; that it will stop any time Tinubu ceases to be President of Nigeria. Even Vice President Shettima if he succeeds Tinubu will not continue it because the decision to embark on it was hastily made.

SEVERAL QUESTIONS NEEDING ANSWERS Before Tinubu’s Halleluyah chorus group – editors, Chairmen of the Editorial Board, columnists and guest writers – get all worked up, I am only asking them to be professional, honourable and to put on their thinking caps and answer a few questions. They might just be able to convince other Nigerians that this is not a bogus venture which will cost Fellow Nigerians trillions of naira later – without yielding the returns on investment promised.

The place to start this discussion is to establish some facts (facts are sacred as they claim, but don’t always practice) which are incontestable about this project.

One, it is the largest project in Nigerian history; covering nine coastal states each with different topology and all of which are now well-settled.
Two, the road to be carved out will be 700 kilometres long; may be an African record, but, by far short of the Guinness Book of Records – which is the coastal road from Canada to South America – 30,000 kilometres long which took nearly 80 years to complete.
Three, although, the Federal Government has embarked on it, through a ‘SWEET HEART’ deal with a contractor, nobody actually knows how much it would cost the nation. But, over N1 trillion has been paid in advance to the preferred contractor.
Four, it is doubtful if any of the state Governors, except Lagos, knows exactly where the road will pass through their states and what they will be asked to surrender to the FG for demolition. It is quite possible that no state has been formally requested to donate land for this purpose.
Five, it is uncertain that the National Assembly, NASS, was informed and its consent sought to embark on the journey.
Six, whose brainchild was the idea? When and how was the original proposal presented to the Federal Executive Council for deliberations? Bearing in mind that Ministers were not appointed until August 2023, when did David Umahi know that this gigantic project was going to fall on his laps? How many pages of document were originally sent to his office to convince the engineer that this is a project that can be executed in seven years?
Seven, the President, while launching the project in Lagos State, on May 29, 2024, proclaimed that the “Coastal highway will boost 30 million businesses” – according to various media reports. If you believe that drivel, then you will believe anything.

Permit me to start from number seven; to ask the questions which Tinubu’s true believers would not ask – for a simple reason. I still strongly believe, like I. F Stone, 1907-1989, that “every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” – until they are fact-checked and found to be true. When the statement credited to a government official, irrespective of position, points to future expectations, then, the first thing to do is to determine the credibility of the speaker. The second thing is to subject the statement to critical analysis in order to assess whether available information supports it. If there is one thing politicians do routinely, and without remorse, it is to make empty promises – which their fanatical party members and media mercenaries spread as gospel truth. It is expected that some erudite media practitioners are already writing and talking as if 30 million businesses have been boosted. But, wait a minute.

How many businesses are there in Nigeria now? All the attempts to obtain a more current set of data were frustrated by Nigeria’s lack of a timely data base. The closest available was from, which revealed that “39,654,385 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) operated in Nigeria in 2020; as against 41,543,028 in 2017.” DAILY TRUST chipped in the information that 3.1 million registered companies existed in 2019. Given the fact that Nigeria’s manufacturing sector had been shedding members, it is doubtful if the numbers of MSMEs and registered companies would have increased significantly since 2020 from approximately 42 million businesses. Tinubu, and his disciples, would want us to believe that 70 per cent of the nation’s businesses will be boosted by the coastal highway.

The first question is: How stupid do these people think we are?
The second is: Can anybody publish within 48 hours the perspective study undertaken to arrive at the self-deceptive figure?
Third, since this is not the first coastal highway ever built, can anybody in that government point to another precedent to assure Nigerians that this “road to nowhere” will boost 30 million businesses nationwide? I have a hunch. This brainwave originated from the same source(s) where the announcement of MAERSK Shipping Lines agreeing to invest $600 million in Nigerian ports. That hoax was actually supported with fake audio-visual presentation which was a tissue of lies.
Why believe them now?

Now, we return to the first statement of fact. A federal road, 700 kilometres long, passing through nine states is contemplated in a country where the FG does not have a square inch of road to call its own, on account of the Land Use Decree of 1978, the obvious questions are: When were the Governors told of the peoples’ land they would be asked to forfeit? Can somebody show Nigerians a copy of the letter making the request? Obviously, all the Governors have an obligation to their people.

Granted, most of them behave like emperors once elected. But, there must be a limit to impunity. Is it possible that all the Governors – majority belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, conspired with their APC colleagues to deny the people of every state the right to know that their ancestral lands were being offered to the FG; and that millions of them would be rendered homeless, jobless and destitute? Which Governor, worthy of the office, can come out and admit to such betrayal of his people? And why?
I strongly believe the Governors were ambushed and bullied to submit to the FG.

The seeds of future conflict might have been sown by this conspiracy of silence.

The road might not go beyond the boundary of Ogun State.

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