Nigeria is a special country. And I don’t mean “special” in the same sense as “physically challenged” or “less privileged” (we all know the country is as fit as a butcher’s dog). I mean our modes of operation here are simply unique. We have abundant resources yet, like the typical Nigerian mother, we have decided to, you know, manage. It’s what we do best and it’s almost as if the austerity measures adopted for the Structural Adjustment Programme of the 1980s still haunt us from their graves.
Managing, or what you may call our Advanced Coping Mechanisms (ACMs), is what makes Nigeria such a great country. It is why couples who collectively earn less than the national minimum wage also collectively give birth above the national birth rate average—because, you know, “we will manage” and, you know, “God will do it”.
It is, in fact, the bond that has cemented this country of over 200 million people, hailing from different ethnicities and wailing in different tongues, for nearly sixty decades —because, you know, “we will manage” and, you know, “it is God’s plan”.
Let us not forget that our ACMs are also responsible for making life much easier for our leaders. Not only do we elect them using ELDS cut-off marks and federal character, but we are also hardly shocked by their incompetence. Our ACMs have made us a nation of happy people who don’t sweat the small stuff (especially when that “small stuff” is the responsibility of elected officials)—because, you know, “we can manage” and, you know, “e go better”.
Anyway, it is this same ACM formula our leaders apply to the governance. As we manage them, so also have they taken to help us “manage” our “abundant” resources. And there’s no sector where this is more evident than in road maintenance under the ministry of works.
There are some silly countries, such as Canada, that have created online forms and helplines just for people to complain about potholes. Every year, the city of Toronto alone spends millions of dollars repairing hundreds of thousands of potholes and then—wait for it—also gives progress reports to the people about how many potholes they’ve massacred. Who does that? Aren’t they aware that potholes are citizens with fundamental human rights? Don’t they know they are a necessary evil that deserve to be treated with love, care, and respect?
Even if you are going to go down the harsh, inhuman road of exterminating potholes, at least have the decency to make the repair temporary so the pothole can, within a few months, see the light of day again.
Also, always remember to take into account the country’s “abundant” resources, which you must spend as uneagerly as possible. To do that, prioritisation is needed. It is only a man with filled pockets that goes about filling potholes like a madman.
Besides (B), if you do it excessively and arbitrarily, it doesn’t become special anymore when you announce it as an achievement. You won’t be able to commission all the repaired potholes and people will think you are not working. And there won’t be swagger in press statements that declare your government has just repaired so and so kilometres of road at so and so community.
Post besides (PB), potholes have proven to be a reliable and stress-free source of job creation. Good roads don’t attract unemployed youth who fill up potholes with stones and leaves and “tuale” every road user who drives by for cash. Only bad roads can pull that off.
Post post besides (PPB), bad roads have also been established to lead to fewer accidents (according to unpublished research papers of the Buhari Media Organisation). Political scientists say there is nothing in their anatomy that materially distinguishes them from speedbumps. Because of this, potholes in some political corridors now have the nickname, “inverted bumps”. Nigerians get too excited and tend to forget their driving school lessons when a road is flawless. This, of course, causes accidents.
So, take heed. You have to apply sense and make pothole-filling as rare as the blood moon. That is the only way to maximise resources and at the same time remain politically relevant. So according to guidelines followed by any Nigerian politician who knows his onions, here are some of the occasions where maintaining roads will become, sort of, necessary (any other time is honestly a waste of energy):
1. Olympic games:
If the country were hosting the Olympic games, that would certainly be a valid reason to do some road maintenance. But not everything; only the road networks that are calculated to be important for our national image. The stretch of the road from the airport to the hotel is of paramount importance, for instance. Then, the one that leads to the stadium from the hotel as well as those that connect to the national hospital. You get the drift, uhn?
Please note that I said Olympic games. This level of proactiveness does not apply in the event that the country hosts smaller sport events like the African Nations Championship or the Africa Cup of Nations.
2. Election period:
Reports have already shown there’s always a sharp spike in road repairs in the buildup to presidential and gubernatorial elections. This is no miracle or coincidence. It is simply part of the prioritisation process.
Did I hear someone mutter “vote-buying?” Haha, don’t be daffy! It is simply because people travel a lot during these seasons and politicians want them to get to their destination on time so they don’t miss the accreditation and voting processes.
Yes, this is another occasion that calls for the rehabilitation of roads. We can’t have heads of government and heads of state from our junior brother-African countries coming to embarrass us—especially when your party has just been re-elected.
In this case, don’t just repair the roads. Also, re-paint the white walls of the capital territory’s City Gate. And if you can temporarily erect in different strategic locations a giant broom or whatever object from your party logo, that’ll be cool too. It’s all part of thanksgiving.
4. Big man lives there:
This is not a very high priority situation though, especially if big man has an SUV worth millions of naira with a Bilstein 24-186742 5100 series shock absorber.
“Big man” is anyone ranging from the president to the local government chairman or a special adviser to any of these or a personal assistant to any of the aforementioned. In certain situations, the term is also expanded to include family members or close associates or lovers or concubines of any of the listed persons.
In no circumstances should big man be made even slightly uncomfortable. Because if big man has a headache, big man has to go to Europe to treat it, spending millions of dollars that could have been better lavished back at home. And, you know, everyone loses.
5. Big man dies there:
In fact, if you can, declare not only a state of emergency but a national day of mourning. If one big man dies there, owing to the Law of Big Man Gravitational Pull, then there’s the possibility that more Big Men frequent the same road and are likely to suffer similar fates. We can’t have that.
If some Big Man is unlucky to die by road accident today, the road has to be fixed the next day. So goes to the guideline.
6. Room for extra cash:
Some people prefer to call it embezzlement or misappropriation of funds, but let’s not be too harsh about it. It really is just extra-budgetary income. Road maintenance can be a quick avenue to make some extra bucks.
In Nigeria, there’s no limit to how much you can spend on one kilometre of road — whether building from scratch or simply repairing. If you tell your people you spent all of the state’s treasury constructing 10 kilometres of double lanes, they’ll believe you, as long as you make sure to convert the figure to dollars first. No one will bother checking the naira equivalent.
So, yeah, repair roads. Budget N10 billion, though the contractor only asked for N2 billion. Eventually, give him only N500 million. What in Pete’s name is a drainage system? What are road signs? What are streetlights or speedbumps? C’mon, we don’t do that here! So, N500 million should do. You need another N500 million to organise a ceremony to launch the project. And the rest, they say is
history luxury —because, you know, Nigerians just love to manage.