A Look at Yobe’s Roads to Everywhere
But it isn’t only in language and symbolic representation that roads pervade human life. They are also some of the most visible physical markers of development. They mark the distinction between civilization and backwardness. That is why both advanced industrialized societies and Third World countries—and societies in between— invoke roads as barometers of development, as the measure of progress, and as the compass to locate prudence and waste in governmental spending.
For instance, during America’s 2008 presidential election, “roads” were a prominent, ever-present theme. Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, was roundly pilloried in the news media for her ill-reputed “road to nowhere.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Palin, as governor of the state of Alaska, wasted state resources to construct a 3.2-mile-long, partially paved “road to nowhere” that starts from a “small international airport on Gravina Island, home to 50 people, ending in a cul-de-sac close to a beach…. But no one knows when anyone will need to drive it. That's because the $26-million road was designed to connect to the $398-million Gravina Island Bridge, more infamously known as the ‘bridge to nowhere.”
So roads are central and crucial ingredients of the development of any society. While America’s Sarah Palin built roads to nowhere (and deservedly got ridiculed for it), Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State appears to be building roads to ‘everywhere’ in his effort to open up the state. From the outside looking in, I get a sense that road construction is a signature policy of the Gaidam administration. In the past few years, the governor has opened up hitherto landlocked communities and linked many remote villages and towns to the outside world with well-paved roads throughout his state.
I learned that in the space of only a few years, over 700 kilometers of roads have been built by the Gaidam administration. That’s an admirable record by any standard. Representative samples of the roads that have been built by Governor Gaidam are the 109 Kaliyari-Bayamari-Gaidam Road and the 32 kilometer Gaidam-Bukarti Road. Reconstruction of the 150-kilometer Potiskum-Jakusko-Garn Alkali road is currently ongoing. The government has also completed the Bularafa-Gulani Bridge, the Gadaka-Maiduwa road, and built scores of rural roads that are designed to open up rural areas and link agricultural communities with the “outside world.” The completion of roads such as those linking Ngelzarma and Mashio and Ngelzarma and Ngenshegele have boosted agricultural production and tremendously enhanced intra-state mobility, especially in Yobe’s far-flung countryside.
Similarly, all major towns in the state, including Damaturu, Gaidam, Potiskum, Gashu’a and Nguru, have been provided with brand new qualitative township roads and drainages that can compete with the best anywhere in the world.
The Gaidam administration has, in addition, given approval for the construction of roads in housing estates in Damaturu. These estates were built by previous administrations. However, they were not equipped with befitting internal road networks. The government seeks to correct that with a N500 million allocation, which will be spent through the Ministry of Works for the construction of estate roads in Ben Kalio, Dabo Aliyu, 3 bedroom Maiduguri Road, State Low Cost, Waziri Ibrahim, and Shagari Low Cost Housing estates. Furthermore, the government has also built new roads within the newly completed 200-bed capacity hospital in Damaturu stretching over 2 kilometers.
Also, the state executive council has approved the construction of 8.7Km road with 17.4Km of drainage at the newly constructed 300 housing estate along Gujba – Maiduguri ring road in Damaturu. This is a new housing estate built by Governor Gaidam. The governor wants the roads built before the houses are allocated to beneficiaries.
There are several other road construction projects that space will not allow me to list here. But it is clear that if the governor keeps his current pace of road construction, Yobe State will become one of the most physically connected states in the country.
For instance, for a long time, the northern swathe of Yobe had remained without good roads. It had, as a result, remained disaffiliated from the rest of the state. The Gaidam administration is changing that. The government is building what has been dubbed the Trans Saharan Road network. It is a huge expanse of road that stretches over 300 kilometers from Kanamma to Machina. Work has already started on the project, and the first phase will cover Kanamma to Kafiya towns, which amounts to nearly 80 kilometers of road. When this is completed, the geographic and social isolation of northern Yobe will become history. This is good both for intra-state integration and for the overall economic vitality of the entire state.
But what is even more heartening than what I’ve just listed here is that this year is going witness even more road constructions and infrastructural uplift, if the state’s 2013 budget is any guide. A public policy analyst, who is also a Yobe indigene, analyzed Yobe State’s 2013 budget in recent newspaper articles and had this to say about roads: “Many new roads will be built and many old roads will be rebuilt. In the governor’s budget speech, for instance, he said he would construct new township roads at several local government headquarters.”
The writer’s analysis has basis in facts. In the budget speech, which I just got hold of a couple of days ago, Governor Gaidam said his priorities for 2013 “include the construction of Township Roads at Dapchi, Babbangida, Jaji-Maji, Jakusko and Buni-Yadi, while the construction of Estate Roads in the Housing Estates will also commence in the 2013 fiscal year. In order to demonstrate our commitment towards the realization of this objective, the sum of N3 billion will be expended by the State Government on the execution of these projects in the new financial year.”
Other road-related highlights of the 2013 budget speech are that scores of township roads will be built in Nguru, and priority attention will be devoted toward the completion of the Potiskum-Danchuwa-Garin Abba Road, the Kanamma-Kafiya Road, the Gashua-Yusufari Road, and the Bulafara-Jibulwa Road. Similarly, the governor disclosed that the government will award contract for the construction of Gashua-Dumburi-Dadigar Road, Daya-Fadawa Road, and Damaturu-Sasawa road. This is in addition to others such as the Bularafa-Gulani Road, the Girgir-Karage-Bukarti Road, the Juma’a-Maganna Road, the Fika-Maluri Road, the Garin Alkali-Gwio Kura-Lafiya-Buduwa Road, and the Karege-Dawayo spur road that will also feature in the current fiscal year.
In the budget speech the governor also revealed that the government would construct a road that will connect Godowoli to Gadaka, Gujba to Ngalda, and the Nangere, Kayeri, Borno Kichi road. Similarly the Kaliyari Bridge will be rehabilitated.
The Yobe public policy analyst I quoted earlier said of these various road projects: “When all this is done, it is obvious that there will be a huge boost in the economic activities in these areas. The multiplier effects of such a boost can only be imagined.” He is right.
If roads are indeed a marker of physical and civilizational progress (and they are), Yobe is surely on the path to greatness. One of the metaphoric imports of roads is that roads afford us the latitude to stand at a place and gaze into a wide vista of previously unseen views. It is safe to say that Governor Gaidam’s aggressive push to open up his state through road construction is sure to literally expose the state to a wide panorama of developmental possibilities never seen or thought of before.