Almost every politician in the position of power claims to have a balanced-oriented leadership style that strives on getting the job done through others and leaving a legacy of recognition. Why this may be true for some that have made efforts to actualize service improvements in varied forms across the Nigeria, others are solely using self proclamations to advertise how resourceful they are at embezzling, under a poor leadership and a system of weak accountability, augmented by the immeasurable non-recognition of the hardworking few that have integrated effective organizational management with concepts that could lead to achieving actual developmental goals. Forty four years and counting, we truly have very few that have performed at the level expected of the positions they occupied mainly because they have spent more of their time in office assuring their financial safety through their impetuous greed for wealth rather than improving the services of the masses to ensure a true legacy. Past leaders we sometimes recognize today, were actually considered failures at the end of their tenures. Over the years, we have used comparative analysis to measure one leader to another and oftentimes, have ended up seeing those we considered failures in the past as having been more productive than others.
Rather than asking for light rail transit services to be implemented in all the major cities in Nigeria, which would be the ideal, I recommend that OBJ sets forth an exploratory team to conduct an initial investigation into the possibility of implementing Light Rail Service in Abuja. Departing Nigeria in the 80’s before Abuja began a reality, I heard so much positive information about the city that I was looking forward to someday visiting a city of such greatness in my own country. I dreamt of how it would look like. I even tried extracting pictures of Abuja on the web. I fell in love with Abuja before I first laid my eyes on it. Recognizing the love I developed for the city, I somehow wished I never actualized my physical visit. Upon arriving Nigeria, I luckily had to be in Abuja for a couple of days and lo and behold, I looked forward to it. At the airport in Lagos, I saw a postcard of Abuja shot from an angle over nightfall with the lights looming melodiously and the city looking like a bride on her wedding day. It was beautiful. I bought a copy of the postcard, and envied it while I boarded my flight to Abuja.
Upon arrival, my entire lustfulness was gradually dissipated when I got out of the airport. The roadway to and from the airport looked so beautiful, it is comparable to Century Blvd leading to the Los Angeles Airport or Airport Road leading to the Oakland Airport. Beautiful that is. However, navigating Abuja despite the outstanding architectural works and excellent planning of some of the roadways was a nightmare. The roads were dusty and ugly and every 15 minutes or less our vehicle was literally channeled off the road (alongside others) by mobile police vehicle sirens apparently guiding some official or rich political figure or godfather. It was unending. I kept asking why there were so many cars with AK 47 yielding mobile police officers guiding them and I couldn’t get a clear and specific response beside the fact that if I wanted same, it only took money to achieve that level of authority. Houses that were originally white in color looked grayish or brownish. In efforts to get a good feel for the city I requested to have a brief tour of the city. It is an ok place that needs a lot of improvement. For the poor masses that take public transportation and others alike who enjoy good public transportation, Abuja is not the place to be. The set up reminded me of Apapa, Lagos in the seventies when I was at Ladi Lak Primary School on Randle Road. Apapa was a well planned, clean and beautiful place then and so does Abuja somehow, excepting that Abuja is dirty, poorly managed and smog filled.
Abuja could be a beautiful place if truly enhanced with the money currently going into the pockets of the few. The settings reminded me of the commonality where the rich and the poor went to the same school though Abuja doesn’t have that system as I was told of several private schools for the rich. It is sad that our leaders’ greed stops them from completing projects to a level of impeccable accomplishment. The transportation system is borderline a complete mess. In my thinking state as usual, I started concerting ways the city could be improved and in discussing with a good friend of mine Paul Okoruwa, we realized that simply designing and implementing a transit-oriented development system like a light rail transit system that loops around Abuja, companioned with two more light rail lines that runs vertically and horizontally, connecting to the looping line, like the Circle, Central, and Northern lines in London, will almost completely ease the congestion and complexity of navigating Abuja. It will raise the level of Abuja’s status and remain a legacy to the regime that implements it.
This recommendation will not completely resolve the problem in Abuja but will greatly improve the city. El Rufai could commence a preliminary process by implementing a Congestion Management Committee (CMC) charged with ensuring that traffic in Abuja improves, or at least does not worsen as the population of the city increases. The committee will be tasked with preparing a Citywide Deficiency Plan (CDP) that recommends improvement and monitors the level of service and air quality as an offset to traffic impacts. This approach will serve as a mitigation strategy of check and balance while also monitoring the adoption of low emission buses only as the main transportation vehicles. Nigeria could build a collaborative agreement with Japan on the effort recognizing the best light rail trains used by some of the largest and best transportation systems in America are KinkiSharo light rail trains made in Japan. The government must not wait till Abuja falls apart like Lagos to put a proactive congestion management system in place. An in-depth, ongoing transportation analysis must be implemented and an impartial, independent advocacy group should be assembled to monitor the successes and areas for improvement of the various committees.
If the rail system is seen as an alternative, it is important that the delineation of duties and roles are not decided on political basis. There are capable Nigerians resident in Nigeria that can take on these projects with minimal need for additional training. Experts support staff could be brought in as professionals to oversee the development program and recommend strategies on the rail station planning and community design process. This will ensure that the weak and poor masses are not discarded of their properties in the implementation process, and that fair reciprocal relationship is established between the people, the transit system and land usage. Recognizing that the light rail system runs on a level platform like cars, the issue of safety should be intently evaluated and analyzed through expert deliberation before reaching and adopting a methodology that works best in a city like Abuja. An effective rail system and a well managed congestion management program that oversees the adopted of low emission buses will not only create a positive transit mode split, it will also (a) improve travel time for residents, (b) improve operational efficiency in Abuja, (c) grow and encourage more businesses, (d) create new market regions rather than the current centralized system, (e) improve integration and (f) maximize participation residents in varied activities. If adopted, it may just be the secret to the legacy of the implementer and will help OBJ establish the immortality most Nigerian political leaders seek so much.