One of the most remarkable achievements of President Goodluck Jonathan is undoubtedly the resuscitation of the nation’s paralysed and relegated railway transport system. After almost 15 years of motion without movement and the blowing of billions of naira, it is only the Goodluck Jonathan Administration that has put trains back on the tracks across the land and finally answered the prayers of the highly itinerant Nigerian masses for an affordable means of mass transportation of people and goods that spans the entire country. This marks a significant evidence of the reality of the Transformation Agenda articulated and under implementation by the Administration and a timely departure from the many expensive false starts of his predecessors to correct the monumental mistake of the previous military Administration that still holds the dubious distinction of contributing most to the economic adversity of Nigeria.
All over the world and especially in the developing world, the rail system has been an indispensable pillar of the logistics for the mass transportation of people and goods and by extension a major economic dynamo for national development. It is of particular functionality to the millions of common people who need to commute continuously to places and far and near within their country in pursuit of making a living. It was the lifeline of the exploitative agenda of the colonialists who established it that could not be dismantled at the end of the era and became arguably the most valuable legacy of the colonialists. Several generations of Nigerians had benefited tremendously from the essential services of the Nigerian Railway Corporation which continued to thrive and survived the canker-worms of corruption and mismanagement that saw to the demise of several similar government enterprises. Till this day none can explain or understand the rationale for a supposedly patriotic and responsible military government to bring such a viable national asset to its ruination and for its successors to merely fritter away billions in bogus rail rehabilitation programmes.
But all that is mercifully past and gone. Ever since he assumed full control of the reins of governance, President Goodluck Jonathan has salvaged the soiled reputation of leaders by distancing himself from the tradition of lip service and deceptive expenditure of billions of Naira on white elephants and failed projects. What could not be achieved in more than thirty-five years of rail rehabilitation programmes has finally come to pass in a couple of years of sincere and responsible governance. The trains are rolling again and bringing to life vast stretches of ghost railway towns and villages with blaring horns and hundreds of daily commuters criss-crossing the nation on numerous economic missions at affordable rates.
Thousands of kilometres of dilapidated narrow gauge rail tracks linking all zones in the country have since been fixed and strengthened facilitating the reintroduction of the famously bustling Lagos-Kano service.
Extensions such as the Kano-Nguru-Maiduguri rail rehabilitation are on line and the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge is also part of the rehabilitation works. The much talked about standard gauge for fast trains would soon be added to the laurels of the Jonathan Administration in the transformation of the rail transport sector. While the Lagos-Ibadan fast train line is due for award, the Kaduna-Abuja fast train line that will connect with the Ajaokuta-Warri line is under construction and is estimated at about 45% completion and soon the laying of the tracks will commence.
To this impressive list we must also add the ultra-modern Abuja Monorail project which will bring the federal capital at par with modern cities all over the world in the provision of safe, fast, convenient and affordable urban mass transit system that will significantly curb the stressful and chaotic automobile options that we have been stuck with decades behind other nations of the developing world.
These major rail projects together underscore the dramatic difference in performance that the Goodluck Jonathan Administration has made by its capacity to attain significant outcomes whether we are talking of the long anticipated rebirth of the nation-wide rail mass transportation which Nigerians have since welcomed with high patronage or the international standard gauge tracks now being laid but which have been on the drawing boards for decades.
It is curious to observe that these awesome transformational developments in sectors hitherto consigned to regrettable memories of crashed national assets, have not been accorded the appreciation, nay celebration that they surely deserve, especially in the politically-obsessed media. There is however consolation in the undeniable fact that Nigerians are not politically-biased as can be seen from the enthusiastic embrace of high patronage of the Lagos-Kano and other recently resuscitated rail services. The credit will surely and deservedly go to President Goodluck Jonathan when the chips are down!
Abdullahi Garba can be reached at [email protected]