By Kenechukwu Obiezu
IN Jos, it is the Jos Township Stadium that has been ongoing for 31 years. In Port Harcourt, it is the Monorail Project begun by the immediate past Governor and current Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi but now seemingly abandoned by the present administration.
In Kogi State, it is the multi-billion dollar Ajaokuta Steel Complex. In Asaba, it is the Stephen Keshi Stadium begun 17 years ago. The grim list goes on and on much to the eternal chagrin of those who have watched the public weal drained through thee conduits of such interminable projects.
Region by region, state by state the eye sores bespeak a country maledicted with a political class for whom discontinuity and shortsightedness have been elevated into an art of governance.
Alarmed by the insidious culture of abandoned projects, erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan empanelled the Abandoned Projects Audit Commission in 2011.Its report told the story of a country on the verge of abandoning even its own soul. The Commission estimated that about 11,886 Federal Government projects were abandoned in the country in the last 40 years. That was four years ago. When the Senate Committee on Procurement convened a one-day public hearing on May 26, 2016 to amend the Public Procurement Act of 2007, the immediate past Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, Emeka Eze, hit the hearing right in the gut when he revealed that the number of government projects abandoned across the country stood at 19,000.The trend has obviously been on the rise.
If gold rusts, what will iron do queries the sage quip and in this wise with more than a hint of propriety, for if indeed such a monumental number could be chalked up to the projects abandoned by the Federal Government, a fortiori , the state Governments must be faring a lot worse.
But when did we get to this place and which was the path we trod to this sorry state? .The journey began when successive governments vowed that the baby must be cast away with the bath water. This only naturally engendered a situation where incoming government successors denounced their predecessors as criminals, discontinued all projects and ultimately deployed state resources to discredit imaginary enemies.
The tradition has always been that of acrimony from the first day, empanelling Commissions of Inquiry with mostly preordained agendas, labeling predecessors` thieves and prodigal sons’, branding all inherited projects white elephants and ultimately abandoning them to add to the myriad already in place. This attitude mirrors an impish mentality often fueling puerile political rivalry and vendetta for which it is the Nigerian people that have been worse off.
The cost of these abandoned projects in terms of financial, economic and socio-economic losses is simply immeasurable. Apart from readily serving as conveyor belts through which money is laundered, the roads in the absence of completion become death traps, the buildings hang like ominous clouds looking to collapse at any moment while housing vermin and criminals of all kinds and the value which would have been added to the lives of ordinary citizens is simply abandoned.
But lest we forget, this invidious legacy is merely a symptom and not a cause. It is indeed a symptom of the diseased governance we have gleefully entrenched, nursed and condoned successively much to our own harm. When political aspirants to our highest offices pull together often questionable resources and throw their hats into the rings often with a witch`s broth of empty manifestoes padded up with white elephant projects and utopian promises, shocking short sightedness, lack of experience in leadership, conspicuous poverty of promising antecedents and poorly concealed predilection for avarice and idolatry, we choose other relatively insignificant considerations.
Poorly informed and even more impoverished in vision and vigilance, we condone and let ourselves be whipped into nauseating queues of ethnic, religious and fiscal jingoists. The results are no time in coming and are scrawled in the legion of eye sores which eerily testify to our incipient abandonment and portentously foreshadows our total abandonment in the near future if things do not change fast.
While we struggle to protect our fledgling but much cherished democracy found after decades of promising civilian rule, intrusively crushing military incursions into our political space and while we struggle to entrench a system of governance suffused with politicians of patriotism, pro-activism pragmatism and promise let us also learn to summon to account those who have raped us and abandoned us with white elephant projects.
While we vigilantly clamour that the law takes its course to them, may we be wary of them when they stand before us to project themselves or birds of their identical plumage as our much desired messiahs. Let us also be wary of those who rather than concretely tell us their dreams and hopes for us and our children, seek to whip us into fevers of ethnicism and religion for truly, such presage the spectre of abandoned projects which currently blots our landscape.
Obiezu writes from Abuja.