By BALA MUHAMMAD
Without raising as much as a finger – or his voice – APC Merger Leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a mega project to show his people as ‘dividend of democracy’ towards 2023: the completed and inaugurated Lagos-Ibadan Modern Rail Line. This week, the train rolled off from Ibadan to Lagos on the first commercial journey for N3,000 per economy ticket. We are so happy for Tinubu and the South West Merger Beneficiaries. (Forget the fact that at this first commercial operation, THERE WAS ONLY ONE PASSENGER ON BOARD; they have no kidnappers along Ibadan-Lagos!)
While we congratulate the O’dua, it is sorry for the North West, the supposed senior partner of the 2015 Merger. For the umpteenth time in the life of this Column (actually the SEVENTH), we today revisit the elusive and perhaps forgotten Kaduna-Kano Modern Rail Project. The soil has never been turned, and nobody, except perhaps this Columnist, is consciously, seriously concerned that this government which our people voted for and installed is about to wind up without such mega project as now enjoyed by the South West.
This week, the cheapest Kano-Abuja air ticket is N115,000. Henceforth, no one can afford to travel the route by air – unless they are recipients of unaccounted-for public funds (literally members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms and legs of government), and those at the level of the Dangotes, Dantatas and Rabi’us. It used to be ‘Flying is not for the poor’; now even the Middle Class can’t! (A la ‘Now We Can’t Buy Yam/Now We Can’t Travel Kaduna-Abuja/Now We Can’t Even Fly The Route’!)
Don’t we remember that in the mid-1980s a once-upon-a-time Minister (and later Governor and Senate President) was quoted to have said that “The telephone is not for the poor!”? Allahu Akbar! In his own life time, God the Almighty showed him a poor market woman owning a smartphone! We shall overcome!
This Monday, Rahama Radio, an FM Station in Kano, invited your Columnist to, again, discuss this Kaduna-Kano Modern Rail Project. My closing appeal was that the four Governors of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States (primary beneficiaries of a future Kaduna-Kano Rail Line) viz. Nasir el-Rufa’i, Abdullahi Ganduje, Aminu Masari and Badaru Abubakar; plus their twelve Senators (for Kano, Ibrahim Shekarau, Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya and Barau Jibrin); plus their ministers (for Kano, Agriculture’s Muhammad Sabo Nanono and Defence’s Bashir Salihi Magashi); plus all the House of Representatives Members of the four states; plus the leading Traditional Rulers; plus the elite; should all CONVERGE in and on Abuja and seek to see Mallam Mamman Daura and Professor Ibrahim Gambari and Mallam Garba Shehu to beg them to beg Transportation Minister Amaechi start the Kaduna-Kano Rail line. Yes, BEG!
Allah Sarki PMB! Amaechi has apparently succeeded in befuddling the old man’s thinking – or whatever remains of that faculty – to abandon the almost ten million votes of the four states in the fairy-tale of a modern rail line coursing through Daura on its way to Katsina, Jibia and thence to Maradi. Plus a University of Transportation in Daura to complement the Melchizedek route which has no beginning and no end!
On a certain Friday evening before COVID-19 lockdown, I had the privilege of flying Abuja to Kano (then ‘only’ N30K economy) where, in the business class, I saw Agric Minister Nanono, Accountant General of the Federation Ahmad Idris, Jigawa House of Reps Member Makki ‘Yanleman, while Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Amaechi’s Ministry was in Economy. I stood up in the plane and, to the hearing of the 100+ passengers, appealed and cajoled and begged these VIPs to help us by making possible the Kaduna-Kano Rail project. I got a sitting ovation from many passengers. Deaf ears?
As I said earlier, this is about the seventh piece I am writing on this matter on this page over the years. I had at the beginning advocated, for equity and fairness and votes allocated to APC, the rail project should start from BOTH ENDS, i.e. Lagos-Ibadan and Kano-Kaduna, so that the line could meet somewhere in the centre, perhaps around Jebba. That way, I had argued, there would be economies of scale in the jobs that would have been created. Alas! Only one side was started – the one with the lower votes’ contribution!
I don’t blame the minister; it is very likely Mr. Amaechi may settle down in Lagos in the long run, with a second address in Abuja. However, the President may very likely retire to Kaduna, with frequent trips up North to Daura, mostly via Kano. And neither do I blame super-Minister Fashola on concentrating his attention on the Lagos-Ibadan road as priority project; it deserves such attention. Both their geographical compasses point southwards, for no fault of theirs. Therefore, for them, the Lagos-Ibadan rail and road projects ARE priority. Alas! Arewa has NO ONE to speak for it. NONE whatsoever!
And please the Transportation Minister should cease to ‘over-wayo’ himself and us by throwing up the Abuja-Kaduna line as counter-balance for the Lagos-Ibadan line. Because it is not. Past governments started it – the Chinese had to finish it so as not to lose their billion-dollar investment commitment. The counter-balance to Lagos-Ibadan is Kano-Kaduna line, which the minister is not talking about, and no one else is, except perhaps this Column.
Finally, again, congratulations to Tinubu and the South West! Now they call the remaining part of the project Ibadan-Kano; very soon they will start calling it Ibadan-Ilorin – the same way Obasanjo’s Lagos-Kano super highway first became Lagos-Ibadan; then Ibadan-Ogbomosho; then Ogbomosho-Ilorin. Twenty years on, it has not crossed Jebba!
This column will not keep silent on this matter – I have been hammering on it since 2007 when former President Obasanjo flagged it off as an $8.3b project in Ifo, near Abeokuta, as part of his Third Term Agenda (or Tsiyar-Nasara-Sai-Za-Shi-Gida!)
We have pushed this APC Merger vehicle with our two million votes in Kano alone – we have ended up with a wave of dust’, and not even a kuturun bawa!
Allah Sarki Mu!