By Onuwa Lucky Joseph
To hear the Federal Government say it, one reason Nigeria finds itself in the current N60trillion debt hole is because we needed to revamp the country’s decrepit infrastructure. For which reason, it’s gone on a borrowing spree. But even though officials of government, including President Buhari himself, have a habit of patting themselves on the back for a job well done, citizens have reached a totally different conclusion. There isn’t much to show for all the borrowings, quite frankly. The country’s infrastructure – roads, rails, healthcare, schools, everything, seem in a worse state than before the humongous borrowings. Rainy season 2022, for instance, put a lie to the endless talk about improved road infrastructure.
But to be fair, government’s remit is gargantuan, as it straddles everywhere in the nation, despite the three levels of government taking responsibility for different aspects of the job. What we know for sure is that, considering the current gap, it will take a good deal of time before basic infrastructure needs are addressed in a way that meets citizens’ expectations.
But can the nation afford that long wait? It clearly cannot. Take Lagos, for instance, the commercial capital of the nation. The traffic drag tends to drag every other thing down. This takes a huge toll on individual, organizational and government deliverables. It can be said, and this strictly from personally experiencing the gridlock that is Lagos every day of the work week, that effectively what is achieved by the average worker or entrepreneur in any particular week is no more than 40% of what was projected and hoped for.
And so, it behoves not only government but all those who feel a deep concern for what is happening, (not just in Lagos but all over the country), to take the proverbial bull by the horns and to do the needful by their communities to ensure a better flow of traffic, because free flow of vehicular movement happens to be one big determinant of business success and a nation’s overall development.
Jim Ovia, chairman and founder of Zenith Bank gives us an idea how organisations can play their part in his book “Africa Rise and Shine”. He takes his readers back to the early days of the bank when, Zenith, although just taking baby steps, was already an ambitious organisation and world class in orientation. In Chapter 16 of the book sagely titled ‘Build your Own Infrastructure”, he gives an idea how it became imperative for the bank to tackle an infrastructure deficit: Hear him –
“Another significant problem we were working to address was the matter of Ajose Adeogun Road in Lagos, on which our head office was located. Like many roads in Lagos, it was often flooded and was covered in potholes. Some people let us know they were afraid to come to our bank because of the damage that might be sustained by a car on our old road. I called a meeting with my bank managers, and presented the idea that since the government could not afford to fix every road in Lagos, we would simply have to fix the road to Zenith by ourselves”.
His managers were all for the idea and so began the reconstruction of the three kilometer Ajose Adeogun Road in Victoria Island, Lagos. It was an arduous undertaking as people still needed to use it even as reconstruction was ongoing. But the bank kept at it, built a solid wider road, and then added the florid touch inclusive of flowers, and trees (for carbon capture), and then eventually elaborate lighting which have since come to help signpost the Christmas and end of year season for Lagosians.
Ovia sheds more light on the street lightings: “Given that Ajose Adeogun Road had no street lights, we decided to create a special effect by installing streetlights powered by our generators. We contracted with electrical and mechanical engineers to install the lights as a standout feature of the road. When at last our repairs were complete, many more drivers started to use it, because it was well built and maintained, beautiful to look at, and flooded with light in the evening”.
The road as stands today, is testament to far sighted thinking which didn’t in any way down play the positive impact of the effort on the bottom-line. Over time, that investment has repaid itself over and over again. And it never stops paying. Not for the bank, not for its community, not for the people. It helped change the look and feel of Ajose Adeogun, and of course the overall Zenith experience.
It’s an impact landmark that has and will be there for years to come. And it bears repeating, it has done only good for the Zenith image, profile and bottom-line. As Christmas approaches, people are making plans to be on that street because Zenith deemed it fit to rehabilitate the road in a way that makes it a worthwhile experience.
When will the street be named, Zenith Avenue ? #justsaying
The great Zenith example, well articulated. But that was when Nigeria’s economy was not as bad. Today, only very few corporate entities, if any, can venture into such gigantic project, given the negative impact of the country’s moribund economy, coupled with the various governments’ multiple taxation or overtaxation drive that tend to suffocate entrepreneurs, generally.
Another shocking aspect is the corruption factor. Over the years, we have seen where some transport company owners were willing to rehabilitate the roads leading to their operational headquarters, but the government, Local or State, would demand that, instead, the funds earmarked by the companies for the project, be given to it. The result of that is better left unsaid.
Zenith, therefore, must have gone the extra mile, by way of sheer willpower to achieve that feat. It is doubtful, if the company would have been able to push its way through, if it were in present times, given the accentuated corruption on the part of government, as adumbrated above. It is rather a political enigma, to see the governments at various levels, interfering with potentials of corporate social responsibilities of willing corporate entities these days. Just another perspective.
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