Nostalgia As Standard Gauge Train Roars In Lagos
Nigeria News takes a look at the inauguration of the standard Gauge Rail in Lagos on Friday.
I saw the fanfare on television as the train took off from Iju Lagos heading to Abeokuta in Ogun State. The new standard gauge rail line built by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
I saw my people jubilating, many of them youths but I was disappointed that some adults joined in the jubilation. Some of these adults were around when Nigeria was running on train years back. Railway came to Nigeria over 100 years ago.
My first experience inside a train from Ilorin to Minna was in 1989. Though the system was on the verge of collapse, it was working at the infinitesimal capacity.
The Nigerian business tycoons who had an interest in trucks and articulated vehicles finally killed the railway system. The successive governments colluded with them to destroy the cheapest and safest mode of transportation.
And with the proliferation of lorries to transport containers from the ports to other parts of the country, our roads become slaughtering slabs as containers regularly fall off the truck to kill innocent road users and motorists.
This is the sad story the death of the railway has brought to us and perhaps that is why the adults have joined in the celebration of a standard gauge. I pray that this government and the successive ones are able to nourish this newborn baby.
The government lacks maintenance culture and if the new standard gauge rail line must live for long, the government must put in place quality maintenance policy.
Now that modern rail system is back in Nigeria with a good example in Kaduna to Abuja, the government must roll it beyond political jamboree by creating a more robust model that can make it spread across the country.
It is amazing that in his lifetime, the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka rode in the modern train from Abeokuta to Lagos on Friday. It is long overdue. Soyinka and many other human rights crusaders have spent a greater part of their lives fighting and seeking better infrastructure for the country.
He was in the coach alongside the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo.
They all made history on Friday together with other dignitaries who joined them to ride on the newly constructed Standard Gauge rail line, from Iju in Lagos to Abeokuta.
But again, we should not forget that trains have been in Nigeria for over 100 years, launching a Nigerian built rocket into space would have been an occasion to toast.
A few years ago, the country launched its first satellite but the rocket disappeared in space. Since then, no government has deemed it fit to launch another one. Our universities that are supposed to be the research centres where new sciences and technologies could be developed had been on strike for three months.
The Academic Staff Union just suspended the three-month-old strike on Thursday but here we are rolling out drums to celebrate one of the oldest technologies in the world, the rail system.
The irony of it all is that President Buhari who stopped the former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande from building a metro line is the one that has allowed the standard gauge rail to stay.