I did think of calling this blog 'The Road to Heaven' but thought this might be a bit unfair on that particular route and certainly be misleading. I would not be at all surprised however, to learn that many a motorist has met his maker on this stretch of road. They say the road to heaven is paved with good intentions -well there is little evidence of paving on this route, and even less of any intention on anybody's part to do anything about it.
We were travelling to Jebba in order to monitor the procedures for delivering the MLA in primary schools. Jebba is in the north of the State near the River Niger, about 2 hours drive out of Ilorin. Our return was along the main highway that connects Kano with Lagos which you will appreciate is horrendously busy and choked with dust, fumes, traffic, people and police/road safety looking for the main chance. Nevertheless, there are still goats that seem to be able to find something to nibble in the middle of the carriageway - even though if they turned round they would see great quantities of roadside plants there for the nibbling; they are fearless in the face of traffic and laugh at the threat to their existence posed by heavy trucks bearing down on them!
Almost every other vehicle on the Jebba road was a tanker or artic and the carcasses or broken bodies of their fellows were strewn along the way about every 100 metres or so - not surprising given the state of the road: potholes like bomb craters, the depth of Olympic swimming pools and three or four 'lanes' of traffic swerving and darting all over the road to avoid them. Our driver, Sam, was performing heroics continually, keeping us on the road and going in a forward direction. Broken down vehicles in mid-stream caused havoc and we saw one huge truck lying on its side, probably overloaded, having narrowly missing a line of wooden shacks and stalls as it toppled.
As we lurched past the driver was clambering out of his door - now more like a hatch in a submarine, looking rather shaken. It was notable as we entered Jebba the number of roadside workshops dealing in vehicle repair! - and the number of stalls selling reclaimed vehicle parts. The only sign of road repairs even being thought about was a gang of tattered, sweaty guys throwing rocks - or rather a rock - into a pothole and grinning widely to us as we passed.
Three times we were stopped by the LGA traffic patrol guys who don't seem to have a function apart from harrassing commercial vehicles hoping for 'donations'. Sam was told his licence was a forgery - even though it was issued by a recognised licensing authority - but shortly after we were allowed to proceed nevertheless!
Presumably nothing of a fragile nature gets transported along this road - not successfully, at least.
We saw everything from truckloads of longhorned cattle on the way to meet their maker - one way or another, to mobile mountains of foam mattresses teetering precariously as their truck plummeted and sank like a ship in a storm.
It was one of these that had over turned - perhaps many of the local people will get a decent night's sleep tonight!
It is now the following day and we were off in the opposite direction to Offa and that much-loved stretch of road beyond Ajasse-Ipo.
Our friend Dory, a French/Lebanese road construction company co-owner, employer of a gang of Italian road workers, told me months ago that his men were working on this very stretch of road and that improvements were imminent. Well, we saw about a 20 metre stretch of road only which showed any evidence of having been resurfaced, apart from a small mountain of rubble dumped hopefully in the road adjacent to several hundred metres worth of road, stripped of all hard surfacing, and no sign of any road workers at all, Italian or otherwise. A hovercraft would have been a more appropriate form of transport along this road today, as after the heavy rains all potholes were brimming and several unwary drivers had wrecklessly and inadvisedly taken the plunge. So, Dory, if you are there, I know the footy season has begun and your Italian guys are probably spending most of the day watching AC Milan by satellite and consuming impressive quantities of vino rosso, but we and countless others who must use this thoroughfare regularly, would regard it as a great service to the nation if you could get stuck into some serious labour on the Ajasse - Offa Road, and repair all of it :) Thank you! - and when you've done that, howsabout having a go at the Jebba road and earn yourselves an honorary citizenship of Nigeria - or a place in heaven!