I liked the article below, and sought the permission of the Author to reproduce it here.
Instead of arguing, endlessly complaining about what is wrong with Nigeria, and criticizing everyone who might not approach problems from our unique perspectives, I wondered what could emerge if we spent that valuable time collaboratively immagineering the nation on many levels.
Nigeria’s population is massive so anything that engages those numbers is a sure-fire commercial hit (quick reference: the telecommunications industry). A population of nearly 160 million in numerous urban, suburban and rural communities scattered throughout 774 local government areas represents a sustainable base for diverse services and products in an internal travel industry.
A fabulous fate I share with all professional architects is the ability to perceive and plan the future far in advance and I crave your company, critiques and contributions as I apply that attribute and skill set to Nigeria’s rail transportation sector.
I propose a Nigerian Rail Network to be completed by 2025. It is conceived as a way to connect, employ and unite millions of people and thousands of places across the nation. Professionals in every industry, artisans, traders, tourists, teachers, tailors, anthropologists, historians etc. can find much with which to engage themselves over the time it would take to create the network and afterwards. In the process, many petty misunderstandings, founded and fostered on a basic lack of knowledge of each other, compounded by grievous stereotyping, would simply cease. I imagine that travel throughout the nation will provide opportunities to see people at their most relaxed, receptive and hospitable. What could be a better way to learn from and appreciate each other than seizing the chance to share traditions, cultural mores and cuisine?
A number of youths, upon finishing university, would travel around the country in order to ‘find themselves’ in the broad context of this blessed nation and burgeoning continent. On their return, their answers to curious questions would be informed by their range of experiences from the heights of Adamawa mountains to the humid mangroves of the Niger delta. They might write poetry dedicated to the serenity of fertile farmland vistas and pay homage to the hard work, dedication and discipline it takes to cultivate crops. They would add the Argungu fishing festival to their smartphone’s must see list with the same ease with which they order costumes for the Calabar carnival.
The chances of success on a long term project like this will be enhanced by careful phasing and I propose high speed trains for major routes in order to ‘future-proof’ the network. I see the design, construction and supervision work involving thousands of professionals and millions of specialist suppliers, contractors and artisans. The process could lead to a revolution in our approach to megaprojects and the ease and confidence with which we expand the national infrastructure stock in every sector.
ASSUMPTIONS / ASSERTIONS / ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
1) Road networks already connect many state capitals and major towns so this proposal complements them to expand the available travel options;
2) A quantum of rail infrastructure exists as well;
3) Every state capital must be connected by this network to enhance the motive of unity and inclusiveness;
4) Train routes may only intersect at terminals
5) Between 50 – 100 million potential users could ply the network enhancing it’s potential for financial success.
6) Tremendous potential could be unlocked in the areas of trade, travels, tourism and hospitality.
THE RAIL NETWORK
The rail network is conceived thus: First, Nigeria is criss-crossed with 3 high speed rail routes: the Red-X (From Lagos to Borno), Green-X (from Kano to Delta) and Blue-X (From Cross River to Kebbi). Next the country is circumscribed with high speed ‘Circulars’ along the West, North, East and South. With dedicated teams, these can all be completed over the course of two terms or 8 years in total.
To assure connections to every state capital, a hub structure is adopted, centered at Kogi, Kaduna, Enugu, Plateau and Kwara states with commuter links subsequently added to expand the network, increase connectivity and reduce back-tracking on certain routes. Finally, as the system is seasoned and tested, city links are added to connect a few more towns and increase traveler convenience and options. These could be completed within 6 years.
The entire project is conceived as much more than merely laying down train tracks, stabilizing soil and planting terminals; It is an opportunity to conceive, craft and broadcast a narrative of Nigeria to Nigerians and to the larger world. It is an avenue through which Nigerians will be gainfully engaged in a project that will outlive them and a chance for the nation to coalesce and ‘grow up’ a bit more.
For excellence in architectural design, I advocate that each of the stations is procured via Nigerian Institute of Architects sanctioned competitions among qualified professional Nigerian architects with a mandate to express the cultural diversity and contextual identity at each location. Nigerian engineers should be commissioned to tackle the challenges of projects of a magnitude many are unaccustomed to so that they may exult in the resulting achievements.
Procurement, cost control, construction and project management will keep millions of Nigerians busy for at least a generation as they prepare the background on which successive generations can flourish. Crops and commodities will move swiftly around the country in an unprecedented manner reducing wastage and spurring even greater economic growth. Mistakes, if made, should be considered lessons learnt without which no society can advance.
It would be fantastic to join hands with everyone of goodwill to see Nigeria connected, with millions employed and united in the purpose of improving our infrastructure and our interaction. A generation-spanning and defining series of mega projects like this will change the paradigm from ‘competing’ for what lies beneath our feet to creating and converting what lies just beyond our noses. It would be interesting to see a work up of approximate costs and compare them to what assorted governments have spent year on year without providing meaningful infrastructure. What might I be missing that could present a challenge and prevent this from working? And what would you do to eliminate that challenge? It’s really all about applying our God-given gift of imagination to creative pursuits rather than tearing each other down!
Ebiwene Oritsegbubemi Bozimo, 2012JAN25