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The forgotten road to East-West Road

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In his bestselling thriller, The Devils Alternative, novelist Fredrick Forsyth wrote: “Whichever option I choose, men are going to die”. And further suggested that “events shape men, but they do not remove the alternate to choose”.

This matter of choice, with its options, appears to be an albatross on the East-West Road in Rivers State, over the years.

Before the idea of construction of the East-West Road was debated and approved by the then Supreme Military Council in Nigeria, there was the Port Harcourt–Eleme–Bori Road, which some people now prefer to stereotype by adding the prefix “old”, confining it to a used and abused old lady, forgetting the biblical injunction, “before Abraham, I was”.

Suddenly, the old road, (the old lady), the abandoned and rejected stone had gotten a new life, a regeneration, a rebirth, and a functional status, of relevance, as the road is now wearing a “tear rubber look” and ready to be commissioned to mark one year in office of Governor Simialayi Fubara on 14 May 2024.

But the road, now dubbed “Old Port Harcout–Eleme–Bori Road”, how not always been old, it was our own known version of an express road back then.

Historical notes on Rivers State reveal that the road, many years ago, started from Bori and terminated at Elelenwo train station. The colonial administration used it like a stone to kill two birds.

The first was to serve the local farmers coming to Port Harcourt with agricultural produce from the Ogoni axis by conveying those agric products from Elelenwo train station to Aba for the markets, to serve the new trading population that was emerging via palm oil business.

The second reason was to serve the oil mill facility with palm oil fruits from the Igbo hinter land, which needed to be refined and milled, before transporting via the harbour in Port Harcourt to overseas, Europe or Ala-bekee (alias Obodo Ndeocha) as our forbearers called the foreign land.

Elelenwo then was a major connecting artery in the south-eastern trade route, and served as a hub for both farmers, buyers, and local transporters, mostly bicycle riding entrepreneurs from Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Khana villages.

It was therefore cheering news, when the Secretary to Rivers State Government, Dr. Tammy Dangogo, addressing the press as Chairman of Fubara’s One year in Office Anniversary Celebration Committee, announced that the 11-kilometre segment of the “Old Eleme–Bori Road”, which had been given a total recommendation, would be commissioned, alongside other roads.

The reconstructed segment stretches from Akpajo to Aleto–Nchua–Ogale –Ebubu–Eteo. It would serve as an alternative to the East–West road where tankers, heavy duty vehicles and container conveying trucks dominate other road users, sometimes leading to accidents.

Who knows, maybe, if that old road had been resurfaced by previous past administrations, and had been in use before this period, the ugly incident of fire disaster last few days may not had happened.

We may yet thank Fubara for reconstructing this road, and averting further disaster on the East West Road.

Emerging out of that pre-anniversary press conference is the news that the second stretch of the Trans Kalabari highway that will eventually link up to Bakana, Tombia, etc with the rest of the mainland Rivers State is to be flagged off, alongside the 806 Elele Omoku dual carriage way.

According to Dangogo, the Andoni axis of the Ogoni–Opobo–Andoni Unity Road would be commissioned to give the road its complete cycle, as the initiators of the project had envisioned a road to hit the Atlantic coast line.

While we thank the governor for giving a fresh new refined look and status to the Old Port Harcourt–Eleme–Bori Road, it is our wish that the reconstruction should be extended to link up Nonwa, up to Kira–Sakpenwa, where it will connect the already completed segment of Sakpenwa–Bori–Kana axis.

Wikina is a former Director for ICT in the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications. He was also Chief Press Secretary to then Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

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