Roads have always had an abiding, evocative power in human discourse. They are a metaphor for entry and exit, a representation of “a means to an end,” a symbol of advancement, a signifier of mobility, and the antithesis of stagnation.
As Ted Conover writes in the epilogue to his book, The Routes of Man, “So essential a part of the human endeavor are roads that road- and driving-related metaphors permeate our language”. But it isn’t only in language and symbolic representation that roads pervade human life. They are also some of the most visible physical markers of development. They mark the distinction between civilization and backwardness.
That is why both advanced industrialized societies and Third World countries - and societies in between - invoke roads as barometers of development, as the measure of progress, and as the compass to locate prudence and waste in governmental spending. For instance, during America’s 2008 presidential election, “roads” were a prominent, ever-present theme. Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, was roundly pilloried in the news media for her ill-reputed “road to nowhere.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Palin, as governor of the state of Alaska, wasted state resources to construct a 3.2-mile-long, partially paved “road to nowhere” that starts from a “small international airport on Gravina Island, home to 50 people, ending in a cul-de-sac close to a beach…. But no one knows when anyone will need to drive it. That's because the $26-million road was designed to connect to the $398-million Gravina Island Bridge, more infamously known as the ‘bridge to nowhere.” So roads are central and crucial ingredients of the development of any society.
While America’s Sarah Palin built roads to nowhere (and deservedly got ridiculed for it), Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State appears to be building roads to ‘everywhere’ in his effort to open up the state. From the outside looking in, I get a sense that road construction is a signature policy of the Gaidam administration.
The completion of roads such as those linking Ngelzarma and Mashio and Ngelzarma and Ngenshegele have boosted agricultural production and tremendously enhanced intra-state mobility, especially in Yobe’s far-flung countryside. Similarly, all major towns in the state, including Damaturu, Gaidam, Potiskum, Gashu’a and Nguru, have been provided with brand new qualitative township roads and drainages that can compete with the best anywhere in the world.