By Theodore Opara
Ben Obumselu in his review of Dr. Usoh Kingsley’s book on Effective Transportation System: A catalyst for Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Development,writes that Nigerian roads are among the most deadly in the world, contributting far more to the national death rate that any other single cause. According to him, the death toll on our roads is the result of a monumental performance deficit at every level.
He submitted that transport is a single simple system and that it is optimally efficient and user-friendly only when its different modes are seamlessly interconnected.
Enjoy the review.
EFFECTIVE Transport Systems is, I believe, the first professional work which examines our national transport network in searching detail, analyzing its legal framework, the composition of its assets, the regulatory institutions which govern it, the quality of its service delivery and the contributions which it makes or fails to make to the good health of the nation.
So far as I know, transport has received little or no attention previously from our intellectual community. I am not aware that there are scholarly monographs on the life and death of the Nigerian Railways which, making its debut in 1898, had a robust and illustrious life in the 1940s and 1950, becoming in that period the carrier of first choice for the rich and mighty who wanted to travel in style and also ferrying the agricultural produce of the Regions from the hinterland to the seaports of Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Carrier of first choice
The Railways were unfortunately buffeted in its hey days by the rough winds of technological change and the rougher winds of Nigerian politics and, falling in evil days during the civil war; failed to come back to life despite the strenuous efforts made again and again for its resuscitation. There are no academic studies of Zarpas Bus Services of the 1940s, of Armels Royal Mail, Ojukwu Transport, Rotibi Motors, the Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian National Shipping Lne and the National Unity Line, and the flock of private airlines which flourished and foundered in the 1990s. The names of the great pioneers are to be found in private memoirs, biographies, newspaper articles and occasional publications.
We occasionally remember and celebrate them. But nobody has taken the trouble, in the universities and the Ministries of Transport, to assemble all avallable documents, for the benefit of scholars, in archives of our transport history. The real story of the nation is not written in the pageantry of Presidents and the doubtful claims which they make in their speeches. It is written instead in investment decisions which are made in corporate boardrooms and in numerical entries in the account books.
In Effective Transport Systems, Dr Usoh writes in his dual capacity as a scholar and professional who has observed the Nigerian transport system at close quarters for a long time. As a doctorate degree holder in, the discipline of transport, as a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Shippers Council, as a former President of the Union of African Shippers Councils, and a Fellow of professional institutes of Transport both here in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom, he is exceptionally well situated to, speak authoritatively on the subject. And we may note that the title of his monograph is not the Nigerian Transport System. He does not promise merely to describe our transport system as it happens to be. He promises instead to lay down the general laws which make transport systems technologically adequate, operationally efficient, institutionally secure and user-friendly and modally interconnected and fused into seamless unity.
Effective Transport Systems opens with an introductory chapter which compares national transportation with the circulatory system in the human body. Like the transport system, the circulatory system has its different subsidiary modes of arteries, veins and capillaries all of which are seamlessly interconnected for optimal harmony in operation. Like the transport system, the circulatory system is loaded, with an assortment of cargo for disembarkation at different destinations in the body; the products of the factories of the metabolic process and oxygen from the lungs for delivery to the muscles, chemical nutrientsand horm ones which go to different organs of the body, T-cells and -Ieucocytes which are destined for off-loading at various sites where there is repair work to be done, urea, metabolic waste, and dead cells for delivery at disposal sites in-the body.
The entire activity is sustained by the engine of the heart and the strength of the highways of the vascular system. Occasionally, there are breakdowns: arrhythmias, congestions, hemorrhages, cardiac arrests, and blood clots but it is the continuing health and harmony of the entire system which give the body its magnificent sense of unity and wellbeing. This illuminating comparison between transport systems and the life-giving and life-threatening possibilities of the human bloodstream drives Dr. Usoh’s entire narrative.