Ground-breaking and Commissioning – A wasteful phenomenon and cultureWritten by Akintokunbo A Adejumo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Ground-breaking, also known as cutting, sod-cutting, turning the first sod or a sod-turning ceremony, is a traditional ceremony in many cultures that celebrates the first day of construction for a building or other project. Such ceremonies are often attended by dignitaries such as politicians, government officials and businessmen” (Wikipedia).
Please NOTE the last sentence - “Such ceremonies are often attended by dignitaries such as politicians, government officials and businessmen”.
Another use is, “If something is ground-breaking, it is very new and a big change from other things of its type: E.g. His latest movie is interesting, but not ground-breaking”.
But why do we need these extravagant ceremonies to get things, projects, official events, etc. started and done in Nigeria? Must all kinds of projects embarked upon by government and even the legislature in their constituency projects, be accompanied by a formal ground-breaking or sod-turning and then after completion, by a formal and noisy commissioning or Grande-opening?
Road constructions, building constructions, independent power projects, bridges, school buildings, hospitals or primary rural healthcare dispensaries, boreholes, electrification, rail projects, water projects, environmental and ecological projects, etc., our leaders must make noise and declare them open either for construction or completion.
First, we waste money,time, and other resources in announcing the commencement of a project, when even the funds needed for the project has not been secured (most often we squander the resources needed for the project at this level)
Then, when substandard work is done, or, as is often the case at all government levels, the contractor disappears with the money, without carrying out the contract – usually with the knowledge and encouragement of the person who awarded the contract in the first place – the money needed to complete the contract is wasted during commissioning.
We spend millions of monies (organising the event, event decorations and management, provision of security for the VIP’s, entertainment, public address system, tents and marquees, etc.) on ground-breaking to start off a project, and then spend another set of millions to commission the project (assuming the project managed to be completed). In some insane state and local government situations, the officials even contract out “aso-ebi” and other souvenirs to commemorate the scandalous and shameless ground-breaking, and afterwards, a big commissioning is done (the tax-payers invariably pay for this extravagance) and many minor and big officials, will of course make some money illegally from this blatant anomaly.
And of course, the swaggering and posing of the officials and politicians on the day. It is a chance for politicians and officials to be recognised and pampered with all kinds of unnecessary protocols, a chance for the arrogant among them to flaunt their position and perceived importance, and then a chance for political encounters to be renewed, while, they are sure, their over burdened public and people they are looting from look on in awe and appreciation (not apprehension at the way their common wealth is being wasted) at the awesome and flagrant display of power, authority, position, wealth, and importance.
What kind of bureaucratic foolishness is this that we keep enacting over the decades, and our leaders do not seem capable of thinking of getting rid of this culture of waste and propaganda? Why do our leaders keep on making the same un-progressive mistakes?
It is a cultural thing, I believe. Or maybe a genetic aberration or mutation of sorts. As with some other unexplainable traits of the Nigerian-African, such as corruption; insensitivity to the plight of others; do-or-die to get power and wealth; show of power, position, and wealth, etc., it is in the genes. And to exorcise or correct it will be a monumental feat of genetic engineering.
Our democratic leaders, who are professing progress, change, professionalism, enthusiasm and above all, good governance and sincerity of purpose must do away with all these asinine and wasteful exercises and instead divert their attention to getting value for money and quality delivery in their projects to ensure improved service to the people who elected them and are paying their salaries.
Our leaders are not doing us any favours by announcing and parading the commencement and completion of projects they are expected to deliver. And in these lean economic climes, the more reason they should be financially conscious in the way they spend public money.
The essential point is, while all these formal ceremonies may serve some innocuous political purposes, in Nigeria, and perhaps in Africa, they are exercises in wasteful extravagance and thoughtlessness; unfit for purpose considering the dire economic circumstances that we have found ourselves, and only fuels the selfishness, insensitivity, corruption, and arrogance of our wayward political leaders.
We cannot continue to do things that have not been working for us the same way and continue to hope we will get different results. There cannot be change without commitment and willingness to change.
I do not see the value that ground-breaking and commissioning of projects are adding to what Nigerians are asking for – accountability; good governance; justice, fairness and equity; reduced or zero corruption and a betterment of their lives.
Let the Truth be told always!