|Third Mainland Bridge in 1985|
“If I remember very well, in 1982 or 83, yeah, I saw a programme, “The Squandering of Riches”, on an American television channel. They were reporting on some of the white elephant projects that African governments embarked upon. I watched as the lead presenter climbed the abandoned 3rd Mainland Bridge and as he talked, he gave it as an example of how African governments embarked on projects and never completed them.
And when he got to the point where the construction stopped then, he said nobody could tell where the construction was leading [to] at that time and that he was of the opinion that it could well lead to oblivion.
|General Ibrahim Babangida|
That struck me and informed my desire to change that narrative. I saw it an insult, a foreigner talking about my country in that manner. I also saw it as something I needed to do something about if given the opportunity.
That was what happened. And fortunately, as God would have it, in 1985, I was appointed the military president. I remember the thing very well. It is in my head. I told myself I was going to ensure the completion of the project. So, I called Raji Rasaki who was the military governor of Lagos State at the time. We sat down and had a good chat about it. As usual, he said, “Well, this is a state government. We probably don’t have the money to complete it.” And I said, “No, let’s put our resources together and see what we can do.”
|Col Raji Rasaki|
There was Julius Berger. There were PGH and Bank Anthony, an Italian contractor and one or two others, and then Lagos State government itself. So, I brought them all together and said, look, this is my intention, is it doable? They all looked at me and said yes, it was doable provided I was going to provide the money. And I said money won’t be a problem, because the state government, Federal Government and PGH were going to provide the money. So, the engineers and everybody said yes, it could be done. It happened on my birthday, when we had that meeting.
So, I said, “I will have to commission this bridge on any of my birthday.” That was a challenge I gave the engineers and they took it very seriously. So, Colonel Raji Rasaki and I put our heads together and, sure, the money was made available so that when the work started, there wouldn’t be any delay due to lack of funds.
|Third Mainland Bridge|
We got the money ready and the engineers were mobilized to site. That was how the completion of the 3rd Mainland Bridge restarted. By God’s grace, they fulfilled their promise and on my next birthday, I commissioned that bridge.
It was the longest bridge in Africa at that time and mostly built by Africans. I did not spend up to N1 billion on that bridge. Today, you have to spend about N1 trillion to build that bridge. You see the bridge still standing strong. It will continue to stand strong because the government is doing well with it; they are maintaining it.”
Culled from Matters of Heritage