Edo 2016: Why you must not repeat that mistake!

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John Darlington

I have found it absolutely necessary to write again in the course of our state’s history as Edo State gubernatorial election comes up in less than a fortnight. Only last week I had to take my time to watch the debate that featured the top contenders to Denis Osadebey Avenue under the platform of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Labour Party.

I patiently listened to the questions to them by the moderator. My reaction to their presentations was none other  than a sigh of disappointment and exasperation as they round off the historic debate.

Many things kept pacing through my mind. For starters, it is said a bad tree does not  bear good fruits. This is well-nigh impossible. As it stands,we all know  where the Nigerian Ship of State is headed for. In fact, there is no denying the fact that she is headed for the rocks resulting from her inability to withstand the strong ocean current with threats of death hanging over our heads like the ancient sword of Damocles.

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Came with the ruling All Progressives’ Congress in the run-up to the 2015 general elections were promises for a better life which we soon found out to be airy in the long run. We  are now about two years into the life of this administration but with nothing to show for it but blame game amid the agonizing pangs of hunger and untold hardship resulting from the visionless, directionless and failed economic policies of the Buhari-led government.

I had to delay writing this piece to wait for the APC mega rally to hear what the President would say again while presenting the party’s flag bearer to Edo people. Having patiently and anxiously listened to his short speech, I discovered nothing eventful and this left me highly infuriated for thinking he could come again with his cast of neophyte actors to fool our people yet again when his one year has brought nothing but tears, sorrow, and regrets

I watched the diminutive Oshomhole speak  , of course , I had to dismiss his rantings with a trivial hand because his administration remains the worst in the history of that state.

I would start with Buhari at the center. The president is often heard blaming the former ruling party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party.  Without an iota of doubt,  there was corruption and billions of our taxpayers’ money was reportedly looted in that vast ’empire of corruption.’ That was not the first time we have had  corruption cases in Nigeria. Gowon was overthrown and reasons cited bordered on squandering of money from the oil boom in the 70s. Murtala Muhammed took over but the life of that regime was cut short which saw the emergence of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo whose administration was comparatively better in spite of the massive drain on the public purse under the former. Obasanjo kept to his promises and did not derail the transition train to the Second Republic. He handed over power after a keenly contested election between two top contenders in the persons of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the defunct National Party of Nigeria and Unity Party of Nigeria respectively.

The sovereign wish of the Nigerian people like a marriage was again annulled and ultimately bastardized via a coup by Gen Muhammadu Buhari on December 31, 1983. Reasons also cited were corruption and looting of the nation’s treasury. Few months into that ill-fated administration, unlike the previous regime, Nigerians had to start queuing up for food tagged then as ‘essential commodities’ until he was overthrown on August 27, 1985, which is about 30 calendar years today.

I had to go down the memory lane in reaction to his remark in Benin City for the sake of the youth whose back, he said, he rode to power in the 2015 general elections to know what it has always been like with Nigeria each time Buhari makes incursions on the Nigerian political terrain. Today, however, Nigerians are again on the verge of queuing up for food although it is already happening in some parts of the north, especially in the epicenter of Boko Haram militancy.

Ex-President Babangida took over an economy that was difficult for him to manage at the time and before one could say Jack Robinson the food queues disappeared within weeks across the country. I could recall from dim memory as many Nigerians heaving a sigh of relief at the period under sad review. Buhari said President Shehu Shagari’s administration left no money in the treasury, so it logically implied that Babangida met no money too when he overthrew him back in 1985.

Ex-military President Ibrahim Babangida rowed the Nigerian boat into sea and started navigating through stormy waters, like I did say before food queues disappeared into thin air,  Nigerians beamed with contented smiles and the media was awash with criticisms of the  Buhari-led military government, what you could not dare before he was kicked out by the duo of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

Abacha took over after the failed Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan where massive looting was reported, yet we had food aplenty, price of oil sold much less in the international market and there was a great deal of macroeconomic stability. The US dollar never exceeded N80 at the time. As luck would have it Abacha died with his boots on and the mantle of leadership fell on Abdusalami Abubakar. During that transitional government, the treasury, according to unconfirmed reports was, also looted. That did not reduce Nigeria to Somalia and Sudan as it is today for we still ate to our fill.

Finally, Nigeria was again ushered into a civil democratic rule on May 29, 1999, with the advent of President Olusegun Obasanjo  who reportedly met only $3.7 billion and oil sold for less that $20 per barrel. He had no option but to assemble a good economic team made up of competent technocrats. The business of governance started without the ‘blame game’ which remained unknown at the time.

From $3.7 billion, Obasanjo left office leaving well over $39 billion with many remarkable achievements and life compared to what it is today under Buhari was superabundant. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua’s administration, by a twist of fate, ended abruptly and Dr. Jonathan unavoidably took over amid massive corruption scandal yet Nigerians had food on their tables until he was harassed out of office by subtle threats – ‘the baboons and the dogs will be soaked in blood’ – which led to his concession of defeat via falsified and doctored poll results from Kano in the 2015 presidential election.

Jonathan left a whopping $30 billion and handed Africa’s largest economy to President Muhammadu Buhari amid giant strides in service  infrastructures and others such as schools, vehicle manufacturing plants,  transport,  – calling to mind the resuscitation of the moribund Nigerian railway etc. Instead of consolidating and improving on Jonathan achievements all we hear today is the blame game. Within a year Nigerian economy collapsed and eventually slid into recession as major economic policies fail marvelously.

To the lousy Governor Oshiomhole, we must now turn whose tenure expires before long. What did Edo State benefit under his tenure with the huge allocation and the 13% derivation from the Federal Government? All I heard him boast of during the mega rally while pacing on the raised platform at Ogbe Stadium in Benin like a man under the influence steroid are roads in Benin City and renovation of secondary schools in the state with no mention of any capital project ,  service infrastructure or implemented economic package which are the some of the basic pre-requisites for socio-politico and economic development.

For starters, how many of our children are today in these schools when a good number of them have been driven away by the harsh and intolerable condition at home in search of greener pastures abroad? Some have died while crossing the fiery Sahara desert on their journey to the coast of North Africa for onward ferry crossing to  Europe. Never has this ongoing  loss of  lives at sea mainly  Edo State indigenes been recorded in Mediterranean history.

Oshiomhole has only succeeded in reducing rural communities in Edo State to economic backwater because the roads linking communities in the state which were  built by his predecessors particularly  late ex-Governor Ambrose Alli  have all been washed out and fallen into disuse. The old Bendel State from which Edo was carved out had a good road network that opened up remote outposts and the agricultural hinterland.

Edo State under Oshiomhole with the billions of naira monthly allocation from the Federal Government did not build a single factory. The few ones Edo State had were all closed down which has  swollen the unemployment queue in the state and this doubtless promotes crime particularly violent ones. Edo State-owned hospitals, if I may borrow a hackneyed quotation from Abacha’s coup speech of December 1983, have been reduced to mere consulting clinics in spite of the allocations from the Federal Government. Do you know there are only two government-owned hospitals serving the whole of Benin City the state capital? My dear people of Edo State these hospitals were built back in the 60s! Is the money which he used for building a university in his hometown not enough to build  ultra-modern hospitals in two or more locations in Benin City? I ask yet again, on what basis is Oshiomhole criticizing the past governments in the state and seeking continuity for his ‘anointed candidate’?

Is the government at the centre responsible? NO! There is no functioning government-owned hospital in the whole of Edo State today, yet you often hear the diminutive governor ranting and engaging in a media war to foist his anointed son on Edo people to cover up his excesses when he leaves office. Some rural communities do not have any dispensary not to talk of functioning hospital while dry taps dot the state. The ones built by his predecessor have either been closed down or fallen into disuse and probably over-run by weeds where dangerous reptiles and other bush rodents harbour.

How many new urban settlements did Oshiomhole build throughout his eight years? There is none on the ground yet you still hear him blaming his abysmal failures on the former ruling party. If these above-named were nonexistent, then why did he not provide these infrastructures for Edo people in his eight years reign? Have you ever sat to ask yourselves these searching questions? I deem asking this particular question absolutely necessary because these problems were there before he assumed the reins of power. It is almost eight calendar years today but why did he not fix these problems if not all but some of them? Oshiomhole if you need reminding is leaving behind today an Edo State that is saddled with massive debt burden up to the tune of a whopping  N500 billion!

Oshiomhole went ahead and built a university in his hometown without studying the situation. Was that not a crying blunder when the universities in the  state are underfunded? Jonathan built no fewer than 12 government-owned universities  across northern states without  one for himself. Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Atiku Abubakar are all ‘proud’ owners of universities in Nigeria namely Bell University, Otta, Nigeria,  El- Amin University, Minna, Nigeria and American University of Nigeria, Yola, yet Oshiomhole often authors hate speeches and diatribes not against any of these men but against Jonathan under whose administration we had food aplenty to eat and more so under whose administration Nigeria rose from behind to become Africa’s largest economy – a position which we held until last month before we were again displaced by the Union of South Africa!  Edo State has never suffered infrastructural decay under past administrations like what she has suffered today in the past eight years.

At this juncture, on what basis is Gov Adams Oshiomhole with his Abuja taskmasters from the Hausa-Fulani hegemonic north  and indeed the ruling All Progressives’ Congress preaching continuity after their abysmal failures within one year at the centre  and eight years in Edo State when primary education, secondary education, and university education are each  in jumbles, shambles and  jumble of retrogression thus forcing our children out of schools?

Edo State has three Senatorial Districts which can not boast of any industrial scheme, no farm settlements, no youth  entrepreneurship scheme. Despite the fact that solid minerals abound in Edo State, the sector has been ignored with reckless abandon which if harnessed would have given jobs to at least about 60,000 or more in the state.

Edo State is very rich in agricultural produce, throughout his eight years, it did not occur to him to build food processing factories and storage facilities. If telephone exchange centers could function with the aid of diesel plants , storage facilities could also be run by diesel plants in every civil division in the state. But these cardinal programmes to better the lots of Edo people remain elusive dreams.

That Esanland  suffered the worst marginalisation under Oshiomhole is not in dispute as virtually that region has been cut out off on the scheme of things because of his feud with Chief Tony Anenih. To the Septuagenarian and elder statesman, Oshiomhole does not even exist! Yet you see him throwing stones to him at every turn forgetting the incontrovertible fact that power, like a cold spell, is only but transient. At one time in our nation’s history, Jonathan, Ibrahim Babangida, Obasanjo were in succession Nigeria’s most powerful men. Oshiomhole has to realise that every dog , they often say, has its day.

Having touched on Oshimhole abysmal performance in the past eight years, to the debate we must now turn. In the opening paragraph of this piece, I made a scanty reference to the speeches by the four top contenders. The presentations by the above-named left their capabilities in question to lead Edo State in the coming years. I shall now focus on the presentations of the top two contenders while I dismiss the APGA and Labour Party candidates for being inconsequential in the race to Dennis Osadebey Avenue.

There are certainly some intrinsic and extrinsic qualities inherent in leaders which  are only present in one of the two top contenders – I mean the APC and the PDP candidates.

It goes without saying that good leadership is crucial to any successful organization. Good leadership hinges on effective communication. Communication is one of the most key elements of leadership. Good communication skill is deemed absolutely necessary to effectively become a good leader or manager. When communication occurs, as a leader, you will be able to accurately convey your ideas and thoughts to those that work for you.

Motivation is another thing to be examined here. This was seen as another variable that plays into good leadership. Stagnation occurs when motivation decreases and it will decrease, without proper motivation. Many leaders try to motivate the old-fashioned way through fear. This is not advisable since it tends to only deliver short-term results and cause even less competent work in the long run, due to resentment resulting from the fear tactics.

Teamwork is always something to consider when striving to become a good leader. This means not only teaching your followers to work together but to become part of the team yourself. A good leader recognizes that his followers are more than just followers, they are people too. These people have lives outside of work where they have to make decisions on a daily basis, from how to deal with house payments, to car bills, to raising children, to uncountable tasks in everyday lives most especially living under the economic recession that is sweeping across  ominously across Nigeria.

Educational background and qualification also occupy a pride of place. Education doubtless immeasurably improves your leadership skills alongside a cognate experience. And in whom do we find the above-named qualities all encapsulated?

One man that readily comes  to mind between the two top contenders is none other than  Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu whose vast experience as an administrator would help meet these lofty aims, objectives, ideals, and aspirations to reposition Edo State forward on the path of economic prosperity and development.

The crisis we face today in our state is none other than a culmination of decades of poor planning, mismanagement and insufficient investment in capital projects or infrastructures by a government in the past eight years which prioritises the enrichment of apologists and sycophants to the detriment of our well-being and instead bankrolls its Abuja masters’ meaningless jamborees around the globe.

Ay, we need a solution doubtless but under an APC-led government this solution which is much sought after is an elusive dream, I wish you could cast sentiments and party affiliations aside and come to terms with realities. Edo State economy is stagnant and has consequently gone to comatose. We lack capital projects that will attract investors to the state.

A good number of  communities today in Edo State like I pointed out before are not accessible by car and the rural dwellers have to navigate some very long distances on foot. What has this government done in its eight years to open up its remotest outposts? Edo State debt profile mounts marvelously with every passing day, what and  where have all the federal subventions and allocations been spent on which would have been utilized for the provision of infrastructure statewide for sustainable development?

It is important to note here that the first four years of Oshomhole’s rule were wasted on Maoist one-party ideology that focuses on power retention which he achieved in 2012 through the instrumentality of incumbency rather than democratic participatory power geared towards dedicated service to the people. Edo State under Oshomhole has as a matter of fact never made adequate provisions for infrastructure development. Far from doing this, it concentrated on maintaining expensive bureaucracy, reckless expenditure, and political patronage.

There is no denying the fact that agricultural infrastructure is critical to our economic development and a clue to the unemployment problem in the state but the lack of agricultural finance has contributed to the decimation of agro-based infrastructure.

Edo State needs a vibrant saving culture, intelligent public revenue collection, retention and international finance partnership but our state is saddled with massive state debt burden with nothing on the ground to show for it. This state debt overhang has marvelously become an albatross on our state’s development trajectory seeing that we owe too much to be able to re-ignite our service infrastructures destroyed by greed and prodigal years of APC misrule.

I will sum up here by saying Edo State development goal has been a victim of inferior infrastructure. A PDP-controlled Edo State government under Ize-Iyamu will prioritise restoring, revitalizing, developing and modernizing  the state’s infrastructure base and industrialization as the most urgent tasks of reconstruction.

In each infrastructural subsector, Pastor Ize Iyamu-led Edo State government,  I dare say , will seek to attract investments and also put state resources so as to have a modern infrastructure base, adequately maintained and efficiently run to meet our various needs.

These, above all, are some of the reasons why we must not settle for anything less by turning out en masse and prevailing on all men of goodwill who wish our great state well to urgently retrace their steps by voting for progress and prosperity;  voting out poverty, high-handedness which the ruling All Progressives Congress represent.  We must not repeat that mistake because to strike one’s foot twice and stumble over the same piece of stone , according to Mark Cicero, is a proverbial disgrace.

Iyoha John Darlington, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues wrote from Turin, Italy.

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