Iyoha John Darlington
Back in 2008 when the government of Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor was sacked via a high court judgement in Benin City the capital city of Nigeria’s oldest state, our joy knew no bounds. We celebrated the unceremonious exit of the Peoples’ Democratic Party from power considering its abysmal failure in Edo State. Under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State, we opined, would do better by bringing the dividends of democracy to the people calling to mind his days as a labour leader.
Party then did not matter to me because I remained non-partisan. All that mattered to me was a credible candidate with credible promises irrespective of the political party under whose platform he/she contested. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole became my preferred candidate to lead Edo State at the period under sad review.
Little was known to me about the defunct ACN party programmes but since he championed the cause of workers in his labour days gave him that magnetic pull. His supporters had no iota of doubt that he understood the plight of the common man whose cause like I said before he had championed by fighting and standing toe-to-toe with government during the dark days of military rule in Nigeria.
Comrade Oshiomhole’s ascension to power was greeted with pomp and pageantry and I could recall from dim memory his maiden speech that he would not only be a field governor but he will run a government driven by accountability. Like a Bible verse in the New Testament Adams did expressly say that he had not come to bring peace but division by setting the people against their leaders who while working with him in the day-to-day administration of Edo State will be made to give a regular account of their stewardship to their people. This was heartwarming, a Messiah, we said, had come in the long run to reposition the state in the path of socio-politico development and economic prosperity.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole was lauded in these while the indigenes of Edo State all looked forward to the future with pride in the hope that he would fight doggedly to restore the state’s lost glory but little did I know we were wallowing in the pool of ignorance.
The first deafening salvo he fired was the increase in tuition fees at my Alma Mater, the then Edo State University, Ekpoma by making the cost of education there prohibitive. Amidst protests he engaged the reverse gear. Today, reports reaching us from home say plans are again in top gear to increase the tuition fees by as much as 200 percent. This, I dare say, is outrageous! Edo State during my growing up days enjoyed the prestige of being the most educationally advantaged state in Nigeria followed by Ogun State but because of certain outrageous educational policies of the state government we have been ruefully displaced. Our state has been reduced to a shadow of its former self with its indigenes thrown out of schools. Of course, we all know and feel the negative impact on the people which this writer shall not touch on.
In the area of roads rehabilitation, Oshiomhole is often erroneously said to have outdone Napoleon Bonaparte. This sickens me to the stomach a great deal. Is he leaving Edo State better than where he met it? If you ask me, frankly, my response will doubtless not be in the affirmative. How accessible are our rural areas from the capital city, Benin City? On this score, you will agree with me he has failed woefully.
Many rural communities in Edo State today still depend on water sourced from ponds and streams as the state Water Board has become moribund thereby making potable water an elusive dream. What we have in Edo State today, reports say, are nothing short of dry taps and this again is very disheartening! What would it have cost the state government to revitalise and resuscitate the state Water Board to provide potable water for the indigenes of the state? The outgoing governor has a serious case to answer here if he needs reminding as water remains one of the basic necessities of life.
There is no denying the fact that the bulk of Edo State indigenes remains hungry, homeless, frightened and pauperized but this is a state that is blessed with vast agricultural potentials. To what extent has the Oshiomhole-led administration positively mobilised labour to solve the state food crisis? Again, the governor has failed woefully to bring about the desired agricultural revolution in the state. We all know full well what the state would have stood to gain in that regard. Unemployment, hunger would have been drastically reduced, twin evils that promote crime particularly violent ones.
Has there been any time that the state government is denied of allocation from the Federal Government? Frankly, I do not think so. Hence, what reason has the outgoing administration to tender for denying the indigenes of the state the basic necessities of life? Our children have been thrown out of schools thereby forcing them to embark on dangerous journeys to the unknown. Quite a good number of them have died while trying to cross the fiery Sahara desert to the coast of north Africa for onward sea voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe. Many of our people have perished at sea while trying to cross on substandard and rickety boats which are incapable of withstanding the strong ocean currents. What has the Oshiomhole-led administration in the state done to stem this ignoble trend?
It is very unfortunate that he is leaving behind a state without any meaningful improvement via capital projects and service infrastructures to better the lives of the indigenes. Party partisans often pat him on the back by making Benin City township roads a reference point. Many of the roads supposedly rehabilitated by his administration often become waterlogged and, therefore, rendered impassable whenever there is a downpour. Pictures, they say, do not lie. Be that as it may, these must not be made any credit of seeing that it is the duty of the state government to provide good roads but the half-baked rehabilitation had only succeeded in making the city residents caught in a vicious circle.
Reports reaching this writer have it that he is leaving behind a state that is saddled with a massive debt burden. In fact, Edo State is one of the seven states in Nigeria with the worst debt profile up to the tune of $127 million dollars. Where and what was this whooping amount of money spent on? Mathematicians and party partisans, answer me! This is a state that is still bereft of service infrastructures, a state whose Water Board has suffered terminal decline and, therefore, incapable of providing potable water for its indigenes! Party partisans would doubtless turn a blind eye to these anomalies and label me as none other than a paid agent writing in favour of the former ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party.
In the area of sports, Edo State has fallen to its lowest web as the once glorious Bendel Insurance only battles to secure a promotion ticket to Nigeria’s Premier League. How are the mighty fallen; tell this not anywhere in the old Bendel State!
These are indeed teething problems which ought to have been addressed by the outgoing administration. Fortunately or unfortunately, Governor Oshiomhole that was once very dear to my heart has assumed the role of Nigeria’s ethics policeman enmeshed in sophistries and terminological inexactitudes blaming his abysmal failure and inability to deliver on his political promises on Jonathan’s government.
The US government, we read, did say never at any point in time was the governor told that a former minister under Jonathan’s government stole up to the tune of $6 billion. Are these the reasons for his catalogue of dismal failures in Edo State? Is he leaving Edo State better than he met it? Are our children in schools? What about the upsurge in violent crimes in the state occasioned by the massive unemployment? What has he to say about our children which have been driven away from home in search of the proverbial greener pastures abroad that have either died in the fiery Sahara desert while trying to make it to the coast of north Africa or drowned in the Mediterranean? What about our young women who have become women of easy virtue in many parts of the Old World and the Middle East, the Emirates to be precise?
Did the outgoing governor ever come with a solution or still a part of our problems?
Iyoha John Darlington, a political analyst, scholar and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.