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EDO 2012: WORKERS AND OSUNBOR

By NBF News
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ITis relevant to the healthy development of democracy in Edo State to stress the need for a thorough understanding of the present mood of the people by the contending political parties in the 2012 gubernatorial election in the state.

To begin with, given the sour experiences of Edo people since the inception of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole's government in November, 2008, it would be difficult to expect them to be so easily deceived again by politicians' sugary promises.

Edo workers in particular should have no problems now in deciding which way to go for their salvation in 2012. Rather ironically, perhaps no other group has been as so rudely disappointed in the government of the Comrade-Governor than Edo workers. Impoverished and neglected since November 2008, Edo workers now look the picture of despair. It is undeniable that Edo workers have been short-changed, especially when compared with Osunbor's amply demonstrated care and concern for their socio-economic well-being during the short period he was Governor. And this is one of the many factors that explains the clamour of Edo workers, and indeed, the overwhelming majority of Edo people, for the return of Prof. Osunbor to Government House, Edo State, in 2012. As a matter of fact, from what the people are saying today, the electoral victory of the PDP in the 2012 gubernatorial election is certain if the party's choice of a flag bearer takes cognisance of their yearnings for a caring and trusted leader as Osunbor has proven to be. Everyone knows that the support of Edo people for Osunbor's political ambition is based on a number objective considerations. I am concerned in this essay to outline some of the reasons for the abiding faith of Edo workers in Osunbor's leadership. To be sure, these factors won converts for the PDP between April 2007 and November 2008; and against the background of the despair amongst Edo people today, these factors are also bound to prove decisive in swaying the people's support for Osunbor's PDP in the 2012 gubernatorial election.

From a comparative picture of Edo workers during the period 1999-2007 and Osunbor's short era as Governor of Edo State (April 2007 to November 2008), it would be easy to appreciate why many have expressed surprise that it is the government of Comrade Oshiomhole, the supposed Moses of workers, that is now leading them away from their promised land to Egypt once more.

It would be recalled that before Osubor assumed the mantle of administrative and political leadership of the state in May, 2007, the Edo worker ranked amongst the least paid in Nigeria. As if that was not enough, he was denied regular payment of his meagre salary at the end of the month. Indeed, by May 2007, the Edo worker has been completely frustrated and demoralised.

Very early in the day, Osunbor went to work on the question of workers welfare, and what he came up with shortly after, surpassed the expectation of many. First, he approved a 15 per cent wage increase for workers, and saw to it that salaries and pensions were paid regularly, not later than the 26th day of the month. Next, he procured utility vehicles, computers and photocopying machines for ministries and parastatals.

Osunbor's remarkable achievements, especially in the area of workers welfare, remain till this day as an eye opener to what can be done by a leader who is truly committed to the yearnings and aspirations of his people.

Having thus seen the wondrous works of Osunbor in just 18 months in office as Governor, it was easy for many to be (mis) led to believe that a genuine labour leader, as was painted of Comrade Oshiomhole from the electioneering campaigns of 2007 and throughout the period of his protracted court case, would exceed his predecessor's care and concern for workers and all. To tell the truth, that was one of the major considerations that doused the people's angry reaction to the Appeal Court verdict which upheld the electoral victory of Comrade Oshiomhole. Many simply shrugged and said: 'Well, if Osunbor could do this much in only 18 months, a labour leader should be expected to do even more. So, let's give him a chance'.

Today, Comrade Oshiomhole has been Governor for almost a full term of four years, and so have had the opportunity to do even up to what Osunbor did for workers. Instructively, he has insisted on being addressed as 'Comrade'; an indication perhaps, that he would not, as Governor, jettison his interest in workers welfare. But what do we see now? The lot of Edo workers has taken a nosedive.

Edo workers are now looking up to the PDP to put an end to their nightmarish experience since November 2008. As far as they are concerned, only a trusted champion of their cause will earn their votes in 2012. So, I think it is only reasonable for the PDP to take full advantage of the people's abiding faith in Osunbor's leadership by aligning its choice of a flag bearer in the 2012 gubernatorial election in Edo State with the yearnings of Edo workers.

No special political skill is needed to know that Osunbor's nomination as a flagbearer of the PDP will certainly prove critical to the electoral success of the PDP in 2012 gubernatorial election in Edo State.

•Mr. Imaghodo, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Benin, Edo State.