FROM CHICANERY TO DECEPTIVE MANTRA
BY JOHN AINOFENOKHAI
POLITICAL developments and governance in Edo State since 1999 have clearly shown how unfortunate the state, popularly referred to as the 'Heartbeat of the Nation', has been without sincere and committed governors to direct its affairs and lead it to the proverbial Promised Land.
There is no doubt that the road to the Promised Land is bumpy, rough and tough. The journey witnessed a false start in 1999 when Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, the mustachioed laissez-faire politician, stepped in the saddle and unleashed on the people, for eight years, the worst form of governance.
Historians and analysts are agreed that the Igbinedion years in office were years of rudderless leadership characterised by executive recklessness, fiscal indiscipline and retrogressive state policy in which commitment to public good was stymied on the altar of inefficiency.
It was a period when, to use a popular Biblical phrase, 'the locusts and the caterpillars, the cankerworms and the palmerworms' held sway and leadership ineptitude eclipsed the glory of the state and caused it to slip into a socio-economic depression from where the Professor Oserheimen Osunbor administration tried to extricate it.
Osunbor, the sedate but highly fecund lawyer and administrator, had come in quietly to provide a redemptive leadership, shunning, in the process, publicity in statecraft, thus making it look as if he did not do anything for the 18 months he was in office before the Court of Appeal judicial arithmetic sacked him and installed Adams Oshiomhole in his stead.
Edo people were unfortunate that Osunbor's sane and sharply-focused administration was truncated and shoved aside for a rambunctious administration under the charge of a fire-spitting Oshiomhole.
For instance, Osunbor began massive building of inter and intra-city roads in the three senatorial districts, specifically 24 roads, at the same time; he did not make noise about it.
Osunbor began the de-silting of drainages in Benin as a first step towards tackling the perennial erosion problem without making any noise about it.
There were critical economic decisions that were made such as the refusal to go to the capital market to borrow N10 billion with all the stringent conditionality attached to it without making noise about it. Oshiomhole has reportedly gone a few times cap in hand to borrow.
The PDP administration under Osunbor did not want to put the machinery of state on over-drive at the expense of the comfort of the people.
It was committed to a gradualist approach to addressing the socio-economic problems in the state. But the reign of the administration with a demonstrable human face was short-circuited through the instrumentality of the court.
And, since Oshiomhole stepped in the saddle on November 12, 2008, the landscape of Edo politics has undergone some grotesque metamorphosis spearheaded by a man who had hitherto presented as a patron-saint, the voice of the downtrodden masses, the lumpen and the deprived workers.
This metamorphosis, which is akin to that of Brother Jero in Wole Soyinka's Jero's Metamorphosis, has now clearly manifested itself in the chicanery and deception that have defined the character, shape and texture of his (Oshiomhole's) administration. Political developments in Edo attest to this disposition.
For instance, Edo people have never been under a patently hypocritical government as Oshiomhole's. Igbinedion did not dissemble; he did not create an impression of what he was not. He just had a ball in government and muddled through it, adding no concrete value to the state, but taking away a lot from it.
Osunbor did not have time to properly unravel and therefore Edo people could not very convincingly pass a verdict on his temperament in government; although, his disposition to political intrigues within his PDP were beginning to assume a distinct character of its own when the curtains were suddenly drawn on his administration.
But for the man in the saddle-Oshiomhole-who has been the cynosure of eyes about three years now, time has sufficiently unraveled him.
Today, in the governance of Edo State, there have been no alternatives to hypocrisy and deception. Oshiomhole has been under impression that he has been able to bamboozle the Edo people with his oratorical prowess honed by more than two decades of active labour unionism.
Even though that power of speech has served the purpose of celebrating him and etching him in the consciousness of Nigerians as a vociferous labour leader, the same power of speech has been deployed to some despicable political antics: hypocrisy, propaganda and deception in Edo political landscape.
Perhaps his greatest undoing is venturing into politics for whatever attraction because as it has been clearly shown, the Comrade Governor is not in politics and government for public service. How could he have been? Edo people were not taken in at all that a messiah was coming when he joined the governorship race on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
He was so desperate that even a naÃ¯ve person would know that he was being propelled by a reason greater than altruistic motivation. He fought with everything in him.
We all know that nobody fights to serve the people. Rather, if the people are convinced about an individual's capacity, they go all the way to pressurize him to offer himself or herself for service; if anything untoward happens, the people fight for the individual.
Should he be believed if he is talking about making sacrifice because no sacrifice is being made in the running of Edo State? Rather, the people are being over-taxed and there is no commensurate concrete infrastructure on the ground to justify the over-taxation.
Indeed, can one say that what is on ground in terms of development is commensurate to the billions the state has received from the Federation Account in the last three years?
When people talk of contracts being awarded in Edo without due process advertisement, it should raise a lot of concern in relevant quarters. It is sad that members of the public do not even know for how much the contracts for the building of infrastructure, wherever they are, were awarded.
One can even compare and contrast within a limited context the comrade governor with the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Both could be said to be pro-people (workers) before stepping in the saddle. That is where the comparison ends.
The contrast: while the comrade governor, who had faulted security vote, would now hold tightly to his N6 billion per annum ostensibly to service base instincts, Okorocha has directed that N300 million out of his N500 million security vote be taken for education development in his state.
This is a whopping N3.6 billion! That is a governor who is making sacrifice. If other governors cannot emulate Okorocha, I had expected the comrade governor to do so if only to prove to the world that he too is making sacrifice for development in his state.
In Oshiomhole's Edo State, the political mantra of 'one man, one vote' has become an instrument of deception. With the recent experiences by the opposition parties in the series of rerun elections into some three House of Assembly seats before the April (2011) legislative elections, it has become clear that the mantra is another faÃ§ade by the Oshiomhole government to rig election while presenting to the outside world that the polls are transparent.
With that strategy he had successfully outsmarted the opposition parties in series of rerun election until the April legislative poll when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was able to stop his dubious antics in Edo Central Senatorial District.
But it is indeed ridiculous that Oshiomhole is still creating the impression, few months to the July 14, 2012 governorship elections, that there is a rigging machine somewhere in Edo. The government in power is better positioned to rig.
So, if there is going to be rigging, it is Oshiomhole's government that has the financial capacity and the machinery to do it. Therefore, he should be well advised to perish the thought of planning to deploy government machinery to rig the governorship election.
If he eschews rigging and the use of political thugs, his 'one man, one vote' mantra will become sweet to the ear and never again will the mantra be misconstrued as 'one thug, one vote.' He would then have created a level play field for political contestations. Then the claim of hypocrisy and deceptive mantra against him would have been mitigated. But can he muster the courage to do so?
Ainofenokhai contributed this piece from Benin.