THE TRAGEDY OF GOVERNANCE IN EDO
It is now apparent that Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s achievements are not worth much in the burgeoning politicking that presages the July 14 governorship election in Edo State. Otherwise, he would not be running helter-skelter shopping for and procuring black market endorsements with public funds at the detriment of our collective patrimony.
Before the commencement of campaigns for the forthcoming governorship poll, Oshiomhole had, in his characteristic swagger, declared that his achievements would campaign for him. He had even waxed figurative when he said the caterpillars and/or tractors would bear testimony of the construction work he has done.
He had carried on with a strut that had tended to convince innocent watchers of the political development in Edo State that the governorship election would be a one-horse race: between Oshiomhole and Oshiomhole. But all these, like a pack of cards, have collapsed in the face of the comrade governor. It would not have been so if he had run Edo State on the platforms of equity, transparency and accountability.
Whereas, Oshiomhole was heralded by an eminent journalist and son of Edo State, Nosa Igiebor, in his seminal opinion in Tell of June 13, 2005 entitled: “After Igbinedion, What Next?” After assessing the capacities of those jostling to succeed Igbinedion, Igiebor had posited thus, “But there is one non aspirant whose formidable credentials would make him an effective governor. Adams Oshiomhole, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress and an illustrious ambassador of the state. I do not know if the ‘people’s president’ has any political ambition, and I do not have his mandate to make a case for his candidacy. Nonetheless, Oshiomhole as governor of Edo State is an eminently sensible and attractive proposition, and one that every Edo indigene should seriously consider.
“He has served well and he continues to serve Nigeria well. Presently, he would be needed to serve his people. As a social activist and the most outstanding labour leader since Pa Michael Imoudu, his antecedents are well known. And he commands a deep moral authority that would always impel him to stand with and fight for the people. Even more significantly, his status and reputation earned through hard work and an unshakeable belief in the nobility of defending the interests of the people transcends ethnic, religious and social divide.
“There is another compelling reason why his governorship would be hugely beneficial-the need to arrest the state’s spiral into a state of relative backwardness in the past two decades. He can certainly provide the kind of leadership suffused with a vision and an acute sense of purpose that has made Duke and a few other governors successful.
Furthermore, his connections locally and globally and his demonstrable ability to bond with people from all social strata and communicate and mobilize effectively would help to attract serious investors and investments to the state. And this is most important; he would not abuse his mandate and betray the trust of the people as many politicians do today.”
The Igiebor proposition was informed by the non-performance of the Lucky Igbinedion administration, which was in the saddle from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. As far back as June 2005, Igiebor had, understandably, reached a number of conclusions. Read him: “Many Edo people dismiss the Igbinedion government as an embarrassing failure while not a few put it down as a monumental tragedy for the state. Such assessments may seem very harsh but they are grounded on the fact that there are very little concrete achievements the government can boast of in six years….” He had also declared: “By 2007, Edo State would have had eight wasted years of lack of any discernible development, and it would be at the most critical juncture of its evolution as a state. By then, it could no longer afford the luxury of having a governor who would be hostage to his own interest and that of a select group.”
Igiebor was very right about his assessment of the Igbinedion years. It is on record that as governor, Igbinedion did so little for the state in terms of infrastructure development. But time has proved Igiebor wrong on his prophetic proposition(s) about an Oshiomhole governorship. This is the misfortune of investing so much hope and trust in leadership that ends up disappointingly. This is the tragedy of governance in Edo. It has become a culture of monumental waste, bare-faced larceny, criminal misappropriation and sheer maladministration.
For those who have keenly followed the “performance” of the Oshiomhole administration, one conclusion is inevitable: that it is a continuation of the Igbinedion years of criminal plundering of our commonwealth. The thin line is that while Igbinedion is said not to have done anything at all (and this is arguable) and our public funds just crudely disappeared into private pockets, Oshiomhole has gone digital and scientific by tying the questionable expenditures of huge funds to bogey contracts which did not pass through due process.
It is therefore understandable why a majority of Edo people have become gullible of the impression of a “performing governor” that Oshiomhole has cleverly orchestrated with the expansion of some roads and renovation of some roadside schools at over-inflated contracts sums. This is the issue. If the claim is that Oshiomhole has performed, the question is: how much financial damage has the so-called performance unjustifiably caused to our public coffers? For instance, the expansion of the 8-kilometre Airport, which was originally awarded at N4.5 billion has now been reviewed upwards to about N11 billion, thus translating to more than N1 billion per kilometer.
The renovation of Maria Goretti College was said to have gulped N550 million while that of Idia College purportedly cost N500 million. We are talking of renovation and not building of new schools.
The tragedy of this deceptive governance style is that while Oshiomhole is seen to have done some work in and around Benin City, unenlightened Edo people do not know that billions of naira have been misappropriated or diverted from their commonwealth (public funds) in the guise of infrastructure and development projects. The strategy of the comrade governor is simple: he gives the people some things to see and admire which were lacking under Igbinedion while he helps himself with huge chunks of our commonwealth.
Now, the economic argument in informed circles is that Oshiomhole’s government has made the people to pay for the financial recklessness of his government through a harsh tax regime. High taxation, they argue, would not have been necessary if there were no leakages occasioned by over-inflated contracts and the diversion of the marked-up excesses into private pockets. The point being made is that with imposition of responsible taxes coupled with judicious use of federally collectible revenues (which have notched up under Oshiomhole than they were under Igbinedion), even a governor without clear vision or sharp focus but with integrity would be able to turn round the fortune of the state.
Does it not therefore amount to an abuse of the people’s mandate and betrayal of trust to run Edo State on this grotesque misappropriation of our common patrimony and maladministration of our political economy? I am sure that if Igiebor were to attempt an assessment of Oshiomhole’s performance, what is on ground today would not be in sync with the original intent and purport of his prophetic proposition(s) when Oshiomhole was yet to throw his hat in the ring for the governorship contest.
Lest I forget, will Igiebor say Oshiomhole is capable of evenhandedness in the development of Edo against the backdrop of the networks of road infrastructure (these are largely non-economic roads) which he constructed in and around his Iyamho village and other communities in Etsako area of the state? The comrade governor did not pretend that he did not know what he was doing. He saw it as an opportunity to develop his area at the expense of other areas, claiming that an Etsako man might never have the opportunity of being governor again.
What of the multi-billion naira mansion that he is building in his village? Where is the money coming from? Can he still be said, as Igiebor projected in 2005, that Oshiomhole “commands a deep moral authority?” Besides, where is the nobility of defending the interests of the people? These odious acts are tragic and antithetical to the persona of a self-professed comrade and people’s governor. Is he, for instance, governor of Iyamho or Etsako? I think he is both and that is why I consider his current enterprise of seeking for the votes of other segments of Edo State in the July 14 poll, perhaps to continue the perpetuation of Iyamho or Etsako agenda in office, repulsive.
Written By John Ainofenokhai