The presumed winner of the 1993 Presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, once said that politics was not about the kingdom of heaven but how to make life better for people here on earth!
He was merely emphasizing the imperative of political governance to be alive to its responsibility to the people’s welfare and not to impoverish them through bad and obnoxious policies or predatory and prodigal tendencies.
In Nigeria’s democratic experience in the last 16 years, various administrations at various times, have been subjected to serious scrutiny by analysts whether in or out of government, which well accord with the tenets of democratic practice the world over.
Over these years too, elections have been conducted, won and lost; political parties eased out or ushered in; while the political process has steadily refined itself and evolved to dimensions never contemplated in 1999.
For Edo state, it has been a mixed fortune of sort relative to the people’s expectations of government in light of its level of politically conscious and enlightened environment.
First it was the PDP rule of nine years – 1999 to 2007; following which the ACN/APC wrested power on Nov. 12, 2009 and has held on to it since then with Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole at the saddle.
As it is now, the curtain is virtually closing on the two-term tenure of Adams Oshiomhole and critical assessments are being made on his performances thus far, depending on what side of the divide you belong. Such an assessment efforts informed the convening of the “John Mayaki Roundtable With Media Friends”, which on Feb. 6, 2016 ran its second edition barely a month after the first.
Though an official aide of the Governor, Mr John Mayaki insisted that the trust of the Roundtable was to assess the Adams Oshiomhole tenure; appraise its successes, challenges and possibilities, especially on how to finish well and stronger ‘in winding down’.
He was emphatic that Adams Oshiomhole had effectively opened up the democratic space in the state and brought governance to the doorsteps of the common people by demystifying it.
Trying not to be a judge in his own court, the convener and his team at the first of the Roundtable on Jan 6, this year, picked five seasoned and respected practicing journalists in Edo state as discussants to make a reasoned assessment of the administration of Adams Oshiomhole’s in the last seven years. That remarkable and robust session was the needed catalyst to spur a second edition which came on stream on Saturday, Feb. 6, at the same Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre venue in Benin City with the theme: “Edo State Under Adams Oshiomhole (2009-2016): Perspectives on Sectoral Achievements and Challenges”.
This second edition offered a feedback platform for key operators in the government to explain some sectoral successes, high points and challenges.
Barrister Emmanuel Usoh , Executive Director in the state’s Internal Revenue Board, who stood in for his Executive Chairman, Chief Elamah Oseni, took the lead, speaking on Edo’s future “Beyond Crude Oil and Federal Allocations”.
He didn’t mince words to say that the picture was gloomy because of the prevailing economic depression in the country necessitated by the nation’s sole dependence on oil which price has plummeted to an all-time low to engender financial crises for most of the states.
He lamented the neglect of other sectors of the nation’s economy in preference to crude oil exploration, especially the agricultural and solid minerals sectors.
“The result today is that many states have become unviable and Osun State reflects this stark reality totally”.
Notwithstanding the precarious situation, he said that Edo State had since risen to the challenge of survival, carefully guided by the leadership of Oshiomhole through a multiplicity of innovative efforts that have shored up the state’s internally generated revenue.
From a paltry N250 million monthly IGR in 2009, the state now rakes in over N1.5 billion monthly even though only 170,000 out of four million citizens of the state are paying taxes.
Usoh said that extant revenue laws of the state had been energized while the Edo House of Assembly had been very supportive of all initiatives by the Executive to boost revenue generation in the state.
“With what we have put in place these few years, we are optimistic that that Edo State can survive without oil”, he stressed.
Hon Abdul Oroh, journalist, lawyer and civil rights activist took the stage next as the Edo Commissioner of Commerce and Industry.
He explained the policy direction of the Adams Oshiomhole administration to redress the derisive toga on the state as a “civil service state”, insisting that the state’s agro, solid mineral, power and energy potentials were vast and being fully exploited to move the state forward.
He lamented that the predatory leadership before Adams Oshiomhole’s tenure significantly reduced the state industrially as projects said to have been embarked upon were ‘white elephant’ ones, which served as funds’ conduit, with no functionality whatsoever.
He pointed to the ongoing three IPP projects in the state; natural gas reserve of over 1.5m cu ft and oil pipeline networks across the state being a nodal one, all of which are very viable assets for the state’s survival.
“At full capacity, all the IPP plants can generate over 5,000 megawatts which the entire country can now hardly generate.
We are not building new industries as government but we are working with the private sector to create industries in the state and results are already on the horizon”.
On his part, Mr Taiwo Akerele, the Project Coordinator of the State Employment and Expenditure For Results (SEEFOR) Project outlined many “intangible achievements of government beyond infrastructure”, which though not visible to the naked eyes, were fundamental services and initiatives that were revolutionizing all aspects of governance in the state.
He said that the administration took full advantage of Information Technology (IT) to make government processes more transparent in such a way as to restore the trust of the people.
“We now operate a portal system, publish all contracts online, developed medium term expenditure framework, sector strategy for the next 10 years, oracle accounting package to track all government finances as well as a new chart of accounts”.
These, he added had led to the dramatic shift from heavy recurrent expenditure to capital projects thus boosting infrastructure development.
“We have achieved budget revolution, laid to rest the ghost workers syndrome, and effected a local area network and fibre that effectively links all government offices”.
Hon (Mrs) Elizabeth Ativie, member of Edo House of Assembly on her part scored Adams Oshiomhole administration high on gender gains demonstrated by the increased enrolment for the girl-child in primary and secondary schools due to government’s free education at both levels.
She added that it was on record that several women, especially widows have benefited immensely from the government’s economic empowerment schemes that saw to the distribution of sewing, grinding machines, as well as cash gifts as capital to start businesses. She however asked for greater women participation in the political space through elective offices and appointments well beyond the present level.
She excited the crowd with her mantra – ‘you do one man, you do one woman’, which translated to equal opportunity for men and women in all spheres of human endeavour.
Ms Victoria Amu, a special assistant to the governor said much had been done for women by the Adams Oshiomhole administration by reason of his activist’s background.
She alluded to increased women participation in the political process in Edo State, increased girl-child education and economic empowerment of women through skills acquisitions and loans for small scale businesses.
Mr Frank Evbuonwan, the Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development who spoke on “Issues, realities and misconception”, reviewed efforts of the administration to retrace the state from the dark alley of impunity which negatively impacted on all sectors of the society.
He spoke of widespread abuses of the state’s urban development laws and regulation before the administration came on board but they had been significantly curtailed to make for urban sanity.
“We now better manage our land assets, maximize the use of land assets and restructured our land use charges for maximum benefit to the state. Data base has been established for all land issues”.
Mr Tunde Ebozojie, General Manager of Edo Broadcasting Corporation (EBS) who chaired the occasion saluted the initiative of Mr John Mayaki, the convener of the roundtable, adding that it has helped to clear many misconceptions and put a number of issues in better perspectives.