IT is often said that no category of professionals have a better understanding of the workings, challenges and even secrets of the society than journalists. Not even civil servants, political office holders, members of the civil societies or police has as much interaction with every spectrum of the society as journalists. Just last week, reporters gathered in Benin, Edo State to review the Oshiomhole administration which is in its last year. In fact, an election for a new government would come up in November this year.
The event was the maiden media roundtable discussion forum put together by John Mayaki, Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
The event, which was the first of its kind in the state, was organized by the Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa with the theme: “The Media Practitioner’s View of Edo State under Gov. Adams Oshiomhole”. It was attended by scores of journalists.
Mayaki said the event was for journalists to review and appraise the Oshiomhole administration’s seven years in office as it prepares to exit this year.
Another goal of the forum was to allow journalists make projections into the future of governance in Edo State. Justice was indeed done to this as a panel of seven discussants, all reporters in Edo State, reviewed and appraised the government and made projections into the future.
“While other professional organizations are holding end-of-year parties, I felt it is an opportunity to invite these great minds to a roundtable, to discuss, brainstorm and review the administration of the Comrade Governor in the past seven years; to assess its successes, challenges and possibilities, especially on how to finish well and stronger, while winding down.
“The journalist, as a versatile social worker in the society, interacts with both the very poor of the poor and the upper class. He has a grasp of most of the issues confronting the society, government and humanity.
“The media practitioner does not just observe, investigate and reports his findings. Possessing the facts of any situation, the practitioner occupies a vantage position to insightfully analyse, and even provide prognoses of developments in their immediate work environment.
“It is in appreciation of these important roles and vantage position of the journalist that motivated us to initiate a feedback mechanism and as such invite a wide spectrum of the fourth estate of the realm to, among other issues, appraise the government of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in terms of successes, weaknesses and possible areas of improvement and expectations of the people in the twilight of the administration in areas of governance, development, and how to finish stronger.
“Majorly, it is a sort of a feedback mechanism event which I think will further impact positively on the present administration and guide her to finish well and stronger.
“Like I said earlier, this event is designed to sharpen the mind of the journalist, and demonstrate that beyond the role of a watchdog, without which societal ills and their perpetrators will go unchecked, the journalist is in a very good position to evaluate and give advice on what government policies are appropriate to, and effective in a particular situation.
“There is no doubt that the Adams Oshiomhole administration has opened the democratic space and brought governance to the doorsteps of the common man by demystifying it. It is not by accident that there has been a rise in political activism, and awareness of the processes of governance through protests, Town Hall meetings, Campaign for One Man, One Vote, Let the People Lead and open governance.
“However, we cannot be judges in our own cause and as such, I have decided to revert to my immediate constituency to undertake the task of soul-searching and reassessment which, I think, if properly harnessed, could add value to governance, refocus and put her on a solid foundation in order to achieve the best for the generality of the people.
“One of the core and most important expected take-aways from this roundtable is the sense of belonging, both the organizer and the participants will feel in contributing their expertise to the process of governance in the state, since the roundtable is an avenue to speak to issues affecting the people whom government has responsibility to protect, secure and deliver good governance. It is also expected that this event will gauge the pulse and feelings of the citizens through the journalists on government policies, level of infrastructure development and future possibilities.
“On a personal note, for me, it is a way of reporting back to my constituency on my voyage with government and to demonstrate my unity with them. In addition, it is my intention that this idea will be sustained as a channel of interaction and communication between members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the People and Government for the purpose of good governance and economic justice in Edo State, and Nigeria at large.
The panelists, after expressing their viewpoints observed that Edo, prior to Oshiomhole’s administration’s inception on November 12, 2008, was characterized by general despair and despondency; and near-total decay of public infrastructure. They also observed that ‘god-fatherism’ phenomenon had virtually held the state hostage and so negatively impacted on governance, thus hindering socio-economic growth in the pre-Oshiomhole years.
That was not all. Members of the panel noted that the administration has succeeded in upgrading the benchmark for infrastructural development in the state with particular references to road construction/rehabilitation, drainage and erosion control via the Benin Water Storm Project, as well as the multi-million naira Queen Ede, Auchi and Ekewan gully erosion projects. Also remarkable to the panelists was the provision of modern classrooms, otherwise called “Red Roof” in primary and secondary schools across the state.