When Edo State governor assumed office on November 12, 2008, many were set to put him to task if he dared fail to deliver on his campaign promises. As a labour leader who cut his political teeth from his many struggles to emancipate the poor masses and workers across the country, it was a huge responsibility for him to take over a state that was in ruins and total infrastructure decay. The education sector was a festering sore that finds expression in the manner of neglect that the previous administration had treated it. Edo State was notorious for many miracle centers which provided accommodation for all categories of persons from different parts of the country to sit for the West African School Certificate Examinations with the hope of coming out with flying colours even when such examinations were hardly taken by the students.
With the dubious cooperation of the examination officers and the invigilators, desperate students easily parted with huge sums of money to buy their way through the corridors of examinations with promises of superlative grades. This was the practice inherited by the Comrade Governor from the PDP 10 years’ preoccupation of Edo State before the courts gave verdict that threw away that regime of waste and non-performance. Seven years down the line, the Comrade Governor has rediscovered the missing link in the education sector and appropriately repositioned the sector to the admiration of all. While the state was usually placed in a distant position of 30th amongst states in Nigeria in terms of performance at national examinations, the story today has assumed a more positive and rewarding classification. In the last three national examinations, Edo state came 2nd and has been adjudged as one of the heavily transformed states in terms of infrastructure, manpower and investment. The latest ratings and outcomes are the end product of the heavy investment which the government has put into this sector to rediscover its lost glory. Added to this is the fact that Edo State is tuition free for both primary and secondary schools students.
When Comrade Oshiomhole presented his first budget to Edo State House of Assembly, populated by majority of PDP lawmakers, rather than encourage a governor that was willing to work settle down, they threw up partisan interests over the Edo interest. First, the initial budget was scrutinized, altered and later adjusted to suit the peculiarity of the PDP godfathers. Aside from frowning at the percentage allocated for capital project, the Comrade Governor was told pointedly that he was not the messiah that Edo State was waiting for. And that if he must work, he must operate within the labyrinths of the godfather’s desires. Yet undaunted, the Comrade Governor took his case to our highly revered Oba of Benin, who wrote a scathing letter to remind the Edo State House of Assembly that if Benin City could not be respected for being the headquarters of Benin Kingdom, at least it should be recognized as the capital of Edo State. The PDP chieftains were asking for the portion of the budget that would be available for sharing like the “Dasukigate” money. They had to back down when the Comrade Governor told them that if they were prepared to share money, he would issue them cheques, if that would persuade them to put pen on paper to sign the Appropriation Bill. The rest as it is often said is now history.
The huge economic infrastructure which the Oshiomhole administration has brought about can be explained from the point of view of his determination to alter the narrative in Edo’s political economy. Rather than continue the tradition of skewing budget in favour of recurrent expenditure, the Comrade Governor has sustained a tradition of ensuring that capital expenditure carries a higher percentage in all his budgetary proposals and laws. More than anything, this explains the huge infrastructural component of the administration spread across the three senatorial districts of the state. As a direct consequence of this initiative, the state is now becoming an investment haven for different categories of businesses. There is bamboo wood furniture company in Anegbete, there is ceramics tiles company in Benin City as well as Yongxing Steel Company. These companies have recruited over 1,500 capable youths who have been trained and gainfully employed to provide one service or the other.
The Okpekpe road race has become an internationally accepted road race by the sheer insight of the government and a sports marketing company which seized the initiative of utilizing the beauty of the Okpekpe Road to bring this to fruition. This event has not only entered into the calendar year of the International Athletics Federation but has become a source of economic boom to residents of the entire Edo North each time the event was hosted. That is one way to boost the economic wellbeing of the people.
It is instructive to note that Comrade Oshiomhole’s intervention in Edo state has paid off in different areas. As we speak, even when states across the country cannot meet up with their salaries commitments, the Comrade Governor has almost completed building a brand new Edo State University located at Iyamho. The University environment boasts of sophisticated buildings and facilities that can compete with any other university in the world. Having invested heavily in enhancing the infrastructural status of Ambrose Alli University, he felt it was proper for the state to have another university that would absorb qualified students who often lazy about after failing to secure admission into the existing schools.
The national statistics with respect to school enrolment are quite alarming. On a yearly basis, about 1.4m Nigerian youths write the JAMB examinations. Out of this figure, available universities can only absorb a little above 300,000 thus allowing 1.1million to roam the streets before the onset of another examination calendar.
When the PDP raised dust over our investment in Ambrose Alli University, one had thought they were going to present their own statistics to show how much they invested in the university during their 10 years’ regime in Edo State. Rather, the PDP were running from pillar to post to complain about the huge investments we have made in the university. We have not only built and commissioned three lecture theatres; we have also built two world class laboratories for the medical and laboratory sciences students. We have also completed the moot court that was abandoned in 1991, built the agriculture extension services department, the Fine and Applied Arts department, and also the Building department. The dam that was built by the European Union and later abandoned was reticulated and as we speak, the university is now fully serviced with water. There are still several on-going projects aside from increasing the monthly subvention from a paltry N100m to N250m. When we asked the PDP to name what they did in 10 years’ at Ambrose Alli University, they were simply blaming themselves, pointing accusing fingers at themselves. What a pity.
While it is convenient for the PDP to make all the noises about development in Edo State as not reflecting what accrues to the state, they have not been bold enough to state what they did with all the billions they collected during their time. We have seen companies that were built overnight, we have seen how reptiles and snakes took over as managers and chief executives, and thereafter sold before daybreak. We have seen how Edo State resources were used to feather the nest of PDP chieftains, making overnight millionaires and billionaires. They jump about like musketeers, looting from the center and the corners, leaving Edo State to bleed with perfunctory disdain. Now that they have been uprooted from the inner sanctuary of Aso Rock conclave, they now see Edo State like a fallow land that must be conquered to continue their regime of mindless plunder. This is why the people are saying never again for the PDP to come and rape us politically.
By Prince Kassim Afegbua
–Afegbua is the Commissioner for Information, and Orientation