OSHIOMHOLE’S LAST LAP
By Nasamu Jacobson
A few weeks ago, the Edo State government headed by Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole held a retreat in Abuja for members of the state executive council and permanent secretaries in the civil service. Appropriately dubbed “Finishing Well”, the retreat was aimed at creating a platform for members to brainstorm and re-strategise on raising the bar on governance in the state.
The theme of the retreat tells me that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his government realise clearly that the tenure is winding down and there is the need to look at what has been down and more particularly about what could be done with the little time left.
With only twelve months to go in the life of this administration, there would seem to be just three or four months of effective governance left to provide any dividends of democracy to our people. This is because of the twelve months remaining, electioneering demands will consume six months while transition formalities take three months. What more can the administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole achieve before handing over on November 12, 2016?
What remains is to finish well all the programmes and policies already in place particularly infrastructural projects like roads, schools and electricity.
The admonition of Lagos State ex-governor, Raji Fashola, appears well placed and Comrade Oshiomhole would do well to take it to heart. Speaking at the retreat as guest of Comrade Oshiomhole, Fashola told his host pointedly: “Time is up…..so, all of what we are doing now is to make the process of getting out easier”. I agree that time is up for this administration but I think the question to ask is: What will the government of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole be remembered for?
Adams Oshiomhole will be remembered as a governor who displayed uncommon courage in the governance of Edo State. This is reflected not only in his dogged fight to reclaim through the courts the mandate freely given to him at the governorship election of April 2007 but stollen by the rulling Peoples Democratic Party but also in the policies and programmes he formulated and implemented on assumption of office.
It is on record that Oshiomhole lauched himself into propagating electoral reform by fiercely advocating “one man, one vote”, a mantra which soon assumed national recognition and acceptance. Before he assumed office, the sing-song in Edo state was that the state was too poor to work as what was coming to the state from the federation account and internal revenue generation was too meagre for any meaningful development. This may not have been entirely correct as Oshiomhole was to prove on assumption of office. The ubiquitous “god fathers” who held the state to ransome had to be fought hard in order to liberate Edo state and make it work. This task, to a great extent, has been achieved with the development of the state divorced from the gluttonous tendencies of party leaders.
It took a courageous leader like Oshiomhole to recognise that the resources available to the state from the federation account as well as internal sources would not accommodate the ambitious but critically required infrastructures to develop Edo state. Payment of correct taxes, particularly by workers on PAYE, was advocated and institutionalised. Aggressive internal revenue collection from all sources has provided the funds with which several infrastructural facilities have been put in place to the approval and applause of Edo people.
Examples of these projects include the design and reconstruction of Airport Road from a two-lane road to a beffitting six-lane highway among other roads; the reclamation, design and construction of Five Junction; reclamation, reconstruction of Isinorho roads; the construction of the ultra-modern Central Hospital; reconstruction and renovation of several school buildings otherwise called the “red roof revolution”; building of healthcare centres and provision of electricity to communities across the state. These projects in Benin City as well as others spread across all the eighteen local government areas of the state stand as sign posts to the vission and determination of the Oshiomhole administration to make Edo work again. Many road projects embarked upon in Benin City and elsewhere affected residential and commercial property which had to be demolished in the interest of public good. The owners of these property, being voters, expected circumspection which Oshiomhole discountenanced.
Before November 12, 2008 when Oshiomhole assumed office, no one in Edo state entertained any hope that the Queen Ede and Auchi erosion menace which had sacked entire areas and claimed roads and buildings could be tackled by the state. In fact those two sites had been programmed for reclamation by the federal authorities without success.
Various contractors had been overwhelmed by the enormity of the devastation and abandoned site without doing any work. It has taken a lot of courage for Oshiomhole’s administration to embark on these and the Benin city storm water projects. When completed, the issue of flooding and erosion would be greatly, if not completely, eliminated in Benin City and Auchi.
When Oshiomhole leaves office after eight years of successful governance in Edo state, he would be remembered as a governor who never lacked the political will and courage to take decisions but also had the candor to reverse himself when he believed a reversal was absolutely necessary in the interest of the good of Edo people. After Oshiomhole, never again in Edo state would one powerful individual appropriate to himself power to take decisions for all of the citizens. Never again in Edo state will elections be rigged with impunity as was brazenly done in 2007 when Oshiomhole’s mandate was stolen.
Oshiomhole will be remembered as the Governor who earned the confidence of the World Bank, the international community and the people to lay a solid foundation for the infrastructural development of the state. By the time he leaves office in November 2016, Oshiomhole would have set a standard by which succeeding administrations would be judged in the governance of Edo State.
NASAMU JACOBSON, A PUBLIC AFFAIR COMMENTATOR, WROTE FROM BENIN CITY.