By Josef Omorationmwan
IN another 48 hours, Edo State shall be three years old. Anyone who claims otherwise simply puts on himself a burden similar to that of a Bini man who kills a lion in any part of Benin Kingdom.
He automatically dispatches himself to Benin City because he must personally present the leg of that lion to the Oba and he must also personally present himself for royal blessing because of his rare bravery.
Edo State only came alive at the advent of the Adams Oshiomhole administration. We are willing to credit the Odigie-Oyegun era with being a foundation stage because every beginning is difficult. But just when we were beginning to think that a solid foundation had been laid, there came the years of the locust; the wasted years of the military; finally capped by the PDP maladministration. The darkest part of the night is just before dawn. That also explains why Edo State descended to its lowest ebb during the period, May 1999 to November 2008.
This short narrative is necessary because Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) has shown by happy illustration that the best way of appreciating where you are now is by looking at where you are coming from. Three short years down the line, it is now history that the Oshiomhole administration came in at a time when virtually everyone had given up on Edo State because of its rottenness. What is also history now is that this same Oshiomhole administration came in after a very fierce battle; the titanic battle to regain the king’s crown that had been snatched from the rightful king. Three short years down the line, the Oshiomhole administration has demonstrated that a viable Edo State is possible. The administration has shown that it is not life or the length of it that matters but the courage we bring into it. This is in perfect agreement with the ways of God. Listen to Solomon in Ecclesiastes 6:3, “A person may have a hundred children and live a long time, but no matter how long he lives, if he does not get his share of happiness and does not receive a decent burial, then, a still-born is better off”. Why else would the tough Israeli government willingly release 1,021 Hamas soldiers in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Col. Gilad Shalit? The question in Edo State is no longer whether the short spell of three years of the Oshiomhole administration is better than the 10 empty years of the PDP; but the hearts of realists are already quaking over what will become the fate of the State after 2016.
From the beginning, it was known that Edo State is endowed with much potentials but before the arrival of Oshiomhole, those potentials remained at the level of potentials. It took an Oshiomhole to realise that it is only when potentials are positively harnessed that they can turn into development. Those potentials have since been converted into activities that engage the mind, occupy the time and bring the money.
Oshiomhole’s forerunners were aggressive on the spending side of government while they left the revenue generating side sleeping. Oshiomhole came to government fully equipped to accept the fact that if true democracy must be enthroned, it was not going to be possible to escape those moments of profound crises when the tough decisions must be taken.
He soon embarked on the tough decisions that are now making the essential difference. It took an Oshiomhole to bring down illegal structures, which have given way to the development of hitherto corroding ghettos to modern status. What was originally regarded by detractors as flower planting has since transformed into massive urban renewal programmes.
The critics soon changed their language when they claimed that Oshiomhole was digging ditches. In just the same way that Justice Ovie Whisky would have fainted at the sight of one million Naira of his days, this writer almost fainted at the sight of the gigantic reclamation work that is going on, day and night, at the Five Junction and the New Benin axis of Benin City. And this is the type of development that is going on across the State.
Evidently, the ills of democracy can only be cured by more democracy. For too long, we were spoon-fed and that explains why we remained toddlers after all these years. It took an Oshiomhole to realise that if government must carry out its policies and programmes, there must be the financial muscle to implement them. Oshiomhole arrived at a time when the economic melt-down was already setting in – allocation from the federation account was plummeting and there were problems in the oil production zone. People were used to not paying tax because government to them was Father Christmas. It took an Oshiomhole to face the situation frontally and people soon began to embrace the idea of paying tax. Consequently, the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the State has since moved from around N300 million to about N1.6 billion and it is still climbing!
Edo State Government has introduced a complete innovation to governance. It is the only government in the entire federation that publishes its annual audited accounts in major newspapers and magazines at the end of the financial year. That is the very height of accountability and transparency.
In the beginning, the question was, what will this administration be remembered for? As the journey progresses, the answer is clear: Like Dorcas in the Bible, this administration shall be remembered for doing good. After all, government is about the people’s needs, the satisfaction of which is the sole justification for government.