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Good governance: Echoes from Akure

By Tonnie Iredia
Last week, one of our old colleagues, the legendary James Iroha, alias Gringory Akabogu of the new Masquerade Television Drama fame passed on. May his soul rest in peace. A retired Director of Television Services at the Abia State Broadcasting Corporation, Gringory had for awhile reportedly suffered from an eye ailment for which he repeatedly cried for help but none came.

Big pity; having lost touch with him after service, Gringory’s ill health was not known to some of us who would have pleaded for help from Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State Governor. Mimiko would no doubt have harkened to our plea considering that he has successfully established himself as Nigeria’s most responsive governor to people’s health.

Oh yes, the stories that keep coming out of Akure, the Ondo State capital, clearly confirm that it is a State which enjoys a large measure of good governance- a feature that is transparently different from what happens elsewhere in Nigeria where development projects are a basis for revenue generation through citizen exploitation.

By the time Governor Mimiko assumed office in 2009, he had, as a medical doctor himself, known the fundamentals of his nation’s pathetic health sector.

First, he knew that Nigeria was the second highest in maternal death in the world, second only to India. Also in his sub consciousness was the basic fact that in Ondo, his own state, pregnancy was more or less a ‘death sentence’ because of every ten women that died as result of pregnancy in Nigeria, Ondo accounted for more than half.

Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko

Unlike most of our political leaders whose vision in government is to award contracts for some huge infrastructures without examining their relevance to the basic needs of their people, Mimiko rightly decided to design a strategy that would address the pressing needs of his people – the ugly indices of high maternal mortality in the State. He introduced a blue print called the “ABIYE safe motherhood Programme”.

In it, Community health extension workers were trained to engage pregnant women to ensure an accurate documentation. 25 pregnant women were assigned to one health ranger who visited them regularly. The health rangers with customized check list were to detect high risk, carry out birth plan, prepare for complications, educate and advice on family planning and use of insecticide treated mosquito nets.

Government also provided a mobile phone to each registered pregnant woman to ensure information flow. To eliminate challenges in the rural areas, Motorbikes, tricycles and ambulances were put on standby for 24 hour services.

Basic Health Centres in villages and remote towns staffed with qualified personnel as well as consumables and drugs needed for normal delivery were provided. A Mother and Child Hospital was set up in Akure to deal with complicated cases.

It is instructive that in focusing on the Medicare of his people, Governor Mimiko neither raised hospital fees nor did he increase taxes. Indeed, the telephone lines he provided to each pregnant woman was free of charge, and its toll free prepaid.

This in our opinion is a commendable way of providing for the welfare of people particularly the poor. It is a far cry from what happens elsewhere like Abuja where residents can no longer afford the cost of treatment at the hitherto government owned Garki hospital which has been commercialized.

Often when we hear of terms like National Health Insurance Scheme, we mistakenly become hopeful that someone is about to look after us as governments do to people in other climes. Painfully, ours is never like that. With us, almost everything is paid for.

While we agree that certain services have to be paid for, it is pertinent to remind those in Authority of the poverty rate in our nation.  Against this backdrop, we are unable to disagree with the Senate for once in rejecting the new Vehicle Number Plate and Driver’s Licence fees introduced by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).

In a motion in the Senate on the subject, Senator Kuta was irked by his observation that “the FRSC had abandoned its primary mandate of ensuring safety on Nigerian roads by turning itself into a revenue generating agency”. That is what every public body seeks to do these days.

In fairness, the FRSC has been quite proactive. We hear that its new arrangement is designed to build a better data base of vehicles and help strengthen security in the nation. Unfortunately however, its innovations are capable of drying up the common man’s pockets.

But if the FRSC must be allowed to implement its designs, the organization must become self funding so that the over N28 billion naira which she got from government as its budget for 2011 alone, can be put into other uses for the people. Otherwise, the FRSC should use its budget for its services and allow the common man to have a breath of fresh air.

The point that must be made is that if the citizens pay for every service rendered by public bodies, we shall soon transform into a market without government. As one friend confirmed the other day, even water supply has been privatized by the Imo State Government.

Of course, such a posture is likely to increase government revenue because we hear that the government was to pick up from the project, a take-off fee of N100 million and N10 million every month. But then, the project is also likely to pauperize the people. Where then is the social contract principle which puts government under an obligation to care for the people?

Luckily it is alive in Ondo state with a government that appears ever ready to provide for its people. For instance, in a bid to ensure adequate supply of potable water for the citizens, the state government procured sets of Deep rock drilling rigs to replace the only moribund rig in the state that was donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 20 years ago.

Another pro-people policy of Governor Mimiko is the decision to give loans to assist Artisans in the state so as to boost their businesses as well as to improve entrepreneurial scheme in the state. Well, that some critics may see us as propagating a labour party propaganda is a non-issue because all Nigerian political parties are the same.

Our position is to commend whichever one shows interest in good governance. Mimiko may or may not have built wide roads and gigantic buildings but he certainly has made a mark which all African societies should emulate.

He has programmed his officials to discharge their services to the people through the concept of ‘Total quality management’ which presupposes that they must be able to see, feel and think quality in the ways they conduct government business.

Everyone both at home and abroad appears convinced that Ondo is one state that has offered good governance. The World Bank has said so; both the London Tropical School of Medicine and the Bill gate Institute of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, are similarly persuaded. No wonder, the reformed Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) recently named Mimiko ‘Governor of the year’.


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