THE Edo state governorship election has come and gone. Gone Along with it is the pervasive fear of the untoward, among which is the alleged invasion of particularly the state capital by straggling militants from neighbouring states.
Putting it mildly, the threat almost sent the blood pressure of everyone, including citizens, residents, politicians, electoral personnel, security agents, et al, into the stratosphere. Thank God it is over now as everybody can go about normal everyday responsibilities, hoping that the governor-elect, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, will deliver on his promise in order to take the state and its people to the next development level.
More than anyone else, he knows too well that with the election over, he is condemned to hitting the ground running in order to justify the faith reposed on him.
Unemployment is unarguably the biggest challenge facing the Nigerian nation today. As one of the federating state, Edo is certainly not shielded from its hydra headed implications. Urgently, the people will welcome any practical policy decision geared towards substantially creating jobs for the teeming army of the unemployed, who constitute a ready made and waiting army for crimes. Obaseki seems to understand the challenge here hence he made job creation one of his cardinal campaign issues.
Of course, now that campaigns are over, he must go beyond rhetoric and walk his talk without delay.
A lot has been said about the need to move governance beyond mere meeting political expediencies. The point being canvassed is that governments at all levels must begin to act without delay in two key areas. It must place more urgent emphasis on the creation of enabling environment for development while also ensuring that they implement policy decisions that encourage real time investments from the private sector. The issue here is that direct government involvement in businesses must be de-emphasised by transfering the onus on private investment.
Apart from reining in all excesses, including avoidable losses inherent in direct government involvement in business, transfering the onus to private investments will further advance employment creation in no small measure. Obaseki cannot afford to delay setting in motion the process of privatising non-sensitive sectors. Beyond the creation of jobs, a private sector-driven economy has other innumerable advantages. At the moment, Nigerians are familiar with incidences where public officers in charge of public concerns hold the view that such concerns are mere personal enrichment conduits.
Particularly in Edo state, cases abound where public companies have been run down mainly on account of its minders allocating accruing resources to themselves at the expence of the public. The case with Bendel Brewery, Edo Line, to mention but a few, is instructive.
However, even as the argument for continuous government funding and control of businesses for, among others, job creation purpose may appear appealing, experience has shown that the end result is never in tandem with expectations. That alone, gives traction to the other more convincing argument there indeed, the time has come for governments to hands off commercial business engagements, concentrate on creating the enabling environment for real business sector to play its rightful role.
In addition, governments must find addition role fulfillment in, among others, initiate policy decision, direction, control and or monitoring. It is expected that with a background steeped in investment drive and boosted by eight years of practical involvement in direct governance, a reason for which the governor-elect received the people’s mandate, he should understand how vital it is for the state to literally move to the next level without any undue delay.
There is another urgent reason the governor-elect must act quick in order that the state may not falter on its present enviable economic status that has enabled it to meet all it’s monthly statutory obligations in spite of the biting recession.
In the past, the trend is that all states must literally go, cap in hand, to collect their monthly federation allocations from Abuja. It is hardly debatable that funds from Abuja has dwindled drastically that it is now mere stipends that are too evidently inadequate for their monthly obligations. Whereas almost 30 of the nation’s 36 states are currently unable to pay salaries without one form of bailout or another, few of them, including Edo, successfully navigated local labyrinths to shore up their internally generated revenue profile that kept them relatively afloat.
However, particularly as it is with the state, the manner with which it has been leveraged on is a little less than complimentary. Indeed, it has not been controversy proof at all having created challenges that led into accusations of double taxation, underhand dealings, etc, from several quarters.
While it may not be completely right to dismiss the accusations or even assume that they are true, the people will however, appreciate it greatly if the governor-elect fulfill, without any undue delay, his promise to sanitise collection processes. It will go a long way in addressing the perennial disconnect between government and the people on the one hand.
On the other, addressing it squarely will take care of the ensuing crisis of confidence which almost dented the enviable development records of the outgoing administration.
Therefore, the governor-elect must prioritise this reconnection task by dealing with tax and other revenue issues in order to bridge the seeming disconnect between the government and those affected.
Now that Obaseki has secured the people’s mandate, he must live by his promise to transform communities with investment potentials with his investment wizardry. Unquestionably, most of the communities are agrarian with a few having solid minerals and tourism prospects.
Thankfully, they can be made more investment friendly by a manager who can pull all the strings that can effectively attract investors the same way honey combs does the bee. Of course, we can take it for granted that he understands what must be on ground before investors can feel a compelling need to come in.
However, beyond understanding these needs, there is the overriding necessity to implement investment-friendly policies in such a way that they are not stifled by political manipulations.
In other words, the governor-elect must ensure that development imperatives sit atop political expediences. That is the only way to create effective development.
Thankfully again, the outgoing administration of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole has done so much in road and other infrastructure. What remains is to leverage on his successes by taking advantage of what is on ground in order to direct investors to the different viable locations across the state.
By so doing, there will be enough investment in all the easily accessible resource areas for even development.
The country is in recession. For the same reason, investable funds may not be readily available. Where available, they may not be enough for the needful.
For instance a lot of small businesses may be stifled by tax and other contingencies during incubation. To avoid the inevitability, the position of government, in terms of provision of incentives, is very important.
Given the promise of the governor-elect to create a minmum of 200,000 jobs even in the face of choking economc realties, he must, with dispatch, consider the idea of creating an investment fund with low interest rates for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs.
The point to note here is that they need to be encouraged given the very vital role they play in terms of employment or job creation.
Now that Obaseki is set to assume office as governor, how well he is able to create the promised jobs will depend, in the main, on his ability to galvanize his administration’s investment drive, particularly in the area of creating the right investment climate. Now that he has the people’s mandate, he must hit the ground running.
Mr. Ernest Omoarelojie, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Benin city, Edo State.