By Josef Omorotionmwan
IN local parlance, the view is widely held that anyone who wants the tortoise to bleed must slaughter it in the morning. This is one way of seeing the first one year in a four-year tenure as crucial in many ways. First, as morning shows the day, any government that is still waiting to hit the ground running after one year will eventually find itself running the government aground.
In Edo State, for instance, with 2017 virtually out, 2018 remains the only year left for real governance because politicking and electioneering campaigns for the 2020 gubernatorial election begin, in earnest, early 2019.
The Governor Godwin Obaseki Administration showed early signs of seriousness when it cleaned up the city centre and major markets in Benin Metropolis. At the city centre, he also fixed a few short streets, which were hitherto virtually impassable.
In this clime, it does not take much to impress the electorate who are largely uneducated. The microscopic performance of the Obaseki Administration in his early days also earned the Governor the appellation, “Wake and see Governor”, in apparent reference to the speed with which the actions came.
Come to think of it, what is so special about a State Administration that has confined itself to the exclusive purview of the Local Governments? In all ages, market regulation and control have been the functions of the Local Governments.
Again, this was the time when Obaseki’s case was yet at the Tribunal; but as soon as he got judgment in his favour, he went to sleep. In scoring Obaseki’s Administration abysmally low, we are not unmindful of the fact that all the feats recorded in its favour are easily achievable by any of the 18 Local Government Councils in Edo State.
We are reminded that prior to the total emasculation of the Local Governments in the State, the peer review mechanism among the Councils made them perform wonders. At the present rate, Obaseki cannot achieve in his entire four years, what the Pally Iriase-led Administration achieved in Owan East in its first 100 days! We also remember the likes of Henry Idahagbon who took Egor Local Government to the zenith in the first 100 days, with achievements that far out-weight what Obaseki now parades for an entire year. May the time fly faster for the return of Local Government autonomy!
Nigeria is still possible. We wake and see the Akinwuni Ambode Revolution in all parts of Lagos State, particularly at the Ikorodu-Epe Axis; we wake and see the Ibikunle Amosu Revolution that is currently delivering thousands of decent and affordable housing stock to the people of Ogun State; in the immediate-past Administration in Edo State, we woke and saw the Storm Water Project that was designed to cure the State Capital of the perennial flooding menace; and we saw the Red Roof Revolution that swept across the entire State.
With limited resources available, nobody expects Obaseki to perform the Ambode wonders; but nobody also expects him to abandon bold measures like the Storm Water Project and the Red Roof Revolution – projects that remain close to the people’s hearts. Edos want to see real projects, not sod-turning the street corners around Ring Road.
You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Knowing what he had in mind, Obaseki first ostracised everybody who would point him to order, including the Party that brought him to power. He moved into Government House, leaving the Party behind. He plans to “buy” them at the appropriate time, perhaps oblivious of recent history in Edo State where elections have consistently gone against the run of spending.
Osadebey Avenue is today a trade outpost for Obaseki’s foreign friends from Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, having ousted the politicos “for their nuisance value”.
Obaseki’s Administration is on a merchandising expedition to plunder every viable asset on ground. First, it has sold (or bought?) that magnificent edifice at the Central Hospital in Benin City reputed as the best in its class in Africa. It was provided by the immediate-past administration of Adams Oshiomhole. God knows how bad Oshiomhole must be feeling to see his pet project go down the drains.
Secondly, the Edo Development and Property Authority, EDPA, the organ of government responsible for the provision of housing to the citizenry has fallen under Obaseki’s harmer. All those professionals – Engineers, Land and Estate Surveyors, Architects, Town Planners, etc., have been consigned into total uselessness and dubious underemployment, roaming around some unrelated Ministries while Obaseki’s foreign army of occupation has taken over.
We hear that the next on line will be the information sector of the State – the Bendel Newspaper Company Limited, publishers of the Observer titles; the Edo Broadcasting Service, EBS, and the State libraries.
They are buying and selling these assets without recourse to the enabling laws – the laws that set them up, which also set out their functions and organograms – all without any recourse to the House of Assembly or anybody, for that matter. One thing is clear – our founding fathers did not establish these things as articles of trade. Rather, they were intended for the good life of the people.
With the Edo people, though, there is a constant caveat emptor – led the buyer beware. History is replete with the fact that Edo people know what to do to get back what collectively belong to them. The Church-Gate Group was once here. After the mindless acquisition of Bendel Brewery and the Asaba Textile Mills, where are they today?
In due season, we shall see a floodgate of litigations trailing the illegal transfers of our legitimate assets. If all else fail, brute force will never fail Edo people! Time will tell.
T.S. Eliot is relevant here: “Between the idea and the reality; between the motion and the act, falls the shadow”. Every leader has to define his place in history. Obaseki still has a full year to re-invent himself and show that change can truly begin with him.