By Tonnie Iredia
To many Edo indigenes especially those outside the state, it was a thing of joy hearing about positive developments at home immediately after November 2016 when Godwin Obaseki assumed office as governor of the state. Of importance was the strategy of not allowing the execution of projects to be overshadowed by heavy publicity as was the case with the former governor. Instead, people woke up every morning to observe some government projects springing up around them. Some people had imagined that with the high level of indebtedness inherited by Governor Obaseki which was said to be among the highest three in the country at the time, governance might virtually grind to a halt. It was also feared that with the virile opposition of the Peoples Democratic Party led by its articulate chairman, Dan Orbih, the new governor had little chance of survival. Within a short time however, it was observed that development projects were going on amidst several complaints from the most unexpected source – members of the governor’s ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, APC. Considering that the state government was formed by the party and that all public bodies and local councils are under the control of the same party, the complaints are virtually inexplicable.
Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable for party members to seek to be rewarded for their contributions towards the victory of their party at the polls which empowered their flag bearer to form the government of the day. That happens all over the world. Known as the spoils or patronage system, the convention is for party members to be compensated with appointments, contracts and favours. But then, not everyone can be so favoured because the members are far more than the available offices and contracts. Besides, the patronage system is not open-ended. Persons who have no capacity to hold some offices or are incapable of executing certain contracts cannot in the name of patronage system get such favours. It is therefore not unusual for government to be unable to meet the desires of all the members of the ruling party. Those that cannot be so accommodated ought to be patriotic enough as loyal party members to continue to support the government instead of becoming so openly disillusioned to the extent of presenting a posture that can distract the governor from concentrating on his development agenda
If the cause of dissatisfaction among APC members is what has become commonly known as the fight for political structure, the earlier that is resolved the better for the state. Many years back, the same struggle by politicians loyal to Governor Osunbor to evolve a new political structure merely neutralised the viability of that governor. But it would appear that the major grouse this time, is the failure of some persons to acquire material wealth as in the past. This is the only way to understand the statement credited to the governor at the second anniversary thanksgiving of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Christian Prayer Contact Committee that he would not share our money among party stalwarts because his focus is to develop the state. This is supported by an earlier posture of the governor which differentiated Government House from the political party secretariat which some members are uncomfortable with. But because Edo state is not for only politicians, we need to admonish party officials not to disturb the serenity of the seat of government and make the premises a location for commotion instead of one for articulation of how best to serve the common good.
When a candidate assumes office as governor, he is governor of everyone including members of the opposition party. In fact, many non-members of the winning party may have voted for the governor against their own candidates for some cogent reasons. In other words, Godwin Obaseki is not APC governor but governor of the entire state. All citizens are expected to benefit from his administration by the type of policies he formulates and executes. Put differently, as the governor of all, Obaseki ought to look beyond his own political party to invite capable hands from everywhere to help him ensure good governance because with good policies on ground, everyone would benefit from the resultant massive development. This is why the rest of us – artisans, farmers, technocrats and other professionals must send a clear signal to political jobbers that we are anxious to have our state developed and returned to the glorious days when former Governor Samuel Ogbemudia gave us all a sense of pride. In those days, every Midwesterner or Bendelite was respected because of the giant strides taken by the then dynamic governor to push development to the next level. That is what we look forward to now and not distractions from the governor’s political base.
For this to be achieved, it is necessary for us all to note that no meaningful societal development can be attained without technology. Indeed, with the attribution of massive development in the western world to technology, there is now a growing belief world-wide particularly in developing societies, that technology is the key governing force in society and the redeeming feature of humanity. This is the prism through which Edo people can best comprehend Obaseki’s on-going industrialization reforms, among them the introduction of technical programmes designed to leapfrog the state’s basic education delivery system. Also relevant here, is the provision of a standard framework for the administration of urban and regional renewal that has already led to the reduction of the cost of acquiring Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from N300,00 to N50,000.
Whereas these reforms are commendable, they cannot be sustained if there is lack of unity among the ruling party. We dare say that one of the factors encouraging people to crave for the sharing of our money to continue, is the belief that some of the indulgences of the past have not ended. For example, the ultra- modern building that is to house the Central Hospital is yet to be equipped after government had announced at its commissioning, that a whopping sum of 1.5 billion naira had been paid to a supposed world-renowned Austro-German Hospital Equipment provider. Where is the equipment and where is the money? The governor must deal with issues such as this. Most importantly, he needs to create extensive avenues for dialogue with a view to carrying everyone along. Such an egalitarian approach would put an end to the emergence of political camps within the same political party with some people in support of the governor and others against him. In all, what we want in Edo is development.