By Sunny Edoja
The people of Edo State will go to the polls to choose Adam Oshiomhole’s successor on September 10,2016. The campaigns have reached a crescendo as the two major candidates, Obaseki and Iyamu are selling their parties.
Edo people don’t need to search far before making up their minds on who among the candidates to vote for.
Apart from the fact that Godwin Obaseki who is flying the banner of the APC has a good head start because Oshiomhole has given him a lot to market in terms of achievements, the electorates are not sure who the authentic candidate of the PDP is between Pastor Ize Iyamu of the Markarfi led faction and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen of the Ali Modu Sheriff faction. Only the courts could decide and this is enough reason for the electorates to vote for the candidate whose candidacy is sure, and whose party has transformed the state in the last seven years.
Considering the antecedents of the two parties in the state, there is no gain saying the fact that Edo State should borrow a leaf from Lagos where an unbroken chain of progressive governments make it the most economically viable state in Nigeria, increasing her IGR from a meagre N600 million in 1999 to an average of N23 billion in 2016 with a plan to hit N30billion monthly in 2017 and 50billion in 2018.
The governor of Edo State in 1999, Lucky Igbinedion spent two terms and left the state in ruins. When Lucky’s father, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion was campaigning for the re-election of his son in 2003, Edo people told him point blank that his son didn’t do well in office but the Senior Igbinedion told them in pidgin, Pickin wey no do well for one class must repeat that class’ meaning if a child fails in one class, that child must repeat the class so he wanted his son to be re-elected despite his woeful performance in office. Lucky was re-elected through the usual PDP magic and Edo State was the worse for it. Professor Oserheimen Osunbor succeeded Lucky Igbinedion after rigging out Adams Oshiomhole in 2007 but the Court of Appeal overturned his victory and declared Oshiomhole the actual winner on November 12, 2008.
While agreeing that the period Osunbor spent as governor of Edo State (May 29, 2007 to Nov 12, 2008) was so short for proper assessment, the fact remains that no meaningful achievement would have been recorded by his administration even if it had not been terminated by a judicial hammer. As Prof. Osunbor noted on why he left the PDP, “PDP has no interest in what becomes of the state and the people, but their pockets. This was why they said I was not loyal because I refused to share the money meant to develop the state while I was the governor. That was why they started fighting me”. Osunbor meant well for Edo people but the hawks who surrounded him in his party wouldn’t have allowed him to work. It was the same Mafia that the comrade governor fought to a stand-still before he could rescue Edo state from the jaws of these vampires!
There is no need for further proof that the PDP as a party never meant well for the state. Edo State should not lose her opportunity of voting for continuity as they have tested both parties and can conclude which party had actually done better in terms of human capital development and infrastructure. Yorubas would say “oti gbepo wo, oti gbomi wo, o ti mon eyi to wuwo ju” (you have lifted water and you have also lifted palm oil so you know which is heavier)Edo people should know by now that any break from the present progressive government will spell doom for the state.
What has Oshiomhole done in eight years to make continuity in Edo imperative? Oshiomhole inherited a state in ruins and total infrastructure collapse in November 2008. The rot was especially visible in the education sector, with the reign of miracle centres known for awarding undeserved grades to students for a fee. Oshiomhole embarked on surgical operation of the education sector and it was successful because the state that used to be graded 30th position in performance at national examinations has now moved to the 2nd position. Edo is tuition free for both primary and secondary school students while buses were provided for school children. This has encouraged school enrolment and learning.
Oshiomhole excelled in massive construction of roads in the state capital and all the major towns down to the remotest village in Benin. It is obvious even to the blind, that road network in Benin and other parts of the state has greatly improved. Oshiomhole created a conducive environment for investment such that Edo state became a haven for investors. The budgeting system was remodelled such that capital expenditure was given priority unlike in the past when recurrent expenditure was higher. The result of this are the projects spread across the state.
This has attracted many other businesses such as the bamboo wood furniture company in Anegbete, ceramics tiles company in Benin City and Yongxing steel company which have recruited and trained over 1,500 youths who are now gainfully employed. In the area of sports, the Okpekpe road race became an international event recognised by the International Athletics Federation. This has boosted the economy of local residents each time the event was hosted.
Oshiomhole transformed the Ambrose Alli University at Ekpoma and made it a true citadel of learning. He built and commissioned three lecture theatres, two world class laboratories for medical and sciences students, completion of the moot court that was abandoned in 1991, the agriculture extension services department, the Fine and Applied Arts department, and the Building department while a European Union sponsored dam that was abandoned was resuscitated. The monthly subvention of the University was increased from N100m to N250m even as many projects are still ongoing in the University. He equally increased the monthly subvention of other higher institutions in the state. When other oil producing states are owing workers salaries running into six months, Oshiomhole is not only paying salaries promptly, but he has almost completed building a brand new Edo State University located at Iyamo which can compete with any other university in the world. The administration supported the security agencies with funds, gadgets and vehicles to enable them discharge their functions properly and this drastically reduced crime rate in the state. There is massive transformation in the health sector as hospitals were upgraded and rehabilitated across the state while the multi million naira Central Hospital along Sapele Road in Benin is of international standard.
Water has been provided all over Edo State through boreholes and this has greatly reduced water borne diseases. To ensure a solid foundation for strong institutions, the Bureau of Internal Revenue was strengthened, the Public Procurement Law was enacted and there was criminal justice reforms. In a bid to take as many unemployed youths as possible off the street through commercial agriculture, about 150 hectares of land was given to private investors to undertake commercial farming. The private investors who the government is monitoring as they do soil test, area mappping and clearing, will in turn employ Edo youths and train them in many areas of commercial farming. They will also man the tractors. This is the more reason why there should be continuity as this great idea should not be allowed to die if there is a change of government. This is what Ekiti State is suffering today when a hard-working and visionary governor was voted out. There is thus enough reasons why the electorate should ensure that Oshiomhole good works in the state continue through Obaseki who had been the head of the economic team in the last seven years attracting funds to the state while his running mate, Shuaibu a member of the House of Representatives representing Etsako Federal Constituency was a member of the Edo State House of Assembly who had helped the government to stabilise the House of Assembly as the Majority Leader.
Obaseki’s choice as a successor comes handy in this period of economic recession as he combines political value with the capacity to manage resources in difficult times. This combination is good for continuity and there is no doubt that Edo people will be the gainers if they vote APC on September 10.
● Sunny, a Public Affairs Analyst wrote from Benin-city