From Tony Osauzo, Benin
On Saturday, November 12, history was made in Edo State with the change of baton between former Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki. Benin, the state capital was a beehive of activities as dignitaries from the state, other parts of the country and beyond converged on the Dr Samuel Ogbemudia stadium for the colourful event. Obaseki, who took the oath of office and allegiance at 12.24 pm was sworn-in along with his deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
For many, the event was the climax of a turbulent and torturous political journey by Obaseki to Edo Government House. And those who followed the build up to the last governorship election in the state would agree that it would ever remain one of the toughest battles of the new governor’s political career.
With the development, critical observers believe that the change in leadership is the beginning of improvement and consolidation on the achievements by the administration of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
When Oshiomhole took over governance on November 12, 2008 after the Court of Appeal upheld the lower Election Petition Tribunal which earlier declared him winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election in the state, he met Edo State lagging behind in several areas of development indices.
But eight years after, many testify that his administration scored high in the area of infrastructural development such as roads construction and rehabilitation, building of schools and rehabilitation, erosion and flood control, regular payment of salaries among several other areas.
However, there were several other areas that the Oshiomhole’s administration by the assessment of many, did not do well. One of such areas is the creation of jobs to reduce the current high unemployment rate in the state.
Luckily, this is one area the new Obaseki administration promised to focus on during his electioneering campaign and also in his speech shortly after he was sworn in as governor last Saturday.
“Today, as we begin our journey to build a new Edo State, I want to repeat and affirm that promise; I have pledged to create 200,000 jobs in the next four years. And we will achieve this by leveraging on our comparative advantages and our key factor endowments in production and commerce. Our key factors will focus on commerce and agro business value chain, entrepreneurship, investment in industries and technical and vocational skills.
“We will also fill all vacancies in the civil service, optimize the job creation potential in infrastructural development. Agriculture is a major focus in our socio-economic programme because of its strategic importance in many areas, from food sufficiency to rural development, economic development, job creation and critical revenue generation. For us, we will make agriculture as business. Many Edo people will generate wealth by keying into our value chain development of oil palm cassava, cocoa, grains, rubber, fruits and vegetables.
“We will support the growth of over twenty thousand micro small and medium enterprises, with further creation of over fifty thousand associated jobs in the next four years through access to low interest financing. We will utilize the advantage which we have in generating electricity in Edo State and our location as the heart beat of this country to attract industries.
“We will help local businesses particularly small and medium enterprises by creating the enabling environment for them to thrive. The Edo State government will establish a one stop shop centre to provide incentives and support to make it easier for our people to produce their goods and services. We will focus on improving the ease with which people do business, provide credit enhancement for businesses operating in the state.
“We will continue to consolidate the gains of the past eight years by continuing infrastructural revolution and urban renewal project which our Comrade started. We will continue to improve and expand our educational sector, building more schools to ensure that education is available to all Edo children. We will equally pay attention to the development of our intra city road network to enhance urban dwelling comfort and ease traffic circulation and lastly we will complete all ongoing projects.
“We are aware that our development and social upliftment plans will be more successful if we pay attention to the empowerment of women particularly as majority of small scale businesses in the state are owned and run by women. We will take education and development of the girl child very very seriously.
“Some of the intervention skills that government will launch will be under the leadership of women with improved access to low interest financing. There will be renewed effort in technical and vocational education. ICT is a key component to achieving our objective. We want to make Edo a centre for excellence on health care”, he said.
One area Edo State made waves in the past was in the Sports sector. Under the Oshiomhole administration, the sector was neglected and the state dropped seriously from reckoning.
Curiously, Governor Obaseki in his speech, did not make any commitment to change the current poor narrative of the state in the field of sports where it was once one of the top contenders for laurels.
His promise to build and consolidate on the legacy of his predecessor was however hailed by the enthusiastic crowd that thronged the Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to witness his swearing in. Many believe that it is the right thing to do. For instance, Lagos State has towed that part for three successive administrations and today the state is reaping from its wise decision of building on laid down solid development plan.
The result has been a quantum leap in development in all facets with the state economy now being ranked as equal to that combined in five African countries.
One area Governor Obaseki hit the Bull’s eye was his conciliatory comment that he will work with good ideas of his co-contestants from other political parties.
“Those who contested against us also articulated ideas genuinely intended to transform the state and the condition of our people. We do not claim to have monopoly of what is good for Edo people; Edo State belongs to all of us irrespective of political affiliation.
“Our destiny is defined by a common purpose and any good leadership after a hard fought campaign, take the trouble to gather all ideas that have been articulated by other parties and integrate them into the grand agenda of the transformation for our wellbeing. We will continue to study these ideas and seek with diligence to select what they promise for our people and state and seek to integrate them to our agenda for our common good”, he said.
This is good for democracy and he should go beyond that by reaching out to those contestants willing to support his administration for the common good of the state. The speeches of Donald Trump, President-elect of the United States and Hilary Clinton, soon after the election, should inspire all who seek public service for the purpose of lifting the living conditions of their people and country.
Now that Mr. Obaseki has mounted the saddle of governance of Edo State, he should strive to work hard to fulfill his electoral promises and govern for all irrespective of party affiliations. That way, he will win the people’s confidence and support.
There are also those who believe that the people also need to support his administration by paying their taxes and rates to enable the government execute projects and programmes that would improve their living conditions.
FG has no reason to take $30bn loan –T.J Yusuf
By Kemi Yesufu
Hon. T.J Yusuf is the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and Institutions. In this interview, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly seeking for approval to take a $29.9 billion loan.
Among others, the lawmaker representing Kabba/Bunu Federal Constituency also spoke on the seemingly unending crisis in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
You are one of the ranking members elected under the PDP. Shouldn’t you be worried that your party is facing an unending crisis, with two factions insisting on being the authentic leadership of your party?
I disagree that the PDP is divided. There’s somebody, somewhere who claims to be in control of certain structures and I say it’s purely the presidency that’s orchestrating this, there’s no doubt about it. After the aborted Port Harcourt national convention, the staff at the PDP national secretariat wrote the Inspector-General of Police and said, given the happenings in Port Harcourt and the insistence by (Modu) Sheriff that he remained the chairman, give us security to be sure of our safety. And when the Makarfi’s committee was finally constituted, they wrote back to the police to say, they no longer required their presence in the party secretariat, the police said they want to consult with the Attorney General of the federation and this is why the secretariat is still locked till today.
Imagine that I wrote you to give me policemen and I now wrote back to say I didn’t have any need for policemen and you never got back to me as promised, and the next thing we hear is that, there’s a faction. Is there a division in the national exco? Sheriff was made chairman of PDP by the National Executive Committee (NEC), he sat over NEC that now called for convention. By PDP constitution, when we are at the convention, nobody has powers that supersedes that of the convention. If you are elected today, the convention can remove you tomorrow. If you like, be elected for 10 years, if the convention feels you should be removed after one day, you are out. But because there were court injunctions that said there shouldn’t be elections into the offices of chairman, secretary and treasurer, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wrote the party and it said, okay, we won’t have an elective convention. INEC was part of what happened in Port Harcourt just like in Ondo State. The primary election that produced Jegede was monitored by INEC. Jimoh Ibrahim went to a hotel in Dugbe, Ibadan and had a caricature meeting, INEC wasn’t there. In fact, by the electoral Act, can you have an Ondo primary poll in Ibadan? So, there’s nothing that gives teeth to Sheriff.
He can’t address the national caucus meeting, he can’t address the governors forum, so who’s he chairing over? Yes, there are bound to be cleavages in any organisation, but this man is doing a hatchet job. And if you know him, if you follow his antecedents, you won’t be surprised. But one thing I want to assure you, we are not in any way oblivious of his antics and what have you. Let’s cross Ondo State governorship elections, the masqurade would be let out.
Of late, there have been speculations that those unhappy in the ruling party and those who are tired of the in-fighting in the PDP are meeting and working on forming a new party. Do you see a new big party emerging?
Well, politics is about talking and engaging others. It is normal that there will be certain interactions. But one thing I want to assure you is that it takes more commitment on the part of those who know what it takes to have a virile democracy to free Nigeria from the despotic tendency that this government is gradually establishing. As a young boy, I risked my life, travelled round this country under military rule to deepen the desire of our people that no matter what, the worst civilian government is better than the best military regime. I led my local students union, I was National Association of Nigerian Students, Secretary-General.
Sometimes, I sit back and look at how God has been able to keep me alive. Many of my friends died in the process, and all we did was a minute silence for them. They became martyrs. For those who can think deeply, they would realise that we cannot allow ourselves to go back to such tendencies. We must understand that as at today, there’s no better form of governance than democracy where the opinions of the minority is expressed and the majority has its way, while the minority goes back and plan how to do it next time.
The loan being sought by the government, for which they have written the National Assembly, about $30billion, if it is approved and the funds come into Nigeria, it could affect the capital market either negatively or positively. Are you in support or against Nigeria taking the loan?
I say no with reason. I don’t support this move. I’m not saying we don’t need a loan, because Dubai which was a city of one lane in 1990, took loans which made it what it is now. But there must be a plan. Where’s our development plan? The loan will not be given to us today. It’s going to be given in bits for 14 years, so have we as a nation come out with a development plan for let’s say, 10 years? Then, two, that quantum of money as loan is worrisome. Nigeria has never taken that much before. Imagine where we were with the little we took before, and you are now going to take, N10trillion. Because that’s what it translates to, almost N10 trillion.
The whole capital expenditure for 2016 is N1.2trillion, although they claimed to have implemented 75 percent of it. I don’t know maybe it’s in the dream, I’ve not even seen it. What’s the capital vote for the 2017 budget, or is the loan going to be a parallel budget? So, one of the first things I think we should have done is to have a development plan. We can now say going through the normal means, we have so and so funds for this. And why would you say you want to take $30billion at a go? What’s the incoming government going to do? Can you finish the projects you say you want to use the money for in four years? I disagree. Like I said, I’m not opposed to us taking loan, but I’m opposed to us taking that quantum of loan. And sincerely, some of those things mentioned in the loan are already tied to an agreement with China. Some of them were what Jonathan negotiated with China, which this government went back to China initially, claimed that it went to negotiate a fresh loan but when put on the scale now admitted re-negotiating Jonathan’s agreement with China. The agreement was on the Lagos-Kano rail. The Abuja Kaduna light rail is a sub-section of that project.
The Itakpe-Warri rail is another component of it. So it was broken into different sections. But is it that the China agreement is not working again? Where’s the new loan coming in? Like I said, I’m not opposed to taking a loan, but I’m an economist, and for me, it’s what you do with the loan that matters. Naturally, such loans should reflate the economy. You don’t create wealth by holding back, you create it by spending. The elementary knowledge of how banks make money is by taking my one naira and give to you as loan, that one naira becomes 10 naira; that’s who banks make money.
Dubai did something novel and I’ve propagated it several times. Apart from our democracy, I haven’t seen any democracy in the world where states gather at the center to share money every month. Until we as a nation agree that what (money) is coming nationally is invested in certain infrastructure so that the road you find in Ningi is what you find in Kabba. The hospital you find in Kano is what you would find in Owerri. After dealing with basic services like transportation, then, we will now say- we take transportation, health or what have you. So that nationally, we can grow developmentally in unison. So, if Kogi can generate money to pay it’s civil servants N10,000 in a month and Lagos generates hers and pays it’s civil servants N50,000, so be it.