Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Re - Out and About With Oshiomhole

opinion

THE link between the success or failure of a government, and the quality of its public administration is pretty tenuous. There are those who deny it. An eminent former permanent secretary once said there was no problem in the society, only that the government could not make it worse.

But with over 40 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, GDP, going into our public services, to say nothing of higher government policy making would seem absurd not to talk of thinking that there isn't some connection between the success of a state, the quality of its public administration and public services.

Edo State, for instance, has had a pretty unsuccessful four-year period between 2008 and 2012. But many will claim that things have enormously improved. More importantly, there is a general feeling of failure which those who witnessed the 1999 to 2008 era will well recognise. There is no doubt that, on the whole, things have never really gone so bad in the state.

This is where Ochereome Nnanna missed the point in his piece in the Vanguard, Thursday, March 1, 2012. I first met with Nnanna during the Sani Abacha National Constitutional Conference in 1995 when I covered the confab for the Observer.

Then, Nnanna, who was also at the time with the Vanguard, came into the journalists' gallery smoking with an assessment form of the confab members. I can still remember vividly that Alex Ekueme came first while Ademola Adewale from Ondo State came second. Nnanna's statistics was quite acceptable unlike his Oshiomhole's piece, which, of course, could still be pardoned as his observations were that of a passer-by in the affairs of Edo State.

All that is needed of Nnanna is to come over to Edo State and spend a day or two with the people. He will discover that of all the segments of the economy, it is only in the area of the struggling for the maintenance of federal roads which has also been trailed with scandal that Oshiomhole has registered any presence.

Nnanna will be greeted by the army of our unemployed youths, students, many of whom are now school drop-outs, as a result of high school fees. He would be greeted by the impoverished citizens and residents of the state who now groan daily as a result of over-taxation and the dislocation of their means of livelihood.

My friend, Nnanna, may also love to see how the once vibrant state-owned industries- Edo Line, Bendel Brewery, Edo Cement Factory, Ewu Flour Mill, all which Oshiomhole inherited, are now in the ruins and grounded- will stare him in the face. He will be told that the Benin Airport road which ordinarily should cost the tax payer about N1 billion is now costing over N12 billion and without an end to the variations (upward review) in the contract sum.

Nnanna will discover to his chagrin that in 2008, when the courts imposed Oshiomhole on the people, school fees in the state-owned university (Ambrose Alli University) was just N18,000 which Oshiomhole has now increased to N50,000 and this decision has sent over 20 percent of our children out of school.

Today, the state-owned university and other state-owned tertiary institutions are not only moribund, they are also now glorified secondary schools as most of the faculties are now disaccredited as their infrastructure facilities are fast dilapidating.

Nnanna is from the Eastern bank of the Niger; he knows how the Ibos take education today, and that the state of education today in the East cannot be compared with what we have in Edo State that used to be the Nigeria pacesetter in education and other endeavours. A child deprived of education today will, in 15 years time, no longer see himself as useful in the formative years of a revolutionary society. This Nnanna knows.

His claims that Oshiomhole has turned Edo State around is erroneous in principle and fallacious in theory. There is no free education in Edo. The Federal Government sponsored-Universal Basic Education, UBE, is responsible for the infrastructure development of the primary to the junior secondary schools.

I thought Nnanna would have relied on his journalistic investigative instinct to ask questions on the issues he was least educated about. If Nnanna has done that, he would have discovered to his chagrin that the PDP paid a colossal sum of N2 million to use that part of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its party primaries.

To the extent that Edo people will always crave for excellence, the eight years of Lucky Igbinedion's PDP rule was unsatisfactory. But if the Igbinedion's PDP rule was bad, then Oshiomhole's rule could safely be said to be a disaster.

In the education sector, for instance, it is on record that the PDP government left the school fees in the AAU at N18,000 per session which Oshiomhole has increased by 300 percent. The same Igbinedion's PDP rule accredited all the faculties in the AAU, established a new state polytechnic at Usen, re-established the College of Education at Igueben with an improvement on the welfare of its teachers. After all, the hood does not make the monk. How is the welfare of teachers today in our schools?

If Oshiomhole could not improve this record, must he destroy it? In the Igbinedion's PDP years, Edo people knew what was being spent on every project even when over-invoicing might have been possible. Nnanna should help Edo people to ask his friend, Oshiomhole, why there is no accountability in his administration. What is the cost of the projects Nnanna has enumerated and which newspaper or medium were they advertised? He should also help to ask Oshiomhole the state of Edo State's debt profile today, which experts have put at about N80 billion.

The Oshiomhole administration ushered into Edo a state of insecurity in spite of the N6 billion security votes he collects annually. Could it be that this tax payers' money is being stockpiled for his re-election bid on July 14, 2012?

Think man, man think! Why do you think nobody is laughing in Edo even amongst the Oshiomhole Action Congress of Nigeria? Not a little twitch that looks more like a grimace than a grin. Not a hoarse bellow that signifies nothing more than an effort to hear your own sound or to reassure yourself that you are still around, but a mirth, something joyous and celebratory and infectious that others around you will hear and love to join in.

In every government, there are always creative tensions, senses and sensibilities. If Oshiomhole could come to Edo to incite workers to go for strike and demonstrations over the removal of fuel subsidy, and at the same time go to the President and assure him that he would help to douse the labour unrest on the issue of fuel subsidy removal just to play a fast one on the President, does it also mean that the President is so hoodwinked not to recognise Oshiomhole for who he is? By the way, only Edo people will decide who governs them on July 14, 2012.

Mr. OKHAREDIA IHIMEKPEN, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Benin, Edo State.

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