Seven years that turned Edo State around
LEST we forget, when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole assumed office as governor of Edo State, on November 12, 2008, the biggest among other challenges was how to galvanize the people to once again have faith in the ability of government to meet their needs.
There was apathy and frustration in the land, occasioned through years of plundering of the state treasury and bickering over the sharing of public assets by previous PDP governments. The then ruling party was highly fractionalized and governance was virtually abandoned in a desperately furious battle for the soul of PDP.
With almost 10 years of PDP’s anti-people, self-serving policies, Edo people had come to see government establishments essentially as institutionalized oppressive machinery. There was a total collapse of public infrastructure; schools had no habitable classroom buildings with the consequences that no parent conscientiously allowed their children and wards to attend public schools. This in turn led to the emergence of mushroom private schools in every nook and cranny of the state, and soon the term “miracle centers” came into vogue. These were WASC/GCE enrollment centers, where students were lured with a guarantee of passing all their enrolled papers, through an illegal, unscrupulous and ignominious system of cheating, aided and abetted by the proprietors of such centers.
Beyond the state capital Benin City and a few towns, rural Edo state was practically inaccessible, as most of the roads, where any existed, were those constructed by “Oni & Sons Ltd” during the era of Western Region and Midwestern State. Even in the state capital, parts of the ancient city had been totally overtaken by erosion, uncontrolled flooding and weed. Areas like Constain Isonorho Layout were condemned to refuse dumps, since no one imagined that it could ever again be reclaimed and rehabilitated. Five Junction, so named because of the chaos associated with the intersection, became a replication of the infamous Ojuelegba traffic in Benin City.
When it rained the entire area was flooded and marshy, to such an extent that vehicles got stuck in the mud, creating hours of traffic delays. Upper Lawani became a no go zone for motorists. Ogida area where the Teacher’s House is located was practically vacated as landlords and tenants alike took their moveable possessions and fled to safety because of the erosion menace in the area.
Somehow, it seemed as though previous governments had simply seen the decay in public infrastructure, schools, roads, hospitals etc as so enormous that the mere thought of where to begin from was in itself a challenge they could never overcome.
On assumption of office, Oshiomhole took his time to identify the challenges. He visited schools to assess the condition under which pupils and students were taught. He listened to pupils and teachers narrate their ordeals. Not done, he embarked on a tour of the state to see for himself how bad things really were. Of course as a candidate in the governorship election, he had previously traversed the length and breadth of the state conversing for votes, but he had to do it again, as governor, so he could listen to people and share in their harrowing experience under PDP governments that treated the state and its citizen as if they were a conquered territory. It is safe to assume that the stories of years of neglect and total abandonment which the governor heard from the young and old all across the state was the motivation he needed to embark and a monumental project to change the face of Edo state.
There is a, sinister yet comforting similarity between Oshiomhole assuming office as governor seven years ago and General Muhammadu Buhari assuming the presidency in 2015. Both of them inherited a bastardized economy, a looted treasury, a cowed citizenry and a corruption infested system. Yet, interestingly though, both of them did not begin by playing to the gallery or strive to satisfy the yearnings of the electorate, by hurriedly initiating cosmetic projects. Oshiomhole, took time to understand the problems, analyzed the underlining interests, weighed the options, stepped on toes and came up with permanent solutions.
Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari is applying the same approach, which in the long run will yield permanent benefits for the Nigerian nation and its people.
Seven years down the road, Edo state has changed dramatically. The people now exude confidence, willing and able to demand accountability. They now know that government can make a difference in their lives. Public schools have once again become the preferred choice for parents who want their children to take advantage of the free education and the quality leaning environment now obtainable due to government huge investments in the physical as well as human infrastructure of the educational sector. A new secretariat was built and tastefully equipped for the state’s civil servants and for the first time in recent history, payment of salaries for state workers became sacrosanct at the end of each month. The Central hospital abandoned by previous governments is back on track, buzzing with life and showcasing new state of the art buildings well equipped with 21st century medical facilities.
Irrespective of recent malicious attempt, laboriously contrived to discredit the glaring positive initiatives of the APC government in Edo State, through a concerted, dubiously funded social media campaign, the fact remains that majority of the people understand that though there is still much to be done, one cannot deny what has been achieved so far.
• Oshioke, a journalist,
wrote from Benin City