- Category: Olusegun Adeniyi
- Published on Thursday, 05 July 2012 22:46
- Written by Olusegun Adeniyi
Come next week Saturday, the people of Edo State will go to the polls to elect their Governor for another term of four years. For anybody who may have been following the electioneering campaign, it is easy to conclude that the contest is between incumbent Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Chief
Tony Anenih of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That is because the Governor has cleverly woven a narrative of the election as a referendum on Anenih rather than on his own stewardship.
I am aware of the overbearing role of ‘godfathers’ in Nigerian politics and as such men go, Anenih must rank very high in their congregation. But as I also found out in the course of my stint in Aso Rock, there is another side to Anenih beyond the political bravado that must have served him well for more than three decades. While I therefore have no doubt that Oshiomhole will secure a second term based on his record of performance in office, it should be clear to him and his supporters that Anenih is not on the ballot. And for that reason, they should accord the old man some respect.
About two weeks ago, I had an encounter with Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Constitutional lawyer and human rights supremo, in the company of a senior minister of this government who I presume must be a PDP man. When I asked him who would win the governorship contest in his state, Ozekhome said without any equivocation that “Oshiomhole is going to win and believe me, he deserves it based on his stellar performance in office which even the blind can see,” and he reeled out some of them. Incidentally, I have spoken to many other prominent people from Edo State who believe Oshiomhole has done enough to earn a second term and that he will win.
In assessing the performance of a Governor, the first thing I examine is the allocation accruing to his state every month from the Federation Account and how much revenue he could internally generate. It is after this that I would then subject such governor to an evaluation of what he has done with the resources available to him. In the case of Edo State, we all know it is one of the poor cousins of Niger Delta along with Cross River State. It receives one of the smallest allocations from the Federation Account and until Oshiomhole arrived the scene, not much revenue was generated internally. But from a paltry amount of N250 million per month in 2008, the Governor has been able to raise the state IGR to an average of between N1.7 billion to N2 billion today. That is a remarkable feat which also shows the capacity of Edo people and the ingenuity of is leader who, in the bid to cut areas of waste, effectively deployed Biometrics to end (or at least significantly minimise) the incidence of “ghost workers” in the state.
Leadership, according to Stanford University emeritus Professor, James G. March, “involves plumbing and poetry” and that is where Oshiomhole shines in a milieu where political office holders neither think it worthwhile to roll up their sleeves nor command the capacity to effectively communicate themselves as to rally anybody behind their cause. Even the most implacable of Oshiomhole’s foes will concede that he is a passionate and committed hands-on leader wo is at home everywhere in the state. He is also a man of strong convictions who deploys his eloquence against political opponents, most often to devastating effects.
Shortly before I left the country for one year in June 2010, I was in Edo State where I spent two days travelling with the Governor to inspect ongoing projects at a time he was less than two years in office. From one location to the other, Oshiomhole not only had things to show, he engaged the people, sought to know their pressing needs as well as their assessment of what the government was doing right or wrong. We stopped to buy corn which he ate, he carried babies and he (in most places) trekked long distances while the crowd followed. He was evidently at home with the people who also appreciated his uncommon earthy style. As we criss-crossed the state, I could see massive construction works going on but the projects that interested me most were the public schools then undergoing rehabilitation. I understand that his efforts in that direction have already impacted positively on school enrolment in the state.
Perhaps coming from the background of organised Labour with employment generation as a key component of his agenda, it is no surprise that Oshiomhole has been methodical in his approach. While some Governors award contracts for the construction of boreholes on completion of which they invite traditional rulers, hunters and drummers to commission, Oshiomhole has adopted a more cost-effective measure. The State Government acquired three industrial borehole drilling rig with which boreholes are being sunk in several communities simultaneously, equipped with water-treatment plants to boot. But perhaps the most ambitious of Oshiomhole’s project is the N30 billion storm water project in Benin to substantially solve the perennial flooding in the ancient city. And to institutionalise probity and transparency in government business, Oshiomhole early this year signed into law the Public Procurement Bill and apparently impressed by the sweeping reforms, World Bank in February announced its decision to support Edo State government with the sum of $210m over the next three years.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Oshiomhole has a battle on his hands next weekend principally for two reasons. The first has to do with the ethno-political calculations in the Edo gubernatorial contest. As a Kwaran, I can easily situate the permutations in the state vis-a-vis the voting strength of Edo South (Bini speaking area) which is not dissimilar to that of Kwara Central in my state. Fortunately for Oshiomhole, the Oba of Benin, Omn’Oba Erediauwa, has refused to play the “it-must-be-our-son” card that is at the heart of the PDP cold calculations in the state. Given that the Benin Monarch is one of the few traditional rulers in Nigeria today whose body language is as symbolically significant as it is politically potent, this could be a game changer in favour of Oshiomhole.
But the second reason why the contest has become very fierce is because the Governor has deliberately made it a personal battle for supremacy between him and Anenih who is therefore also desperate in his bid to prevail. But here is the deal: Edo people can easily compare Oshiomhole’s stewardship with that of the former PDP Governor Lucky Igbinedion whose father, the great Esama of Benin, was famously quoted to have said in 2003 while campaigning for the re-election of his son: “...If your own pikin fail for school, he no go repeat the term?”.
Oshiomhole definitely has no such hang-over as it is evident to Edo people that he deserves a second term to reward excellence rather than to compensate for failure as it was the case in the past. Save for the 18-month stint of Prof Oserheimen Osumbor between 2007 and 2008 (before he was removed by the election tribunal), the PDP record of performance in Edo state has been rather notorious. Indeed, in the not-too-distant past, there were tales of some Conclave of Elders sitting down every month to hold a “Benin Conference” on how to “partition” among themselves the state’s allocation. The proud people of Edo State definitely would not want a return to such inglorious era. That is why Oshiomhole remains their surest bet and they know it.
All said, whatever the personal disagreement he may have with Anenih, I do not think the governor has managed it very well. From the little I know of his successful legal battle to reclaim his mandate from the PDP in 2008, Anenih played some background but very critical roles. The fact of the matter is that Oshiomhole did not just stumble on where the proverbial corpses were buried, some benevolent spirits gave him vital clues that helped to tilt the scale, especially at the Appeal Tribunal. And for me, that should count for something.
At the end of the day, I believe Oshiomhole will win his re-election bid next weekend not because he is politically stronger than Anenih as his supporters may be deceiving him to believe but rather because he has done enough as Governor of Edo State in the last four years to merit a second term. I wish him all the best at the polls.
The Subsidy Scam!
The more the investigations into what passed for fuel subsidy payments, especially in 2011, the more the revelations about how some Nigerians simply took the nation for a ride by sharing among themselves hundreds of billions of Naira of pubic money. Unfortunately, Nigerians do not seem to be paying much attention to the report of the Verification Committee headed by Access Bank Managing Director, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
Established by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Committee has come out with a more damning outcome than that of Hon Farouk Lawan’s House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee, the only difference being that it left out NNPC and other government institutions.
Unlike the Lawan Report which recommended further investigations into N230 billion unaccounted for by some 71 marketers, the Imoukhuede Report is seeking a refund to the tune of N422 billion from the marketers who were listed. Interestingly, that self-indicting report by the federal government has also established a more iron-cast case of corruption in fuel subsidy payments than the House committee did. Unfortunately, rather than bring to justice those who colluded to gang-rape our nation, Nigerians are now being treated to some sordid “sting operation” audio shows.
If a simple criminal investigation concerning an alleged bribery of a lawmaker could be so cynically bungled, then we should forget that anybody will ever be punished for the monumental looting in the name of subsidy payments. And that is the real shame.