Posted by Godwin Ojeaga | 29 January 2016 | 3,698 times
Your Excellency, Governor Adams Oshiomhole; best wishes to you and the good people of Edo State!
‘Let the people lead’ – one of your many slogans in a bid to promote fairness and transparency in governance – supports the train of thought that incites followers to become leaders in their own rights, either actively or passively.
While the fat lady is going through her usual vocal routine therapy, preparing to sing a closure to what can easily be referred to as the most defining tenure in Edo State’s political history, one can’t help but reflect on the spectacular and stumpy moments, in a bid to evaluate over-all performance. While there are those who are warming up their palms for a round of thunderous ‘claps,’ others are rehearsing frustrations and anger. Then, there is me. It is inconsequential of what I want to do, but I am just sitting inside the theatre knowing full well that the play is still on; and the end holds as much importance as the beginning and transitional scenes.
As the executive governor, the way your government prioritised the construction and transformation of road infrastructure to stretch across the three geopolitical zones in the last 86 months, is commendable. I understand more could have been done, but I believe people who are still highly critical of your leadership, citing road infrastructure as a nail-head to hammer on, are clearly suffering from selective amnesia. There is a pending debate on which tier of government impacts directly on the people, I believe each should be allowed to function with a significant degree of autonomy and responsibility. Whether or not the 18 local governments were managed properly will be revealed in the next administration, because I have refused to have an opinion based on shared speculations and counter-speculations.
While concerns are being raised about the increased debt profile of the state, it is easily understandable that borrowing is inevitable for Nigerian states to foster development, but what is unacceptable is when the development and impact is minimal. At a time when the price of crude oil is constantly hitting depreciating values, states are being forced to diversify revenue base. This I find a bit ironic for a state like Edo, considering the debt ratio to Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and projected federal revenues. Small and medium enterprises that ought to be enthusiastically encouraged are going to have to deal with painstaking taxes, just to keep the state afloat. A key fundamental to increased IGR is capacity-building, which fuels economic activities as well as provide openings for new and active businesses. Sir, as a matter of urgency, your administration, in the next few months, must focus on ways to vigorously invest in human capital.
The issue of unemployment is easily attributed to the Federal Government, but states with abundant mineral resources have also been caught napping or, better yet, sleeping on a bicycle over the past few years. The average monthly residual revenue after meeting recurrent expenditures for a state like Edo makes it particularly difficult for the state government to open up sustainable employment channels. So when I drive around the capital city and see people harassing road users under the guise of ‘Ministerial Task Force’ or, as they previously had, ‘Oshiomole police’, I just think of what the future holds even for the so-called employed ones. I also understand a number of people in the past few years were absorbed into working in the Edo State Government House with almost no designation, and yet salaries are to be paid.
Your Excellency, the presence or lack of functional industries has always been a contributing factor to the teeming case of unemployment in the state. Let us ignore external contribution and investment. Edo State, known for its robust cultural historical heritage and craftsmanship, now have generations of idle citizens with no significant skills. I can’t even remember the last time a meaningful art and craft exhibition was held. Even the famous Igue Festival that is meant to portray a long-standing tradition is losing ground. Discerning participation has become the order of the day, mainly due to negligence and discouraging ‘local’ recognition. The Edo State arts and craft industry, for example, can be steered to rival the entertainment industry in Lagos, for additional revenue and to promote tourism. Digressing to our own local entertainment industry that currently stands as a gigantic gantry to showcase mediocrity, information gathered shows considerable support has been given to promote the industry. However, individual and institutional weakness, with the too-many myopic and unproductive associations, has constantly jeopardised your contributions.
In this age of revenue diversification, it is non-negotiable that priority be given to the agricultural sector which, unfortunately, has received marginal provisions from your government in the last seven years. We are currently missing out on a possible 80,000 direct employment monthly that is provided by this sector. I agree, open letters are often critical, exasperating and glory-seeking, but it should also be seen as a testament to freedom where valid points can be freely drawn. I do not wish to push a certain adverse narrative because I am also a firm admirer of your doggedness and leadership stance.
Your Excellency, it is not too late to cement a lasting legacy by using your last few months in office to provide a blueprint for the next administration, irrespective of who emerges governor. In the light of the above, the following questions arise: Are you going to spiritedly send us to farms with incentives, develop art and craft centres, encourage small businesses, increase human capital through effective programmes, pay salaries and review policies OR, are you going to act predictably by hastened completion of pending road constructions, renovation of central hospital and other ‘cosmetic’ projects, to promote your political party’s candidacy in the forth-coming gubernatorial elections? I suggest you let posterity judge you fairly by your own deeds, rather than the inaction of whoever is destined to take over the mantle of leadership. The onus is on Your Excellency, as the executive governor, to seize the opportunity to drive industrialisation in other to stimulate economic growth, as a corresponding exploit to complement past achievements.
God bless you, sir! God bless Edo State!! God bless Nigeria!!!
•Ojeaga wrote in from Benin City, Edo State. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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