• Tony Igele

Edo: On the Anvil of a New Governance Philosophy

IT was admittedly distractive and in many inscrutable ways an irritant. In saner climes, the theatrics and ballyhoo that characterised the post election activities of the opposition should have been roundly condemned as an amateurish concert of flaming ambition. But their infantile posturing was ill advisedly elevated to the level of Governorship Election Petition. Thank God, the grandstanding crash-landed irretreivably by the trial Tribunal judgement delivered on Good Friday, April 14, 2017 in Benin City. With that put to rest, it has now become imperative to attempt an excursion into the governance philosophy of the new government.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the first eight years of the present republic which began in1999 was an unmitigated disaster in Edo State. It may not have been so deliberately designed but undeniably, the rapacious political elite that held sway during the period were singlemindedly propelled by bottomless greed and avarice. The people, supposedly the essence and purpose of government programmes had thier interest vaguely captured on the foot note of governance considerations. At best, they were like pawns on the political chessboard!

The first set of State Governors across the country and Party Leaders who took over the reins of power in 1999 were dominated by military apologists who yielded the political space to them. The power of the people to freely elect leaders of their choice was given with the right hand and taken away with the left simultaneously. The midwives of the transition programme usurped the people’s power by annointing and installing their favourites as State Governors. Thus, the new helmsmen owed no allegiance to the people who were nevertheless happy that the military returned to the barracks. Political parties that emerged did not help matters either as they were not organised around any ideology and sound governance philosophy. In the face of ideological emptiness, the governors and their godfathers relied on their whims and caprices. And goaded by the godfathers, they had no qualms descending on the treasury of the people with savage acquisitive instincts. The people were deemed entitled to mere tokenism by way of infrasrtucture repairs. With the enormous powers and resoureces at their disposal, they soon became more powerful than the parties that sponsored them.

When the experimental first term expired in 2003 and the non – performing governors sought the renewal of their imposition, the flustered electorate in their naivity thought it was their turn to vent their anger on their oppressors but behold, the politicians led by their godfathers had become even more ingenious in political manipulation and election fixing. Again, in the manner of impunity, election results were concocted and the arrant governors were returned. Thus, the capacity of some godfathers to upturn the will of the people in favour of political cabals earned them national titles such as Mr. fix it. Indeed, the political cabals were nihillistic!

Unfortunately, these conservative godfathers and party patrons held sway for more than a decade. In Edo State, the government was coldly insensitive, improvident, callous and grossly irresponsible. They felt no pang of pains by the sight of decrepit infrastructures everywhere one turned which made the state comparable to a war torn zone! They had no plans or blueprints to follow and those who dared suggest handsome ideas on how to deliver on the economy and social services were either brow beaten or allowed to wallow ruefully in their reverie. Governance responsibilities were completely abdicated. Like vultures, they simply busied themselves descending on state resources as if they were carcasses.

Delivering a lecture on the topic ‘2016: Edo Politics and Matters of Integrity’ on June 18, 2013, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu summarised the situation as follows: The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that produced the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007 had no manifesto, blueprint or plan for governance and Edo state was actually personified by one lead character that was literarally worshipped and the owner and giver of power’. He further stated ‘ that the pressures and subtle threats from the godfather and his supporters were excessive and distractive in the process of project planning and execution as well as management of state resources’. What a fitting attestation of the tenterhooks to which the State was condemned under the PDP administration. Interestingly, the gory tale of Edo state descension into insular backwaters was told by a man who was perhaps, the most influential and powerful within the context of the lugubrious narrative.

However, between 2008 and 2016, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole gave State infrastructures a midas touch and the treasury was attended with exceptional magisterial integrity. The monuments of achievements by the immediate past governor has restored hope and confidence in government. But the current economic recession in the country has introduced new challenges and the imperative of a shift in paradigm. It is a compelling factor to change our politics and our governance philosophy. The state must go back to the drawing board and restructure her politics in a manner that spurs economic competitiveness. Put succintly, the new politics must promote and support production and economic development initiatives.

The huge human and material resources still lying fallow and untapped in the state must be opened up for economic exploitation. All idle hands that are willing and ready to work must be engaged in one economic activity or the other. The resultant economic boom from escalated economic activities in the State will be reflected in the delivery of social services and improved quality of life of our people. That is the way to go!

The present government in Edo State under the leadership of Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki has developed technocratic approach to the daunting challenges of the time. It is an approach that is innoculated from extraneous influences and strictly designed to revitalize and strenghten institutions, processes and procedures in order to prime them for effective execution of policies, programms and projects of government. Conscious of the herculean task ahead of it, the government hit the ground running soon after assumption of office thereby sacrificing celebratory activities and symbolisms which often usher in new governments in the state. It is needless to emphasise that we are confronted with a desperate economic situation and that the dire criticality of the time is by no means comparable to anytime past!

That entails carrying out an administrative surgical operation that will create an e-government in the state which will be analytical, process and data driven. The system envisioned is one that should be supported by a bureaucracy run by well trained and smart personel whose performance will be assessed on the basis of milestones achieved. Thus far, several training workshops and roundtable conferences have been held to produce a template towards achieving the goal. At the end of the day, the entire machinery of government would have been retuned and retooled to deliver on the promises of the administration. For those who have keenly followed Governor Obaseki’s speeches and statements, they encapsulate a performance chatter that offers clear vision, boost morale, increase capacity of the work force and promote innovation and creativity. It is a governance philosophy that will fire the passion and energies of public servants to excel. It is transformational and capable of breaking through development barriers!

Once upon a time, Edo State was manacled under the oppressive political incubus of a deaf and dumb leadership. In the immediate past, Edo people celebrated the sharp reflexes and the superlative achievements of an athletic and oratorial leader who shone like luster. Today, we are on the verge of technocratic unleashing of an avalanche of economic opportunities and activism on the anvil of a new governance philosophy. The activities and programms of government so far, are not only bold and far reaching but they inspire hope and confidence in the people! All stakeholders, including members of the opposition party would most certainly excel in an environment where ones talents and resources could be put to more productive and profitable use. Edo people must endeavour to understand the new prism and ramifications of the programms and key in. More importantly, the political class and the generality of our people must unwaveringly support the new direction because it guarantees better quality of life and an assured future for us all !

Osakue is a political strategist and was the State Coordinator of Godwin Obaseki Campaign Organisation.

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