Lest we forget, when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole assumed office as governor of Edo State, on November 12th 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, Governor 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 Comrade Adams Oshiomhole assuming office as governor seven years ago and General Muhammadu Buhari assuming the presidency of Nigeria 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. Governor 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. There are a few less mentioned aspects of Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s stewardship that stand him out amongst other previous governors of Edo State.
Against the norm of cosmetic face lifts and short term solutions that had become the hallmark of government funded projects in Nigeria, Oshiomhole took up the most challenging projects that had defied solutions through Colonial, Military and Civilian governments. Projects which had been categorized as impossible to execute for reasons as understandable as the huge financial cost and sometimes as superstitiously ridiculous as claims of “mammy water “ spirits preventing any attempt to commence work on certain projects.
The people of Okpekpe, Imiegba, Igodor, Ososo, Dangbala, Ojah, Anegbette, Evboeghae, Ugo, Urhonigbe, Igueben, Ewohimi, Ewatto, Ohordua, Okhuesan Amiendokhian, Ugboha, Ikhin, Eruere among hundreds of other communities, will not forget in a hurry how within seven years Governor Oshiomhole, through a deliberate selection of the unimaginable, turned their terrains which were seen as a geographical disadvantage into economic and social advantage. Who would have imagined that Okpekpe road could be transformed into a cynosure for a world recognized sporting event? Or how would anyone who experienced the sheer scale of havoc caused by erosion in Auchi within the last 40 years and how successive governments at both state and federal level expressed undisguised frustration at their inability to solve the problem, ever imagine that one day there would be a governor that will boldly take the bull by the horn and rescue Auchi from sinking before their very eyes.
Esan land once touted as lacking water because of its supposed topography now has industrial boreholes all over the place while serious reclamation work is ongoing at the Queen Ede erosion sites in Benin City. In all, from 2009 to 2014 the Edo State Government has awarded contracts to the tune of N121.6bn for construction of urban and rural roads amounting to over 600 Kilometers across the 3 senatorial districts.
Another unique aspect of Comrade Oshiomhole is his insistence on quality. Perhaps because of his labor background, or the fact that he started his career as a factory worker, where quality control is an essential part of the production process, he gets involved at every stage of all his projects, personally inspecting, testing the quality of materials used and ensuring that working conditions and workers’ safety are not compromised. Today, one can conveniently say that the roads, hospitals and schools built by the government of Adams Oshiomhole will stand the test of time. Even his most vociferous critics cannot fault the quality of any of the projects which the governor has initiated and completed.
In the final analysis, it is safe to conclude that Comrade Oshiomhole’s achievements these past 7 years to a large extent can be attributed to his “Pan Edo mentality”. He is not a man imprisoned by primordial sentiments of pseudo ethnic considerations in deciding what to do, when to do it and where to do it. This unique trait made him master of his own ideas. You may hate Oshiomhole or like him, but you cannot attribute his decisions to anyone else but him.
And that is an essential asset in leadership. With barely a year left in his final tenure, there is no doubt that Governor Oshiomhole will utilize that time to concretize the foundation he has laid for Edo State so that his successor will find it much easier to continue the transformation of Edo State.
When the chronicle of this era is written, no doubt, the name Adams Aliu Oshiomhole will occupy a prime position as the undisputed “Father of Modern Edo State”.
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