from Midwest Herald Community Newspaper, Benin.
After 100 days in office, the general opinion is that Governor Oserhiemen Osunbor of Edo State is bereaved of fresh ideas and critics say he is merely re-circling ex-governor Lucky Igbinedion's blueprint. In the thinking of an average Edo State man or woman, the past three months have shown mix-fortunes, just as unrepentant party supporters are pleading for understanding and patience. For example, the only visible project he has executed in the past 100 days is the “desilting and carting away of debris” from Ihama Street and some part of Benin City. But observers submit that Osunbor has taken over the function of local government councils and wasted time on pedestrain and comical projects in his first 100 days. “He merely borrowed the makeshift engineering from Igbinedion's executed project along Boundary Road in Benin City.” The flood water re-injection scheme involves channeling flood water into dug pits and some environmentalists have warned on the health hazard of this crude technique.
They advised that what the state needs is a master plan that will provide permanent solution to the flooding problem in the state. It is hard to fathom how governor Osunbor, with his Ministry of Environment, a Special Adviser on Beautification, and his wife as chairman of the Special Environmental Sanitation Committee could not put a process in place that will clear the drains in Benin City and keep the sidewalk clear of sands and debris in the past 100 days despite the huge resources spent. What has happened is that government concentrated its action on the monthly sanitation exercise. This again, is a carryover from Igbinedion's administration.
In a planned economy, waste is an element of wealth. It can create an average of 5000 jobs in three months with a minimum wage of N7500 per month and government would have cleaned the city in 93 day at the cost of N37.5m. In doing this, Osunbor would have responded positively to crime control and job creation simultaneously. Rather, this administration has spent more cost and time on setting up various committees with his wife as head, only to attend to the narrow interest of the ruling party leaders. A cross section of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members who spoke to Midwest Herald expressed fear on the slow and sluggish pace of development in the state.
This administration has also set a record in creating crises and protests. Arising from the instances of nomination of party members into the different committees, namely the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission, Niger Delta Peace Committee and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) the state has been witnessing youth restiveness. Before now, the state enjoyed relative peace in its oil producing areas.
Surprisingly, the agitation is coming from the PDP youths who laboured in vain to install Osunbor as governor. Aside from this, EDSIEC is belaboured with different court cases as a result of the lopsidedness of its membership. Opposition parties accuse government of handing over the electoral body to established PDP members while Justice Gabriel Okungbowa is still challenging the dissolution of the standing commission before expiration of its tenure.
Added to this, Prof. Osunbor has jopardized his hitherto acclaimed authority in law by flagrantly disobeying court orders.
One major positive gain of the administration is the reduction of influence from prominent ‘touts’ who saw the coming of Osunbor as an avenue to re-introduce lunacy in the state. Osunbor's quick intervention in the lawless gang battle between Madam Lagos and Bob Izua brought relative peace to the Ring Road axis of the state. He was quoted as telling both warriors that he would not tolerate any act of insubordination from anyone.
A major identifiable problem of the administration is its conceited effort to earn good reports from the news media without concrete achievements. For example, during the monthly environmental exercise, the Commissioner for Environment and the Special Adviser on Beautification constantly struggled for space in the media to say what they have achieved for the state instead of exhibiting what they have done.
According to Austin Oboh, a PDP youth leader in Esan Central Local Government Area, “The governor (Osunbor) should study the Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, if he wants to get free publicity. Ohakim started with the beautification of Owerri and he has been getting good reports from this. Owerri is cleaning up and everybody can see it.”
Under Governor Osunbor, some pressmen were physically beaten to pop while others were chased out of town for daring to write stories that were considered uncomplimentary. Also, several PDP leaders and members have complained of being kicked out of Government House by security operatives.
A respondent told this paper last week of how the security men demanded for his mobile phone before he could gain entrance into the Government House. Surprisingly, none of these embittered party men and women is willing to openly express their misgivings for fear of being ostracized.
Osunbor's claim that the 'era of business as usual' was over is quickly betrayed by his exhibition of the fencing work at the High Court Complex in Benin City as an achievement in his 100 days as governor of the state. From our records, the project was listed by the last administration and was celebrated in the media when it was awarded to a firm allegedly owned by Dr S. O. Ogbemudia. It is unclear if the contract was revalued or re-awarded to a new contractor. If the later is the case, Edo People deserve to be told if the over N20 million allegedly collected by Dr Ogbemudia has been refunded and how much the new job is costing tax payers.
Equally worth commending is the empowerment governor Osunbor has given to his Commissioners, Special Advisers and Special Assistants. It was reported that an average of N2 million monthly over-head allowance has been approved for them. But unknown to the governor, a large number of these appointees may have diverted a considerate part to their private purse.
For example, a female aide (name withheld) of the governor was seen last week behind Benson Idahosa University in Benin City, supervising the decking of two duplexes allegedly owned by her. Worried by the growing trend, observers fear that Osunbor may have failed to learn from Igbinedion's problem as he has provided his aides with too much leverage and leakages to milk the state dry of scarce resourc
During the period under review, Osunbor attempted to show some courage by 'probing' some activities of Igbinedion's administration like in Bendel Brewery Limited where the audit report indicted several members of his cabinet including the present Commissioner for Information, Mr. Calus Enoma, who was sacked from the place for gross misconduct and another prominent Edo South PDP leader. So far, the governor has failed to publish the report and issue its white paper.
As it is becoming customary, Osunbor may have learnt a new talent in diversionary politics. In line with this, he has promised to probe the land use programme of Lucky Igbinedion's administration. However, it is doubtful if the gentle speaking governor will progress in this direction because of the re-occurring factor of PDP leaders in the 'land gate'. The governor will shoot himself in the foot by attempting to unmask the cartel behind the land scam. Surely, he will not survive the consequences of his actions
Government position that it met a deplorable state and as such needed more time to articulate plans fall flat on its face based on two variables. First, governor Osunbor told bewildered Edolites shortly after inspecting the erosion prone area of the state that the problems were lesser than what he had envisaged. Second, Igbinedion's achievement in his first 100 days in office after several years of military misrule is exemplary in conceptualization, scope, action and implementation.
For instance, the revitalization of major parastatals including the Edo Broadcasting Service, Bendel Newspaper Company Ltd, Ethiope Publishing Ltd, Ambrose Alli University among others were started and completed during the first 100 days by ex-governor Igbinedion. His problem started when Chief Tony Anenih pronounced 'no vacancy in 2003' less than one year into his administration. Osunbor may be suffering from Anenih's no vacancy syndrome handed over to him by 'Mr Fix It' at the Nova Hotel retreat in Uromi.
This paper has also noted with concern the deliberate effort to contrive lies as truth. Government report that it made N5 million in five weeks as against N250,000 “it used to generate” is a design by the relevant authority to develop schemes to embezzle the parastatal's funds.
The suspended General Manager of the Edo Broadcasting Service (EBS), Barrister Tunde Ebosoje, told this paper that there was nothing legendary in the so called N5 million generated by Mr. Calus Enoma committee as EBS hitherto generated well over N6 million monthly.
To collaborate his position, a senior staff told this paper last week that management would not have been able to buy diesel and run the station if actually the turn-over was N250,000 only. “This man (Calus Enoma) is a politician and he sees here as a farm that he will harvest and the only way out is to get rid of Ebosoje.” The staff volunteered.
One major area that is earning high score for Osunbor is the Justice Ministry under the leadership of Barrister Omoruyi Omonuwa (SAN), the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in the state. Lawyers are already praising his efforts in the improvement of dispensation of justice. Outside this, Osunbor's administration is largely a reflection of the past. Nothing has changed. The equations are still the same: gesture governance.
On July 11, 2007, governor Osunbor while concluding his address at the Novia Hotel, Uromi at a PDP retreat for his commissioners, Special Advisers and Assistants vowed to put an end to “gesture governance”, governance of low commitment, low expectations and window dressing. Retrospectively, these were empty promises expected from politicians as recent developments have betrayed Osunbor's promises.
Pointedly, Osunbor's appointment of his wife, Mrs Usseih Osunbor as chairman of the Special Environmental Sanitation Committee is squarely based on gesture governance. It is the height of corruption and nepotism that he promised to fight. Apart from this, there are reports that Osunbor appointed his daughter as his Personal Assistant in addition to Edo State Secretary to Government, Dr. Joseph Akhigbe, who sources say is his cousin. In all, Osunbor is said to have appointed over eight of his siblings into his government.
Chief Tony Anenih may have been correct when he distanced himself from the leaders that feasted on state funds during the government of Chief Lucky Igbinedion. The same hawks have surrounded Osunbor and Anenih must act fast to disentangle his installed governor from their grip.
Across the state, politicians belonging to the ruling party are in a hurry to amass wealth with little or no concern for Edo people. There are large scale accusations of inflation of vehicle cost purchased by government.
Pertinently, it is worthy of note that the present administration has bought more vehicles in 100 days than what Igbinedion bought in the eight years of his administration.
Edolites expect Osunbor to shift from rhetorics to concrete action in the months ahead as the only way of demonstrating his promised excellent leadership.
Indications that Osunbor is fast loosing support came from the highly respected All Nigerian Peoples Party Publicity Secretary, Comrade Godwin Erhahon.
According to him, Edo people should not expect much from the present administration in the state. In his words, “Osunbor has become a prisoner of Government House.”
The caustic orator asked: “why do they want to dualise Akpakpava Road when such bad roads as Upper Sakponba Road, St Saviour Road are in terrible state and unattended to?” it is important to state that Akpakpava Road is already dualised in its present state , and one wonders if this is another blank blueprint from Edo State Government House.
The state is in for a bigger shocker, as Osunbor recently bought 2 bullet proof Jeeps on Thursday August 30, 2007 at a cost of N90million. The Jeeps were ordered through Mr. Francis Inegbeniki, an apologist of Chief Tony Anenih. Apart from this, Osunbor’s deputy, Mr. Lucky Imasuen has started work on his N500m country home at Iriri, near Benin City. The commissioners and special advisers are busy diverting overhead allowances meant for their ministries.