The euphoria of Oshiomhole’s 2nd tenure electoral victory had not died down when I witnessed a glimpse of what the remaining part of his tenure could become.
I was at Mission Road (close to Oba Ovonramen Square) to get a few household items. As Gov. Oshiomole rode by in his convoy expecting to be hailed along, he was surprisingly confronted with the most unusual silence by onlookers and the shut-down economic activities.
What was the matter this time? The traders alleged that one Major Oloye had ordered a forceful lockup of all the shops for days. And this information was solemnly offered to the governor as he came down from his vehicle.
Without mincing words, it is of a common knowledge that certain personalities engaged by Oshiomhole’s government have become notorious for far from commendable reasons. In fact, they operate as machines used in gleaning forceful submission from the populace. And even when Edo people see them as reccurring decimals in their lamentations, yet such persons are openly being rewarded and acclaimed for assisting government to function.
But the irony lies not in government rewarding or patronizing its means of battering people into servitude, it is in the attitude of always hopping about, professing love for; and demanding appreciation from a people who cannot demand reprieve and restitution for being economically, socially and politically oppressed; except at the times of elections. And this is kind of twist which has made some to liken Oshiomhole’s regime to the complexities of a professional dancer, who hates music.
Again on that day at Mission Road, I was opportune to hear the economic assessment of Oshiomhole’s regime from a trader (an Igbo man) who stood in front of his locked shop muttering to himself “He say others nor try; but because he mix one head-pan; and then suffer wan kill us” Interpretatively, the trader was in his manner of expression saying – Oshiomhole campaigned that past leaders performed poorly; but his own style of performance has brought greater hardship.
And yet, that was not all I learnt from the trader. As he narrated on, he talked about the entire traders’ anger and non-compliance based on a compulsory additional demand for payment of ‘Environmental Levy’ as a separate charge from the rate regularly paid to the government’s appointed waste mangers who were never on time to cart away their waste.
There is a popular African saying that ‘It is in the place where elders are absent that a woman may improperly carry a baby on her back. Such manner of frequent harassments by government appointed agents have necessitated the question of whether true democratic tenets is actually in operation in Edo State, or whether power is really residing with the people.
However, notwithstanding the somewhat unseriousness with which past regimes may have handled governance, now we have all come to a common understanding that nothing short of doing only the right things is expected of governance if we must attain a society that would not endanger everybody’s existence. And therefore, any worthy government must not afford to be impervious to people’s feelings any more. There should be no place for brute force in a democratic setting. The grooming of youths for violence has a trend of getting out of any person’s control.
On the other hand, travelling down memory lane of the current regime; History may present the era as one put in place by the highest amount of people’s goodwill; but which also ended up being the greatest aggressor of the people and their established institutions.
As it stands today, there is practically no area of public life worthy of mention that has not received its share of attacks. Starting from entrenched disregard for wishes of fellow political party members and growing trend of imposition of candidates; traders welfare or pertinent concerns and the effects of government actions on their economic pursuit – as represented by the now famed ‘Go and die widow’ and tax burden on entrepreneurs; the flagrant disregard for State House of Assembly resolutions and flexing of superiority; the subjugation of Edo State’s sporting acclaim to a mere Okpekpe road race organizer and the decline in sports sector employment; the qualms with Local Government Council bosses and disregard for financial and political autonomy; the strife over autonomy of the Judiciary and executive scrapping of Customary Court of Appeal – a judicial arm; teachers’ competency test impasse and the ‘no work no pay saga; modulation of the civil service with strange introduction of non-carrier civil servant headship and the sacking of civil servants without due process; tipper drivers scuffle with appointed government’s revenue agents, the protracted economic downturn and resultant hardship in the building industry; the public disaffection caused by Edo State Traffic Management Agency (EDSTMA); the abrupt ending of the Youth Employment Scheme and the effects on their sudden disengagements; tertiary institutions’ irregular payment of workers’ salaries, sudden increase of school fees, insufficient infrastructure, stoppage of students’ bursary, problems of non- accreditation of courses, irregular and insufficient subventions; the collapsed Central Hospital buildings and the alleged non-compliance with building rules; the unfulfilled promise of stoppage of ticketing at the markets; the non-publication of all projects’ cost and alleged non-compliance with bidding process; the soaring rate of unemployment; the non-appreciable commitment to agricultural and housing sectors of the economy; the controversial property tax and prohibition of business activities and houses of worship in the GRA; the controversial Edo State government taxes on drinks taken at places of entertainment – bars, restaurant and hotels; the shortage of teachers and civil servants and failure to make necessary recruitments; the lack of human resource development or continuous training of civil servants; the disobedience or tardiness in obeying court judgements or orders; the neglect of institutions like the Urhonigbe Rubber Plantation, Bendel Breweries, Edo Line, Ewu Floor Mill, Okpella Cement Factory, Ethiope Publishing Company, Stella Obansajo Hospital, Uromi Cassavita Factory and their profound effects on issues of employment; are some that time would permit to mention.
Not too long ago, the Oshiomhole regime did a self-appraisal and considered that all it needs to do further is to consolidate and finish well. From the backlash of all the above mentioned, and the seeming lack of time to remedy them, it is therefore not clear what the current regime truly means by ‘finishing well’.
But because Edo people have a critical role in defining what such ‘finishing well’ means to them; then we may all have to wait till September 10th (Edo State governorship election day) to get a clearer interpretation of what finishing well truly means to discerning minds.
Kingsley Ogbeide-Ihama sent in this piece from Benin City.