Great Edo Nation

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Re: Season of anomie in Edo

Let the beat go on...
A rejoinder to the Vanguard online publication with the above header of Wednesday, 28th March, 2012.

The political and economic development of society both at the local, national and international levels have been significantly impacted, overtly or covertly by the concatenation of events and circumstances that have occurred since the modern era commenced soon after the second world war in 1945.

These occurrences, playing themselves out at the international level have replicated itself in the lesser populations where structures of governance claim authority and legitimacy in the administration of a people. Hence, as the political-economy of the contemporary global system is mired in inconsistencies, contradictions and corruption, it only behoves that the localised structures that seek to imitate it suffer from the same dysfunction.

Far from being a diatribe on the existing structures of the prevailing international order, the ongoing global economic challenges, coupled with the increasing citizen restiveness that is gradually becoming another consistent on the global scene imply that governance is failing the ones that justify its existence.

With dismal ratings for the most basic indices of human development, over 1 Billion people live below the internationally defined line of poverty, over twice the same number suffer from lack and severe deprivation, and the myriad of accompaniments that mill around the incidence of underdevelopment are all derivatives of failing governments, low quality governance and poor political leadership.

Bad governance has been the bane of Africa’s development, since the flurry of independence activities in the 20th Century, even till now, a dozen years into the 21st.

It is common knowledge that Africa possesses a significant population of the world’s poor. It is also common knowledge that governance in Africa has wholly been an embarrassment in comparison to other regions of the world. While responsible independent States marshalled out plans to engage their resources for development, primitive accumulation became a pastime of Africa’s rulers, and governance was turned on its head.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has not been spared this scourge of bad governance that pervaded the continent, and our history as a nation has been filled with sad stories concerning bad leadership, low quality governance and stagnant development. The labour of our heroes past was all we could see, and there was none to continue from where they left off. The advent of democracy brought great hope in its wake, but such hope was doused as the paraphernalia of State lacked the proactive will and drive to unction the right actions to do the needful things necessary for the wheels of progress and development to turn from the rusted hinges that had held it back for over half a century.

In Edo State, the issue today remains the same, governance. It is an issue that goes well beyond the local politics that is played in the State, or the politics at the national level. It is an international issue and it is a global issue. It is an issue that requires courage and strength of character to confront if one is intent on achieving a quality in governance that is the required catalyst for societies to ascend the rungs of development as we understand the concept to mean today.

Sadly though, people of courage have been scarce in these parts, while strong men of character have wilted after perceiving the whiff of the filthy lucre. The result, low quality and bad governance at all levels where observations are made.

It is a pity that in the case of Edo, a society that has a proud history of the ‘can do’ attitude, the corruption of the system over the last decades majorly rendered the people passive to demand their rights to good governance and human centred sustained development within the same system. This is the reason why up until the final years of the last century, governance within the State reflected the norm at the national level with its inability to translate political and financial power into citizen welfare and improved standards of living for the nearly 200 Million people.

One may not be able to fully grasp the motivation for the opinions expressed by Mr. Ainofenokhai, the author of the piece. However, any attempt at comprehending such would have to take into consideration the prevailing realities of the contemporary international order while juxtaposing it with the more recent happenings at the national and local level of political and economic development. Having said that, we are of the opinion that when matters pertaining to governance are talked about, arguments based on issues rather than the mundane should be the crux.

Contrary to what the author attempted to paint on the situation in Edo, there is currently a breadth of fresh air blowing in the atmosphere of Edo society. It is an air of freedom, a freedom that is borne of the fact that the people truly own governance. The journey to this point would make an inspiring read any day, and it is to the credit of the present crop of political leadership that the State is enjoying what perhaps may be the most frenetic pace of development never before seen since the halcyon days of the Mid-Western Region.

It is a leadership that holds sacrosanct the social contract it entered into with the people on the 28th day of November 2008. Thus far, this leadership has proven that the theory of good governance presents the fundamental pre-requisite that is in itself sufficient for development to occur in under developed and developing societies.

Edo people have been directly or indirectly impacted positively by the responsible action of the State, and the word on the lip of each honest observer is ‘if to say na so e be since 1999’.

Good governance goes beyond petty partisanship, it transcends tribal limitations and politics, and cannot be deemphasised by sycophantic sentiments and opaque opinions. Good governance is seen with the eyes and perceived with the senses, this is why the political sophistication of the average Edo person today has been heightened by the reality being witnessed before their very eyes. Edo is emerging from a cocoon it had been forced to exist within for some while now; the people are realising that perceived impossibilities can indeed become possible.

If one pays close attention, you can hear the conversation on the street, ‘we’ve been there before, and it’s definitely not where we want to be again’. It provides pleasant satisfaction when more informed persons share this view, a view that has been corroborated albeit unsolicited by a number of revered personalities in the State and beyond.

From the language and spirit of the author, it is not too difficult to discern that the he is rather being short-sighted or thrifty with the facts in his analysis of the events that transpired on the March Thursday in question. The ambiguous thrust of the writer’s arguments begs the question of whom he was aggrieved with or what must have caused his grievance. Pointing fingers at organised labour, labour personalities, the political leadership in the State and the civil service, the article reeks of an obvious smear effort, one that was poorly conceived and ill executed. The reportorial of the events smacks of crass dishonesty and open bias. The Labour movement worldwide advocates good governance, and where good governance is being witnessed, it should therefore lead to neither gasps of disbelief nor feigned surprise that the labour movement in the State chose to openly celebrate good governance.

On the issue of civil servants participating in the rally, it only goes to underscore the non partisanship of the rally. It would very much be interesting to learn of any civil servant that has been queried or sanctioned for not participating in the rally. Although many civil servants identify with the positive trajectory of the ship of State, not all were able to make it to the rally much as they would have wanted to. I guess quite a number of those whose names were not on the phantom ’list’ as proposed by the author should by now be facing disciplinary measures in their respective MDA’s; but then again, I think not.

We would deliberately desist from descending into the depths that the article provokes, but we must be mindful of the fact that there are well established human freedoms that are salient and supersedes any statute or rule as prescribed by political and social systems. As part of the human society, each individual possess certain inalienable rights, and when or where these rights are in question, human freedoms presuppose that society react in the action(s) of individuals, whether organised or spontaneous. No one at that point possesses the right to question one’s rights to express oneself in a peaceful manner. These are principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and these principles define the commonality of our collective humanity.

I am not competent to speak on legalese, which I admit. But I’m pretty well sure that the Judiciary, whether at the State or national level are very well capable of sorting themselves out. They always do, rekindling hope in the process.

Okay, there’s gonna be elections in July, must we degenerate to slime and mud politics just because we want to be seen to be putting up a fight? Articles like these would not help in swaying the decision of the undecided voter; what might help is telling the people how one can improve on the status quo and the strategies and plan that would see to a successful tenure if given the opportunity to assume the reins of leadership in the State. But the opposition seem intellectually incapable of successfully achieving that task based on the thrusts of their campaigns over the past few weeks.

Now, Edo’s know what they are capable of achieving and require one that has the guts to want to do more to genuinely bring the greater good to the greater number. Who have got the guts? All we see today is cowardice on the part of the opposition, a cowardice that is borne of a disoriented conclusion of ‘if you can’t beat them, pull them down’. It shows that the campaign team of the opposition is totally bereft of ideas, and from the benefit of hindsight, a lack of ideas does no good for social and human development.

Legacies are being created before our very eyes, paradigms are being attained and surpassed; new stories are being woven and we’re all being witnesses to the emergence of new heroes. When success stories of governance are being counted in today’s global village, the Edo case study would rank among the number.

There is neither anomie nor acrimony in the entire Edo, rather there is an emergent synergy that was hitherto absent, there is a harmony that was previously lacking, and there is a beat that that has found its rhythm. This prevailing mood is felt from the urban centres of the Benin Metropolis to the rural communities spread all over the State; it is felt by the little kids who now find the motivation to attend schools due to the comfort and ambience of their school and classroom environment; it is felt by motorists and pedestrians alike who enjoy the rapid infrastructural transformation of the intra-state road networks; it is felt by the thousands of youths who have been economically empowered via the variety of new jobs and wealth creation measures and the network of dependents which they have subsequently empowered;

This mood is felt by all Edo citizens who have rediscovered their dignity in a society that hitherto paid no heed to the welfare of its peoples. The Edo person today stand proud once again with a new orientation, a new attitude and a renewed sense of belief, not just among fellow Nigerians, but among the many other citizens of the global community.

Let the people continue to lead is the resounding mantra in Edo State, from the market traders to the bus conductors, from the rural farmers to the urban workers, from dining rooms of the local eateries to the hallowed halls of the ivory towers. Let the people continue to lead; and in the State that is known as the heartbeat of the nation, let the beat go on.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I am Nigeria

Upon a time as this, I am Nigeria. I am the future of my nation; I am the fresh breeze that blows when the atmosphere is saturated with musk and mist. I am the new wine that is served at the dawn of the day of celebration; I am Nigeria, that is who I am.

Many a time that one attempts to comprehend the state that the nation has found herself in today, one is held spellbound by the dire situation that a people so blessed with immense abundance find themselves in, a decade into the 21st century. Many have given way to despondency, many have given way to helplessness, and many wallow in the pool of their own pessimism, while many others join the bandwagon of dysfunctional citizens, perpetrating the error embedded within the system. No, not I.

I am the correction; I am the updated and upgraded citizen that will cleanse the corruption that has permeated the system. In me and my likes llies the solution to the myriad of challenges the nation is confronted with. Even in the face of perceived obstacles and seeming impossibilities; even in the face of daunting and seeming insurmountable hurdles and deliberately planted booby traps, the Nigeria in me gives me the hope that it will get better, and soon too.

From the coast to the desert fringe, from the dale to the plateau peaks, there is a fundamental reawakening occurring. There is a yearning by the new Nigerian, a yearning for change, for hope and for belief that the legacy of our heroes past will not be in vain, even if the reality of the contemporary situation tell us different.

Now is the time for the new heroes to emerge, new heroes that will take the nation by the boot straps and lead her into a world that is pregnant with opportunities and accomplishments for the discerning, the strong willed and the believers.

My Nigeria is a beacon of hope, to me and to the generations unborn, my Nigeria is a positive challenge to the nations of the Earth, my Nigeria imbues in me the spunk to face the vicissitudes inherent in the prevailing system and come through victorious with pomp, like the Caesars of yore navigating the Appian after well won victory.

I am Nigeria, that is I, along with you who share my dream. I am Nigeria, I am the change that my nation needs. I am the calm that the new infant brings to the heart of her mother who tethered on the brink to bring forth a life. No longer will the negative and opaque cloud my drive for a better nation. No longer will the will to be the best that I can be diminished by any and whatever. I will be the smile that plays on the lips of the elderly ones who never thought they will live to see the day that the nation will assume that position that had so much eluded it since the days of their infancy. I am a new attitude, for I am Nigeria.

As I become my country, so the message rings loud and clear to my Nigerian brothers and sisters from far and near. This is my country, our country. This is the time to claim, our nation, not just for ourselves, but for the millions that will walk these climes long after we must have gone. I am Nigeria, yes I am.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Things

Here now, the story of Nigeria after fifty odd years of nationhood and over a decade of uninterrupted civilian rule. What have we learnt as a nation? What have we learnt as a people, what have we learnt as a society that exist under the conditions of a 21st century world? The general elections of 2011 may be to some the culmination of a series of political campaigns and strategizing, but the real significance of the entire exercise lie in the fact that many Nigerians have really begun to see politicians for what they truly are. While maintaining that there are principled, disciplined and focused individuals donning the garb of the “politician”, the antecedents of politicians and their political acolytes since the latter years of the colonial administration have created a mental picture of the stereotypical Nigerian politician as being self serving, selfish, primitive and violent. This picture has not changed even after over a decade into the Third Millennium of contemporary human history, it has become even more brazen and perpetrated with an ever increasing impunity.

While one would refrain from cataloguing the missed and misused opportunities the nation continue to suffer from the actions and inactions of ill equipped and ill informed people occupying political offices, one cannot but mention here that the offices which these ones occupy are meant for the welfare and benefit of the ones whom they claim to represent. The fundamental requirement for the allegiance of the citizen to the state is the assurance that his vote would determine ultimately who occupy the offices of the state (this is a principle of the ideal democracy which is the most common route taken by the international community while engaging “social contracts” as a means of order and governance), and the fundamental reason for the existence of the state is to assure the welfare and security of her citizens.

Gladly, many Nigerians are beginning to realize these principles, many of my brothers and sisters all across the nation have begun to desire and demand that the social commons be defined by terms of equity and equality, truth and transparency, respect and reasonableness, and all of the ideals that civilized humanity crave. Many are no longer deceived by make believe notions arising from historical events, even as these act as a torch in the dark and musky labyrinth from which the nation is emerging from. Settling “ancient scores” and ages of ethnocentric, nepotic and corrupt practices have done the average Nigerian little good, and more and more folks are beginning to understand the need for us to turn to the next page.

Observing the politicians and their politicking, it is unfortunate to see the same old tunes being played out again. While some out of the pack attempt to churn out some fresh vibe, the sound waves are immediately polluted by the cacophony of the sycophants and praise singers displaying a total lack of intellectual depth and comprehension of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation. Aggravating this ineptitude by pointedly avoiding “issues based” areas of importance to the millions of Nigerians who are dependent on the subsequent outcomes of the elections, human and social development is relegated to the background while lip-service is paid to economic and infrastructural development.

A good number of spontaneous bursts of violence in various parts of the country over the past ninety days could well be traced to the politics preceding the election season, and it is the wish of all that these next few weeks would actually birth a new electoral culture for the country where the vote of the voter would count, where elections would be free, fair and credible too, where wanton permissiveness is permitted no more, where political criminals, the riggers and the ballot box snatchers, the perpetrators of violence and the domesticated terrorists (who do not dignify their existence by their actions) are made to suffer sanctions of magnitude proportionate to their crime of truncating the will of a free people, even if to serve as a deterrent. The time for the “sacred cow” is over, the era of the “scape goat” should be commence.

It is no mean task to be the one responsible for a Nigerian election. Since the recent history of elections in the country until the Maurice Iwu days, elections have been fraught with irregularities, even to the point of upturning the results of an already successfully concluded election. While no electoral umpire has been able to cross that threshold of efficiency, effectiveness and enforcement of the electoral laws, Attahiru Jega seem eager to write his name in gold. Whether he succeeds or not is totally dependent on him and the legacy with which he would want to be remembered for when the new Nigeria is ultimately born.

As dusk herald the first day of the rest of the nation’s history, I urge my fellow electorates to have courage. I say to my comrade citizens, believe. We are not few, and there is only but a “lunatic minority”. Together the good people of Nigeria will triumph and the elections of April will become a positive paradigm in the nations history. Our expectation is that we should all be providing resounding applause upon the culmination of the three weeks exercise, even as we hope and pray that the applause we will hear would not be emanating from Jega alone.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Spirit of Naija...

Dear Professor, many regards to you. I must say that your transformation from an "anti-fake drug" advocate into a politician has done your hitherto 'awe inspiring' personality less favors. Without dwelling much on the previous events and happenings that had led to this, commencing from the superficial re-branding project, and spanning the continual goofs during the sad days of the penultimate Presidents health situation (RIP), a recent development which had been credited to you has brought to the fore your rather lack of comprehension of the issues which occupy the minds of young Nigerians in the 21st century.

Some few days ago, I came across an article where you continually lambasted and condemned in strong terms the use of the word "Naija" and from your summation, it would be best were this word to be completely deleted from the lips, mind and hearts of Nigerians. Although throughout the entire write up, you failed to show concrete reasons to back up this conviction, but I cannot claim to share this view, and neither I believe would millions of young Nigerians.However, Professor Adefuye, the Nigerian Ambassador to the US attempted to come to your defence, albeit noneffective as he neither condemned the "Naija" usage nor did he give concrete reasons to buttress your view (, thus I see no need for your position which is at least needless and at most ridiculous (absolutely no offence meant).

Thankfully, your position is not the official position of the Government of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.First of all, there is no confusion whatsoever between Naija and Nigeria. We must make that clear, and under no circumstances would any sane and rational Nigerian want to replace the name Nigeria with that of Naija. Like Professor Adefuye mentioned, if we want a change of name for the country, there is a laid down procedure for that. Naija is a contemporary concept in the annals of the history of Nigeria, it is a concept that captures the spirit of Nigeria, and one that young people are proud to associate themselves with. It is not a slang per se, as that would demean the real import of what the word connotes. Rather it encompasses the dreams, yearnings and aspirations of young Nigerians who have been denied the benefits and positive derivatives of a nation hijacked by successive generations of corrupt, inept and self serving (so called) leaders. It is a concept that renders the average Nigerian immune from the collosal wastage and corruption that has bedevilled the nation since independence and makes him/her ready to confront agents and forces of underdevelopment, poverty and bad governance.

We would not want to be drawn into sentimental discourse on the provenance or etymology of Nigeria, nor would we want to dwell on the fact that the name "Nigeria" is not of Nigerian origins (funny as that sounds); but even this does not make me any less Nigerian, even so my identification with the concept of Naija does not remove the Nigerianness in me. I am a Nigerian, and at the same time I am Naija. It is who I am at this point in time in the history of my nation, and my Naija identity is the brand that I choose under this season of anomie that we have been plunged into by the irresponsibility and callousness of the political and ruling elite since independence.

It is the Naijatitude in me that will make me stand against corruption at all levels and in all circumstances; it is my Naijatitude that will make me vote for credibility and integrity as leaders and defend my vote (even if it means sacrificing my life); it is my Naijatitude that will make me speak up in the face of oppression and wickedness; it is my Naijatitude that will define the Nigerian that I will become for me, for my society and for my world in the 21st century that is pregnant with possibilities and opportunities, and my patriotism to my nation should by no means be questioned on the way and manner in which I choose to show love for my nation.

I will not begrudge you for sharing your views, you have every right to, but we should see an element of consistency when such views are made. Dishing out encomiums for citizens participating in morally bankrupt reality television shows (alien to our culture) does far much worse to the image of the country than usage of a concept that does more in lifting up the spirits of the common Nigerian. And while the entire world is 'oohing and aahing' over the indigenous home video industry (called Nollywood), no one is saying that it does any sort of disservice to the image of the nation. Priorities should be set aright. We must avoid being seen to be deploying double standards in our assessment of issues? To whose end and for what purpose? Nigeria needs change, positive change; and the fundamental challenges of development, good governance, security etc. must and should be confronted instead of whipping up mundane and non-issues.

Those who oppose change would be swept away in it's wake, and the spirit of Naija is alive and rising irrespective of who or what.

Good bless Nigeria.

Response to the Honorable Minister For Information's remarks on the use of the term "Naija".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oba Ovoranmwen Nogbaisi Square, Benin City, Nigeria

On Friday the 12th of November 2010, the Square at the Ring Road area located at the heart of the City was renamed from Kings Square to Oba Ovoranmwen Nogbaisi Square. This action achieved two things; first, by the change of name, there was observed a deliberate attempt to remove the abstract but overbearing spectre of a neo-colonial dependency hitherto hanging over a people of an independent nation; and second, it represented the long overdue honour for the last Oba of an independent Edo nation, a man who became one of the last line of defence in the struggles of the African against an alien political-economic ideology that has foisted on the world the twisted and contradictory principles of contemporary capitalism.

It is an honour well bestowed for a King that is more than deserving. And for him that gave the honour, much honour awaits...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ruminations on underdevelopment

If we understand the concept of development as a state of individual and collective wellbeing, with individuals and society existing within sustainable means and mechanisms, then we can present an argument thus; that the pre-colonial peoples occupying the territories of what is presently the geographical delineation known as Nigeria, were at various levels of development prior to the abrupt intrusion of Europe, into the respective political and economic affairs of these sometimes large and often times small social formations domiciled within the region (Okoh, 2005: 191-192).

Among the major groups that had commenced defined developmental trajectories, were the Sokoto Caliphate, exercising loose control over the Zaria and Kano areas, the Yorubas to the western parts, the Igbo Republican societies, the Edos, Tivs, Jukuns, Nupe, Efik and Ibibio, Urhobo, and a plethora of other decentralized state like formations. There is as yet an authoritative computation on the precise number of ethnic groups domiciled in Nigeria, but many of these societies existed as individual and independent formations, centuries before modernization hit Africa, and in many respects, they were widely varied, and differed in culture, language, social norms, political and economic institutions etc.

With each of these formations existing within the parameters of their respective autonomy, they were destined on a collision course with the European explorers who initially promoted mercantilist relations. This dovetailed into the “trade in humans” which was an unfortunate episode in the history of Africa’s relations with the world, (Rodney, 1972:108-131). However, it was the imperialist conquest of Africa that proved to be the total deconstruction of the prevailing status quo that the various indigenous people existed within. According to Ikelegbe (2004:1), “it is necessary to demonstrate the achievements and contributions of Nigerian pre-colonial states in the device and utilization of different machineries to govern and sustain their states.” Ikelegbe also identified the presence of both centralized and decentralized authorities, applying sanctions and rewards within the acceptable framework of their unique cultures and values (Ikelegbe, 2007:141-147).

In terms of the practice and maintenance of an effective economic system, these formations making up pre-colonial Nigeria were actively engaged in productive economic activities based on householding, reciprocal and redistributive roles (Zwingina, 1992:31). Zwingina views the household to be the main unit of production, with it also doubling as the immediate unit of consumption. Accordingly, “while the fruits of land and labour belonged first to each individual , reciprocal privileges and duties within the family prescribed a mutual sharing that discouraged personal differences in material prosperity” (July, 1976:111). Untainted by colonial political and economic ideologies, these pre-colonial formations thrived in their unique economies, with a significant volume of surplus left over for the purpose of exchange. This unique exchange was based on the reciprocal needs of the various households, and oftentimes with other social formations, or for expropriation by a centralized formation (Zwingina, 1992: 31; Aderibigbe, 1962: 194).

July, (1976), douses the temptation to categorise pre-colonial African farming economies as subsistence in nature when he pointed that:The societies of pre-colonial Africa were geared to a subsistence agriculture, but traditional African economies were not in any literal sense subsistence economies, for they were quite capable of accumulating and utilizing small but measurable quantities of surplus wealth. The ancient farming communities of Africa organized their land occupation without reference to private ownership, but the principle of private ownership was understood and practiced full well (July, 1976: 117). The inference made from the above is that the social formations in pre-colonial Africa (including the ones domiciled within the boundaries of modern Nigeria) were at various levels of growth and development from the economic point of view. This inference is given more credence when we take into consideration that “the British administration in Nigeria between 1860 and 1960 was made relatively easy by the fact that it met with a philosophy of economic growth on which the modern system was built on” (Ekundare, 1973:383-384). However, while the desire for personal profit was powerful, accumulation in Europe was fuelled by economic principles; in Africa, it was social (July, 1976:117).

More so, the political structure on which the colonial administration was built upon, i.e. the indirect rule system, made effective use of the existing political institutions, proving extremely successful in many cases and only suffering limited friction in areas where the evolution of the socio-economic and political structure had reached levels of sophistication, arguably exceeding the practice in Europe at the time (Edigin and Osarhiemen, 1996 :45).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Edo, is this what we have become?

While the nation is yet grappling with the near constitutional crisis premeditated by the absence of the President, and all the other situations which have contributed to the complexity of the Nigerian project, events in the Homeland, Edo, have given rise to a feeling of solemn despondency and disillusion within the polity.

Some few weeks ago, the kidnapping of a high ranking religious figure threw the City into bewildered consternation, and the abduction of a school principal was enough to send the little ones pouring into the streets. Aside the fact that presumed individuals of high net worth have been victims, other cadre of citizens have not been immune from this unholy trade.

The clash between security agents of the State under different flags not too long ago remains fresh in our memory, as the family, friends and dependents of two officers that lost their lives are still in mourning. This is not mentioning the increasing rate of crime, ably reported by the state media houses, both print and electronic.

However, what perhaps may be the most unfortunate incident thus far should be the fracas that ensued in the State House of Assembly Complex upon the purported suspension of the incumbent Speaker of the House. The violence and aggressiveness of the Members was an embarrassing scene to behold, and I wonder how posterity will judge the individual actions of the respective participants.

Related to this is the case of a Local Government Chairman, suspended by the State Executive, but choosing to storm the Council Secretariat with a group of individuals who find nothing wrong in damaging public property. Where did all this violence come from? The politics of the State has indeed been one of intricacies, and sub-plots, but one wonders what motivation would be at the back of the minds of the various actors. It is any one's guess if the issue of development, and a sustainable one at that is ever considered.

We must ask ourselves a question; Can we continue like this? Can we continue to play ostritch and hope that all will be well? Can we maintain a stoic mien in the face of repressive stereotyped image of the Nigerian citizenry? Can we look the future in the eye and demand for a better life for ourselves and our offspring?

We must ask ourselves if this is what we have become, in a 21st century world. We must also ask ourselves if we are a part of the problem. It is a challenge to each and everyone to know who their true heroes are. The ones that would bind instead of causing injury; the ones that would suffer loss gladly for the good of their neighbour. We do not need thugs in governance anymore, we want those that would rather choose to fight poverty, and injustice, rather than engaging in physical combat among citizens of equal rights. The vision of the Edo people should be one of positive change from the decaying status quo towards an era of development in every sense of the word. It is a challenge that the true Edo citizen face, even in the face of seeming insurmountable obstacles.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who Killed Citizen Amanda Uhunmwangho

Amanda Uhunmwangho, a 32 year old lady, and a staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) died under suspicious and questionable circumstances while in custody of the Nigerian Prisons Service, after having being under police detention for about 24 hours or thereabouts. While she was a complainant in an ongoing fraud litigation case within the jurisdiction of Edo State, how she came to her sorry end, especially as she was charged before a Magistrate Court hours before her untimely and unfortunate death becomes mysterious. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked, and I would implore all to join me in asking the Nigerian State, "Who killed Citizen Amanda Uhunmwangho?"

Story contained in Vanguard, September 18, 2009.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In these troubled times

Anytime one domiciled within the Nigerian territories picks up any of the nations many dailies, he is immediately greeted with stories of other Nigerians from the other parts of the country, from the far flung reaches of the fringes of the Sahara to the coasts bounding the African continent with the two Atlantics. Once in a while, they might catch glimpses of stories from other continents, especially if it might have some connection with nationals. In a manner, the average citizen might seem helpless in the face of the many complexities and contradictions that the contemporary international system have foisted on a 21st century world. But more importantly, the things that will concern him the most are those things that have an immediate impact on his existence and livelihood. Within the context of today’s Nigeria, a great many issues have led to a feeling of solemn despondency by the at least 54.4% of the population living in relative poverty of $1.08 at the 2005 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

Almost on a daily basis, news stories and reports ranging from the criminal to the scandalous, and all the negative concepts and terms in between, continue to feed the dumbfounded throng of eager Nigerians, whose sole reward is to argue subjective opinions spiritedly after the daily dose of state ineptitude and inefficiency had been guzzled. The fact that most of these issues become ‘yesterdays news’ at the point of consumption plays little or no role in the gusto into which parties put into their individual analysis of issues, either in the hallowed halls of university faculties or in the many selling spaces of the various street side vendors strewn all over the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

By now, even when the citizenry await the much talked about electoral reforms, and the Nigerian populace have come to question the electoral process, the only one means by which a Nigerian citizen can have a say in this complex grill of uneven integration that the Nigerian polity had become, other issues such as unending industrial actions, spurious developmental claims, disarticulated policies, private and public corruption, the sophistication of organized violence, and an ever rising crime rate exacerbate the tensions within the polity leading to one living in a state of perpetual insecurity. However, the incidence of wanton and institutionalized violence becomes salient in the sense of its questioning the monopoly of force that underlie the preservation of security, a principle which defines an effective state. On a regular basis, reports of brazen criminal operations assail our sensibilities. When it is not mobilized and armed religious centered groups meting out mayhem to hapless and innocent citizens, it is often times violent agitations for resource control by disadvantaged and marginalized ethnic groups, venting their spleen, albeit justifiably. We should not forget the popular militants from the Niger Delta, couching their competition with the state for the regions resources with genuine demands that obviates the need for asking the question, “What has the state been doing for the last 50 years?”

The avid follower of events since political independence would recall the concept of the ‘developmental state’ that heralded the proliferation of new states since the culmination of the Second World War. But while it can be argued that these brood of former colonies were merely reinforcements of the prevailing international political economy, and that their development have either been stymied or supported to grow, benefiting from catalysts provided by the political and economic power poles of the international system, consideration is given of the fact that there exist an embarrassment of endowments spread across the vastness of the landmass of Nigeria that it can well provide in abundance for the nearly 200 Million peoples that have been destined to live as one within her geographical confines, leaving considerable surplus that can well be invested in the millions more unborn Nigerians that would inhabit these lands long after our generation must have departed.

A flip through the nations dailies would indeed raise serious questions on the sustainability of the Nigerian project on the eve of her golden jubilee of sovereign existence. Judging from the reports being provided by the heroes of the contemporary struggle, the courageous newshound, who permeate the armour of the petite bourgeoisie to provide us common proletarians with much needed enlightenment, a projection into the next fifty years seem littered with pain, with the peoples perennially subjected to a vicious cycle of poverty.

It must be mentioned that the heart which one shows in actually purchasing a newspaper publication reflects the unrelenting spirit of the average Nigerian citizen who is not put off by the economic tailspin which the global financial meltdown had inflicted on an already dysfunctional domestic economy. Many have remained unrelenting, sacrificing at least 100 of our distressed Naira currency, to be in the know of the scheming and shenanigans of the political gladiators that bestride the political space. This token amount could well be the difference between ones status and position in the international classification of poverty. These ones actually contribute to the contemporary Nigerian debate, with their hope that it would yield to a genuine social contract that would bind the essence of our togetherness and genuine nationhood.

This emerging national debate, which if it must be said have been consistently and consciously shirked by the party going on in the Federal Capital Territory is proving to be like the proverbial light that cannot be hid. Unfortunately however, the appropriate mechanisms for engaging in such debates under the contemporary constituted order are rather preoccupied with more mundane things, as both the green and red sides of the divide are as yet enmeshed in their attempts to define and redefine protocol over a year after their respective committees were convened. Meanwhile, quite ominously, the continuous search for where ‘Satan’ is domiciled makes headline news. How else could have the Nigerian populace been aware of the fact that ‘sciances’ and exorcisms still exist in the upper echelon of both the national state and its sub national appendages?

The average Nigerian is indeed rewarded when he debates the hypocrisy of the assumedly religious politicians. For the same pages one confronts state and public officials, indicted of one deviant act or the other, gleefully posing for nude photographic shots within the deep recesses of fetish primitivism, are the same pages that these officials give thanks with pomp and pageantry in various religious institutions and denominations, thanking God probably for aiding them in their successful actions of primitive accumulation. Makes one to wonder which God is actually being worshipped.

It is no more news when gross incompetence is reported. What becomes news is the size and degree of appropriation. For that observer since independence, the brazenness of the late 20th century pale into insignificance when compared with the bizarre of the 21st century thus far. Some years ago, $12 Billion was lamented to high heavens and personal aggrandizement was redefined with platforms constructed for the storage of filthy lucre in some quarters. Those were the heady days of the ‘gap toothed general’ and the ‘dark goggled one’. However, little did we know that we were being primed for the incredulous when colossal sums were mentioned in a plethora of graft cases, from Halliburton to Siemens, to the unspecified monies of the power probes and the irony of the Rural Electrification scam where a hunter has paradoxically become the hunted, amongst countless of others.

Expectations that the emerging democratic order would bring with it the goods that the battered people badly needed continue to fizzle with the passage of time, and the Nigerian people who marched on into democracy and the new century with a hope borne of the fact that our collective experience as a nation would place the new political and ruling elite in good stead to recalibrate the trajectory of the nations political and socio-economic development have been disappointed to say the least. What has become of the sacrifices made in sweat and blood, the aftermath of the post June 12 pro democracy battles? Have they all been in vain? Where is transparency and accountability? What happened to the rule of law that we were all promised?

The story since the turn of the century have been founded on hollow growth and a haphazard and directionless policy regime, that does the common man no good. Governance has been abused and the system had been intentionally and consciously corrupted to maintain the access which some small fraction of the populace have to the paraphernalia of state. By incorporating segments of the economic, military, traditional and religious elites, this hybrid Polygarchy have let loose the fangs of the state on other sectors of the society, replicating itself at various sub state levels, for the sole purpose of self preservation. Protecting its networks of puns by promoting double standards, while meting selective justice for appeasement purposes, and for the benefit of the sycophantic cadre who see their role as official applause providers for state policies, good or bad. Under this reality therefore, it is hardly surprising that there is a morbid competition to accumulate bordering on the insane. With a false paradigm orientation entrenched by the discredited capitalistic notions copied from the colonial dispensation, capital accumulation had been turned on its head in its expression in Nigeria, and her economy is being sabotaged from within under a presumed logic of neo classical liberalism.

A computation of figures arrived at from some of the alleged misappropriations since 1999 would amount to all or most of the annual budget of many of the states in Sub Saharan Africa. With the political class consuming almost half of the nations budget each year, it is begging the question why the country has remained the way it is in an increasingly globalizing 21st century, disarticulated, disjointed, disillusioned and underdeveloped.

However, this piece is not meant for lamenting the subsisting state in Nigeria, as that job has become the favorite pastime of our political leaders, who when not lamenting our absence from the congregation of states that would form the core of the emerging international economic order (if not political as well), are either lamenting the snub given by the American head of states’ below par rating of the country’s efforts at governance, or lamenting their incapacity at providing a paltry 6000 Megawatts, power capacity that would not be able to scratch the surface of our drive towards being amongst one of the top 20 economies in about a decade from today. Even consistent failures at ensuring that the federal road networks are failure free are no longer news, not when the Lagos/Apapa federal roads he vein of the nations economy, are in a critical condition of disrepair.

Our leaders should know by now that tears and emotion laden tones do not make good roads, nor do they lead to development and economic prosperity. Even, their various throng of ‘abracadabra’ specialists would have told them so. One can recall a few years ago when a federal minister, fully fatigued in construction gear with a safety hat to match, along the Benin-Ore-Lagos Federal Highway, exhibited her enviable talents at ‘stagecraft’ in the glare of lights and cameras, but two years down the road, we are yet to see concrete action, and she was appropriately rewarded for that spectacle with another ministerial position and her continuous presence in the midst of the noveau aristocrats in their midweek backslappings and camera sessions.

Now when the nations educational sector lie prostrate, parties are being held by actors in the midst of the crisis, and more fundamental issues are trivialized with an emphasis on income. It is beyond the rationalizing of the authorities that education and a sound academic base provide the fulcrum on which growth in knowledge is firmed upon, and that for our educational institutions to rate at par with its contemporaries from other parts of the world, infrastructural development and better funding is required. While talks of accelerating the development efforts of the Niger Delta was ongoing, the subsisting regime chose to mark its two years in office with carnage in Gbaramatu, following this up with an offer of amnesty that few have subscribed to due to it’s disregard for the local oil bearing communities exploited these past fifty years and its lack of a sustainable post amnesty framework.

As if to rub the scale of its insensitivity to the Niger Delta in, the state had proposed, via the suspect Petroleum Industry Bill some unacceptable proposals that underlie the constant insinuations held by this most deprived of peoples that some individuals within the polity actually feel that the state exist at their behest. What can one say about a minister who has been in the corridors of the petroleum industry, and have not only amassed stupendous wealth as a result, but has also contributed to the rot over the last three decades making unguarded statements and utterances belying his comprehension of the immensity of a problem he cannot deny not being a major party to?

It is a sad testimony that when some elements should be called to account for their years of association with the development of underdevelopment in the country, statements that emanate from them are fraught with provocation and an air of imperial aloofness. Over $400 Billion have been frittered away by previous regimes and governments, according to the United Nations and the World Bank, many of the current officials of state were at various points active partakers of previous governments, but no one is asking for stewardships, much less prosecutions. Similar events are unfolding before our very eyes as the rate at which the nations surplus crude accounts and foreign reserves is being depleted, decreasing over 30% the last 12 months with no significant improvement in any of the ntions domestic developmental index, gives one cause for concern. At this rate, by the time of the 2011 elections, the nation might not have up to $10 Billion in her foreign reserves, while calls are already on for a second term for the present regime. At a point when reasonable rational heads of governments of more developed countries apologize for government failure and take responsibility for inefficiency, our African leaders continue to foist themselves on their hapless peoples, disregarding norms and harboring interests of self perpetuation in power irrespective of performance or otherwise.

Rather, this piece is for the Nigerian citizen who see through the crocodile tears and unguarded statements of state officials, and hold a firm belief in the bright and positive future of our nation without cosmetic attempts at (re)branding. This piece is for all those who daily flock the news stands, wanting to know, and still wanting to know more, for their belief that one day they will gather and comment on the positives that emanate from the system and reminisce on the dark days of the insane polity when the ‘lunatic minority’ held sway. This piece is for the brave news editor/reporter who despite threats, blackmail and a hostile working environment, where the freedom of information is stifled and harangued and mere reporting of the state of health of public officials could land one in the comfortable confines of State Security detention centres, continue to hold tenaciously to the principles of their profession. This piece is for all Nigerians who feel betrayed when the nation has to stand in line and beg the G8 and other High Income Countries for bread crumbs when the nation is fully capable of baking her own pies and teaching others the art of industry and productivity.

This piece is also for the African brethren domiciled in Africa. As our leaders have restated their determination to make those difficult choices that will enable them deal with the complex challenges facing Africa, and since they have recognized that the responsibility for peace and development rests squarely on their shoulders (paraphrasing President Umaru Yar Aduas recent G8 speech), it is only a hope that Africa can hope. That rhetoric begin to be backed up with action, and that genuine efforts be made by African leaders towards meeting the welfare and developmental needs of her peoples by genuinely working towards realizing the goals and targets of eradicating poverty and human suffering.

According to the United Nations Under Secretary General For Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, writing in the 2008 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) Report, all citizens of the world, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, have the right to expect that their leaders fulfill the commitments made towards achieving these set of developmental goals. The Nigerian citizen has a right to development, and it is not a privilege.

But a flip through the dailies imbues one with less cause for confidence. But to the good Nigerian citizen, and to the African who have gone through the trouble of flipping through the days dailies, this writer says courage. Trouble may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A lamentation song

Hear oh my ear a great lamentation
the fall of a man equals a fallen nation
Hasten to make a great show of grief
for this night will belong to the thief

There is a gloom at dawn on the noon of man
let the wailing be heard over all creation
See he sought to create an imitation
now a perfect work has become imperfect

In all still subject to the earth
even as the watchman gives the warning call
Just as the expansive beyond begins to burn all
more like light from the searing sun

In the many things that will never be certain
in the midst of these tears and toil
A pall on the sight blurs a vision
but even man still has a mission

The blood the moon cried dried too soon
emptied into depths in the bowels of the earth
How the mighty belied reason
how the mighty proved no less a person

From far fathoms of the deep, seas of souls are seen
the time and tide become mild if we abide
These eyes see a bringing low of mountains
where the wilderness swallowed regurgitated fountains

To every time occurring there is an appointed time
so the lamentation holds us all attention
As the wild winds of the world blow strong
it is each one to their lamentation song

Dedicated to the victims of the recent Eki'edo fire disaster

Saturday, March 28, 2009

As the lights went off...

Today was marked worldwide as the world Earth day, and something that enjoyed wide appeal worldwide was it's marking with a "one hour light's off" ceremony to draw attention to the energy and environmental issues that are critical to the sustainability of life on Earth. The Earth hour this year was truly significant. The very first event held was in the city of Sydney, Australia in 2007. A year later, some four hundred cities joined in the call to politicians and decision makers to take bolder action to stem the tide of climate change. This year however, over four thousand cities joined in this campaign of global significance as the environmental issues continue to gain more relevance in the psyche of the Earths inhabitants, in the midst of a global crisis of multifaceted dimensions. Even as the global financial meltdown is still assumed to have as yet reached it's nadir, the onus on the decision makers in world affairs to take immediate action to mitigate an awaiting calamity, as a deterioration of the planets climate and environmental conditions would far more exceed the limits of mankind's capabilities to manage should necessary warnings are not heeded today.

With the wind down of the Kyoto Protocol due in 2012, and the expectation that the Copenhagen Summit in Denmark later in the year holds, it is important to take into cognisance that the efforts of the international state system be in correlation with the genuine needs of the entire inhabitants of our common heritage, the Planet Earth, as not only a bequeathal to one, but a bequeathal to all the entirety of humanity. As the contemporary system was left a legacy to our generation, we must strive to leave a befitting legacy for the generations yet unborn.

This is by no means implying that the Earth can be healed in our lifetime, but reason dictates that we begin that process of recovery, at least to such an extent that it can be progressively built upon by those ones who would assume such responsibilities long after our generation and most probably, our childrens', might have passed on. The challenge starts now, further delay might prove costly for life as we know it to be. The reality of extinct lifeforms from the field of Paleontology is ample evidence that catastrophes (terrestrial or extra-terrestrial) of incomprehensible magnitude can occur and has occurred, leading to total annihilation of once predominant and flourishing lifeforms.

Well, this is not meant to be a doomsday sermon however as that might be a distant probability at this moment. It is only hoped that with the rhetoric of international collaborative, cooperative and coordinated camaraderie fleeting across the speech of the worlds political elite in the face of the subsisting economic crisis, the necessity for a realistic pragmatism would win through, and climate friendly policies would be incorporated not just in the statute books of international diplomacy, but also in the minds, consciousness and orientations of each and every one of the 6.5 Billion (and counting...) individuals in the world today. At least, for the international capitalist system to remain the focal ideological perspective of a Globalizing 21st century world, there has to be an environmentally sustainable way of harnessing the worlds plethora of energy sources.

Oh, and one might want to ask, how was the day marked in Benin City? Well, there was actually no consumption of electricity for most parts of the day, this was not due to any premeditated or deliberate efforts of the citizenry at marking an event that was marked in all the regions of the globe (as most were not even aware of the occasion). Rather, the notoriety of the national power grid meant no power supply for most parts of the nation, and in the stipulated hours between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm, most of the households in the city (and in many other parts of the country as well) were powered by generating sets which actually contribute a significant percentage of Nigeria's over 100,000 Metric Tonnes of CO2 emissions, about 0.4 % of the total world percentage. And the lights are still off...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good people, great nation. What about governance?

If there ever was an inspiring slogan, it has to be the one that was constructed by the team assembled by the irrepressible Dr. Dora Akunyili, the present Minister of Information who made a credible name for herself in her popular campaign against fake and sub-standard drugs while in the drivers seat of the National Agency For Food And Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). This new initiative at branding the nation by the Yar-Adua administration was heralded with such pomp and peagentry, chopping up some few hours off of airtime on national television. Although the rhetoric is rebranding Nigeria, the exercise in it's very conception reeks of an attempt in futility.

This in itself does not signify an attempt to demean the significance of this new project, rather, in the consciousness of the average Nigerian, there really are things that need to be done that would fundamentally engender development and progress of the contemporary Nigerian society, are these things being done? In the speech read on his behalf by the Vice President, President Yar Adua was quoted thus, "If we as a nation must meet the MDGs, we must readily put in place a positive perception of Nigeria". It was surprising to witness yesterday that for an event which is being marketed to the over 140 Million peoples of Nigeria as the step that would lead us to our own developmental eldorado, the President and CEO of the Nigerian project was conspiciously absent. Not only was his esteemed presence missing, neither the Senate President nor the Speaker of the House deemed it neccessary to grace such a momentous occassion as the official "rebranding Nigeria" ceremony.

The read speech of Mr. President left so much to be desired, his absence from the ceremony was far from encouraging, and the good image which the Information Minister had garnered over the years is at the risk of being tarnished by the very forces which she so willingly intend to please by her image laundering attempts. The powers that be are very well comfortable with the status quo and until this decadent structure of the state is reformed, nothing much should be expected from the people as they have been giving their best all these years and cannot be expected to do more than the scope that the restraining Nigerian state had foisted on them.

Much as most of the nation had been forced to watch the wanton abuse of political office and power, much as security of lives and property had been threatened by an insecure state, much as injustices left unattended to for years had been left to fester into full blown internecine violence, much as education and infrastructure had been deliberately allowed to depreciate and dilapidate, the Nigerian people had remained unwavering, tenacious, resolute in their belief that "one day, e go better". The average Nigerian is confident, she will choose to be industrious in the face of challenges and he will work his socks off to fend for his family with a belief that it can be done. So, for the fact that the President feels the need to embark on a campaign for Nigerians to, "once more have confidence in themselves and in Nigeria" seem rather ambiguous and more like a cosmetic reason for a project that should hold so much hope.

It was interesting to hear the speech touch on the image that the nation is viewed by the international community, but what happens when the world sees Nigeria on CNN and BBC as one good and great nation, and elections are still witnessed to be replete with irregularities with questionable decisions from the Judicial processes? When a vast number of the people are without adequate electricity supply that perpetually cast the nation as a dark spot on the globe when viewed from outer space satellite images? This is a country where official transparency is shadowed in official oath taking ceremonies and accountability is being truncated by the sabotaging efforts of the anti "Freedom Of Information Bill" advocates. No element of window dressing ever keeps the cracks invisible from the naked eye, the practical thing to do is to replace a louver.

Listening to the Vice President speak, one must've wondered what was going on through his mind when he reeled out some beautifully constructed vocabs, consolidating the impression that Nigerians are indeed a great people. Even the original owners of the English language would be green with envy when they listen to the words as penned by the presidential speech writer. Hear, "The campaign signifies a renewed dawn to our collective interests to reorient, and embrace positive values of accountability, selfless service, diligence, transparency, abiding pride in our country which will not only drive the maximization of our creative and productive energy, but also diagnose a shared and progressive interest". I guess if the above were to be intepreted in the average Nigerian Pidgin English to the rural dweller in Biri'Nafada in Gombe state, or the peasant cassava farmer in Ugboha, Edo State, or to the average motor boy in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun state or the market woman in Mbaise, Imo state, they would express similar sentiments. Sentiments that they see the government as a good initiator of programmes, but a bad implementer of them.

Sorry for sounding harsh, but fifty years of a common history, fifty years of aborted programmes (laudable as some might have been), fifty years of failed promises, fifty years of misrule and corruption and inefficiency and ineptitude on the part of the state, fifty years of directionlessness and a wanton disregard for the yearnings and aspirations of the people are enough to cause one to at this point take any highfalutin rhetoric from a government that has been a part of the rot for the last two years of our history without meaningful significant change in the socio, political economic life of the nation, with a pinch of salt.

The Seven Point Agenda remains just that, an agenda, and the Vision 20 20 20 might just as well remain a vision in the light of the subsisting economic crisis which is defying the intellectual capacities of those saddled with the enormous task of managing the economy for the millions of hard working Nigerians who are at risk of experiencing the effects of delayed and brittle economic policies. The MDGs of which the President is so fond of mentioning (maybe due to it's technical sounding nature in speeches) is hardly being met by Nigeria, as we are neither on the road to achieving any nor are we making meaningful efforts towards achieving them except for the basic education goal which if not for a culture of education in the some parts of the country would have been mired in its non-accomplishment as there are as yet remains that big push required to engender a universal education policy that would benefit all parts of the nation.

While not apportioning blames, while identifying with the fact that even this writer is not trying to be "holier than thou", we must begin to address certain realities. Have we not discovered ourselves? The president said it is not about celebrating our failings, but about recognizing them and challenging ourselves and rising above it. Fine, agreed and accepted, lets do that now. The state is the problem in Nigeria, the state and all it's agents have been hijacked by thugs and charlatans in the garb of leadership. When a nation is being ruled by rogues whose political language is violent and well met with the violence evidenced in our electoral and political process, what does one expect governance to be?

Remember Mr. President that upon assumption of duties on that fateful May day in 2007, your speech was inspiring in its rhetoric of "rule of law" and a "zero tolerance for corruption". Two years down the line, how would your administration be assessed based on these two criteria alone?

Now the challenge is to the state and not to the Nigerian people. The way we speak, our utterances and our actions, as Dr. Akunyili mentioned, are just a reflection of the ripple effects of communication dissemination as emanating from the state being dispensed to the polity. The state takes the lead in any attempt at national development and the onus should not be on the people.

If the people see murderers and rapists go unpunished, if the people see that corruption is celebrated and flaunted by the state and her many networks of patron-client relationships, if the people see that justice is being transformed into a commodity that is subject to market forces, if the people see their taps without water and their roads riddled with death traps, if the people continue to power their subsistence existence on fuel powered generators, if the people cannot have the basic necessities of a life that is expected of such an endowed nation in the 21st century , then ten thousand branding or rebranding attempts would continue to meet with the failures earlier experienced by prior half hearted attempts at cosmetic surgery on the nations image. The "Heart of Nigeria Project" is a recent sad reminder of the cost of such failures with it's over 1 Billion Naira expenditure.

But must we continue to embark on such white elephant projects, rather than lining the pockets of a few individuals, such sum might have been invested in creating cottage industries, or awarding PHD grants or other educational/academic research, among the many other positive things that would have had a more positive impact on the nation, but we all know that even with it's been classified a monumental failure, no one would be held accountable why such a project was allowed to fail.

Like we mentioned earlier, we are good people, great nation? Potentially maybe, yes. We have the potentials to be great, but whether we attain greatness would depend on the goodness of our governance and the actions of the leadership of this nation at this critical point in our collective history and not on some official ceremony that does not hold much of a significance as to attract the presence of the heads of the three arms of government.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Beginnings

Being the text of the 2009 Edo State Budget read on the floor of the State House Of Assembly on Monday, 16th February 2009 by The Executive Governor Of Edo State, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole:

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Edo State House of Assembly

1. Introduction

I wish to express my profound appreciation to the Honourable House for the opportunity to present
The 2009 Budget Estimates for Edo State. Let me again use this occasion to acknowledge and appreciate the magnitude of cooperation extended to my administration over several issues that have arisen in the interaction between the Executive and Legislative arms of government. I wish to assure you of my irrevocable commitment to sustaining this partnership. This is necessary for the progress of Edo State and the welfare of our people.

2. Our Approach to budgeting

As the first budget presentation of this administration, it is necessary for me to re-state that we take the budgetary process very seriously. Therefore, the preparation and presentation of our budgets will not be a mere-annual ritual. Accordingly, we have thoroughly analysed the desirability and feasibility of all the capital projects while the recurrent headings have been painstakingly scrutinised and streamlined.

3. The 2009 Budget - Overall Vision

Mr. Speaker, the 2009 budget is a Budget of a New Beginning.

It is designed to kick-start the integrated, accelerated, sustainable and people-driven development of Edo State. Our vision is to transform Edo State qualitatively through the empowerment of our people with the resources, infrastructures, institutions and all-inclusive policies to enable them live more productive and secure lives.

In Edo State, for too long, it has been Government as usual, to the unfortunate extent that the people have virtually resigned to the notion that government is a burden, rather than an institution for meeting popular aspirations. We insist that our people are entitled to a government that works and a society that cares.

In consultation with major segments of the populace and the various agencies of government, this administration has identified the major development challenges we need to confront, namely:

1. Poor infrastructure, especially intra-city and rural roads;

2. Unemployment;
3. Poor agricultural output and a primitive rural economy;
4. Flooding, erosion and other forms of man-made environmental nuisance, including the
wilful blocking and non-maintenance of existing drainages, particularly in Benin City;
5. A decadent public school system;
6. Poor and inaccessible public health facilities;
7. Insecurity of lives and property;
8. Absence of potable water; •

9. A top-heavy, poorly trained, ill-equipped and thus under-performing public service and
high overhead costs;

10. Housing shortage;
11. A chaotic transportation system, especially intra-city;
12. Epileptic power supply and absence of electricity in most of the rural areas;
13. A hostile operating environment for productive activities in the real sector.

Our communities in the oil producing and riverine areas have peculiar and more acute problems inflicted by the natural terrain and the environmental consequences of oil exploration.

Addressing these and other multifarious crises certainly requires a huge outlay of financial resources. Yet, we have assumed stewardship at a time of a deepening global financial crisis and steady erosion of the capacity of national, state and municipal governments to deal with development challenges.
Today in Edo State like the rest of Nigeria, we are confronted with a drastic decline in revenue arising largely from the persistent fall in allocations from the Federation Accounts. This is compounded by our meagre internally generated revenue. At an average of N350 million monthly as internally generated revenue, Edo State is grossly under-performing. All we earn in taxes is one-quarter of the monthly personnel and overhead costs.

Worse still, we met the state in a total mess. In the period immediately preceding our tenure, the massive inflows of monthly revenues, including those from the Excess Crude Account and Paris Club Debt Forgiveness Funds, were squandered. Not only were the funds squandered, Prof Osunbor left a total liability of N9.8 billion, made up of N5.1 billion in approved vouchers and a N4.7 billion loan.
This administration met very many abandoned and poor quality capital projects, especially roads and drainages, which were clearly designed to siphon funds. Not only were the contracts inflated, the quality of execution was a far cry from the massive sums paid to contractors, most of whom lacked the requisite capacity to execute the projects. The result is that in spite of the over N50 billion Prof Osunbor received from the Federation Accounts in 18 months, there is no evidence that much had happened in the life of the people. In some cases, it was established that cash withdrawals were made from Government accounts and paid into private bank accounts.

Our covenant with Edo State is to place government at the service of the people, who had fought so hard and made heroic sacrifices to install it. It follows therefore, that we will not join the bandwagon of lamentations and prophecies of tougher times for the people. Today, the challenge is to provide a more imaginative and purposeful leadership, to re-order our priorities, eliminate wastages and manage available scarce resources prudently, in order to meet the high expectations of the people. This will require looking inwards to tap available sources of revenue and block all leakages.

4. The 2009 Budget - Objectives and Priorities

Our major objective this fiscal year is to stimulate employment-led productive activities, create additional jobs, improve infrastructures, combat poverty and enhance the quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, in order to maximise the impact of the limited resources available, we have carefully re-appraised the challenges I outlined earlier; we have also carefully determined the priority areas for decisive intervention this fiscal year. Much as it is desirable to address all the identified problem areas, the fact of very limited resources makes this impossible. Therefore, we have identified three major critical priority areas for decisive government intervention this fiscal year. Mr. Speaker, these areas are:

1. Roads;
2. Drainage rehabilitation, flooding and erosion control; and
3. Primary and post-primary education.

Even as we have identified these priority areas, we are also focusing more particularly on Benin City this fiscal year in order to deal decisively with the flooding and erosion problems. After diligent evaluation, the expert opinion is that disilting the drainages and fixing the erosion and flooding crisis require a holistic approach based on the Benin City master plan. Such a holistic approach will require. massive investment in construction and a substantial capital outlay to mobilise highly reputable and competent contractors to the sites. This government wants to avoid the ineffective piecemeal approach of the past and the use of roadside and emergency contractors, selected based on political patronage. This explains why we have devoted nearly a third of the capital budget this fiscal year to restoring the Benin City master plan.

The idea is to avoid the mistake of the past, which was to spread funds too thinly every where and make no impact anywhere. While some might argue that this new and holistic approach is not equitable, the reality is that Benin City is home to people from all the other local governments. This means that the positive social and economic effects of this investment will accrue to all. In any event, the benefit of an elected government with a clear four-year mandate is that over the rest of our tenure, this administration will execute projects in other sectors and the rest of the State, such that the entirety of the people will ultimately feel the impact of development. Therefore, it is not this year or never! Of course, we have also allocated funds for capital projects in the areas of health, water, rural electrification, industry, sports, agriculture and other areas.

5. Highlights of the 2009 budget

Mr. Speaker, the sum of N75.54 billion is being proposed for the 2009 fiscal year. The breakdown is as follows:

1. Recurrent revenues - N35.66 billion;
2. Capital receipts - N39,88 billion.

The projected revenue is made up of the following components:

1. Statutory allocation - N20 billion
2. Internally generated revenue - N15.6 billion
3. The 13% mineral Derivation N0.50 billion
4. VAT - N4.72 billion
5. Ecological Fund - N3.00 billion

Out of the N75.54 billion, the sum of N45.38 billion is allocated to capital projects while N30.17 billion is proposed as recurrent expenditures. This budget, however, contains a deficit of N20.5 billion, which we intend to fund through borrowing.

Mr. Speaker, it is instructive to note that this administration has made deliberate efforts to reverse the disproportionate relationship between capital and recurrent expenditures, which was in the past skewed in favour of recurrent spending. The cumulative effect of deploying more funds into general administration and recurrent expenditures is that public finance management had over the years been consumptionist rather than developmental. The backbone of the 2009 budget is capital projects. This is why we have allocated 60% of the total budget towards capital expenditures.

Mr. Speaker, I will now outline the capital projects for the 2009 fiscal year and share with you this administration’s rationale:

6. Capital Projects

6.1. Roads

In this fiscal year, we intend to take bold and decisive steps to improve the quality of our roads, which are death traps and a nightmare to motorists and commuters. All over the world, the quality of roads positively affects the standards of living of the people. Good quality roads reduce maintenance costs on vehicles, enable commercial operators to charge reasonable fares, reduce repetitive stress and allow citizens more time for productive activities. Therefore, we have allocated N14.60 billion to roads and N10.70 billion to drainage, erosion ‘and flooding control mainly in Benin City this fiscal year. The road construction projects will be integrated with efforts to address the flooding challenge and generally beautify the city. These substantial allocations to roads, drainages and beautification constitute part of a broader strategy of gradually but steadily transforming our capital city into a 21st century metropolis.

We believe that this investment in the transformation of Benin City is justified in the first budget year. More than any other city in the state, Benin increasingly absorbs a heavy population from rural and provincial centres, in and outside Edo State, which continues to exert enormous pressure on infrastructures.

Mr. Speaker, the road projects to be executed will be durable, aesthetically appealing, functional and capable of enduring future population expansion and increased vehicular traffic. For instance, the Airport Road and the Ugbowo Road will be expanded to six lanes, complete with streetlights, drainages, sidewalks and other features of a durable modern highway. To guarantee the attainment of these high technical specifications, Government will mobilise capable and reputable contractors.

However, even as we concentrate on Benin this fiscal year, this administration has allocated funds to some road projects in the other Senatorial Districts. These details are provided in the main budget document, which I will present to Mr. Speaker shortly.

In addition, we have provided funds for the establishment of a Public Works Agency. This agency will execute repairs of failed surfaces as they develop and keep our highways in motorable conditions all the year round. The agency will be responsible for sanitation, traffic management, beautification, enforcement of environmental laws and urban renewal in general.

6.2. The Flooding and Drainage Challenge
The flooding and erosion challenge in Benin City is formidable indeed, which explains the substantial allocation we have made this year. This will enable us to mobilise reputable contractors to the most critical sites, to clear blocked channels and construct new ones.

In addition, Government will evolve tough measures to deal with the abuse of town planning, land use and environmental laws. We have to take painful but necessary measures to demolish houses erected on the moat and other natural drainage paths.

6.3. Education
Mr. Speaker, the next major area of focus this fiscal year is primary and post-primary education, which attracts over N5 billion. To arrest the systemic decay in our school system requires massive investments on infrastructures in the short term. Our contract with Edo people in the area of education is that we must give our children the quality of education that will ultimately enable them to break out of the poverty cycle. Consistent with our resolve to reform the public school system, we will embark on the construction and furnishing of new standard classrooms in the 18 local governments. Funds have also been allocated to commence the establishment of a model primary and secondary school in each local government area and two in Oredo local government area. The administration will rehabilitate and furnish existing classrooms all over the state.

From this amount, Government will equip and reinvent the inspectorate arm of the Ministry of Education in our quest to improve standards in the public schools on a sustained basis.

Another N1 billion has been set aside for some of the capital requirements of the Ambrose Ali University. This is in addition to the allocations for capital projects in the other state-owned higher institutions. In the course of the year, we will finalise discussions with the authorities, staff and students of these higher institutions on how to deal with their capital requirements on a holistic basis in subsequent budget years.

The total allocation to education, therefore, is N6.5 billion, which is more than a 300% increase over the preceding year.

6.4. Health
Mr. Speaker, this administration is determined to give effect to our commitment to provide quality curative and preventive care in order to improve the health status of our population. This year, Government will commence with the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Central Hospitals in Auchi, Benin City and Uromi.

As in other sectors, the severity of the crisis in the healthcare delivery system cannot be tackled in one budget year. However, we believe that with the allocation of N1.74 this year, we shall make substantial impact that can be built on in the subsequent fiscal dispensations.

6.5. Security,
This administration will continue to make efforts to guarantee the security of lives and property. In this respect, we will continue to support the Edo State Police with the means to combat crime.

Furthermore, Government is currently engaging the leadership of the Edo State Police Command on operational modalities for the establishment of a rapid intervention squad.

The security challenge requires partnership with the private sector. Therefore, this administration will launch the Edo State Security Trust Fund which will be jointly managed by Government and the

Private Sector.

Mr. Speaker, a fundamental element of our security strategy is the mass employment programme, for which provision has been made in the budget. Even our security chiefs in the State Security Council fully agree with me that the most viable and sustainable means to fight crime is secured employment for the mass of our people, especially the youths.

6.6. Administration of Justice

Mr. Speaker, if we must guarantee access to justice and truly promote the rule of law, the challenge is to give infrastructural empowerment to the judiciary. This administration will commence this process this fiscal year with the renovation of the State high court complex in Benin, renovation of magistrate courts all over the state and construction of some quarters for judges and magistrates.

6.6. Mass Transit

Mr. Speaker, we are determined to adopt a new and more effective approach to dealing with the urban transportation challenge. Government has provided counterpart funding towards the acquisition of some big buses for intra-city operations. The rationale for the procurement of these buses is to ensure the effective and easy mobility of passengers and goods, reduce wastage of commuters’ time and address the horrifying traffic bottlenecks, especially in the city centres. Thus, the Edo City Transport Services will be re-engineered and re-focused to provide effective intra-city service, which was the original mandate. We will also explore the possibilities of merging the Edo line and ECTS.

An immediate challenge is to eliminate the blockade and congestion of our highways. I am renewing my appeal to traders to vacate the roads and the walkways, while mini-buses, cabs and okadas should refrain from operating parks in areas not designated for that purpose. Our roads and walkways are not meant to be markets, motor-parks, mechanic workshops or places for abandoning unserviceable vehicles.

With effect from this quarter, traffic marshals and mobile courts will be deployed to sanitise our highways. Government has allocated funds to procure towing vehicles, vehicle scrap crushers and related capital equipment for this purpose.

6.7. Agriculture !.-
Government has set aside NO.39 billion to strengthen the capacity of the ADP to deliver support to farmers and procure tractors and other agricultural equipment. A major programme to be funded in the sector is the replanting of the Urhonigbe Rubber Plantation. Above all, we will encourage and partner with private investors in the area of large-scale mechanised agriculture, through the provision of land and counterpart funding where necessary.

6.8. Energy
This administration recognises that without providing our rural communities with electricity, we cannot deliver on our vision to promote cottage industry, raise rural income and improve the quality ofrural life. With an allocation of NO.81 billion this fiscal year, Government will develop infrastructures that will link about 50 rural communities to electricity supply.

6.7. Water
The sum of N1.1 billion will be allocated to some ongoing water schemes including the Benin City Water Improvement Project, Ojirami Dam Improvement Work, Iyagun Headwork, and rehabilitation of the Ugbalo/lbore Water Supply Surface Scheme. Government will also sink boreholes in many communities, so that we can raise the levels of sanitation and combat water-borne diseases in the 18 local governments.

6.8. Sports

Mr. Speaker, in the area of sports, N100 million has been allocated for capital projects in the Michael Imoudu College of Physical Education, Afuze, in order to commence its restoration as the premier training institute for sportsmen and women. The sports development budget also covers the rehabilitation of Dr Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium. The restoration and equipment of the other stadia will be executed in subsequent fiscal years.

6.9. Commerce and Industry

Through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government will disburse fund to micro-credit schemes to empower small and medium enterprises and cooperatives. This is consistent with the administration’s objective of stimulating productive activities and promoting self-employment. Government will also explore the re-capitalisation of some of the ailing public enterprises through partnership with the private sector.

6.10. General Administration

Mr. Speaker, in order to function with optimum effectiveness in the implementation of public policies, this government is committed to improving level of performance, competence and commitment of the public service in Edo State. This fiscal year, Government will ease the office accommodation crisis by completing the C and D Blocks in the State Secretariat as a starting point. This is in addition to the provision of vehicles, office equipment and internet-connected computers. In our recurrent budget, provision has been made for training, retreats and similar capacity-development programmes to boost the performance of the public service.

6.11. Other Sectors
Mr. Speaker, the provision for capital projects in the other sectors are as follows:

- Arts, culture and tourism - N178.36 million
- Information - N264.10 million
- Land and Survey - N260.20 million
- Women Affairs & Social Development - N450. million
- Oil Producing Areas Development - N604 million

7. Implementation Strategies

Although, our budget of N75.54 billion is N1.84 billion less than the preceding year, we will adopt creative strategies to ensure greater performance and attain much better value for the money expended.

7.1. Performance in Meeting IGR Target

The performance of this budget is predicated largely on the attainment of the high Internally Generated Revenue target of N15 billion. In furtherance of meeting the target, this administration will overhaul the IGR machinery. I will personally take charge of this process.

The reality today is that we cannot meet our needs by depending on the Federation Accounts, which is itself under-performing because of the steady decline in oil revenues. Indeed, the growing use of bio fuels and the aggressive research into alternative energy sources in the world will invariably result in less demand for oil, and ultimately less income for mono-cultural economies like Nigeria.

Progressive development thinking requires that we plan ahead and upscale internal generation of revenues, especially taxes, levies and charges for services. This process will commence this fiscal year and I appeal for the support and cooperation of corporate and individual citizens.

7.2. Dilequent Implementation and Fiscal Governance.

This budget will be operated based on the strict application of the principles of accountability, fiscal responsibility, probity and value for money. We will intensify measures to block the vast leakages caused by over-invoicing of contracts and procurements, and outright theft of public funds, as we have established through the Assets Verification Committee.

Towards enforcing these principles, government will operate a Due Process and a Project Monitoring Unit to ensure that all projects are executed at reasonable costs in accordance with prescribed quality specifications. I believe that with these controls, coupled with public vigilance and your ove~sight scrutiny, we will give effect to our collective determination to ensure value for money.

This administration will also commence the process of full computerisation of the operations of government in order to enhance capacity to plan. This will also eliminate wastages and fraud, especially in such areas as Salary and Pension administration, revenue collection, project monitoring and expenditure tracking.

7.3. Effective Oversight and Monitoring

Mr. Speaker, we will establish an Economic Team made up of a highly specialised pool of technical expertise beyond what is institutionally available. This team will provide critical and independent perspectives to guide the implementation of the budget and economic planning in general.

7.4. Popular Participation

While Government will rely on experts, the ultimate advisers will be the people. In executing this budget, we will use the tools of popular consultation and popular participation to ensure that the people remain part of every step that government takes. In furtherance of involving the people in the implementation of the budget, there will be regular town hall meetings and sectoral engagements with stakeholders in the 18 Local Government Areas.

7.5. Building Partnerships

This administration will continue to work in partnership with Mr. President and the relevant agencies of the Federal Government towards the successful implementation of the budget. As I have acknowledged before, Mr. President has been supportive of our development aspirations in Edo State. We will deepen this synergy between the Federal Government and the Edo State Government for the economic development of our state and the overall prosperity of our nation.

We recognise that government alone cannot bear all the burden of financing development, especially with the current inauspicious economic scenario. Therefore, we need partnerships with the private sector and fresh investments in the State. I wish to assure the private sector and new investors of the administration’s readiness to provide appropriate incentives, including counterpart funding.

Let me also assure the International Development Community of our readiness for constructive partnerships in our priority areas and in meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. with the reforms in fiscal governance, which we have initiated in Edo State, there will be better value and greater output for development assistance.

In the final analysis, the successful implementation of this budget lies in the effective engagement with the people. I am convinced that our people have what it takes to transform Edo State and make it a positive reference point for people-oriented governance. But Mr. Speaker, in this transformative process, leadership is critical. Our duty to the people is to provide creative and committed leadership that will inspire the people to unleash their creative energies, will and resourcefulness. Ultimately, the resourcefulness and energies of the people remain the major catalyst for development.

As leaders of both the Executive and Legislative arms of government, we have a duty to share the burden of finding solutions to the problems that confront our people. We have to set aside political and other differences, provide purposeful stewardship to the people and give them hope in a new and better Edo State. In this regard, all arms of government will have to make severe sacrifices particularly in the areas of overhead expenditures in the light of dwindling resources.

I am conscious of the heroic sacrifices and efforts that Edo people invested in bringing about change in Edo State. We will not betray the trust, confidence and support of the people. We will do everything that is humanly possible to meet the aspirations and collective expectations of our people, to ensure that we do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.

I wish to appeal for your patience and understanding, especially in relation to the bad roads and floods in Benin. In order to get the best value from our expenditures on roads and drainage in Benin, we must holistically revisit the master-plan. This will naturally take some time. Thus, the reality is that not much can be done before onset of the rainy season. However, when are done with this holistic approach, flooding and erosion in Benin would have been eradicated before the next rainy season.

At this point, allow me, Mr. Speaker, to express my appreciation to you and your colleagues once again for your partnership. I wish to thank His Majesty, the Oba of Benin, for remaining a source of moral stability and rectitude in our State. We thank our other royal fathers, religious, community and opinion leaders for the support, prayers, encouragement and advice.

I wish to salute the sacrifices made by Organised Labour, professional bodies, the market traders and self-employed, okada riders, transporters, farmers, students and youth, civil society organisations and pensioners.

Mr. Speaker, it is now my honour and pleasure to present for your deliberation and adoption the 2009 Budget Estimates for Edo State, our Budget of a New Beginning. I thank you for your attention.

Now our duty here as Edo people is to monitor the effective implementation of this budget, especially when it gets passed by the State House Of Assembly. This budget, according to the Governor is intended to bring about a new beginning for the Edo people, let us all join hands to make this a reality.