A TALKER OR A WALKER?

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Godwin Obaseki

Kassim Afegbua gives little applause to the Obaseki government in Edo

Sometime ago in 2017, I had an audience with Governor Godwin Obaseki which afforded him the opportunity to dissect his supposed developmental blueprint to me and sounded so re-assuring as one man who was prepared to take Edo development to the next level. I commended his initiatives and looked forward to their translation from blueprint to actuality. Amongst what he said was building a brand new dual carriage road from his proposed Gelegele port down to my community of Okpella, as Edo industrial hub. Okpella boasts of two cement factories and a corterie of other subsidiary factories that deal in vedspar, limestone, and granite. When I left Governor Obaseki, I decided to write a piece in this column to expatiate and simplify his agenda. He had raised my hope as I was thirsty to see his blueprint translated for the benefit of humanity. Three years down the line, that blueprint remains a pipe-dream. Instead, at different times, he threatened to shut down BUA cement in my community, that has upscaled Okpella economy through employment generation and empowerment. The Benin Industrial Park whose foundation stone was laid by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is grown with weeds as a consequence of abandonment. It is located at Benin-Sapele by-pass. Okpella proposed industrial park has not even been located let alone commenced. Aside from the billions of naira paid by BUA cement to Obaseki’s government, internal revenue from Okpella runs into several millions on a monthly basis. Comrade Oshiomhole started Okpella roads and built part of them, with the expectation that his successor Governor Obaseki would conclude them. The roads have deteriorated further as a result of erosion and flooding. Despite assurances by Governor Obaseki that he would complete the construction, the parlous state of the roads remains unpardonably disturbing.

When he visited Okpella and BUA plant, sometime in 2018, Okpella youths were agitated and accorded him hostile welcome. He left Okpella and declared 104 youths wanted. He locked three of our Palace Chiefs in Oko prison just to make the point that he has the power of arrest and jail. Those chiefs spent three months in Oko prison before reason prevailed for their release. It took my personal intervention for the 104 youths to be let off their wanted status, through engagement and assurances that I would act as guarantor for them all. Okpella youths hate injustice and would do anything within the ambit of the law to protect the industries that have become veritable platforms for jobs creation. But the government that has enjoyed so much revenue from the factory, would rather threaten the owners of BUA cement to relocate the factory to the North. It has been a ding-dong affair for quite sometime with one litigation after another to whip BUA in line.

The same scores for the agricultural project that so much has been touted about. When I personally visited the Sobe Maize Farms sometime in August 2018, shortly after I joined the PDP, I saw a direct opposite of the claims of government. I was wondering if the Sobe Maize Farms was located elsewhere. Some of the Edo farmers who should enjoy the gains of Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention, are complaining of being neglected by a government that prides itself as pro-agriculture. College of Agriculture, Iguorhiaki, which should be a resource center for formal acquisition of knowledge in agriculture, has been under lock and key for three years, on the lame excuse that the government wants to refurbish it. College of Education, Ekiadolor, which was transformed to Tayo Akpata University of Education by the Adams Oshiomhole-led administration has been under lock and key. Thanks to TETFUND assisted projects that have given the institution some face-lifts. There are verifiable tales of failed promises to the Edo youths, market women whose markets got burnt, and the artisans.

. Edo is beautiful on paper in Governor Obaseki’s world of fantasy, but allow the rains to pour down, you will see the ecological danger that threatens the people especially during rainy season. Reason: Governor Obaseki abandoned the Benin City Storm Water Master plan which was started by Oshiomhole and which ought to become one of the legacy interventions by a succeeding government. Benin City flooding has continued to dig deeper into the mould. Governor Obaseki has not desilted the drains – both primary and secondary drains since the due date of March 2017. A lot of the reclamation works have been covered up and the government appears helpless to think through this perennial problem. It will rather renovate and repaint old secretariat buildings to create the impression that Edo is working. When Comrade Adams Oshiomhole reclaimed the 5-junction through massive underlay of pipes and rechanneling of the entire flood planes, the people around the area sang songs of hosanna. From a death trap, 5-junction became one of the finest roundabouts in the City till date. About 13 streets were reclaimed in that locality with well-paved roads and street lights.

Before I depart for today, let me interrogate the EdoBest education initiative which so much hype has been given. During this Covid-19 pandemic, the state government announced to the whole world that Edo State school children were already keying into e-learning. How can government talk about e-learning when the state is not wired or internet? How can you talk of tele-learning, when electricity is epileptic in most parts of Edo State? How can you talk of e-learning when more than half of our schools cannot boast of computer education or knowledge? What the government does is to assemble a few students in one of the schools in Benin City, hand them ipads or laptops, pose for photographs and send them to their foreign partners to show them that EdoBest is on course. Most schools in Edo State, primary and Secondary schools do not have sufficient teachers. It was the reason Adams Oshiomhole set up the Agbonlahor-committee to recruit qualified teachers to shore up the gap. By the time the Committee was done with the assignment, the government had two months left to exit.

In the spirit of continuity, Oshiomhole had thought his successor would continue with the recruitment exercise and absorb them into the state civil service. Till date, the list has been abandoned on the shelves, gathering dust. Schools in my community cannot boast of sufficient teachers. How can a whole school have three teachers from JSS to SSS, in an era that the government talks about EdoBest?

Afebua was a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State