By Eddy Odivwri

Perhaps those who argue that we sought for Independence too soon, may have a point. It is not to suggest that we do not cherish our freedom and sovereignty. In six days from today, Nigeria will be 60. Looking back, how do we place the country? Have we made as much progress as we ought, given all that the good Lord has bestowed on us as a people and as a nation?

If there was a means of comparing the socio-metrics that we had during the colonial days and the ones we have had after independence, it would be clear that Nigeria had made far more reasonable progress in almost all spheres during the colonial days than we are making under independence.

Evil and crime have become so dynamic, such that they keep changing in form and tactics.

Some have argued that the all-knowing God knew what he was doing when He endowed us with so much human and material resources, knowing that we shall have leadership problems.But our case has been worsened now because both the leadership and the followership have all fallen short of grace for beneficial conducts. And this is across board.

Everywhere we turn, we are faced with a plethora of cases wherein we not only reduce our collective potential, we also jeopardise the future of upcoming generations.

In the second republic, it had been presented as a great crime, if not sin, for a top government official to award contract and demand or receive a ten per cent kickback. It was one of the many offences the regime of then Gen Mohammadu Buhari/ Maj Gen Tunde Idiagbon had to deal with. Many politicians (second republic governors especially) were sent to jail for such offences or even less.

Today, not only are contracts awarded with “MoU” of higher kickbacks between the awarder and the awardee, there is now a wholesome ‘abscondment’ with the total worth of a contract, without even visiting the site where the contract ought to be executed, let alone execute it. That is why certain contracts keep re-occurring in state and federal budgets year-in, year-out. They glibly explain it away as “know-your way”!

Perhaps there is no other place where these malaises are far more endemic than the state and National Assemblies. That is where our politicians literally commit huge robberies without arms. It is the issue of budget padding.

Hon Abdulmumin Jubrin in 2017 had introduced the new lexicon of ‘budget padding’ to our parliamentary register. Since then, and before then, it had become a running practice among parliamentarians as they often arrange with the executive to undo the treasury.

Sometimes, the total value of the padded budget is enough to transform more than one sector of the economy. Indeed, it is even worse than contract inflation which is no better evil though. With the latter, the exaggerated sum voted for the construction of a 10-kilometer road for instance, can be sufficient for the construction of 20-kilometer road, in the same terrain.

What it means is that the money that can be used to build 50 kilometer road, ends up building only 25 kilometers. We do ourselves in.

In the health sector, Health managers plus their civil servant collaborators budget huge sums for health facilities, the monies are collected, but the facilities are either never procured or are under-procured. And in times of emergencies, we lose valuable lives, needlessly, because somebody, somewhere had frisked the system. It is everywhere. They joke about it and say it is “workshop”: that where a man works, that’s where he/she would chop {eat}; as if they do not earn their legitimate income from being in employment.

The Aso Villa clinic, is notorious for not having even common drugs, yet, every year they draw down funds from the budget. Where do the monies go? We undo ourselves.

I read something during the week, allegedly written by Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, immediate past governor of Lagos State, wherein he was cataloguing the reasons he was not returned as governor of Lagos. One of it was that he refused to pad the budget with 10 per cent for the lawmakers (as the practice is?). One other reason for his being disallowed from re-contesting was because he insisted that party chieftains who collected various contracts under former Governor Raji Fashola (now Minister of Works) should execute those already awarded contracts before being awarded new ones. It must have sounded like gibberish in the ears of those who see government as an extension of their treasury. If we are not determined to undo ourselves, why would a normal person collect contract for a project, get paid, and then refuse to execute the contract? And because such persons are probably political gladiators, the law does not catch up with them. They are spared. The work remains undone. Society suffers at the expense of the unholy greed of one man or woman. How we undo ourselves!

It is even more befuddling that the governors and other top government functionaries know why these projects have failed but they cannot discuss it. They wring their hands in utter helplessness, essentially because at a higher scale, they also indulge in such ill deals.

The other day, in 2018, a clerk in JAMB office claimed that some snake swallowed N36 million. What kind of snake is that? Where was N36 million kept for a snake to swallow? Those are monies that should be used to improve a system. One fellow corners it and the system suffers. We all complain and grumble that the system is not working…. Without knowing that it is one of us who has done us in.

Recently, a scandal broke out in College of Education, Warri, where the provost of the College, soon-to-retire Prof Mrs Mary Olire Edema was said to have spent N36 million to build two toilets in the college. That was a TETFUND grant, which just had to be clerically “burnt”. How does building two toilets cost even N2 million? Yet, in that college, there will be many things missing: students will be suffering, other staff will be suffering, facilities will not be working as they ought, yet, the head of the organization is expending N36 million to build two toilets? What a prized pooh!

Or how shall we explain the National Universities Commission (NUC) which recently budgeted N8 million for research and N85 million to purchase vehicles? This is largely a research institution. What a disservice to proper prioritization!

In some universities, it is said students can now arrange to get given grades. They call it “sorting”. Students pay lecturers certain amounts that have been charged by the lecturers, and then they get bargained grades. Such students buy their way through the universities. They graduate, without having capacity, speaking cracked English. Yet, they get employed one day and end up being a disaster in the public space. How we undo ourselves!

A friend recently applied for her first degree transcript from Abia State university. She was charged N50,000, for “express service” that took nine weeks. She had also applied for her Masters Degree transcript from a university in the UK. The transcripts were to be sent to an institution. While the Abia State University sent the transcript after nine weeks, it took the UK university an hour or so to send the transcript at no fee at all. The applicant was even sent a soft copy of the transcript from the UK university.

She was not charged. The receiving institution further requested authentication of the transcript from the Nigerian university. All that was required was a two-paragraph email to confirm that the transcript earlier sent emanated from the school authorities. But our dear Abia State university went ahead to demand another N31,000 as “authentication fee” from the applicant, before it can confirm that the transcript it earlier sent is genuine. And all these charges are un-receipted. How we undo ourselves!

The cases are a legion. Those who run efficient and stress-free systems abroad are also human. They are not angels. It is a matter of orientation. In many ways, we make it tough and hard for others. It is high time we changed our orientation for the better. That way, we are better off and collectively happier.

Edo Guber: The Lessons for Obaseki

It was such a relief that the Edo governorship election has not only come and gone, but also without the rivers of blood that was predicted to flow along with it. Bookmakers had predicted that there would be massive violence. The Oba of Benin had to intervene. So was the National Peace Committee headed by former Head of State, Gen Abdusallam Abubakar and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah.

Thankfully, the interventions were effective and helpful in stemming the tide of violence which had threatened to mar the polls. It is no longer news that incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki won the election, beating, for the second time, his arch political rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his fellow Bini man.

It was a tough contest. His former godfather, turned adversary, Adams Oshiomhole had literally staked his political life for this contest. It is likely to be his last political outing. It ended sadly for him. It is worse that he had lost out at the national level, and now at the state level. Except something significant happens to redeem and reboost his political profile, Oshiomhole may begin to suffer political orphanage.

I read a joke cautioning all jubilant Obaseki supporters to do it with caution, since the Supreme Court has not “voted”. That tells a lot of story: how the Supreme Court can intervene to change the political fortune of gladiators.

But it is instructive that unless something else happens, Obaseki is as good as having secured his second term. Mr President, the head of the opposition party, had congratulated him. The All Progressives Congress (APC) which had initially rejected the outcome of the election, has also followed suit to congratulate Obaseki. If we take these as accepting the outcome of the election, then Osadebey House is going to continue to host Obaseki for another four years.

But what are the lessons from the contest for Obaseki?

First, he must realize that as victorious as he was (with his 307,955 votes), as many as over 260,000 voters did not want him to be returned. That is not a figure that he should dismiss. Now he has won. He has to be the governor of those who wanted him and those who did not want him. But more importantly, he must introspect to find out why those who voted against him did so.

It is good he has extended the hand of fellowship to those who fought against him, particularly Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu. He must be magnanimous in victory and seek to carry everyone along. To see himself as the political conquistador of Edo State would be to miss the point.

During the campaigns, a lot was said. He was described as an MoU governor. Now that he has won, it is time to activate the content, essence and benefit of those MoUs. It is time to put words to action. His campaign promises should always be his mirror and check.

Another lesson for Obaseki is to indeed perish the thought of him being the latest godfather on the Edo landscape. If his victory is acclaimed to have been the formal burial of godfatherism in the state, he should not seek to awaken the ghost, image or silhouette of godfathersim in the state, four years after. As he would have seen, not only is it a malappropriation of the will of the people, it is even more dangerous to go against your avowals. Oshiomhole had vowed to abolish godfatherism. He went full circle to practice what he condemned.

Hear him: “A situation where one man decides, has been abolished. All I want is for power to move to the people. The people should decide who becomes their leader and that leader will not be answerable to any godfather, but to them.” But sadly, Oshiomhole wanted to be the Alpha and Omega in Edo Politics, something he condemned so strongly against late Chief Tony Anenih.

So, Obaseki should steer clear of the temptation to play the Lord of Edo politics.

But more importantly, is the question of whether Obaseki will soon be adopted as a godson by another godfather. Already, observers are touting Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State of being his godfather. The latter is brutal and politically uncouth. Becoming his godson, would be hurtful ultimately to the image and psyche of the people of Edo State. As they say, Obaseki must “shine his eyes”

As a newly elected governor, one who was supported by a network of governors and many interested individuals, Obaseki must be careful in knowing how to manage and deal with his many political IOUs, such that it does not impede the development of Edo State.

He was accused of scuttling the idea behind the Specialist Hospital, in Benin which his predecessor built to a near-finish point. Obaseki is said to have brought consultants to run the hospital and that the ordinary Edo people no longer have access to the facility.It is in Obaseki’s place to take proper notice of all the criticisms he received during the campaigns and work towards addressing those ones that are truly valid and would be beneficial to the ordinary man on the street.

All said, I therefore congratulate the governor on this historic victory and wish him greater feats ahead.

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