Extensive research, analysis and an in-depth study of Greco-Roman history have shown that civilizations could die without maintenance and be consigned to the dustbin of history. Wars, diseases and flagrant abuse of political power have in no uncertain terms exterminated great civilizations and empires particularly, in the Mediterranean region. On what do we further blame these destructions? It is none other than lack of foresight, solecism and abuse of political power.
We have had exciting archeological discoveries extracted from civilizations that have died. The Great Benin Kingdom is one great civilization that came to prominence in the 13th and 15th centuries hitherto ruled over by semi-mythical kings, the Ogisos. This also was one great kingdom in the tide of times that metamorphosed into an empire via conquest and expansion and over time became one of the most developed city-sates in the coastal hinterlands of West Africa. This conquest and expansion extended to the Niger Delta in the east and Eko (War Camp) in the west, the present day Lagos.
A first time visitor to Benin often sees and stands in awe of the great historical monuments and relics lining the centuries-old streets. Had these architectural gems, for instance, like the aqueducts and cobblestone roads of the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations, not been kept, maintained and sustained by our successive monarchs, they would have in fact long sunk or faded into oblivion like edifices of archeological memory.
There also existed outposts of the Benin Kingdom covering the vast Esan plateau administered by Dukes, (Enogies) in the north central parts of what is today known as Esan land and farther north peopled by subjects under the Oba. In its capacity as the administrative headquarters of Nigeria’s oldest state, we boasted of good service infrastructures ranging from good roads, water supply, hospitals, schools and colleges which made our state the most educationally advantaged state in the federation of Nigeria.
These were indeed interesting times under the leaderships of Dr Osaigbobvo Ogbemudia as a military governor and Prof. Ambrose Alli as the first executive governor that ruled the state under the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria. The service infrastructures put in place by these rare gems served the people and enhanced our living conditions in no small measure at the period under review.
Today our living conditions is better imagined than real as we have in fact become poorer thus forcing our children to drop out of schools and head for the unknown. A good number of them have died while crossing the fiery Sahara desert to the coast of north Africa from where they embark on dangerous sea journeys on rickety boats to Europe. Many have died in this adventure resulting from the inability of these substandard boats to withstand the strong ocean currents. We had thought the advent of Governor Oshomhole as a former labour union activist would turn the state’s fortunes around, stop this ignoble trend and reposition our state in the path of socio-political development and economic prosperity having fought and stood toe-to-toe with successive Nigerian governments to promote workers’ welfare. This was what gave him our votes and key to the Government House on Denis Osadebey Avenue in Benin City.
One of the most important functions of a state is to ensure the development and maintenance of a modern, efficient infrastructural base which ex-governors Ogbemudia and Alli did. These facilitated trade and movement. We enjoyed these social amenities at no cost, water flowed from our taps, health-care delivery was superb, education was made available and affordable to one and all. With the exit of these iconic figures in Nigerian letters from power, our service infrastructures began to suffer a steady decay to this day.
However, it must be borne in mind that if Edo State is to bounce back serious planning and implementation have to be done in all enabling sectors such as education, energy, transport to mention but a few with comprehensive hard surface and gravel road network linking all civil divisions in the state.
Governors Ogbemudia and Alli successors inherited some of the best infrastructures in Nigeria but Governor Oshomhole has spent eight years supporting and maintaining institutions and structures of repression in Abuja and as well as funding political vengeance, electoral fraud, corruption, meaningless and merry go round trips with the Daura-born overlord while Edo State service infrastructures undergo incremental depreciation and decline of Greco-Roman proportions.
What we urgently stand in need of at this juncture is a lasting solution to these myriads of problems to regenerate our great state. We need a capable hand to pilot the affairs of our great state, a man who is capable of combing organizational sagacity with realism, a man with impressive pedigrees who could never be swayed by normative ethnic maneuvers.
As you read this piece, there is most probably no running water in your taps or for the past 5 hours you have experienced power outages. If you are a motorist or a commuter who takes a ride on a public bus to work you may have probably been caught in an agonising gridlock today resulting from washouts, potholes that could force an expectant mother into involuntary abortion. This is very disheartening if you ask me!
We have spent too much time brooding over the mistakes of the past while we make no time to correct these mistakes and secure tomorrow for ourselves and posterity, this means bracing ourselves for even darker times ahead. It is mind-boggling how the APC-led state government has failed to make any meaningful inroads into the provision of service infrastructures to regenerate Edo State. Eight calendar years have come and gone by; this is a whole lot of time if you need reminding!
The crisis we face today in our state is none other than a culmination of decades of poor planning, mismanagement and insufficient investment in capital projects or infrastructures by a government in the past eight years which prioritises the enrichment of apologists and sycophants to the detriment of our well-being and instead bankrolls its Abuja masters’ meaningless jamborees around the globe.
Ay, we need a solution doubtless but under an APC-led government this solution which is much sought after is an elusive dream, I wish you could cast sentiments and party affiliations aside and come to terms with realities. Edo State economy is stagnant and has consequently gone to comatose. We lack capital projects that will attract investors to the state.
We are in a federation and Edo State under a competent leader can grow at its own pace by supplementing federal allocation to the state with internally generated revenue to provide service infrastructure for its people. Edo State has the potentials to lead Nigeria with a visionary leader at Denis Osadebey Avenue. Russia today is critical to Europe’s development for its functional six thousand kilometre gas pipelines that deliver energy to homes in Rome and Paris. There is no restating the obvious that our state is in dire need of infrastructural renewal.
Some communities today in Edo State are not accessible by car and the rural dwellers have to navigate some very long distances on foot. What has this government done in its eight years to open up its remotest outposts? Edo State debt profile mounts marvelously with every passing day, where have all the federal subventions and allocations been spent which would have been utilized for the provision of infrastructure statewide for sustainable development?
It is important to note here that the first four years of Oshomhole’s rule were wasted on Maoist one-party ideology that focuses on power retention which he achieved in 2012 by the instrumentality of incumbency rather than democratic participatory power geared towards dedicated service to the people. Edo State under Oshomhole has as a matter of fact never made adequate provisions for infrastructure development. Far from doing this, it concentrated on maintaining expensive bureaucracy, reckless expenditure and political patronage.
There is no denying the fact that agricultural infrastructure is critical to our economic development and a clue to the unemployment problem in the state but the lack of agricultural finance has contributed to the decimation of agro-based infrastructure.
Edo State needs a vibrant saving culture, intelligent public revenue collection, retention and international finance partnership but our state is saddled with massive state debt burden with nothing on the ground to show for it. This state debt overhang has marvelously become an albatross on our state’s development trajectory seeing that we owe too much to be able to re-ignite our service infrastructures destroyed by greed and prodigal years of APC misrule.
I will sum up here by saying Edo State development goal has been a victim of inferior infrastructure. A PDP-controlled Edo State government under Osaro Onaiwu will prioritise restoring, revitalizing, developing and modernizing of the state’s infrastructure base as one of the most urgent tasks of reconstruction.
In each infrastructural subsector, Osaro Onaiwu-led Edo State government I say yet again will seek to attract investments and also put state resources so as to have a modern infrastructure base, adequately maintained and efficiently run to meet our various needs.
Iyoha John Darlington, a scholar, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.