As the September 10 Edo governorship election approaches, I find it very disturbing that most of the candidates vying for office have thus far failed to put on the front burner of political discourse the issues that will shape and colour governance in our state should they win the election.
While it is clear that many running for office may just be pretenders seeking to thrust themselves into the consciousness of the people for future reference, a few others are contenders whose hope to getting to government house appears to be fading each day. To these few contenders, clutching or clawing at the front-runner keeps them afloat, even if tentatively. This appears to be the case with the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Reeling from the loss of majority of its followership to the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the state, the PDP and its flagbearer, Ize-Iyamu, seem to be clawing at anything to keep their wobbly campaign train on track. A perfect example is the party’s obsession with the educational certificates of Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Even though his qualifications and competence were never really in doubt, in the physical absence of his original certificates Obaseki swore to an affidavit detailing his educational attainments accompanied with photocopies, as part of his declaration to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He has since informed all and sundry that he has found the originals of his certificates. Even then, the state party chairman of the PDP, Dan Orbih, and the party flagbearer, Ize-Iyamu – in the absence of any real talking point – continue to make the certificate topic a focal point at their campaign rallies exactly the same way the party did with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in the build up to the governorship election in 2012.
It is nonsensical that at this crucial point in the campaign the PDP – rather than focus on serious matters of progressive governance – is fixated on issues of a mundane nature. Besides the obsession with Obaseki’s certificates Ize-Iyamu’s campaign also dwells on the character of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his government instead on his party’s plans and manifesto for the development of Edo State.
Indeed, as with electioneering everywhere in the world, there are issues that should dominate discussions at this time of campaigns. Why have other candidates shied away from issue-based campaigns? Is it that they believe Governor Adams Oshiomhole has covered all ground that they do not think there is any issue requiring improvement or reversal? In these difficult times in the life of our nation, are there not serious issues with education, water, electricity, health, taxation, civic duties, employment, transportation, industrialisation, security, salaries and pension, infrastructure and sanitation? Why are the parties and their candidates not speaking out on these issues rather than engaging in obviously failed attempts at Obaseki and Oshiomhole bashing?
There is no doubt that Edo State has, under Comrade Oshiomhole, witnessed a high tempo of infrastructural development thereby setting a standard for subsequent administrations. It is in the area of sustaining and improving on what has already been achieved by the Oshiomhole administration – rather than shadow chasing – that Edo people must scale the candidates jostling to take over from the Comrade Governor. How many have told us, for instance, what they will do in the area of road rehabilitation, construction and reconstruction? Or in improving on the “red roof” revolution and the attendant leap in the standard of education in the state? In the face of dwindling oil revenues, how do they plan to generate additional funds to meet basic responsibilities of government? What will the candidates do with the massive erosion control projects commenced by the present government in Benin City, Auchi and elsewhere in the state? What plans do they have for the generation of employment opportunities for the youths?
It may not be enough for Edo people to pray, as Comrade Oshiomhole admonished us recently: “for God to give us a governor that will put Edo people first, respect the traditional institution and that will work for the unity of our people across the 192 wards”. Edo people must look at the contenders, sift the serious from the pretenders, shun sentimental and primordial interests, and focus on the real issue of development of our state and the ability and capacity to harness and utilise most creatively the resources available to the state. Edo people must choose their next governor from among the many candidates based on proven capacity to tackle these multi-faceted issues confronting our state and her people.
Discerning people can tell that Godwin Obaseki and the APC represent the new direction pointed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for the sustainable and progressive development of Edo State. This is because Godwin Obaseki, as chairman of the state’s Economy & Strategy Team in the last seven and half years, conceptualized, incubated and midwifed the policies and programmes for which the present administration is being applauded in the state and beyond.
But Godwin Obaseki is not resting on these laurels; he understands that there’s a lot more to do, and knows how to get it done! In his manifesto aptly themed ‘The Road to Prosperity’, Obaseki noted, “The world is set for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have identified the cycles and markers and we are prepared to play our part in this forward shift in the gears, ideologically opposed to being left behind. Edo State can compete owing to our factor endowments, our collective human capital resource pool, our established track record in corporate governance; our blend of the ancient and modern; and by keeping one eye on tomorrow. To this end, we have anchored our campaign on the establishment and furtherance of good governance through institutions, infrastructure, a permissive investment climate, tough attitude to law and order, increased production capacity and sociocultural development.”
Nasamu Jacobson, a public affairs commentator, writes from Benin.