By Isaac Asabor
If there is any quote on democracy that encourages the electorates to hold their leaders accountable, it is the one credited to Alan Moore that says, “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is germane to ask, “What is Accountability?” In this context, it is one of the bedrocks of people-oriented government as it provides a check on individuals, once elected, betraying the promises they made during the campaign.
An accountable political system is one where both the government and the elected politicians are held responsible to their constituents to the highest degree possible. Analyzed from a broader perspective, voters must be able to influence the shape of the government, either by altering the coalition of parties in power or by voting out a political leader that has failed to deliver from power. It is expedient to note in this context that a well-designed electoral system facilitate both of these objectives. Accountability involves far more than the mere holding of regular elections; it also depends on the degree of geographical accountability, which is largely dependent on the size and territorial nature of constituencies as well as the freedom of choice for voters to choose between candidates as opposed to parties.
On the strength of the foregoing views, it suffices to say that there is no other time that can be considered to be more appropriate in subjecting the manifesto of the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to review vis a vis his performance than now that electioneering period ahead of the upcoming gubernatorial election scheduled for September 19, 2020 is ongoing.
As conveyed by the Manifesto which he unveiled to Edolites in 2016, the governor said under his determination to achieve Economic prosperity for Edo State that his government has the mission to create over 200,000 new jobs in 4 years through investments in Agriculture Value Chain as well as through the development of 250,000 hectares of fully integrated farms to produce and process Oil Palm, Rice, Cassava, Maize, Rubber, Sugar Cane, Citruses and Vegetables.
The governor promised in the manifesto that the “Out-Growers’ Scheme will target 40% of cultivated land to be owned and farmed by over 25,000 Edo Entrepreneur Farmers with off-take contracts to ensure that they sell their produce and generate wealth for Edo youth.
He added that’s “Our Tractorise Edo Project will empower over 1,000 young entrepreneurs to acquire mechanization and tractorisation equipment to support the farmland development with off-take contracts from the farm developers and out-growers. This initiative, he said, will generate additional 4 to 6 jobs in the value chain to create additional 4,000 to 6,000 jobs.
Concerning industry and infrastructure, the governor promised that moribund industries across the State will be revived. He said, “Within the first year in office, we will restructure and resolve all outstanding debt obligations with Bendel Brewery, Edo Line and any other State Owned Enterprise.
He continued, “We will attract private capital into all State Owned Enterprises under privatization and we will also conclude ongoing efforts to complete and commission industries initiated by the PDP government but abandoned before commissioning including Uromi Cassava Factory and Fertilizer Factory in Auchi.
In a similar vein, in the area of investments in new Industries, the governor promised that his administration will continue to support and will ensure the conclusion of all ongoing investment initiatives in the state including the Ossiomo Industrial Park, Atlantique Marine & Engineering Services Ltd (AMES) Pipe Mill and Coating plant and all other similar initiatives.
Not only that he assured that his government will focus on developing new large and embedded electricity generation and alternative energy solutions to meet the increasing electricity demand gap in the State.
He stressed in the Manifesto, “We will take advantage of the emerging electricity generation hub to create industrial corridors through the development of Industrial Parks across the State.
Concerning the area of infrastructure that cut across roads, schools, hospitals and housing, the governor then promised Edolites that his government will extend road networks to connect new areas not previously linked with the road infrastructure grid to facilitate the movement of people and produce to markets, and that his government will identify the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the state, and those at the greatest risk of flooding and channel resources into building necessary infrastructure to cater for their needs.
Added to diverse lofty promises which the governor made then, he assuredly said, “We will also determine the most accident-prone areas and provide adequate safety and traffic management solutions.
He explained, “In pursuit of our collective desire to develop a competitive knowledge economy, we will introduce the development of broadband infrastructure into our road infrastructure and transportation network to build a more virile and mobile business and learning environment, and we will redevelop the Ikpoba River valley projects not only to generate electricity but also as a source of water supply for industrial and domestic user.
On the aspect of Women and Youth Empowerment, the governor said in the Manifesto “We will provide the enabling environment for women to achieve their highest potential by taking our initiative beyond the phase of empowering women to empowering society as a whole through the women-in-business.
He added, “Our plans to invest in our 8 Technical Vocational Education and Training institutions will create direct jobs for our youth through skills in Engineering, Building Technology, Agriculture, Food Sciences and Hospitality under entrepreneurship schemes or industry employment.
Still in the same vein, the governor promised, “We will support at least 20,000 entrepreneurs over the next 4 years to stimulate the economy through Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) development creating no less than 50,000 additional jobs.
In the areas of Human Basic Needs, Salaries and Pensions, the governor enthused in the Manifesto, “Our determination is to ensure that not only are salaries paid as at when due but we will adjust our model from a minimum wage structure to a living wage structure where Civil Servants are not financially disadvantaged.
The governor expatiated on the foregoing that prosperity for Edo State must also necessarily include a better future for our children and happy retirement for our pensioners. He said, “We will clear all outstanding pension owed and ensure that Civil Servants receive their full entitlement immediately after they retire.
On Health Care, he said, healthcare infrastructure will receive a boost by focusing government financing at the Primary Healthcare level across the state and, where there is the business case, a mix of public and private capital at the tertiary levels, and visual and dental health will be integrated into the healthcare policy and master plan.
As regard access to education, he assured that the government will complete the renovation of school infrastructure already commenced and introduce a continuous maintenance culture to ensure the sustainability of the education infrastructure.
In respect to governance, the governor promised in the Manifesto that the Civil Service will be rebuilt into a world-class work environment powered by information and communication Technology (ICT), and that resource will be devoted to training and empowerment of the public and civil servants with modern management tools.
He assured that the government will rework the incentive schemes that was applicable in the public services to encourage better outputs, and that the government will streamline and reposition government-owned institutions to more effectively and efficiently deliver the greater good in overall interest of Edolites.
Not only that, he noted that the use of technology will make government more efficient by deploying information and communication technology (ICT) in internal administration, procurement processing, revenue collection and improving collaboration between and among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
On Revenue Generation, the governor assured that “Taxation is a major source of government revenue but we will ensure a pocket friendly tax regime in our drive for Internally Generated Revenues (IGR).
As to Security (Law, Order and Justice), he promised, “We will strengthen the Criminal Justice System to expedite the interpretation of laws, determination of disputes, restitution for victims and punishment of offenders. This includes the re-introduction of mobile and assize courts to expedite dispensation of justice and reduce the strain on our courts of superior record.
The governor in high hope assured that the government will support the police and other state-sponsored agents in various capacities including the infrastructure that supports them in the work they do.
Not only that he promised to restore socio-cultural values, and ensure that Edo State become the Number One state in sports in Nigeria, especially in football where the State once held sway as a talent ground.
He concluded the Manifesto by saying, “Our government will develop schemes to encourage artistic output and to encourage the growth of a market for trade in art and craft in Edo State with channels for export and exchange with the wider world, and we will develop a sustainable tourism industry in Edo State where the socio-cultural fabric of our host communities will make optimal use of our environmental resources, maintaining essential ecological balances and conserving natural heritage and biodiversity.”
In this context, it is expedient to proverbially conclude, that His Excellency has in the last few years been sitting for examinations in various metaphorical subjects that cover every sector of the economy in the State, and as Edolites look forward to the gubernatorial election that every Edolite is an examiner. Literarily put, the answer sheets of the governor will be marked at the polls across the 18 local government areas in the State on the D-Day.