Oshiomole Had Better Not Blow It!

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Okay, so you won a much deserved victory in the courts? Now you went from being a mere comrade yesterday, to a newly minted governor. Now you have to man up to the arduous task of governing. You sit aboard a state with countless problems: the worst roads in Nigeria – heck, how bad it can get? Virtually no public water in the state capital and with treasury most definitely looted in expectation of your arrival. You are also surrounded by sharks; sharks calling themselves legislators in the house of assembly. Elected by the rule of the thugs and godfathers, they are positioned to take you down in a minute if you dare step up to them. The Senators representing your state at the federal level are not any better; so are the local government chairmen.

You won this election as you reckon on personal recognition. You have no known political apparatus, or base. You are virtually in enemy territory, but somehow have found your way into the governor’s mansion. The people are hungry for change. All around them they see corruption, governmental inefficiencies and above all gangesterism. The schools, health clinics and roads are an eye sore. What will be the first order of business? Where will you start? What to do, comrade?

Such is the circumstances of Edo state, one of Nigeria’s thirty-six faltering caricatures called states. Such perhaps is the frame of mind of the man that have been thumped into its leadership in the past few days by a well deserved court judgment that restored to him an office he won fair and square in the now widely condemned elections organized by Maurice Iwu and Olusegun Obasanjo of profound infamy. Words cannot even begin to express the complexity of the problem: a potential trap or opportunity for the man of the moment, Comrade Adams Oshiomole. I am convinced that Comrade Adams has what it takes to succeed, but his record will depend not largely on what he has promised to deliver, but how he goes about doing it.

To succeed, Comrade Adams Oshiomole will need to:

· Remove all political appointees, freeze the state accounts and ensure the immediate return of public property into state custody. An appointment of a small committee to track and account for all monies and properties administratively will be prudent. A name and shame strategy may work to achieve their aim.

· Invite all elected political officers from the state to a roundtable where his agenda thereafter is discussed. This is necessary to ward off suspicions and build coalitions. A continued two way communication between the governor and the more than egoistic federal legislators is necessary for success. The Senators and Representatives are more than adequate to keep the House of Assembly members and local government chairmen in line.

· Carry out an immediate forensic audit of all public accounts: determining the assets and liabilities of the state. Use of a private team of volunteer accountants will be in his best interest. A large enough team of accountants can get the job done in three weeks and am sure the Action Party has enough in its ranks: it is for the people right?

· Simultaneously focus his mandate in this first month on slimming down the size of government; identifying parastatals and programs that need to be cut (with the help of the audit) and doing so. This will involve painful choices, but he must be ready to level with the people. He must lead by example by reducing the size of his politically appointments to the barest minimum. Oshiomole must be seen steadfastly, working harder than his team and getting bare knuckles to governance in the old style.

· Constitute a leaner state apparatus: for a state like Edo State- eight ministries is maximum, ten is an overkill. Careful merger of existing agencies with an eye on cost saving should be carried out; a legislative mandate to ministries will also not hurt instead of the random creation that is now the norm.

· Search for and constitute an able team of civil servants of proven pedigree in the second month, irrespective of creed or tongue, and appoint them as permanent secretaries with explicit mandates to trim their overhead budgets, and improve the efficiency of the ministries.

· Everything from automating the payroll, to introducing computers and benchmarked performance into their individual ministries must be on top of each permanent secretary’s agenda. A review of specific performance should be carried out every three months to ensure efficiency targets are continually met. Identifying and eliminating redundant positions should also be a key task of the new permanent secretaries.

· Conduct a top-down analysis on the immediate needs of the state in terms of infrastructure, programs and needs simultaneously. This should be ongoing as a two way communication between the governor and the people of the state to buy patience during the first three months while the bureaucracy is fixed.

· Level with the people on conclusion of such analysis on what is achievable in four years. Specifically identifying programs and projects; opening up a transparent tenders and procurement process, and regularly reviewing the progress of such projects/programs on a once every four months basis.

· Constitute a team of noble men and professionals- that are apolitical- to lead a reduced state government as commissioners at the conclusion of these first three months. These commissioners should be charged specifically with delivering on the programs the government promised; this in no way should get in the way of fixing the ministries which is the mandate of the career permanent secretaries.

· Focus on the rule of law after the first three months, and remake Edo state into an oasis of such in a rather chaotic Nigeria where traffic rules are not broken, sirens are not blaring, keeping the public toilets clean and tidy is the norm, and where anti-social behavior is targeted by laws emanating from the state assembly. Create new jobs with a crisp, professional enforcement agency.

I do not know the specific needs of Edo states, but I am sure it is not any different from that of Lagos, Ekiti, Delta or Oyo states that I am more familiar with. Good roads and great schools can buy a state governor a lot of political capital in Nigeria where basic needs are still lacking. Building infrastructure creates jobs, and improves security and business; so also will providing a bus to take school children to school and giving them one meal daily. These programs will shield Oshiomole from the fangs of the sharks that are circling him and ready to pounce.

In any case, rumor mongering is the governor’s greatest enemy; and having a professional and capable communication staff is indispensable to his success. Indeed, this is not the time to refurbish the governor’s mansion, or build a new state secretariat. This is not the time for big allowances, or grand celebrations: neither is it the time for grandstanding or endless investigation of your predecessors. It is time for action. For now stick to your old vehicle, and perhaps stay in your own house. It is hard to be a great governor in the current political environment prevalent in Nigeria, but it is not impossible if only you try. You better don’t mess up comrade!

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