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The premier web site of Edo speaking people.

Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.

 

 

PROBLEMS OF DEVELOPMENT IN EDO LAND AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

 

By

 

Brig. Gen. S. O. Ogbemudia (Rtd), CON

Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A

3rd  July, 2004

 

 

 

 

�What need is freedom of expression to a crass illiterate; what is one man, one vote to a lean and hungry man?� ---- Obarogie Ohonbamu.

 

 

PROTOCOLS AND HOMILIES

 

Allow me to join earlier speakers in greetings, welcoming you warmly and praising all of you in your various distinguished titles. I bring to you all the fraternal greetings of your homestead. Let me quickly add that your ability to gather yourselves in this distant place, notwithstanding your different, varied and divergent endeavors, is itself evidence of your purposefulness. The objective of your conference is an assurance that you have not forgotten your roots. Most of you left home as young and inexperienced men and women, but today, you are demonstrating to us that you have come of age, and have become responsible adults of different but enviable professions to whom the destiny of our country can be entrusted. Please, accept my sincere congratulations.

 

I assure you that I will go back home to tell all the present crop of leaders that our sons and daughters overseas, particularly in the United States that gathered in Boston may be as divided as the fingers in pursuing their various professional callings and economic activities, but that they are as united as the fist in pursuing matters affecting their homestead. To me, this is hardly surprising because Edo people know that quantitatively, they are out-numbered by others, who, if they chose, can go ahead without them in the scramble for national and universal cake. Therefore, they like their forbearers have always adopted the quantitative approach which has continued to ensure their relevance and prevalence! While wishing you success at this conference, I pray almighty God to grant you and us all sustained buoyant health, physical strength, wisdom and fortitude as we strive to protect and project our collective patrimony.

 

PROBLEMS OF DEVELOPMENT AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

 

Not being a headmaster, I cannot in any dictate manner, begin to point out problems of development in Edo state and their solutions. Worse still, I have been given a �whole� forty five minutes to do so. But I have an idea, rather than be at the head of the table addressing you, let us all sit round the table addressing the problems and their solutions. If that is not encouraging, let me do some talking. Please, permit me at this point to flag it off.  I see development from four perspectives, namely: HUMAN, MATERIAL, INFRASTRUCTURE, and MEANS.

 

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT or capacity building in our State and geo-political zone has been retarded by contemporary national policies. With all our natural endowments, we remain a minority people. Let me give you two examples:

 

Firstly, the introduction of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), with its accompanying criteria of geographical spread, catchments areas, State of origin, drastically reduced the number of qualified Midwesterners and Bendelites going into the Universities. Many years ago, candidates available from Midwest institutions at the end of every year to sit for the examinations were more than the whole of the candidates from Northern region for the same examination. It was therefore a matter of time that those who had political power will find solution to it and they did. The effect of the ensuing policy has been a bitter pill. Similarly, the introduction of �Federal Character� principle and quota system have ensured that our sons and daughters, who are eminently qualified in various fields, roam the streets while their colleagues from elsewhere, who may not be as promotion of mediocrity over and above meritocracy which is bound to be counter productive to growth and development. Put it another way, merit has been relegated.

 

Secondly, MATERIAL DEVELOPMENT which translates into socio-economic well-being of our people has also regressed. Many years ago, economy of the State witnessed steady move towards self sufficiency, contentment pride and patriotism of the citizens. Today, the vast majority of our people go about with desperation written on their faces, unsure of the next meal and jobless men waylaying them. At home, burglars contest possession of constant companions. There must be security of life and property. Our democracy is not worth more than its appellation if we cannot walk the street free, or sleep with our two eyes closed. In security has been one of the greatest scourges of our nascent democracy and development of our economy these past five years. Material development of the individual in such circumstances can only be seen by many as unsatisfactory. In other words, many of our people overseas sensing the situation at home are afraid to return because they do not see anything to return to; and those at home, see those coming as coming to share the little that is available with them. The reception they offer is therefore lukewarm and in some cases hostile. The call for trained man power to return home may be patriotic but often times, it turns out to be mere lip service as the returnees find out that there is nothing to return to.

 

INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT is construed to mean; good roads, water ways, school buildings, hospitals, court houses, telecommunication, electricity, water pumping stations, etc. This is an area that everyone has divergent view as to what is actually a pass mark. But let me say that the geo-physical location of our State and other States in the Niger-Delta region and the economic activities of Oil Companies, have contributed to the degradation of infrastructures, despoliation of our marines, exploitation of our reserves and consequential des-orientation of our peoples. I have always argued that the growth of an economy depends to a large extent on the efficiency of its transportation system. Thus, the rail system has emerged as an indispensable and indisputable propeller of the economy. But in Nigeria, this has either not been recognized or appreciated, or where it is accepted as a necessity, it is not being developed to meet the challenges. Consequently, road transportation remains and account for over 90% of our intra state and inter local government movement in Edo State. This has also brought heavy burdens to bear on our roads as trucks, trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles ply them in the process destroy the only available roads. Government�s response to the state of our infrastructures at all levels has been appreciable in some areas, and deplorable in others.

 

MEANS is the most important problem of development in any society, which is availability of fund. The Federal Government in its publication in Newswatch Magazine claimed that the total allocation to Edo State (1999-2003) was N22 billion as against its Delta State counterpart which received N92 billion. N22 billion at average of N100 to the US Dollar is equal to $220 million US. During the same period, the State was credited with expenditure of N19 billion or US$190 million on salaries, wages, allowances, other charges etc on its workforce. The balance available for development was N3 billion that is US$30 million which means that the average per year is US7.5 million for infrastructural development namely, roads, education, health, housing, etc. I did not include internally generated revenue. The point being argued here is that development is possible and appreciable if there are enough funds.

 

OVERCOMING THE PROBLEMS

 

Human beings are naturally dynamic; no one set of ideas or solutions can continue to apply or solve all human problems all the time. No person or persons or group(s) hold a magic wand to solve all the problems. But once the generality of the people are mobilized and galvanized, mountains can be moved! Let us accept that the solutions we adopted in 1999-2003 may have met the exigencies of these periods but may not work in 2004 and beyond. Consequently, as we move towards the next general elections, let us recognize that Edo State needs repackaging. In repacking our State to meet current and future plan in order to get the best that is ahead. In doing so, we must be generous with our praises for the contributions of our Government. We should show gratitude for the cooperation and support of the governed. And we must be gracious and honest in accepting our shortcomings. Repackaging ourselves means that all hands must be on deck. Edo Okpamakhin must have recognized this imperative hence this conference. If I have spent forty minutes trying to arrive at this general discuss, please permit me to use the remaining five minutes to make only two specific recommendations, namely AGRICULTURE and SPORTS. In my recent Newspaper Article titles �On the Regeneration of Agriculture�, I made the points that agriculture accounts for 65% os all employment in Nigeria, 70% of non-oil exports and 30% of the GDP. Yet, more than 60% of Nigerians live below the poverty line, spending almost all they earn on food, transport and shelter. I also expressed the view of Farmers Aid Movement (a.k.a FAM, Nigeria) that once the problem of hunger is

solved, the battle against poverty is 80% won! Let us recall that one of the millennium development goals is the eradication of poverty! In my earlier paper to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) titled �Creating an Effective Political Party System and Tradition�, I canvassed the view that democratic ideals or political traditions start from the stomach. A hungry man, as the popular saying goes, is an angry man, you can neither mobilize nor galvanize him!!

 

I decided to mention Agriculture not only because of the above reasons, but also because of two additional factors, one: it is only in the field of Agriculture we can hold our own and excel. We cannot compete with the industrialized nations in the manufacture of computers, planes, military hard wares, etc. The second and perhaps more important reason is because you all have the opportunities through your exposure to the American Society, to develop agriculture in Edo State and Nigeria. You have access to technology and finance. Exploit them. You all know that everyone of our L.G.A in the State has enviable climatic condition that are conducive to the growth of important national and international produces. Whether it is rice, Cocoa and coffee in Akoko-Edo, Maize in Agenebode, Palm in Uhunmwode, and Rubber in Orhionmwon, Cassava in Ubiaja, Yam in Okpella or Plantain in Ovia, Fruits in Uromi, etc. I urge you all to invest in agriculture in our State and country. It will pay amazing dividends to you. In a paper I was privileged to deliver at the Nigerian Institute for Policies and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, on the 16th of July 2001, titled �Prospects of Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria�, I made a 24-point recommendation, 4 of which I wish to recall and restate as follows:

 

1.   The pursuit of food sufficiency and security is a condition precedent to our sustainable democracy.

 

  1. Election into public offices should be for (trained and) experienced hands.

 

  1. We need persons who are both managers of material resources and leaders of men in Government.

 

  1. There should be a transitional period of about 10 years, during which direct revenue allocations should go to each of the organs (and tiers) of Government for their independent use.

 

I still stand by those recommendations.

 

The other specific area is sport. Years ago, the slogan our colonial matters taught us was that �the purpose of sports is not winning, but taking part�. It is no longer so. Sports have move from entertainment, leisure and fitness creation to an area of fierce contest for national and international honours. It has also moved from mere social event to one of huge economic lucre. Today, the marriage of Kanu Nwankwo is a national event in Nigeria, so is the celebration of Austin Okocha�s birthday! Sports remain a veritable instrument for national mobilization, galvanization, cohesion and stabilization. It has also become an instrument for influencing foreign affairs. Think of Nigeria winning the World Cup!

 

�We must here commend the efforts of Edo State Government in sports development. Yet, we must also recall the fate of ageing and/or retiring sportsmen and women. You all know that it is one area where active years are seriously limited. Today, while our one time national heroes roam the streets looking for alms, their counterparts elsewhere in the World are national assets, maintained and supported by Government. I urge you all to take advantage of your positions and locations to sponsor or invest in any sporting activity of your choice. It will be a very beneficial investment. I have been privileged to chat with some of you. After listening attentively to your wonderful ideas which are difficult to assail, I concluded that the ideas emanated from series of discussion amongst you. In the circumstance, may I suggest that you sponsor one of yourselves to contest elective positions in 2007. In that way, ideas can be implemented without much hurdles. However, I would like to caution as I did in my paper tittled �The Inevitability of Homestead�, sent to your sister organization, Edo National Association, during their 10th Annual Convention, held in Chicago between the 31st of August and 3rd of September 2001, that:

 

�It will be wrong strategy for you to wait outside, then suddenly emerge on the political scene, in an election year, with wads of crispy United States Dollars and expect to purchase enough votes to put you on the saddle, or to buy high office upon the formation of a new Government � As I have said elsewhere, there is a nexus between whom you were yesterday, who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. The period of apprenticeship is the missing link.�

 

Having said that please be assured of my availability, willingness and perhaps, ability to be of help to you all whenever you return, God willing.

 

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me spend the last minute of my time to leave you with the words of Machiavelli:

 

�There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things�

 

Change is the most difficult thing to accept, but it is the most

certain thing to happen! I thank you for your patience in arrears and for accepting same, if not all of these suggestions, I thank you in advance.

 

I wish you a most successful conference.

 

May God bless you all.

 

Brig. Gen. S. O. Ogbemudia (Rtd), CON

Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A

3rd  July, 2004

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