By Odia Ofeimun
A realistic and knowledge-driven programme is the basis upon which I seek to be a candidate under the Labour Party in the 2016 Governorship Election in Edo State. I have no truck with manifestoes that deceive and confuse the electorate. What I offer is not a mere promise but a challenge to mobilize the human and material resources of our state in pursuit of a truly grand and marvellous future. I seek universal endorsement, across all the political parties in Edo state, because I believe that all good people will support a good candidate. Irrespective of political party alignment, every citizen and resident of Edo state deserves a society of true justice in which people are assured, and they know it, that they will always get their due.
My stand is that the people of Edo State have a great pre-colonial past whose particulars provide not just a grand philosophy, but a management science and a development model which we must pursue with every vigour. It offers a standard of self-assessment that is modern, civilized and propelled by a ready-hearted wish for transparency and excellence. Our task, as I see it, is to re-model Edo state upon the suasions of Ogun, the crown prince of the Edo, who reigned as King Ewuare in the 15th Century, with a picture of Great Benin based on a cult of the hand, that is, on labour power. We shall remake and remould the state on a grander more imaginative scale suited to the prospects of the 21st century.
My ambition is to plan and re-plan every village, town and city within nine months and in a manner that can solve the perennial problems of water shortage, without boreholes; electricity, without payment for darkness; and energy, without importation of fuel. These solutions come within the context of the larger goal, to build one mega, and three super cities linked by speed train to Abuja, Lagos and Calabar. The first stage is to build a Super Dome Underground Railway station, surrounded by replicas of the iconic buildings of the world, at Oba Square in Benin City. In due course, after we shall have agreed with our near and distant African neighbours, the Benin/Calabar line, with a butt to Ogoja and Maiduguri, will cross the Camerouns to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on the Indian ocean; the Benin/Abuja line, taking off from Edo-Ijaw villages in the Delta, will link up with the Kaduna line, and through Kano, Jigawa, and Katsina, pass through Niger Republic and Libya to the Mediterranean sea; and, the Benin/Lagos line, with prospects of an already mooted federal support for the Benin/Owerri line, will hitch together all the coastal cities of West Africa, up to Dakar and beyond. Across the world, we shall root for every combination of corporations and tiers of government capable of making this possible within thirty five months.
A PAN AFRICAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
We speak of the development of Edo state within a truly globalizing scale which, as we envisage, shall brook no colonialism or re-colonization, domestic or otherwise. We shall encourage normal conversations between different cultural geographies without setting unhealthy hierarchies between neighbours, near or far. The purpose is to turn ours into a highly efficient and technology-suffused environment with a capacity for dreams and the instrumentalities to actualize them. In effect, we see our self-development strictly within the context of a campaign for the development of a vast economic community with a Pan African edge.
FACTORIES AND PROCESSING PLANTS
Within eighteen months, covering two rainy seasons, we shall have built five processing plants and twenty factories, ten of which shall be agro-allied, to give concreteness to the improved transactional flow anticipated and occasioned by the speed trains. Our drive shall be strict: to produce 60%, and more, of the goods we consume in Edo state as well as stay on top of basic services at all levels. We shall, by establishing processing plants and factories, transform the relationship between government and enterprise in our part of the world. Side-stepping the evident malfeasance built into what some people call public private sector partnership, our grand pursuit is to canvass a neighbourhood collaboration, with investors across the board, in order to turn our enlarged economic community into a very healthy conversation with all comers.
A NEW WAY OF LIFE
To meet our short- and long-term goals, we need a sped-up and fast-warded educational programme that will deliver cultural literacy and a computer-based skill-acquisition for all children from age five and for adults up to age sixty, and above, if they so wish. The point is to put computers, manufactured in Edo state, in front of every child and adult and turn the whole society into a school for building a new way of life for our people. Indeed, to survive in a world that will never stop being predatory upon the weak and poor, we must become an industrial estate and knowledge society, on the basis of a strong, self-reliant strategy, starting with our South South neighbours, attuned to the best of a future that money and good sense can procure.
We seek a special leverage for a new generation to be saddled with the task of constructing and reconstructing a radically new way of life. The core issue is to change the way we live, not in terms of slogans, but actual physics of behaviour, and actual chemistry of performance. We must learn to put a job in every hand that is able. And, protect hands that are not able. For this purpose, we shall, in the absence of a proper National Identity Card system, build up a Special Civic Framework, or Speciframe, for short, to enable Edo State government anticipate and mobilize resources to meet the welfare needs of citizens and residents living in Edo state. Surely, any state with the grand ambitions that we stand for, is bound to need a truly well-educated populace with a high level of cultural literacy and technological proficiency.
EDO STATE AS A HOUSE OF CULTURE
We must be upfront with it that education is about linking indigenous knowledge and creativity to universal knowhow. Education and culture ought to be housed in the same Ministry and ought to begin with saving our indigenous languages from the irresponsibility that goes with neglect. We must resuscitate and allow the languages to enter the conversation of world languages in the manner of the Koreans who can study Astrophysics in Korean. Let’s link the feats in language development to the great creativity that gave Benin bronze sculptures to a mesmerized world. And, bring the rest of Nigeria and the world to a Showpiece Cultural Programming covering communal theatres, special online and offline libraries, museums and galleries, a film emporium, with a translation centre that renders the best of world literature in Edo languages. Translate world classics – Shakespeare, Soyinka, Achebe, Tolstoy, Iyayi, Dickens, Ibsen, Faulkner and Mahfouz and the great philosophers and scientists of the world – into our indigenous languages. The consequent synergies would go beyond mere theatre: such as performing Shakespeare and Soyinka in Edo language in 2016. We should have proper Faculties and Chairs of Edo studies in our tertiary institutions. The promotion of Edo culture may well be seen as a process of building capacity and enabling enterprise.
FREE EDUCATION AT ALL LEVELS
Our educational system, accordingly, must go beyond the mere erection of buildings. We shall put in place a proper system, from kindergarten to tertiary levels in structures that will remain showpieces for generations. It must be free at all levels for all citizens; and it must have a high standard, and a quality of output comparable to the best in the world. The first test is that it must succeed in wiping out illiteracy from our climes within four years. We cannot be dreaming of building world-class mega and super cities, establishing processing plants and factories of a 21st century vintage, with a population that is ignorant, unskilled, seeded with unwholesome superstitions, and devastated by inferiority complex in relation to any other set of human beings or even aliens from outer space. Our teachers must be the best and the best-rewarded. This is because we must learn how to build what we want for ourselves by having a proper conversation with knowledge producers wherever, and who-ever, they may be.
A PROPER HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME
By the same token, and because health is wealth, we shall take medicare above mere state or individual entrepreneurship. We shall insert a proper health insurance scheme that protects all citizens. In the cooperative industrial and knowledge society that we envisage, the respect for Medicare professionals in the field, and the provision of facilities for them to match and outclass counterparts in any other part of the world, must be our great mission. How else can we reverse medical tourism in our favour! It is not merely in our interest to do it right! It is the only way we can be contributors to the way the world works instead of being mere scavengers living off the bad habits or largesse, of other people.
The inter-relationship between traditional practices and modern theory-making must be enhanced to drive a faster containment of diseases, before they strike. Rather than merely discounting old cures, we must domesticate them within the ambit of contemporary medical practice by promoting and sustaining research and manufactories. Especially, in a world of audio-visual conversations between medical and indeed tertiary institutions in general, genuinely shared knowledge, between old dispositions and new formalities of knowledge acquisition, must be given a place in our modern planning and re-planning of Medicare.
AGRICULTURE AND FARMERS COOPERATIVES
Of course, a healthy people must be a well-fed people. Not living off roughages and not dependent for survival on the cargo-cults of other nations that may be even less endowed than ours. We shall, in strict adherence to the principle of self-reliance, turn out an agricultural system against moribund skirmishing with yesterday’s failed experiments. Time to go beyond the use of state funding to develop private and unprofitable farms, seeking to turn non-farmers into farmers overnight, or using foreign multi-lateral funding patterns to establish over-priced farms. Our goal must be, first, to turn existing farmers into highly priced contributors to food processing plants, transforming neglected fruit cultures into plantation economies, re-awakening cooperatives between farmer folks, reducing the waste of farm produce by enhancing storage facilities, and pressing industrial cooperation with the agricultural sector into a permanent means of building commercial relationships within the larger economic community that we must help to emplace.
AGGRESSIVE SOLID MINERALS CONSORTIUM
As in agriculture, the formal perspective in the area of solid minerals is to remove the competition between public and private sector participation in enterprise. We shall mobilize an aggressive solid minerals and oil and gas consortium made up of the best hands in the business. Based on a proper inventory of the solid mineral potentials of Edo state, we shall consider production for actual domestic deployment, beyond the crude, the raw, and the flared, as a priority. We are determined to raise the production of solid minerals to commercial viability without endangering the environment that the proceeds should normally be aimed at transforming for the better. The protection of our God-given environment must be the paramount mission of a Labour Party government, irrespective of the pressure to amass resources for our many projects.
NEW SPIRIT OF ENTERPRISE
Our approach to enterprise is beyond the old-fashioned distinction between capitalism and socialism. A factory that does not exist cannot compete with one that exists. Our strategy is to set up shop by whatever means possible, mostly by deploying the best hands that we have produced, ensuring viability through well-calibrated satisfaction of domestic demands within our economic community. The enhancement of the volume and quality of domestic output must take priority over vain-glorious pursuit of external trade. We must learn to produce what we must consume for as long as trade with externalities remains predatory and punitive. This implicates the necessity for the Labour Party to be above all a party of education because it is a party of industry and full employment.
BEYOND CORRUPTION AND WASTE
The reality we must face, and without cavil, is that we are a poor society only due to our misuse of learning and imagination. Successive governments have made us look defeated by giving poor education to poor people’s children in order to keep them poor and unmobilizable. They have engaged in inordinate over-pricing of projects and sold dummies as grand productions. We have reached the stage, however, where it is no longer possible for them to hide the grand deceptions that have made government look like a war upon the present and future of ordinary Nigerians. Irrespective of the highly partisan picture of corruption that has emerged in recent times, it is now possible to tell that more than 60% of the financial resources available in our society is mis-directed, stolen or simply wasted. The sad part is that where it is not a case of hefting loot abroad that will never be returned to the country in any investible form, it becomes a manner of pumping it into conspicuous consumption as part of the process of using the people’s money to oppress the people.
NO DEBTS; NO PUNITIVE TAXATION
Our firm belief is that once we set a Labour government in place, and plug the loopholes, the great dreams we have had can be pursued without allowing debt-ridden strategies and punitive taxation to mortgage our future. It was time to rebut the logic of self-debasement which makes leaders talk about how undisciplined and corrupt our people are, after they have created the basis for majority of the people to live in ways that neither our traditional societies nor modern liberal social orders, can accept as fit or proper.
LABOUR PARTY HAS THE ANSWER
Otherwise, Labour Party has the answer in Edo State. We believe that our people are generally enterprising, very creative and unspoilt in matters of self-advancement for the communities in which they live. Unless the leaders they trust mislead them, our people are veritable champions of forward movement, iriodalo. Our task is to enhance democratic promptings in community-networking. We must unite our people behind projects that are in their interests and in ways that can withstand the shenanigans of deceptive leadership. We must void the many tricks that they have deployed to divide our people, making them scramble for what is basically their due, and inducing them to compete where cooperative behaviour is dictated by the great goals that we value.
NEW LABOUR, TRUE SOLIDARITY
Let me add that I have always been for and on the side of labour because all people who work for what they earn, all those who seek the solidarity of those who work hard for their daily bread, rather than steal from others, all those in search of jobs who believe that society can be managed in a manner that puts a job in every hand, are naturally in the Labour party. From that day in the Midwest Echo when the Ministry of Labour in Benin City refused to allow me to speak for workers on strike because the workers were compositors with a union and I was a journalist without a union in the days before the Nigerian Union of Journalists, I learnt to stand by the labour code. As a factory labourer a year later, I learnt the meaning of labour solidarity during the struggle for Udoji awards. As a student at the University of Ibadan and General Secretary and, later, President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and as a functionary of the best organized political party in the Second Republic and Chairman of the News and Tempo magazines in the years of Guerrilla journalism, I learnt to see labour solidarity as the basis of the true development of a free and just society.
We need to build a society of true justice in which people are assured, and they know it, that they will always get their due. This is why I am running to be Governor of Edo state on the Platform of the Labour Party. This is why we are committed to The Seven Platforms! We shall –
- Wipe out illiteracy for all citizens from age five to sixty
- Re-plan and rebuild every village, town and city
- Build a Super Dome Underground Railway station at Oba square in Benin City
- Create full employment by producing sixty percent, and more, of all goods consumed in Edo State.
- Establish a health care system, free for majority of citizens.
- Mobilize an aggressive solid minerals, oil and gas consortium
- Make Edo State a proper House of Culture,
This as a press statement by Odia Ofeimun, an aspirant under the Labour Party, for the Governorship of Edo State in 2016
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.