The memorable lesson on public policy and service from a meeting with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole earlier this month is hardly forgettable.
In a session with some journalists about a week before his second term inauguration as governor of Edo State, the man, popularly referred to in Benin as "the Comrade Governor" spoke on the conscious choices he is making in governance.
Noting the relatively modest furnishing in the Government House where the meeting took place, and against the background of the acclaimed success he has made in roads reconstructions, Oshiomhole explained:
“I have not built any road in what is generally called the GRA, where the big people reside, and that is a conscious decision. I have chosen to put public resources in those depressed neighbourhoods where the forgotten majority reside.”
It is thus a pity that this commendable attitude of directing public policy towards the betterment of the majority of the populace is now in serious reverse across the different tiers of government.
It is this lack of consciousness in helping the majority of the populace that has made several governors to focus on building Government Houses at great cost above other felt needs of the citizenry.
Elaborating, Oshiomhole said: “I had the choice to build an ultra modern government house “befitting” for the first family, but I would rather prefer to build an ultra modern hospital, which is currently under construction, where majority of the people can have access to, rather than a government house where they will be locked out. Again, it is the cost of choice.”
It is not as if the good things of life are lacking in the Oshiomhole Government House. but the conscious choice of the Edo governor in channeling public resources towards easing the condition of the majority of the population is one lesson that is so much lacking in governance in many other places.
Governors that have not taken the choice to rebuild the Government House where they live have resorted to buying private planes for themselves. The excuses being given by their paid and indirectly paid apologists are simply prosaic.
Given the financial distress in the land it is not only unviable and financially burdensome to buy and maintain private planes for governors, it also helps to dislocate the governors from thier day to day duties. Only a governor who believes that he has to be in Abuja every week or out of the country every other week that would contemplate such. Humility is also lacking in the consideration.
With frequent trips to Abuja or journeys abroad in deceitful search for foreign investors, it is no surprise that many of the governors do not have a feeling of the agonies of their citizens. A governor should preoccupy himself with the issues affecting his citizens and regularly go round the state to have a feeling of the road situation. He should enjoy or suffer the roads with the citizens. But when he hops in and out of the plane, he flies above the terrain and is removed from the pains of the citizens.
This attitude is simply not restricted to the governors. The presidential air fleet is estimated to have about eight aircraft in a country where there is no national carrier.
It is not in the consideration of the authorities that even more endowed countries do not pamper their elected officials as is done here.
Few in power believe that directing public policy towards meeting the needs of the majority should be the raison detre for government.
It is apparently this failure to comprehend the public need that has motivated the federal administration towards its controversial plot to purchase aircraft for Nigeria’s private airlines. The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah who started with so much public goodwill, is unfortunately throwing much away in her seemingly desperate effort to satisfy a minute proportion of the citizenry.
There is no doubt that a great majority of Nigerians would rather prefer that the funds being channeled into the controversial aircraft scheme be channeled towards more significant public needs. But, because the poor are not in the authorities' minds, they would not. What a pity.