The ‘Arab Spring’ was a series of spontaneous pro-democracy uprisings that took over most largely Muslim countries in North Africa and parts of the Middle East, including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
The events in these countries began in the spring of 2011, which led to the name.
Arab Spring was a loosely related group of unplanned protests that eventually resulted in regime changes in some of the Arab nation’s it engulfed.
The Arab Spring revolution began in December, 2010 with the self immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian grocery vendor, to protest the unwarranted seizure of his grocery shield by the police for alleged failure to obtain a permit.
The street protests that ensued in Tunis, the nation’s capital became unbearable for the country’s dictatorial president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and fled to Saudi Arabia after more than twenty years in power.
The protests eventually spread to Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria amongst others, causing regime change in Egypt and Libya.
Before the advent of the Governor Godwin Obaseki led administration in Edo State in 2016, there were myraids of similarities between what was happening in the pre-Arab Spring era in these Arab countries and what was obtainable in Edo State.
Edo State then, ran a buccaneer economic system as the geographic entity was compartmenterised and shared among privateers who are common illitrates and never saw the four walls of an educational institution, street urchins, school drop outs, motor park touts known in local parlance as ‘Agberos’; to subjugate the people and collect unjustified and abitrary taxes from them. The returns to government from these legal and illegal taxes were as low as ten percent while the larger chunk is shared among these social misfits, some politicians and the numerous godfathers scattered all over the state. These Oasis of godfathers must be satisfied from government’s internally generated revenue at the expense of the government and people of the state else the government will be labelled as inefficient and not performing.
However, when Governor Godwin Obaseki mounted the saddle on 12 November, 2016 he put a stop to these exploitations, profligacy and leakages in government revenue. He did not just reduce the taxes, but the illegal taxes were eliminated just as its collection was given a human face by computerising the process using ‘Point of Sales’ (POS) paid directly into the relevant government bank account from the point of collection.
The introduction of this highly civilised form of tax collection has also revived a lot of muribond micro, small and medium (MSM) scale enterprises in the state while unlocking the entry points of new ones just as their benefits are being reaped by the people as MSM is the fulcrum on which modern developing economies revolve around.
Realising that lack of adequate and stable electricity supply hampers the establishment, operation and growth of micro, small and medium scale businesses, Governor Obaseki went out of his way very early in the life of his administration to source for investors who in conjunction with the state government established the Ossiomo Independent Power Plant. The plant sited at Ologbo in Ikpoba/ Okha Local Government Area of the State, is completed and undergoing test run and sharpening of the regulatory and legal edges to commence operations.
It’s worthy of note that while the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), distributes 40 Mega Watts of electricity to all its customers in the state, the Ossiomo Independent Power Plant has an installed capacity of 55 Mega Watts to be distributed to Government establishments, industries and other commercial service providers like hotels, computer/ printing business concerns in the state. Work has also commenced on its expansion to 250 Mega Watts.
When this Ossiomo Independent Power Plant becomes operational in a matter of weeks, these industries and business concerns that have been working below their installed capacities by reason of low and abysmal power supply will increase their capacity utilization which will in turn result to more employment opportunities and other positive multiplier effects.
In furherannce of efforts to make Edo State the first choice of investors’ destination, the Obaseki led administration in synergy with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II; embarked on reforms in land administration and management. A law was emplaced to outlaw the notorious Community Development Associations CDA, that before then became a clog in the acquisition of land and securing same for development in the state.
The duration and cost of processing of Certificate of Occupancy (CofO), was reduced while the use of modern and computerised Geographic Information Service (GIS) was introduced to curb the incidence of land grabbing and illegal enchrochment.
Prior to the Governor Godwin Obaseki’s era, pensioners and Local Government Areas Council staff were owed several months of pension and salaries respectively running up to thirty months. On assumption of office he set mechinery in motion to clear these arrears of pension and salaries and free the system of unwholesome practices where enrollment into the state pension payroll was a function of who you are connected with in government. As at today, no Edo pensioner is owed pension while he’s working on payment of gratuity which has been accumulating in the last twenty years.
While these reforms and blockage of leakages in government revenues have unlocked government funds which have been channeled to other sectors of the state economy like the completion of the Edo State Government Secretariat which is comparable to that in most advanced countries of the world; building of an ultra modern High Court complex in Benin City, reforms in the educational sector which cascaded to the digitalisation of teaching at the basic level and ensured nondisruptive teaching at the primary school level during this Covid-19 pandemic lock down.
However, as laudable as these programms are, a section of the political class and seekers of siniature positions in government are uncomfortable and want to cause mayhem in the state ahead the 19 September governorship election where Governor Godwin Obaseki is seeking a renewal of his mandate to enable him properly anchor his reforms and “Make Edo Great Again, MEGA.”
While those who have been exploiting the people over the years want a halt to the reforms and reverse the gains inherent in the establishment of the Edo Refinery and Petrol Chemical Company Ltd at Ologbo, the Gele- Gele Sea Port, the masses of Edo are bent on renewing the mandate given Governor Obaseki in 2016 to usher in a new regime of development and a paradigm shift in the authoritative allocation of the resources of Edo State.
It is against this back ground and the realisation that Governor Obaseki’s developmental blue print which he’s implementing faithfully has become a template which other state governments in the country are adopting to chart a new economic order in their states that people of good will who are passionate about our development, including members of the international community are appealing to the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government to provide Edo people adequate security to excercise their franchise and freely vote their preferred candidate in the 19 September governorship election. This, to a lot of people is the irreducible minimum that will be done to nip in the bud a new version of the ‘Arab Spring’ in the ancient state.