It is incontrovertible from any patriotic contemplation of the Nigerian Federation, that local governments constitute a quintessential anchor for the enthusiastic involvement of the citizenry, in the construction of a wholesome people-oriented Democracy. While there’s often the serious argument about the extent and clarity of the authority of local governments in the three-legged Federal structure, however, local administrations can never be written off as mere ornamental decorations in Nigeria’s constitutional architecture. Such jaundiced viewpoint would portray a sickening ignorance of the unique development role that local governments play in the lives of their constituents outside the glamour of national media attention.
There’s one lesson that I have irrevocably embraced in the course of my leadership involvement both in labour union struggles during the draconian era of military rule in Nigeria and later in human rights advocacy endeavors in inner city neighborhoods of America- that lesson is the infallible insight that societies unfailingly do better in geo-political entities with visions of inclusivity especially regarding marginalized
citizens. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles ( California) would count as one of the most remarkable persons in local governance who afforded me such understanding ,at very intimate level, during our community meetings on heated matters affecting the then predominantly, African- American , South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. I would vouch from my life’s experiences that there can be no legitimate leadership at the political zenith without genuine citizens’ participation at the grassroots horizon.
Reflecting on the massive potentials for societal advancement through third tier governance, the leadership of Oredo Local Government Area ( LGA) , Edo State, has projected substantial attributes as an enviable model for democratic grassroots administration . In league with a few other similarly empowered local administrations, Oredo council is displaying a remarkable comprehension of the arts and mechanics of successful grassroots management and organizing. The eco- system under which third-tier administrations can deliver the envisaged harvests of democracy requires a leadership with unassuming level- headedness, unwavering political discipline and coherent thought process in policy development and program implementation. It is the infallible possession of such qualitative attributes by the Chairman of Oredo Local Area, Hon. Evbareke Jenkins Osunde, which is today triggering a redefinition of the image of the council simultaneously with the wholesome edification of the hopes and aspirations of Oredo people.
I studiously watched the display of unpretentious humility by, Hon.Osunde, as a guest at a recent meeting organized by a group of veteran labour leaders focusing on the Council’s policy regarding workers welfare, pensions and issues of development. With modest but justifiable pride , Hon Osunde, remarked during the intimate interaction that ‘’Oredo Council is not owing a single kobo of a single month’s salary to any of employee just in the same way that we are actively clearing the unconscionable arrears of pension left behind by previous administrations’’. Then, the council chairman added ‘’……all of the policies that we are pursuing in the local government are in synchronism with the inspirational leadership of Governor Obaseki who places huge premium on the welfare of workers, in fact , on the overall wellbeing of Edo people’’.
On further review of Hon. Osunde’s remarks at the meeting, it is clear that the issue is not the mere regular payment of salaries and pensions, but rather the holistic
philosophical paradigm for the cultivation of a just and fair society. Following the path of committed galvanization of Governor Obaseki’s new socio-economic Covenant with people of Edo State, Oredo LGA, has in tandem laid out thoughtful contours of projects covering such societally dire areas as education, healthcare, skills acquisition , access to clean water and road infrastructure , green environmentalism and the face-lifting of the Benin metropolis .
The raison d’etre of the disciplined policy direction of the leadership of Oredo Local Government engenders a respectful understanding, of how a third tier administration skillfully balances the micro and macro challenges of the council, in guaranteeing maximum benefits for the intended ,mostly, economically besieged, communities. As, Hon. Osunde, further remarked during the parley with the labour leaders, ‘’ Oredo Local Government must strive with unwavering determination to occupy a frontline seat in the speedily and steadily travelling train of economic and industrial renaissance that Governor Obaseki has engineered. ‘
Beginning with roads as crucial for easier commuting and, therefore, increased socio-economic activities, the local government has been engaged in massive rehabilitation of roads within and in the outer neighborhoods of Benin-City. Such locations as Iyekogba, Ulemor and Evbodia have seen major refurbishment of their roads. The stabilization of these roads, just like the Ogba-Airport routes and fifty ( 50) other similar projects, have provided vital arteries for boosting socio-economic life in the areas so positively affected.
Hallmarks of strategic contemplations in policy mapping and altruistic passion in program execution are equally conspicuous in the drive by the local government to substantially expand access to clean and healthy water for Oredo constituency. With a visibly concerned countenance, the local government chairman pledged that ‘’ the situation where children, particularly girls, spend more time roaming the street for water and less time on their school home work will be ended in Oredo’’. Hon. Osunde continued, ‘’… the moral obligation of our mandate is to serve the people, therefore, access to safe and clean water in our local government will attain acceptable global development standard’’.
Indeed, Oredo is already actively working on increased access to water, the local government has constructed solar-powered borehole at the historic Emokpai Primary School as well as the structuring of boreholes and toilet facilities at two concentrated locations of human activities at Ugbor and Oliha markets. The local government has also entered into creative collaboration with religious and humanitarian agencies to construct industrial –sized boreholes at Okua, Irue-Nowina and Okpebor communities serving considerable –sized populations. In addition to building new water facilities, Oredo Local Government has spurred the flourish of reactivation of water boreholes in several areas of Benin metropolis including Urubi, Ivbiye , Iyobosa streets.
In tandem with the leadership paradigm of Governor Obaseki, Oredo Local Government is equally focused on improving conditions for employment, especially for women and youths. The Council’s Skill Acquisition Center in, Ugbor, is playing a remarkable role for quality training of participants in various trades and basic skills for enhanced trajectory in small and medium businesses. Finance and market consultants have additionally been engaged by the local administration to interact with participants on subjects of elementary book-keeping and preparation for assessing credits and loans. From training sessions in photography to fashion designing and beauty industry enterprises, the Skills acquisition center is poised to play its part in increasing economic prosperity in Oredo.
It is noteworthy that the largest Black film festival in the United States of America, the Pan Africa Film and Arts Festival, has selected Oredo as one of the 20 from the 774 local government areas in Nigeria with which the revered festival will collaborate, to encourage the production of historically consequential and conscious films. With provision of training and consultation for young Oredo film makers and artists, such persons will have better chances of getting exposed to global audiences and funding. Regarding the selection by the film festival, Chairman Osunde said that the local government will deliberately tap into the famed artistic genius and history of Benin as the ‘’ cradle of Black Civilization’’ to attract maximum benefits particularly for Oredo youths.
(Dele Ailemen was two-term Chairman and Secretary of the defunct Bendel State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. Dele had also served as the Communication Secretary of the Edo Association of Southern California , Nedoye).