An open letter to Buhari: When Doves cry in Edo State
Doves are a special breed of birds with their universal symbolism of peace. Instructively, on every Independence Day in Nigeria, doves are symbolically freed from cages to signify peace and good luck for the Nation. Another unique feature of doves is that they hardly cry or make noise like other birds. Doves do cry though when they have an urgent need to draw serious attention to important matters.
When doves refuse to leave their cages despite the opportunity to fly to freedom it gives no cause for concern as when they begin to cry. Mr. President, in Edo, the doves are crying now and they seek your attention as you come to commission the Comrade Governor’s ‘Central Hospital’ and some other ‘wonderful’ projects in Edo State plunged into misery and sorrow arising from the recklessness of the past eight years. And the doves have begun to cry.
Permit me to say Mr. President that Edo State is made up of peaceful people who are long suffering and tolerant in spite of the intimidation, oppression and suffering. There is no better time that they have demonstrated these virtues as under the rule of the outgoing governor, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole. Significantly, the doves under reference here are the peaceful and tolerant people of Edo state who are crying to get your urgent attention. In the midst of the circus show you have been invited to, indigenes are weeping.
Has there been no Central Hospital in Benin City before now? The answer is that there exists a central hospital which was created by colonial masters in 1902 and improved upon by successive administrations with attendant expansion and additions to cater for the teeming poor people who cannot afford expensive healthcare.
The Central Hospital which for the purpose of clarity may now be referred to as the old one consists of 120 beds and boasts of departments of medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, a general outpatient department, paediatrics, radiology, cardiology, ophthalmology and optometry, a pharmacy, wards, a dental centre, laboratories, a dialysis centre, maternity wards, operating theatre and a mortuary even though left in a state of progressive decadence since the advent of Oshiomhole’s reign.
It is laid out over a large expanse land from which the out-going governor appropriated a piece to build a glasshouse in mockery of that which he wilfully abandoned and which health had failed in spite of being a refuge for the ailing poor.
Is it not pathetic that there exists no single incubator and infant and maternal mortality is on the increase in our beloved Central Hospital? Death in Edo State is no longer a stranger as healthcare has been totally abandoned with simple diseases like malaria and tuberculosis on the prowl.
After the sightseeing at the Ring Road sir, kindly drive down the road on a journey of less than 5 minutes to the state-owned Stella Obasanjo Hospital built by Oshiomhole’s predecessor and which was constructed by Vamed Engineering Company for Edo state government. Here, many of the wards are under lock and key, with new equipment abandoned by Adams Oshiomhole on the excuse that they are substandard. Yet this abandoned equipment were supplied by this same Company Vamed Engineering that Governor Oshiomhole gave the contract to supply the medical equipment to the “new Central Hospital”. Oshiomhole abandoned the Stella Obasanjo Hospital, ostensibly because it was not built by him. Is health care infrastructure provided for self glorification or for the benefit of the masses?
A word of caution to you Mr President is that you watch your head as you enter the new Central Hospital because at a stage in its construction, it collapsed and the contract to patch it up was awarded to another contractor. We are yet to know the cause of the collapse but it is right to conclude that a lack of standard had a role to play. No one was penalized for this act against Edo people.
It is relevant to note that the overall cost of the hospital being celebrated is not known. The question is: are we not entitled to know the cost of this “new Central Hospital”? The doves in Edo state are crying because this new building exists within the compound of the old but is cut off so that only the rich can go there. Available facts, in spite of what is claimed, is that this new building does not have 200 beds and only the ground floor has been furnished. Regrettably, the old hospital has since been disconnected from electricity as a result of total neglect. The medical and support staff for the old hospital are grossly inadequate, the infrastructure has dilapidated and there is no running water. It is truly a sorry tale for our dear old Central Hospital.
Please Mr President kindly walk across the boundary separating the poor from the rich and go next door to the original hospital which is properly laid out as how a hospital should be and you would join us to weep for the poor people of Edo state. We know you said change begins with me, so please sir change the format and walk across and ask to see the old hospital which is for the masses, not the new which is for the rich few. Also sir, ask to see the staff that are there and ask simple questions.
After the hospital visit, Mr President sir, if you have time, please indulge us by driving to Okoro-Otun street in GRA which is quite close to the new Central Hospital and Look for a mighty edifice being constructed by the same contractor for the new Central Hospital building but for a private client who happens to be the outgoing Governor, Adams Oshiomhole. You might care to ask him where he got the resources to build such a gigantic residential building which also has a swimming pool on the roof top of the multi storey structure. This property is one amongst many that the ‘Comrade’ has acquired in his very lucrative 8 year rule of Edo state.
Mr President, the doves are weeping too for our educational sector. Governor Adams Oshiomhole has allowed the state owned Ambrose Alli University founded in 1981 to lose accreditation in many faculties as a result of neglect. The students are weeping after protesting to no avail on the oppressive school fees recently hiked by over 150% by Adams Oshiomhole. In spite of this he asked you to come and Commission a new university in his village where it cost over 10million naira to construct one hostel room. The doves weep.
Mr President sir, after leaving the Queen Ede erosion site I would want you to drive to Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma which used to be a 30 minute drive. The Governor will not however allow you to do the journey because the Benin by pass which is one of the Federal Government legacy projects in Edo is almost completely blocked by the mountain of refuse which the Edo State Waste Management Board has dumped on the road, rather than in the official dump site. Apart from making this road almost impassable, the stench emanating from this dump is quite toxic and may pose a real danger to the health of our beloved President. Those who live in that area and have refused to relocate have been left to live there at their own peril. The Benin-Ekpoma road is completely impassable and though it leads to the governor’s palatial country home, the governor, fortunately is able to charter helicopters regularly to pick him from Government House in Benin to his beautiful home at Iyamho that also has a helipad.
The state government cannot meet its financial obligation to the Ambrose Alli University hence its total neglect. Could it not have been better to expand the old University to accommodate more of the poor students than construct a new one with exorbitant fees for the rich? How will the state cater for the new university or is it only for the rich?
Mr President may care to know that the construction and award of contracts for all the buildings in the new university were never openly advertised but were a product of secret selective bidding and at costs outrageously above construction rates. Please sir, kindly help us ask the cost of all these projects as the cost is a closely guarded secret. Also sir, kindly ask if the Edo University at Iyamoh is owned by the state government since the government refers to it as a public private enterprise even when we are aware that all the funds for the project were provided by the state.
We want to appeal to Mr. President to encourage the governor to take him across the road where his house, estate, mansion or resort is located. We know that Mr President visited the governor’s residence when he came last year for the Governors lavish second marriage to his wife from Cape Verde. On the first visit, Mr President was cleverly restricted from looking round the estate. This time, the President should please find the time to drive round the governor’s personal country home and will no doubt come to the conclusion that the governor is one of the richest Nigerians if not Africans on earth.
The landscaping alone is estimated to have cost over 15 billion Naira and Mr President will be overwhelmed by the extravagance of the artificial lakes, bridges, lightings and waterfalls that adorn the country home and make it one of the wonders of Nigerian democracy and a place the President could immediately proclaim a major tourist site miraculously built with the earnings of a public officer. There is also a mini size zoo that houses a lion that is fed with 2 adult goats on a daily basis. The President might not bother asking the cost of the country home since it is the personal residence of the ‘Comrade Governor’ and is a befitting reward for his years of ‘meritorious’ service to the Nigerian nation.
It is however sad to note that a former labour leader who was able to erect such a presidential resort for himself was not able to build even one unit of low cost bungalow for the workforce of Edo state. The doves cry at the pathetic financial situation of the state made worse by obscene looting of our common wealth and compounded by reckless borrowing that mortgaged our future well being. As the governor welcomes Mr. President in lavish style, the docile Edo State House of Assembly is being presented with a supplementary budget of N63, 420, 936, 393 for recurrent expenditure alone while N52, 492, 706, 594 is proposed for capital expenditure. Security vote alone is demanding another N5, 300, 000, 000.
Edo people are weeping when they realise that N6, 240,000 is being proposed in this ‘late hour’ for servicing of bonds and N4, 600,000, 000 for servicing of internal loans? Who will save Edo state, Mr. President from this financial impunity and mess?
There are so many other places we would have wanted the President to visit but because of time constraint and considering his age, we would save the rest for a later date and wish him the very best in his determination to stamp out corruption from Nigeria and expose all those involved in this cancerous act no matter the political party they belong, no matter the sudden friendship they proclaim and no matter their imagined status. We pray Almighty God to give Mr President the courage to do the right thing. May God bless the rich but poor state of Edo.
Lest we forget, Mr. President, please use the opportunity of your visit to comfort those who mourn.
By Nosa Omorodion