By Tonnie Iredia
In a typical society, particularly a democracy, there are two sides to what is generally known as the Social Contract Theory.
The two sides are the government and the people. Whereas it is the duty of the people to perform civic duties such as voting at an election, payment of taxes and engaging in community development schemes; government on its part is to protect the people from every harm such as diseases and crimes.
Government is also expected to organize policies that would improve the living standards of the people. Where these roles are pragmatically played, society develops rapidly but in many societies that are described as developing or underdeveloped, government is usually unable to be people-oriented. Instead, persons who find themselves in public office are often self-concerned and as such appropriate societal wealth to only themselves. In most cases, the said people in government more known as the political class are always at war with themselves in the fight for material wealth. For long, that has been the fate of Nigeria.
In Edo State, the advent of an egalitarian Governor, Godwin Obaseki gave many, some hope that our commonwealth may no longer be spuriously shared. Many policies were generated to create a new culture of governance and Obaseki soon got nicknamed ‘wake and see’ governor. This did not go down well with those who had always fed fat on the state at the expense of the people.
Contrary to the pretensions of Obaseki’s opponents, our people know that the current political tension in the state is essentially caused by the plan to compel the governor to either return to statusquo or get removed. Painfully, in all that has happened so far, the main victim is the people. Our political class does not seem to remember the Social Contract Theory and the expedience of protecting our people from harm, disease and crime; rather the state agenda has been dominated by politics. Interestingly, the crisis is within the ruling party which confirms that the fight is about personal gains.
Only last week, some members of the APC in Fugar, Etsako Central Local government area were at war, leaving at least 7 people hospitalized. Media reports reveal that the crisis was between two groups – one in favour and the other opposed to the governor’s reelection. In what seems a direct response to the situation, Philip Shaibu, the Deputy Governor had to publicly reassure the people of the state that “despite gimmicks of detractors, the multi-sectoral progress and development witnessed across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state will not be put on reverse.”
Shaibu, who spoke with journalists in Benin City, the Edo State capital, was quoted to have said that the state government will continue to stand for the collective interest of her people adding that the administration will not relent in building infrastructure and enacting policies that would facilitate the emergence of a productive and vibrant economy in the state.
If the dangers of distracting government are not too clear to many politicians, those from Edo North should be different at this point in time, bearing in mind that Lassa Fever which occurs more in their area is back again.
Some two months ago, the epidemic reportedly claimed two lives in Abia and Edo states as the country approached the peak season for outbreaks of the deadly disease.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Nigeria usually between December and June. Latest figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), confirmed 10 new cases of the disease in five states which included Edo, where one person had died. Indeed, the disease is now spreading. So far it has allegedly killed two doctors, with 18 other patients in parts of the country feared dead.
The doctors, a consultant Anesthesia and House Officer reportedly died a few days after operating a pregnant woman, at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) in Kano, who was suspected to be a primary carrier of the disease. Although the situation has been slightly under control in Edo this year, it is simplistic to think all will be well considering that last year, 327 cases of Lassa fever were reported across 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory, with the largest number of cases (108) attributed to Edo. At the beginning of 2018, the fever killed no less than eleven persons in the state.
From what we have said so far, political leaders in Edo State ought to be more concerned at this point about the health of the people instead of fighting to materially shortchange the same people. One way of doing this is for all arms of government to collaborate rather than some distracting others. This is where the unfortunate crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly points to atomistic politics. With only 10 legislators instead of 24 on duty, the possibility that ample oversight would put the relevant societal institutions on their feet would be hard to achieve.
What if we may ask, would be the fate of an infected local area whose representative is at large? Here, the point must be made that our elected legislators who may have had what they consider a good case against their adversaries have probably inadvertently betrayed their constituents. Midnight inauguration and Speakership tussle etc. may in due course not justify what is obviously an abdication. How I wish they could still return.
We must however commend two of our leaders among others. One of them, Frank Okiye, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly will go down in history as a great politician and statesman. A less endowed personality would have found it hard to coordinate an over-worked legislature. But Okiye has admirably held on, accomplishing all that a full team would have done. He has in earnest given to the state a consistent law-making body which in the past was essentially rancorous.
We must also laud Governor Godwin Obaseki for keeping the flag flying in spite of incessant distractions. He has organized a vibrant sensitization programme on preventing Lassa fever through his formidable information outfit and the use of local council chairmen- an effort which we hear is directly led by the Deputy Governor.
We are also aware that the government made generous provisions for the subject. Only 4 days ago, she donated 200 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the viral disease in the state. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia, who personally presented the items explained that the donation was to arrest the spread of Lassa fever for the benefit of Edo people, and to protect caregivers from being affected. As this is the time for governance and not political schemings, we can only applaud officials who are committed to the welfare of our people.