OBASEKI ADMINISTRATION: A GOVERNMENT FOR THE RICH?
By: Nosa Omorodion
While controversy rages as to what would be the benefit of the poor majority of Edo people in the ultramodern wing of the Central Hospital, Benin City, should Governor Godwin Obaseki succeed in his planned privatization of the public funded project, the management of another state government established and functioning institution has publicly declared that the institution was conceived, designed and equipped by the “founding fathers” to provide service for the rich only.
The institution referred to is the Edo State Government owned but somewhat privately managed Edo University, Iyamho. The government is yet to clarify convincingly the management mechanism of the university, having announced in 2016 that it was going to be run by private partners – an arrangement of which Afrinvest Ltd, a company owned by Mr. Godwin Obaseki the present governor of Edo State, is believed to be the consultant/manager.
The founding fathers referred to are without equivocation, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole who built the school and the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who advised Oshiomhole to build and supplied the logistics.
Although speculation about this arrangement has been in the public domain, particularly in the media, since early 2016, it seemed to have been officially confirmed on Monday 24, July 2017 by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Aluyor, as reported by several print and online media. The Vice Chancellor is quoted to have said that the university was “established to cater for the academically endowed and the wealthy in the society”. The reference to the academically endowed is apparently to a minor factor, as any properly screened and admitted undergraduate is logically an “academically endowed” person.
The nagging question has been: why establish another state government owned university in spite of its huge financial implication when the existing Ambrose Alli University grapples with relative infrastructure neglect and lack of essential incentives for academic and non academic staff? And why another school offering similar courses like AAU?
The answer proffered, which can be said to be hypocritical, by the Vice Chancellor of the elitist government university is that “The idea behind the establishment of Edo University by the founding fathers is neither to replace nor compete with existing Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma but rather to complement it in terms of providing world-class education with the best of infrastructure to academically gifted students and the rich who can afford the fees”. What disjointed reasoning!
With whose money was the new school built? The poor’s of course. So, why the premeditated discrimination?
Coming to the precise wording of the VC’s statement, would it not have been better for the state government to have replaced for Edo people, the degraded AAU with a school with “the best of infrastructure”, facilities and incentives within the old environment and creating new campuses if needed, instead of building a superior university in the immediate past governor’s village to “complement” the inferior AAU by providing world-class education”?
What prevents a government of the people from providing world-class education in its premier university if not the unwillingness and insensitivity of the administration? Perhaps the poor are not deserving of world-class education. This is arrant nonsense as the commitment of government must be to elevate the poor to the best possible standard while helping the rich to maintain their tastes as they may fancy, through other means outside of limited government funds. What business of government is it to put the interest of the rich above that of the poor when the rich, at any rate, have many options at their disposal?
Imagine the statement that the Edo University, Iyamho is complementing the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma when in fact it was established in contempt of the school – a situation that the present administration seems committed to maintaining by a nauseating, egoistic, needless class distinction.
Is it not curious that the state government, instead of upgrading existing government facilities to best standards possible, would rather duplicate same with the vain aspiration of competing for profit with similar private establishments. While it is proper for government to project for revenue with the mind of carrying out development and growth, it must however, not descend into the arena of profiteering. Government is not business; it creates business for business people.
The Vice Chancellor of EUI rationalized the cost of the new university in relativity to improving the old AAU thus: “People have questioned why former Gov. Adams Oshiomhole did not upgrade AAU, than establishing a new university altogether. Apart from its being capital intensive to either renovate or bring the needed infrastructure, the idea was to provide a different brand of Education to the people”.
The VC says that upgrading AAU would be capital intensive but he did not say not affordable. Yes, the government could have afforded it if it had the passion for delivering best quality education through AAU. On the other hand, is the investment so far in EUI not capital intensive and still counting?
Right from the days of Oshiomhole till now the state government has deliberately avoided telling Edo people what it has cost them of tax payers’ money, statutory federal allocations and sundry revenues, to put up, equip and fund EUI. It has been independently reported though, that the school, which presently has less than 80 students, has gulped over N50billion. Just half of that amount would have revolutionized the officially despised AAU, making its students very competitive and its staff better devoted.
And talking about bringing a “different brand of Education to the people”, one is wont to ask: which people? The few rich instead of the hungry poor? A brand of Education to the rich who have their fathers’ businesses waiting for them to manage? How shallow can thinking get?
Now, if the government has its eyes on profit without discounting its investment, how many years and how many administrations will it take to recover the billions the government has sunk and is still sinking to provide vintage education for the privileged few? Really, what is the big deal about building a university for the rich? Ironically, in the next ten years, the revenue realized from the rich of that school will still be a far cry from the revenue realizable from the poor of AAU, if AAU is not made free of charge. So again I ask: what is the big deal for the state government?
Lest we forget, the immediate past administration of which the present one, in practical terms, is a continuation, established two universities on the same day, the one which could be likened to a premature still in an oxygen chamber, the Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor was intended to be upgraded from a college of education in outlook and in content. Therefore, if we were to take seriously the argument of capital intensiveness of upgrading, as responsible for relegating AAU in the scheme of providing world-class education, what then should we conclude about the future of the controversial state university of education?
In the meantime, however, it is clear that the agenda of the present government, which is an ideological continuation of the previous one, is to have a university that caters for the rich, among which may include children and wards of political office holders, privileged high ranking civil servants, government contractors and other few fortunate citizens.
In conclusion, we cannot help but to relate the forgoing discourse to the unfolding plan of the state government with regard to the New Central Hospital, Benin City. The question is: was the government hospital, from the beginning, conceived to provide world-class health services to only the rich in the society? If so, what is the reasonableness of such a proposition given that the project was built with the money for the poor, and that the rich which is to make use of it, can never pay back the cost of building it in the near future? And then, why this infatuation for the wealthy, begun by Adams Oshiomhole who history records as not rising from among the poorest of the poor until he hit gold in the Labour Union Movement “fighting” for the poor as their leader? Is this a government elected by the poor to serve the interest of the rich? Posterity beckons.