By Morgan Adikwu
“Every thinker even the most abstract is deeply influenced by the circumstances of his days”….. John Plamenatz
Political thoughts are postulations or ideas about the functioning of a state, its powers and everything that has to do with governance. Our Collective Vision for New Benue, which herein later will be refer to as The Book, is Ortom’s detailed vision plan for Benue state that provides the framework to restructure and redirect governance to be people oriented. The book is a social contract between
the Ortom’s administration and the people of Benue state with a central thrust of a sustainable development for the common good of the present and future generation. It has a central agenda; Transforming the old Benue to a model state. The book is a seventy five (75) page essay with ten corresponding chapters. The most interesting aspect of the book is that, it covers all the ten knowledge areas of Project Management, such as Scope, Time, Cost, Communication, Quality, Human Resources, Risk, Procurement, Integration and Stakeholder.
Chapter one of the book deals with Introduction and Context with subtopic like Core Value and Principles that includes; legitimacy, participation through input, orientation broadbase consensus on what is the best interest of the state, fairness, equity, rule of law, ethics (governing with the fear of God), accountability and transparency. While the objective is to rescue and reverse the old Benue state from its ‘sluggish socio- economic’ development and build a model Benue..
Development Potentials, Challenges and Summary of Strategic Priority Programmes is the discourse of chapter two. It is opine the state is endowed with abundant human and natural resources and these make her a great potential for viable socio- economic development. The state is favourably located in the Guinea Savannah which support production of the wide range of cash and food crops. The state is also blessed with Trough that has the potential for gas and oil exploitation. However, the appalling Human Development Index Value (HDIV) and a high prevalence of Human Poverty Index Value (HPIV) with its concomittance effects constituted the challenge for the past administration to harness and transform the state’s potentials. These serve as a hallmark of Ortom’s administration to leverage on the existing potentials of immense human and material resources and convert the dearth of sustainable development in the state.
Chapter three discusses ‘Good Governance and Revenue Security’. The Ortom administration is able to identified the major challenges; deficit in human and capacity for executing government’s policies, programmes and projects in a professional and cost effective manner. Also, is the issue of wide spread corruption in all aspect of governance (p.17), the bane of quality leadership, low IGR, leakages in revenue collection and faulty management leading to unpredictable revenue flows etc. To combat these obstacles, the Ortom’s administration has mapped out strategic to reposition BIRS for efficient collection of IGR, reform the civil service and lift embargo on employment, create many jobs.
Agriculture-Driven Industrilization is the crux of chapter four. There is no gain saying that Benue state had a bountiful agricultural resources that constitute the back bone for the state’s economy. Paradoxically is the the food shortage in the midst of the acclaimed ‘ food basket of the nation’.
According to the book, factors accounting for this quagmire; Diminishing farm holding per person due to population increase and reduction in arable lands, the problem of soil degradation, predominant reliance on rain fall agriculture, menace of pests and weed, scanty processing and storage facility, infancy stage of mechanization and dry season farming etc. It is in line with these that the administration of Ortom is setting up cottage processing unit and also drive industrialization to enhance food security. Other measure includes; creating jobs, reduce poverty and enhance inclusive economic growth.
Chapter five focuses on ‘ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) Based Education and Health Services’. This section is of the view that, deteriorating physical infrastructure from primary to tertiary levels, dyfunctional curricula, declining morale and productivity of the teaching staff due to prolong non payment of salaries, the dearth of quality evaluators and inspectors for enforcing compliance with quality educational standards. The Health sector shared similar fate in the areas of infrastructure and the morale of the health workers, escalating prevalence of infant and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS scourge, dwindling annual appropriation to health sector etc. Interfacing with the Educational and Health sector, the Ortom Administration is introducing an enterprenuerical education that will provide free education and ensure that teacher are given their pride of place at all level. Strengthen the educational sector and reinforce existing scholarship and establishing student loan scheme for financing education. The administration is also to support the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and address issues of infant and maternal mortality, revive and ensure the accreditation of the school of Nursing and Midwifery in Makurdi.
Investments in Critical Infrastructure is the subject matter in chapter six.Just as in other sector, the Ortom’s administration is also able to identified the deplorable nature of the road network particularly the rural feeder roads, thereby impeding smooth access between the rural farming communities and Urban areas as one of the key challenges. The issue of epileptic electricity supply, abscence of intra-state network of railways, absence of ICT policy, prevalence of slums etc, were some of the problems confronting the sector. As a result of these , Ortom administration is to invest in grid and off grid power, with focus on coal, hydro, solar, recycled waste and geothermal power generation to increase electricity supply (p.43). The administration is also to provide an Airport in Makurdi, light rail from Otukpo to Gboko down to Zaki biam. Provide water supply in major Urban areas and mass housing in the state.
Subsequently follows, is the issue of Gender, Women, Youth and person with Disability in chapter seven. Emulating the action of countries that have adopted, ratified and are implementing the Beijin convention, UN convention on Elimination of all form of Discrimination against women and the world programme of action for youth. The Ortom administration has mainstream gender in the development project and programme, having more women in a appointive and decision making position to support business venture and promote youth entreprenuership and make all public offices disability compliant.
Chapter Eight is the most interesting and well articulated. It covers, FUNDING THE VISION PLAN. The vision plan has four major sources of fund known as the The Fund Streams i.e The Annual Budgetary Appropriation, Bonds and Debentures, Public- Private- Partnership (PPP) and other creative Financing Schemes. The vision plan in a tabular presentation is estimated to cost #200 billion over a four (4) year period. According to the tabular presentation, Good Governance and Revenue Security as one of the strategic programmes is allocated 8% at the cost of #16 billion, STEAM- Based Education and Health Services is proposed for 30% at the cost of #60 billion, Investments in Critical Infrastructure is allocated 40% at the cost of #80 billion, On Agriculture- Driven Industrialization 15% is allocated at the cost of #30 billion, while 7% is allocated to Gender, women, youth and persons with disability at the cost of #14 billion, putting the sum total at #200 billion. It is further stated that the projected revenue will be source from the already established sources ( federation account, IGR, bonds and debentures) which is #78 billion per annum or #312 billion for the four(4) years period (p.57).
Implementation Strategy is the focus of ninth chapter. This deals with the institutional frame work of co-ordination and cohesion of leadership and management actors, in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation process. The implementation strategy is broken down into state and non-state actors. The state actors is made up of the institutions of the state government while the non-state actors comprise of private sector, civil societies and development partners.
Chapter ten being the last of the section is a brief summary of the vision plan document.
Futherance from the above, the detailed vision plan is well articulated with pictorial presentation, that has a far reaching effects on all sector of the state economy. The state government should ensure to extend the investments in critical infrastructure to the drainage system to cushion the effects of the perenial flood story in the state. Also, the pitfall of non execution of the past plan by the previous administration, such as Benue Reform Action Plan (BRAP) and Our Benue, Our Future (OBOF) should be avoided.
Assessing the vision plan, “Our Collective Vision for New Benue, using the Project Management Assessment Scheme (Initiating of the Project 13%, Planning of the Project 24%, Executing the Project 30%, Monitoring and controlling the Project 25%, while Closing the Project 8%). The said vision plan for the state can be rated 37% thus far. It is my utmost belief that, with the political ‘will’ demonstrated by the Ortom’s administration, the vision plan will be sucessful. While i encourage every in the state to get a copy and peruse, i strongly advice the PDP members in the state to use it as a guide for constructive criticism rather than the archaic media hooliganism methodology.