OBASEKI AND THE SILENT REVOLUTION: A TALE OF TWO EDSTMAs

John Ewah

The wide acceptance which has greeted the Obaseki second term bid and the legitimacy his government enjoys from indigenes of the State including those in the diaspora, are not unexpected to many residents of the State.

The stage has been tensed for about a year now in diverse political performances which have defied the expertise of philosophers and political scientists whose analyses and projections have been rendered void and impracticable in the ensuing political play between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor.

The reasons behind the spontaneous deviation from political apathy to the massive participatory political disposition, displayed by Indigenes and residents of Edo State, in protest against the attempt to deny Godwin Obaseki a second term, are quite numerous; the overhauling of the Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency (EDSTMA), is just one of such.

The city centers in Edo State like many other States of the federation are often concrete environments peopled with folks of diverse pursuits, and their ever booming population and attendant activities become serious constraints to both human and vehicular movement. As the city becomes larger, there is a significant increase in vehicular movements that pose serious problems to commercial and civil activities within the metropolis.

At some point, traffic control by the police was overtly inadequate due to shortage in manpower or the usual lackadaisical attitude of the Nigerian police, or better still, an outright show of indifference to the plights of passengers and pedestrians. To combat this challenge, there was an urgent need to set up a traffic management agency that would assist the police in the day to day activity of traffic monitoring and control to aid the free flow of human and vehicular movements.

Taking a cue from the relative successes recorded in places like Lagos, there was an urgent need to set up the Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency (EDSTMA) with an original intent to control traffic and deter transporters from outright violation of traffic rules.

The idea was a huge relief to many road users and commuters until officers of the agency began to manifest certain unexpected inhuman tendencies. Their actions were totally devoid of civility as they became agents of oppression, unleashing mayhem on the people they were recruited to serve.

It became a norm for these officers to be seen dragging car steerings with drivers while their vehicles were in motion, which resulted in numerous cases of accidents within the period, thus endangering the lives of the citizens. How can one forget so easily the case of a woman in labour, whom these heartless officers, without recourse to expediency and discretion, had to impound the vehicle conveying her to the hospital for delivery!

EDSTMA within this period became an agency of extortion and committed robbery in broad daylight, thereby making a huge fortune for themselves and their benefactors. In all of these, the Adams Oshiomhole-led government, under whose nose this callousness was being perpetrated, turned a blind eye to the plights of the people. Rumour had it that top government functionaries were given kickbacks from the daily ‘collection’ by EDSTMA officials.

These officers had no form of training whatsoever as traffic managers. They were thugs in uniforms whose sole duty was to generate revenue for the Government of the day and a few individuals with vested interests. In most cases, many of them were drunk on duty as one could perceive the ooze of alcohol from their breaths.

They deliberately allowed road users break traffic rules in order to have them arrested, impound their vehicles and extort money from them, and should you as a road user fail in this wise to become a prey to their ambush, they programme you for an offense. They interpreted the traffic lights as they wanted and pronounce you guilty whether you liked it or not, even when you have committed no offense.

The mobile courts set up to try offenders was a caricature of what a court should be. Its activities were a mockery of court processes as offenders were already guilty before charged. It was a body set up to willy-nilly impose levies on offenders, as many were never tried.

Edo residents were taken aback by their ignoble and ignominious actions alongside the desperate and aggressive attempt to put road users under their constant subjugation. Motorists traveling through the State from other states boycotted the city centres, and where possible, avoided taking the Benin route altogether for fear of EDSTMA. This brought a significant economic loss to the State.

It was a wilderness experience for the people of Edo State and no one who had an experience with these officers would want to relive the haunting memories. They haunted many in their sleep and gave them nightmares.

With the advent of the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration however, one of the first steps taken to combat this awkward trend, was setting up a recruitment body for a new EDSTMA following the disbanding of the agency earlier on. Governor Godwin Obaseki hired a professional with a track record of success in this field, to take charge of the recruitment and screening of fresh agents.

Most of the applicants were graduates, and one of the recruitment procedures was a medical screening involving blood alcohol content. Where such content appeared higher than normal, the candidate was screened out. This was done for the purpose of restoring sanity to the agency and guard against thuggery.

Recruits were subjected to rigorous training exercises, with conducted interviews and written exams, and adequate training given to them in traffic management, civility and discipline.

Revenue generation was no longer the focus but traffic control and management, and offenders in many cases, are known to have been sentenced to days or weeks of community service, depending on the severity of their offenses.

Extortion of motorists became a serious offense and where there are a few reported cases, thorough investigation are carried out and erring officers penalized or outrightly sacked. Evidently, EDSTMA remains a work in progress as no institution is perfect, but its overhauling effects have had a wider and positive reach on the populace and comuters, and sanity has been restored to the city centres.

Observing the differences between the Obaseki-led EDSTMA and Oshiomhole-led EDSTAM, one could notice a sharp deviation from a culture of barbarism, impunity, oppression and thuggery, which have been replaced with a culture of civility, respect, humanness and enlightenment. It is for this same reason that the people have decided to stand firmly by Governor Godwin Obaseki and has vehemently resisted and continue to resist any attempt to oust him from power.

Governor Godwin Obaseki has shown the people civility and the dividends of true democracy. The people cannot afford to go back to the unwholesome days of an Oshiomhole controlled EDSTMA whether directly or through his installation of a stooge that can bend to his whims and caprices. This is one of the silent revolutions currently taking place in Edo with Godwin Obaseki at the vanguard.

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