It is a long held view that the role of a journalist is to expose the ills in society, and when need be, point the way forward. Those who hold this view are right. They expect him to feel the pulse and articulate the feelings of the people in any issue and convey same to the government of the day so that there could be a two-way communication between the leaders and followers. In performing his job, he is often expected as the voice of the voiceless to speak on behalf of the people which often may run counter to the feelings of the leadership. In fact, only very few of the masses expects him to support or throw his weight behind some of government policies in some critical issues, no matter how well intentioned, which also constitutes his duty.
I must make this claim from the beginning. I am not a hired writer! Nobody hired me to launder anybody’s image. But when issues seem blurred to the extent that there are discordant tones on a matter that needs a common ground, one needs to make his voice heard even though it may seem muffled and not music to all.
So much dust has been raised by so many people since the state government ventured recently into the capital market to source for N15 billion bond to complete some of its on-going projects. Many, who are ill-informed about the mechanics of administration, have said all sorts of things to disparage the government. The beauty of democracy is the freedom of expression it offers to the people, and the newspaper, being the people’s parliament where ideas contend, is like the Wailing Wall in Israel where everyone who has an issue to grind with his neighbour brings his petition before God for redress.
Some have said that borrowing to refinance projects at a time the state government should be crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s in its handover notes does not bode well for the state. Some equally say they do not see the need to borrow when the first bond has not been fully repaid. Besides, while many of the critics contend that borrowing a bond that has a lifespan of seven years at this time will put the incoming government in jeopardy as the new governor will spend much part of his tenure repaying debt and unable to initiate and execute meaningful projects, others doubt the money will be judiciously used. In fact there are as many views and opinions on this matter as there are many doubting Thomases. Some have even questioned why the government should borrow when Peter Obi of Anambra state left ₦75 Billion savings for his people.
In fact, I must concede the point that there may be some sense in all these and that the petitioners have the right to hold contrary views which, I believe, may have been otherwise if governments in Nigeria had been transparent. I concede too that some of the people with contrary views are not out to score some cheap political goals but are patriotic and honest Ebonyians who wish the government and people of the state well.
But they are grossly wrong in their views. People who canvas such ideas see governance from a mercantilist perspective which entails making profit at all cost; they don’t see it from the viewpoint of a social institution whose primary duty is to cater for the welfare of the people. They erroneously see government as an omnipotent being that has the power to do everything, including the power to feed the over two million Ebonyians with just five loaves and two fishes! Such people ascribe infinite power to government and expect it to do the impossible, including manufacturing money from nowhere to meet its obligations!
I support the bond primarily because the state is in a hurry to develop. I support it also because the bond will be spread over seven years with a very low interest rate that will not exert much pressure on the pocket of government.
Anyone conversant with our history before the creation of Ebonyi state will have no reason whatsoever to oppose the move by the state government. Ebonyi has suffered many years of neglect, and it was primarily to redress this imbalance in the provision of social amenities and give the people a new lease of life that impelled and necessitated the struggle for the creation of the state. From north to south, from east to west, it was writhe large with misery and utter neglect. We were seen as hewers of wood and drawers of water, but not any more.
By building a multi-billion naira water scheme and a New Secretariat and, the various projects that litter the state, governor Martin Elechi is making a statement. He is telling us— and the doubting Thomases— that our years of neglect are over. He wants Ebonyi to catch up with and overtake most of the states created before it.
Those who are against collecting the bond have lost the import in one of Fela’s music. In order to show the negative impact of inflation in the 80’s, Fela said that he went to buy a radio set and came back disappointed because the money he had saved for it could not purchase it. He continued saving but six months later when he went to the market again for it, the cost had tripled. At the end, he could not purchase the radio set of his dream because the rate of inflation was outstripping his capacity to save!
Chief Martin Elechi wants to starve off this sort of inflation, he wants to build Ebonyi state of the future today. As the master builder, he wants to lay a solid foundation upon which future development of the state will be based. We should all support him in this crusade as any attempt to thwart it will have negative consequences in future. Most of the projects are gargantuan and they are not something that could be accomplished purely on the basis of the meagre resources that accrue to the state from the federation account.
Besides, it is very wrong to compare Governor Elechi with Peter Obi who said he left &8358;75 billion as savings. Peter Obi came into government with the mindset of a trader whose motive was to make profit. But Elechi came in as a consummate technocrat imbued with the burden to turn the fortunes of his people around. That is a laudable vision, but it needs money to accomplish, and that is why we need the &8358;15 billion bond.