Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Beyond Beautification of State Capitals

If environmental enhancement is the only yardstick for measuring the success of our various state governments, many of the incumbent governors would score high marks. In a number of state capitals, environmental beautification programmes are going on with near frenzy.
Take three state capitals for example. In Lagos, Enugu and Owerri, the incumbent administrations have done a great deal to transform the environmental landscape of the state capitals. This is characterized essentially by the provision of better roads, drainage systems, sidewalks and the planting of flowers. The result, undeniably, has been quite aesthetic. Lagos, which until recently had been a tourist’s nightmare, is a lot more appealing to the eye today, thanks to the great effort of the Babatunde Fashola government.
The same is true of Owerri, the picturesque capital of Imo state, where Governor Ikedi Ohakim has done much in the past two years to restore beauty through massive greening of the environmental. In Enugu, the old capital of the former Eastern region and current headquarters of Enugu state, the environmental transformation is all too obvious. From the entrance way to the city centre, the government has erected new monuments and planted new trees to enhance the beauty of the state.
Understandably, many other states have embarked on such projects.
However, we are afraid that modernizing the states will take much more than beautification of the capitals. Modernising state capitals should mean making them more functional with appropriate socio-economic infrastructure, keeping them neat and clean all the time, and even beyond that encouraging decent behavior of its residents. Life in modernized cities should be less frustrating and even pleasurable.
Indeed, beautification of cities, as in the case of Lagos, should be part of a well-articulated plan to build cities to accommodate the demands of the future.
Even at that, a real modernisation scheme should not be limited to state capitals. Real modernization of the states will require massive opening up of the rural areas, provision of better road networks, potable water, electricity and creation of jobs for the army of unemployed youths tramping our streets. A modern society is one in which basic infrastructure are available to all, regardless of their social status. Unfortunately, that is not so in most of our states. In many parts of the country, pupils still take their lessons under tree sheds while those who have classrooms lack furniture and other instructional facilities that conduce to effective learning. In others, there are no hospital facilities to take care of common ailments like malaria and typhoid. These are the real challenges of the state governors. Concentrating on city beautification is therefore not enough at all.
Rural dwellers are also part of their subjects. There must be concrete programmes aimed at improving their standard of living. The whole objective of good governance after all, is to improve the people’s well-being.
While enhancing the aesthetic value of the state capitals is welcome, the governors must go beyond that by embarking on well articulated projects aimed at improving the lives of residents there.
Modernization is much more than cosmetic enhancement of the state capitals. It must be clear to our leaders that the greatest threat to a decent environment is poverty which is fuelled mainly by unemployment.
They must therefore channel greater effort towards doing projects that will lead to the creation of new jobs. When more and more of their citizens have jobs to do and thereby earn income, they will in turn pay taxes which will help the governments to modernize and beautify the society.
While we commend the state governors for the much they have done to enhance the physical environment of their state capitals, we urge them to look more in the direction of true modernization of their societies. Massive job creation programmes should be embarked upon to harness the enormous human resources available in the country. After all, real development starts with the development of the human resource.