BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
It is one year today since Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State assumed office and the story has been one of consolidation on the achievements of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The technocrat governor has not disappointed his party in terms of performance. Luckily for Obaseki, Oshiomhole paved the way for him by retiring most of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders who had held sway in the state for years.
So apart from the challenge of funds, the governor has no reasons not to deliver on his promises. Speaking after his electoral victory last year, Obaseki promised to provide 200,000 jobs in his first four years, bring investors who will explore the mineral potentials of the state, end the tyranny in communities, fight double taxation, continue infrastructural development and construct an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Gelegele. Knowing fully well that he needed to attract investors to Edo and must provide a conducive atmosphere for them to operate, the governor, in collaboration with the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare 11, proscribed Community Development Associations (CDAs) which had allegedly been discouraging prospective investors from making the state their destination through land grabbing and obnoxious levies.
He also banned the collection of revenues on behalf of government by private individuals after the people of the state complained of multiple taxes. Some persons opposed to the new order, particularly those who tried to dare the “Wake and See Governor”, as he is popularly called, are either cooling off in jail or facing prosecution today. Obaseki organised several workshops and seminars to chart a direction for his administration.
The workshops led to the resuscitation of the Auchi fertilizer factory and the Okpella cement factory. The blue print on sports led to the recent award of contract for the building of 20 stadiums in all the 18 local government areas of Edo while two will be built in Oredo. The Obaseki administration also embarked on the construction of 150 roads across the three senatorial districts of the state, the reconstructing the state secretariat along Sapele Road and the reconstruction of the state High Court building. The administration also reformed Edo State Traffic Management Agency (EDSTMA).
In the area of education, the Obaseki administration is weeding out bad eggs in the system. Benin Technical College (BTC) is getting good attention and when fully overhauled will be renamed Government College of Science and Technology. It is projected to award NABTEB certificates and expected to create manpower for the investors the administration is attracting to Edo.
Obaseki’s vision for the tertiary education sector is anchored on ensuring skills-based curricula to equip graduates with the right expertise to be self-reliant and contribute to the nation’s industrialization drive. To ensure a sustainable health system in the state, the administration is pushing for the Edo State Health Law 2017 to domesticate the National Health Act of 2014. The law, when it takes effect, will enable the state government roll out Primary Health Care Models in all the 18 local government areas and the 192 wards in the state.
Anyone who has observed Obaseki, right from when he was Chairman of the state Economic Team under Oshiomhole, knows that funding projects is never his problem once he takes on a particular project. He aggressively embarked on cutting cost and wastages he observed in government to be able to fund his projects. For instance, the governor has refused to purchase new official vehicles for himself and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, as both of them have been using the old vehicles inherited from the Oshiomhole administration. He engaged the Lady Mechanics to refurbish abandoned government vehicles which littered the state
Government House and that move saved the state the stress of purchasing new vehicles for some government officials. Sunday Vanguard gathered that his reforms in the revenue sector have also boosted the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Edo which is now above N2billion every month. The state has not failed in the payment of salaries unlike many other states. However, when asked about the protest by pensioners over alleged non-payment of pensions by the state government, the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said, “What these people are protesting is arrears that had piled up since over twenty years ago. And that is why when the leaders of the pensioners held a meeting with the governor, they agreed that they had been receiving their monthly pension. And they commended the state government. These were arrears that were not paid right from the military government and then the PDP administration in the state. It was the Oshiomhole administration that started finding solution to the problem which Governor Obaseki has continued to do. The genuine pensioners affected know it is not the fault of this administration; it is only the sponsored ones that are making efforts to destroy the name of this administration”.
Oshiomhole did not make mistake when he assembled dogged politicians such as Shaibu and Osarodion Ogie to work with Obaseki who is a technocrat. The duo has provided the governor what he lacks in the political turf and the cordial relationship which had existed between the three leaders in the past one year is evident in the progress made so far.
Obaseki also enjoys the support of his Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele who, as a technocrat like his boss, has been able to galvanize the Government House staff and smoothen his relationship with the political class and other members of the public. And ahead of his appointments, Obaseki gave party leaders in the state a template about the kind of persons he wants as Commissioners, Special Advisers and Special Assistants and urged them to look at the qualities and prescribed qualifications in picking the political appointees. The situation gave the party leaders, including those at the ward level, the opportunity to contribute to the process of appointing those who became their Commissioners and Special Advisers. And after picking 193 Special Assistants from the 192 wards across the state,
Obaseki explained, “My administration will build a mini-Government House in all the wards so that government in Benin City will be communicating directly with the Advisers who will live in their localities and feed government with the information needed to develop the areas. These Assistants, which you picked for me, will reside in your domain; we will equip their offices and put communication gadgets so that you don’t need to come to Benin to get your problems solved.
“Through these Assistants, we will communicate government policies to you and get suggestions from you because we intend to make APC a world class party that must deliver on its promises and that will give us an edge over other parties in future elections”.
To express his gratitude to the electorate, particularly the APC members who supported him during the election, Obaseki recently concluded a ‘thank you tour’ to the 18 local government areas of Edo where over four thousand members of the PDP defected to the APC. Obaseki told the people during the occasion, “I am here as governor today because of your support and I will never forget it. As an administration, we will work directly with the people and ensure that everybody is carried along in the running of government. We will fulfil our campaign promises because the era of executing projects just because of elections are over. That is the difference between APC and PDP, we don’t deceive people but they deceive people. APC government believes in fulfilling its promises and that is what Oshiomhole did and that is what we are doing today. This government is a continuation of that of Oshiomhole who laid the foundation which we are building on today. We will do our best to serve our people; we will never be intimidated from doing the right thing. Our dream is to have an Edo that will surpass the successes we have witnessed in Lagos State”.