Edo Guber: The Option Before Edo People

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Osadolor Omoregie

Deliberately, the APC governorship candidate in the Edo State election, Mr.Godwin Obaseki, is being positioned as a ‘’technocrat’’ by some political elite, who had consistently made attempts to sell him to the electorate for the coming election.

By the tag ‘’technocrat’’, they assume that Obaseki is cerebrate, hard-head, determined, deep, detail-oriented, uncompromising and no-nonsense in approach.

And because technocrat intellectualises and focuses on finding the facts and the right way of doing things, these seeming political jobbers believe Obaseki could without difficulty find solutions to the present socio-political and economic crises that the out-going governor, Adams Oshiomhole, is about to leave behind—-even when it is known to everybody that Obaseki had played a huge role in the present sorry state of Edo State, as the Head of the Economic Team for nearly eight years.

Even Obaseki himself bragged with the technocrat’s tag recently. ‘’As an investment banker of 30 years standing, I have helped create wealth and jobs for many organisations, and with the experience I have garnered in the last eight years of working with the governor, I believe that I have all it takes to be the driver of Edo’s economic revolution’’, Obaseki stated recently.

But, what really qualifies Obaseki as a technocrat? In spite of the fact that his academic qualification is still doubtful, Obaseki had claimed he graduated from University of Ibadan with a Bachelor Degree in Classic Studies; served as Managing Director of Afrinvest (West Africa) Limited, and served as its Chairman of the Board until June 2016.

Mr. Obaseki also claimed he founded SecTrust, the predecessor company to Afrinvest; and a Fellow of the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers.

But, the question is not about whether he served in those companies or not, but how successfully did he manage those companies. Information recently released by the apex regulatory agency of the capital market, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), show that the Afrinvest became insolvent under the management of Obaseki—as Chief executive officer.

In fact, Afrinvest had acknowledged that the firm’s trading privileges were suspended at the opening of business on January 18, 2011 by the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) due to non-compliance with the minimum capital requirements. And as a result of the suspension, the firm had been unable to execute any trades instructed to it by clients since January 18, 2011. Many investors were said to have lost billions of naira as a result of the poor management of the firm, which later led to the sack of Obaseki as CEO of Afrinvest. Many aggrieved investors, who suffered huge lose had described Afrinvest under the leadership of Obaseki as clueless about how to offer their clients legitimate services.

As Head of Economic Team of Edo State Government for over seven and a half years, Obaseki was seen as the brainbox of Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole-led government. The governor himself had admitted that many times. When the government was sworn in nearly eight years ago, the hope of the average Edo people was justifiably raised to the zenith. As former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, many had believed that one of their own—-Oshiomhole, who knows exactly how things should work, had been thrown up by providence as governor.

But, today, those high hopes have far dimmed—-as depression and hunger have been the lot of many Edo people. The local debt profile of Edo State under Oshiomhole-led APC government, has galloped from N4 Billion in 2007 to over N700 billion in 2016, plus $242million foreign debt.

Insiders in the government had said that the road and school rehabilitation, which would have been to the credit of the Oshiomhole administration, had been turned to channels for looting the state blind. For example, they said the Airport Road, a non-coastal road, was constructed at N1.5 billion per kilometre—a road without a single bridge.

What more? They said that the state’s Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) had been turned into a cesspool of fraud and corruption where mere rehabilitation of a classroom block costs as much as N500 million; and Local government Councils and pensioners are currently being owed 12 to 18 months salaries.

Obaseki has been bragging that his role as the Head of Economic Team under Oshiomhole-led administration had repositioned the state for economic growth; but experts have always agreed that some characteristics, which are typically associated with economic development include, low levels of poverty, of hunger and malnutrition, of serious infectious diseases, of homelessness, of crime, of corruption and high levels of income, of consumption, of saving and investment, of employment universal access to social safety nets for the unemployed and people on low incomes, to primary and secondary education, to healthcare services, to good public services etc. So, what informs Obaseki’s bragging?

In fact, a recent report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said that more than 3.6 million Nigerians had been rendered unemployed since APC assumed office over a year ago, with Edo State occupying a very high position. When Governor Oshiomhole assumed office in 2008 — with APC governorship candidate, Obaseki as the Head of Economic Team, he promised to create 100,000 jobs in each year of his administration, meaning that 800,000 new jobs would have been created over eight years.

–Omoregie writes from Upper Sakpoba, Benin-City