Alaghodaro: Obaseki’s Vision for Edo’s Future

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ANOTHER ANALYSIS FOR WED

The Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State is planning an investment summit like no other, devoid of the funfair and merrymaking as he commemorates his first year in office. Crusoe Osagie reports

With the theme: ‘Alaghodaro’, a Benin catch phrase, meaning Progress or Moving Forward, the state governor intends the first business convention as a magnet to pull and attract business and investment interests to Benin, the state capital, to deliberate on Edo’s future.

In the Edo State Government and around Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the state governor, there is a new sense of urgency. It is a reawakening to a need to work for tomorrow; preparing the average Edo man and the state for a 30-year vision that will rest on five key thematic pillars; Institutional Reform, Environmental Sustainability, Economic Development, Social Welfare, Arts, Culture and Tourism.

Aside its iconic relevance, the new phrase captures the entire development plan already put in motion for Edo State. As an investment summit, the maiden edition themed, ‘Envisioning the Future’, will bring together top Nigerian and International business leaders, investors, bankers, industry experts, policymakers and the academia to set the agenda for development. It will also showcase how Edo State intends to partner the private sector to leverage the state’s competitive advantage in different sectors for sustainable economic growth.
Shedding light on the planned Alaghodaro Investment Summit, chairman of the planning committee, Asue Ighodalo said: “The summit is designed to foster knowledge sharing, build relationships, spark innovation and inspire commitment to strategic deployment of capital for greater socio-economic and environmental impact.”

He is not a novice in investment, economic and business initiatives such as the proposed summit in Benin. Ighodalo, a seasoned investment lawyer, currently sits on the board of Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). He has been the chairman of the board of Sterling Bank since 2014 just as he also sits at the boards of private companies and NGOs including the Christopher Kolade Foundation, FATE Foundation, Lagos State Lottery Board, Main Street Technologies Limited, Union Bank (UK) amongst others.
Going by governance indices, Obaseki has made giant strides in all the sectors of the state in barely a year of being in office.

The state governor may well be justified if he sits back and enjoy some accolades given his achievements at a time the country is recovering from the worst economic recession is decades, but he rather prefers to engage investors and thought leaders on the immense potential that Edo has.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Edo ranks 8 as a state most likely to be self-sustaining on account of its natural resources.

The state has oil, immense potential in water and other natural resources, a population that can easily attract outside and foreign investments. Obaseki, ordinarily, should habour no worry.
But for those that know him, the technocrat governor will have none of that. “Oil has been the driving force of our economy both at the national and state level. The real challenge for us as a people is not necessarily what happens now, but what happens when the oil wells dry up and we can no longer generate foreign exchange from the sale of oil.

“Alaghodaro is the response of the government of Edo State to this challenge. We understand that to ensure a sustainable future for our children we must take deliberate action today towards developing the non-oil sectors and diversifying our economy,” the organisers said.

Armed with a clear-cut vision for Edo’s future, Obaseki intends to use the summit to benchmark and strengthen the numerous programmes, activities and policies he has rolled out since assuming office. The thematic areas for the summit provide a canvas with which Obaseki has prosecuted his philosophy for governance, which is anchored on strengthening of institutions, respect for law and order and mobilising private capital to not just drive development but also speed up the delivery of public goods.

So, it is no surprise that he is prioritising the place of institutional reforms as a fulcrum to build a society that respects the dignity of man, ensuring that no one is above the law and that governance is strengthened to serve and not exploit the people.

In terms of institutional reforms, with an overarching vision to make Edo accountable, transparent and a darling for local and foreign capital inflows, the state insists on the adherence to its public procurement laws in sourcing of services and goods, which eases business transactions with the state government.
Obaseki’s insistence on the supremacy of law and order in the state got a boost with the passage of the Private Property Protection (PPP) law, which outlawed the activities of land speculators and grabbers, who had for years tormented investors in the state. This has cleared the space for investors to site factories and industries in parts of the state without fear of intimidation from anyone.

The state’s economic development plan is geared towards opening up investment opportunities with priority given to initiatives that prioritise the state’s competitive advantage in agriculture and human capital. In this vein, agriculture has gotten a major boost with the adoption of contract farming, partnership with SARO Group on maize farming; revamping of the Edo Fertilizer and Chemical Company for the supply of inputs, among many others. The resulting jobs that would be generated from these ventures are expected to usher the state into a new order of economic growth. Aside these, there is a grand plan to transform the state into a transport hub, with the anchors being the Gelegele Seaport, which would aid the evacuation of agricultural produce for local and global markets.

On social welfare, the primacy of the human guides the government’s policies. Its social welfare investments are aimed at tackling the elements of human survival at the basic level. Hence, in education, the focus is on basic education, even as it firms up other tiers of the education. There are budgetary commitments pursued to ensure that the state gets its act right at the foundation. The state has also allowed for probity in resource management, ensuring that the law runs its course where issues of misappropriation of funds are suspected.
Obaseki’s environmental sustainability policies, such as the ‘Clean and Green Edo’ are to usher the state into a new era of respect for the environment. In no distant time, it is expected that the state would have green areas and devising means to transform waste into wealth.

Of all the things that stand Edo out, the most captivating is its art, culture and tourism offerings. Historically, Edo’s heritage captured the world’s attention centuries ago. Though little was done to capitalise on this in the past, the Obaseki-led administration has shown that he intends to put arts and the tourism sector on the front burner.

While Edo is an oil producing state entitled to an appreciable remittance from federal purse and royalties on its oil resource contribution, dwindling oil fortunes which, significantly has cut down revenue necessarily forces a rethink on this matter. Indeed, World Bank boss, Kim Jong, made a call to this effect, recently.
“Despite the fact that there is the hit that was taken from the drop in the oil prices, Nigeria has to think ahead. And investing in its people, investing in the things that will allow Nigeria to be a thriving, rapidly growing economy in the future is what the country has to focus on right now. It can’t rely just on oil prices going back up. It has to think.” This, in essence is Obaseki’s plan.