Peter Uhozo writes on the benefits of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s reforms in Edo State When he was touted as the man to take the reins of power in Edo State, many gave him little chance at the polls, and even many more argued that he would be boggled by the skirmishes of atavistic politics that characterise Nigeria’s experiment with democracy.
But since Governor Godwin Obaseki assumed office, he has taken his stride in good stead, building on the work of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and ushering the state into an unprecedented era of economic expansion.
The methodological manner in which the governor has piloted the affairs of the state and brought a new sense of urgency to the drive for development has grown the status of the state as a model for others to follow. For instance, only a few weeks ago, a top-heavy World Bank delegation to Nigeria declared that, with the level of reforms and the deepening impact of projects in the state, Edo has become a model for development at the sub-national level in developing countries.
This didn’t come as a mean feat. In fact, it can be argued that it was a culmination of the meticulousness and world-class leadership that inspires and directs the state’s development drive. Avoiding the shenanigans of petty politics, Obaseki has brought in the finesse and clear-headedness of a boardroom guru, articulating the state’s needs and delivering them with clear-cut timelines.
The governor’s policy stance has been to tackle rot from the base, as can be seen with the focus on basic education and primary healthcare reforms; on skills development, captured in the commitment to revive technical education and the emphasis on creating a conducive environment for business exhibited in landmark initiatives like the Public Private Partnership Office, and the Business Bureau.
Dividends of democracy
In Edo State, the refrain for the governor’s growing profile as a development merchant is captured in the nickname, “Wake and See Governor.”
The sobriquet has stuck because of the governor’s style of working without making a fuss. Rather, he is more concerned with repositioning the state as an investment hub not just to boost productivity, but to assure better, fulfilling life for residents and indigenes. New roads spring up daily in urban, peri-urban and rural areas without any fanfare, residents are seen to be saying.
When taken in sum, a number of the governor’s policies are aimed at improving the quality of life, reducing poverty, empowering the people to live life to the fullest and ensuring that society is guided by the rule of law.
Though the governor is not one to make a fuss about constructing roads, he has silently turned the state into a construction site. Some of the road construction projects in the state include: reconstruction of Lucky Way in Ikpoba Hill area, Benin City; rehabilitation of Wire Road, TV Road, construction of Ogiefa Street, Ogiefa lane and Amadasun Street and reconstruction of Nevis Street off Forestry Road, emergency repair of Okonkpon Bridge, among others.
In Edo Central, some of the projects include Old Agbor Road-Ugbegun, Ekpon-Ubiaja Road, Angle 80- Illushi, Ewohimi Usehi Junction-Okaigbeu, Opoji-Ugbegun Road, Akia Roundabout-Niyelen; reconstruction of Olele Street, Eguare Irrue and reconstruction of Erewele Street, Eguare Irru, among others.
Rehabilitation is also ongoing for Benin Township Roads such as Edebiri Irowa, Osuma Streets, College Road, Goodwill Street, Erediawa Street Off Ekenwan Road, Oziengbe-Emwanta Off Urubi Road, Asoro-Igbesamwan-Aruosa Street, Nekpen-Nekpen Road. There is also the construction of Irhirhi – Aruogba – Obazagbon – Obagienevbosa – Ogheghe Road with spurs to Enogie Palace, and Ogbekpen community and emergency repair of Evbuobanosa-Oza-Igbanke Road bridge and some failed section along the road, reconstruction of High Court internal roads, James Watt Roads and Idahosa street in Benin City, among others.
The state has procured two Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), as plans have been concluded to purchase gunboats and a helicopter. These complements far-reaching consensus building among security agencies and communities to ensure security is guaranteed for investors.
The Edo industrial corridor
Obaseki’s plan to industrialise Edo State is expansive and includes strategically linked projects which will see the state emerge as an economic hub.
“We are pursuing an aggressive industrialisation drive. Our goal is to utilise our endowments, particularly the available energy and logistical advantage so that we can become a major industrial hub,” he said, during the last Alaghodaro Investment Summit.
The state, by Obaseki’s grand industrialisation plan, is expected to be serviced by gas-powered power plants, housing refineries, seaports, industrial clusters, innovation hubs, smart neighbourhoods and a number of other investments.
What makes Edo stand out is the centrality of its location, availability of gas, onshore, and other supporting structures as well as the extensive raw material deposits.
The legacy projects
The legacy projects of the Obaseki-led administration include the Benin Industrial Park, Benin River Port Project, Modular Refinery Project, 1800-unit housing project and a number of educational and health projects, all of which are being implemented with meticulous attention to details.
The Benin Industrial Park is expected to be handled by three co-developers, who have indicated interest to partner with the state government in its development.
The park would host a number of industries that will source raw materials within the state and convert them for local use and export.
According to the governor, “Three groups have registered to be co-developers and by October 2019 the first tenant will move in. When the park is ready, we will have over 1,000 companies in that park, generating an excess of $3 billion annually.”
The Benin River Port Project is being built by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Limited. Preliminary soil testing has been completed and the CHEC is ready to commence the next phase of the project. The communities in Gelegele and environs have thrown their weight behind the project.
The Edo modular refinery project is also another landmark project promoted by the state government. Approvals for the project are being finalised by officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, even as preliminary work will soon commence.
The project is being handled by a Chinese consortium, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government for the development.
The consortium is made up of Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China (PCC); Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation (SIPS) which is a subsidiary of Sinopec, the top Chemical giant in the world and African Infrastructure Partners (AIP), a Nigerian Infrastructural company.
Obaseki is keen on the local content component of the deal. “We will ensure that Edo citizens are trained in welding, refinery operation and fabrication works to enable them participate in the construction of the refinery as well as its operation, post-commissioning. The refinery construction will provide jobs for several unemployed Edo youths including the Libya returnees.”
“Every other sector is using technology, education must change, teachers must follow suit; teachers are nation builders. With the use of digital lesson plans, teachers can work with prepared lesson plan to ease their burden and give more time to supervise the children and manage their classrooms,” Acting Chairman of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe notes, while speaking about Edo State Government’s initiative to deploy Information
Technology (ICT) tools to classrooms.
It is part of Obaseki’s bold reforms in the basic education sub-sector, known as the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST).
EDOSTAR, a component of Edo BEST, is a Teacher Professional Development Training that is building the capacity of teachers in the use of digital technologies in classrooms as well as new classroom management techniques.
Dr. Oviawe, said the teacher training programme will equip teachers with knowledge and skills in deploying new technologies in the classroom, noting that over 2,000 teachers and Headmasters/Headmistresses participating in the exercise will receive computer tablets and smart phones.
“Edo BEST is about imagining the education of tomorrow and starting it today. Obaseki is committed to a holistic change in our basic education sub-sector. On the first day of training, we realised that the training was oversubscribed. Over 3,000 teachers showed up. It was a herculean task to send some away because we have a set limit we can accommodate for this training. We will have more trainings as we expand Edo BEST to other schools,” she said.
Recently, caches of textbooks were received by the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, for distribution to public schools. Earlier, mathematical sets were distributed to public schools in the state.
To ascertain the number of schools, population of teachers, students, available infrastructure and the location of schools across the state, a census has been carried out by the Obaseki administration.
As the figures of the census are being processed, the state government has said the data gathered from the census would guide critical policy undertakings in the sector such as the construction of new schools, deployment of teachers, chairs and tables, laboratories, libraries and other resources.
After years of neglect, the governor is leading reforms in technical education by reconstructing the old Benin Technical College to serve as hub for skills acquisition.
The plan includes using the college to re-skill Edo youths for the emerging industrial sector in the state.
“The Benin Science and Technical College is a work in progress and we anticipated that it would be near completion before the end of the year. When the project is completed, it will enable victims of human trafficking and others acquire technical and vocational skills which will offer them hope,” Obaseki said recently when he was speaking with some delegates from Europe.
According to the governor, the college, on completion, will supply technical manpower to the Benin Industrial Park, the planned Benin Modular Refinery and other enterprises that require technical and vocational manpower.
The impact of the aggressive repositioning of Edo State’s education sector is more visible in the tertiary education sub-sector as the government has rolled out a new multi-campus architecture for institutions of higher learning in the state.
The state has also revealed plans to operate the Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor, as well as multi-campus College of Education with sites in Igueben, Abudu and Auchi.
“While the Abudu campus is to serve as Special Training Centre for teachers at the Basic Education level, the campus at Igueben will focus on training teachers for technical and secondary education,” the governor said during a visit to the campus at Abudu.
He added, “After revamping this institution, it will serve as a centre for training and certification of new sets of teachers for the basic level of education. This will prepare the teachers to adopt modern teaching methods at that level of education.”
The state government has proposed a state-wide health insurance scheme for workers and other residents that will complement efforts to revamp primary healthcare in the state.
With 20 functional primary healthcare centres, the governor has said that plans are underway to build 200 more to expand the reach and access to healthcare.
“One of our key agenda is to fix the healthcare system. We are thinking through the challenges in the health care system and determined to solve them. The health care system, worked effectively at a time, but failed later because we departed from the key building blocks.
“In Edo State, we are determined to fixing the problem by addressing the challenges with primary healthcare system. A part of the reforms is to equip the primary healthcare centres with qualified medical personnel,” he said, adding that a set of 20 primary healthcare centers are operating across the state, and in the next two years, the state government intends to roll out about 200 primary healthcare centres.
The bill for the state health insurance scheme will soon be passed at the state House of Assembly.