Given his calm and reticent persona, many politicians and non-politicians alike in Edo State are still perplexed about the manner of politician, which the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki is. Every step Obaseki takes as a politician seems to baffle the traditional politicians within and outside the state.
In the election that brought him to power in 2016, he lost in the Edo Central Senatorial district of the state in a fairly spectacular manner.
Following this rejection by many Esan people therefore, what a typical Nigerian politician will do is to completely abandon that section of the state.
Yes, the typical Nigeria politician will quickly toss Esan people away, after all, they are the region with the smallest population in Edo State.
Edo South where Obaseki hails from has over 50 percent of the state’s population; Edo North, the home of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has just above 20 per cent; while Edo Central has less than 20 per cent of the population.
So, with Edo South and Edo North showing up strongly for Obaseki and bringing him to power, the convenient way to carry on would have been to abandon the Esan people of Edo Central. Bearing in mind that with one section of the state out of the equation, there will be more to share in the regular ‘chop, I chop’ politics which has become common in Nigeria. But not Obaseki. He does not dwell on hate, bitterness and the ‘do me, I do you’ principle which politics in Nigeria is unfortunately now mostly renowned for.
The Esan people were hostile at the beginning. Youths from there at a time pelted the governor’s convoy with stones. Thereafter, the people in Esan North East, around Ugboha and Uromi area prevented him from accessing the community in respect of a water project he was championing for Esan land.
Obaseki was however unfazed, he kept courting Esan people like a bloke seeking the affection of a damsel playing hard to get.
He picked up one of their heros, Prof. Ambrose Alli, who was indeed a hero of not only the entire Edo State but also a hero of the then Bendel State and Nigeria in general, but had been seemingly forgotten and his labour as a past hero profaned.
Obaseki re-enacted Ambrose Alli’s greatness in a sublime event to mark the 29th anniversary of the death of the Esan and Edo political hero, who set the stage for what gave the then Bendel State the edge to compete with the then Western region of Nigeria as one of the most educationally advanced parts in the country.
All of Edo, Delta and Nigeria on Obaseki’s prompting, stood still on September 22, 2018 and paid tributes to this hero that had been treated as a villain for decades.
Not long after, Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, another Edo political hero of Esan extraction, went to be with his maker. Love Chief Anenih or hate him, there is no controversy over the fact that at a time in our history as a nation, this man from a minority tribe in a minority state in a minority region of Nigeria bestrode the nation’s political space like a colossus.
Obaseki ensured that he was buried like a political hero that he was despite being the leader of the main opposition political party in the state.
In exchange for their hostility at the time, Obaseki embarked on massive infrastructural development in Esan land. Across Ekpoma, Irrua, Uromi, Ubiaja, Ewu, Ibore and several others, the people will attest that no recent government in Edo State has paid so much attention to Esan land. Schools renovated, rural and sub-urban roads revamped, erosion threats and challenges checked, age long water scarcity confronted.
Mesmerized by the good-natured politics which has become synonymous with Obaseki, many in the state struggle to find an adequate definition for the governor of Edo State within the context of Nigerian politics mostly characterised by distrust, vile insults, bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness.
First, some see the governor as a technocrat, rather than a politician. They hinge their position on the fact that before 2016, Governor Obaseki was a financial and business expert. He was the Chairman of Edo State Economic Team during the administration of Comrade Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. He contributed greatly to the improvement of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). As Governor of Edo State, Obaseki has been able to use his expert knowledge and wealth of experience to improve on the state’s economy, diversify the economic base of the state and manage the scarce resources from the federation account.
Secondly, some regard the governor as a quiet man whose actions speak for him. These set of people made comparison between the former Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki, and concluded that while the former is very verbally expressive about everything he does, the latter simply and quietly executes projects without any fun-fare attached to it. This approach of Godwin Obaseki has earned him the nick name “Wake and see Governor.” Furthermore, many people have referred to Governor Obaseki as a true democrat and a progressive minded person. They base their argument on the fact that Obaseki always respects the rule of law in whatever he does, unlike in the past when things were done with impunity.
For instance, Governor Obaseki fully transmitted power to his Deputy, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu to act as the State Governor while he was on vacation. The letter to that effect was forwarded to the State House of Assembly and read on the floor of the House. This has not been the case in previous governments.
In the execution of projects, Obaseki has been rated very high by the people, especially in the area of road construction. It is very visible in Benin and other towns across the state that major roads and adjourning streets are being asphalted and reconstructed. This is helping to give the state a facelift, resolving the problem of traffic congestion and giving people easier access to their homes, businesses, and other locations of socio-economic importance.
Governor Godwin Obaseki has broken the jinx surrounding the uncompleted and neglected Secretariat/Palm House building on Sapele Road in Benin City, abandoned for over 40 years. He is working hard on the completion of the project as well as embarking on the construction of new buildings within the Palm House and High Court premises on Sapele Road.
A visit to this centre of government business reveals that work is ongoing night and day to ensure early completion of the projects. The uncompleted buildings used to be home to destitute and a hide out for all categories of criminals. But today, the story has changed.
Another area where Obaseki is doing extremely well is the payment of workers salaries, as well as the payment of pension and gratuity to retired civil servants. Gone are the days when pensioners used to stage protest to demand for the payment of their entitlements. Indeed, Edo State workers are paid their salaries latest on the 26th of every month, while the pensioners are paid a day earlier.
Another remarkable achievement of Governor Obaseki is that he has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Edo State can work without the services of area boys otherwise known as “Agberos,” who in the past unleashed terror and mayhem on commercial bus drivers, taxi drivers, market women and other traders in Benin City, in the name of collecting revenue for the State Government.
Today, both state and local governments collect their revenue using their own staff. The state government is working on how to take revenue collection to the next level, where people will have to pay their taxes and levies electronically through the use of cards. This will not only help in bringing decency to revenue collection, but it will also ensure that all leakages are completely blocked, thereby ensuring that every tax payer’s contribution gets to government coffer and is used judiciously to meet the needs of the people.
Anyone who visits the former Benin Technical College would see that the school is undergoing massive transformation, courtesy of Governor Godwin Obaseki. The school when completed would be able to train youths on technical skills in carpentry, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering, among others. Obaseki says he looks forward to the school becoming a training ground for youths who want to acquire vocational and technical skills that will make them not only self-reliant, but also employers of labour.
Also, the Edo State Innovation Hub, at I.C.E. Road, Benin City, is another fantastic initiative by Governor Obaseki to assist youths to develop their innate abilities and acquire useful Information technology skills. The Edo Innovation Hub also helps to train prospective youths on how to develop business plans, write business proposals and how to source for fund to start small and medium scale businesses.
The state government under the leadership of Obaseki has introduced the most transparent and credible way of appointing qualified candidates into the state civil service through its Edo Job Portal. Every graduates of Edo State can upload their credentials and application, using the website link:(www.edojobs.edostate.gov.ng).
The Edojobs is an initiative of the Edo State Government under Obaseki to create over 200,000 jobs for Edo State people through partnership with both private and public sector operators. Almost 90,000 jobs have been so far created under the initiative. Since its inception, Edo jobs has become a household name and a pool for sourcing qualified personnel for the best job matching and recruitment process.
So, if you ask me what manner of man Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki is, I will say that he is a leader to be trusted both in words and action. He is a true democrat, a technocrat, an administrator par excellence, and a detribalised and good-natured politician. For me, Obaseki has been able to change the narrative when it comes to road construction, job creation, infrastructure development as well as political and social re-engineering in Edo State. Today, he has earned the respect and support of well-meaning Edo people and other residents in the state. Other politicians may not like to hear this, but for a fact, as at today, among the ordinary voting population, Obaseki is the most loved and most popular politician in Edo State.
There is therefore no doubt whatsoever that the people of the state are ready to go with Obaseki in 2020 to ensure that transparency in governance and enthronement of the best interest of the people are sustained.
––Oribhabor, a social commentator and immediate past Chairman, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Edo State, writes from Benin City.