In Edo, Obaseki Turns the Governorship Permutation

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has completely turned the table against his former party, the All Progressives Congress and strengthened the capacity of the Peoples Democratic Party to win the September 19 governorship election

If there is one opponent that the All Progressives Congress (APC) dread in Edo State, it is the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. The reason is not far-fetched, a little while ago, the Edo governor was a member of the APC, even if he was treated like a leper for a season by key decision makers in the political party, particularly its erstwhile National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. What began as a minor misunderstanding between the two men was mismanaged on both sides. The gulf of distrust became so wide that it was impossible to reach across the divide for a friendly handshake.

Powerful individuals and interest groups had weighed in on the war between the political godfather, Oshiomhole and his estranged godson, Obaseki. The APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu overtly threw his weight behind Oshiomhole, while the former National Chairman of the party Chief John Odigie-Oyegun backed Obaseki.

Finally, the differences took an irreconcilable turn. Obaseki was denied the APC gubernatorial ticket which would have enabled him to take a second chance at the office of the governor in the impending September 19 Edo State governorship contest. What was APC’s apparent loss, became PDP’s gain. The tables turned quickly as Obaseki switched political party loyalty to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In a twinkle of an eye, the PDP had become the ruling party in Edo. The permutation for the governorship contest was altered. Obaseki who was threatened with the ‘Ambode treatment’, meaning, like the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, he will not be given the opportunity to serve a second term, has shown that he was not willing to yield an inch without giving the fight of his life. His supporters are boasting that the APC made a fatal error by giving its governorship ticket to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. In their reckoning, APC has kissed the state goodbye.

When the political imbroglio in Edo started, many did not give Obaseki a chance. The prevailing opinion summed it up as a mismatch. Coming up against the much experienced Oshiomhole who had fought many battles against military dictatorships and challenged faltering civilian administrations, many expected Obaseki to be a walk over. Nobody gave him a chance. What they did not reckon with is that the man understood the inner workings of the Edo State government like the back of his palm. For about seven years, Obaseki was a trusted lieutenant, who served Oshimhole as the Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team. It is largely to Obaseki’s credit that the state’s Internally Generated Revenue shot up. One year after his appointment, he was able to secure, for the state, N25 billion infrastructure development bond from the Nigerian capital market in 2010. Deploying his knowledge as an Investment Banker, Obaseki helped the Oshiomhole administration to usher in an unprecedented era of prosperity to Edo. Particularly, for this reason of continuing to grow the state economy, Oshiomhole felt confident that he was leaving the state in the hands of a capable administrator. So, he was willing to damn the suspicion of other trusted allies who warned him to be wary of Obaseki.

When the face-off between Oshiomhole and Obaseki became public, the governor went after his former principal and forced him to go on the defensive. Two issues were germaine in his allegations. One, he wanted the public to ask Oshiomhole why he wanted to play godfather-a political arrangement he resolutely fought against. Two, he accused Oshiomhole of being in the vanguard of influential Edo Indigenes who wanted him to allow them unfettered access to the resources of the state. An embarrassed Oshiomhole was forced to bite the humble pie and explain himself at every turn. Other brick bats were thrown at him in the form of allegations of fraud perpetrated under his watch as governor of Edo State.

Obaseki has learnt fast on the job. His hold on Edo politics is such that no one is in doubt that he has the capacity to triumph again. Previously, he kept a low profile, maintaining a self effacing disposition and humility. Many understood this to be that he was playing the part of his profession, as a Stock Broker, which demands being conservative and discrete. However, in the last one year, that image has turned full circle to expose Obaseki in colours the public never knew he had. Away from the perceived timorous attitude, the Edo State Governor has recently shown a display of valour and candour historically associated with his forebears, the Iyase of Benin, that is, the Second in Command (to the revered Oba of Benin), Prime Minister, Commander-in-Chief. With such a heritage, it was a miscalculation to see Godwin Obaseki as a weakling, who lacks self-confidence.

A new Obaseki has emerged. One who is ever ready to advertise his score card. For a little more than three years that Mr. Obaseki has served as Edo State Governor, he has inspired a new approach to governance, bringing to bear on the state’s affairs his impeccable flair for prudent financial management, undiluted taste for quality projects and a commitment to the enhancement of the wellbeing of society through people-oriented policies, programmes and reforms.

The governor started off by identifying six planks upon which his interventions in the state’s political economy would rest. In just over three years, the governor studiously followed through with the plans in remaking the post-modern Edo State, which aspires to become an investment hub propelled by its strategic geographic advantage, a vibrant and aspirational youth population and a rich, diverse cultural heritage that dates back several centuries.

These dynamics have propelled investments in institutional reforms, sports development, industrialisation, education and health reforms, infrastructural development, skills development and job creation and far-reaching civil-service reforms.

Education Reforms

Governor Godwin Obaseki’s far-reaching education reforms in Edo is anchored on a determined resolve to attack the rot in the state’s education sector from its base, which is captured in the re-enactment of the state’s basic education sector.

In the last three years, the reforms have resulted in the training of 11,356 teachers on digitally- enhanced pedagogy; educating over 270,000 pupils in not less than 846 public primary schools across the state; training over 11,500 School Based Management Committee (SBMC) members and distributing over 1,140,000 learning materials to pupils. The state governor has concluded plans to roll out the plan in the junior secondary school sector to capture more children in the state.

Infrastructure

The milestone achievements recorded by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in various sectors of the state’s economy are pinned on the governor’s resolve to overhaul road infrastructure across the state, open up new towns, improve ease of doing businesses, enhance access to rural areas and consolidate on his administration’s urban renewal vision.

The governor, has in the last three years embarked on road construction projects in each of the 192 wards in the 18 LGAs of the state, with each of these roads either completed or in various stages of completion.

So far, the state government has built over 800 roads, which stretch for about 2000km. While the State’s Ministry of Infrastructure constructed about 200 roads, which stretch for 700km, the state under the various streams of the Edo State Employment and Expenditure for Result (SEEFOR), constructed over 400 roads, spanning about 1300km across the state.

Industrialisation

With a daunting vision to recast Edo State as an industrial hub in Nigeria, Governor Obaseki is pulling every string available to attract investors, build local capacity, engender industrial growth and create wealth for the state and its people.

The governor has pursued this over the last three years delivering on top-notch projects, with a clear-cut strategy to harness the state’s human and natural resources to reposition it for industrial revolution and economic expansion.

On the top of avalanche of projects to reposition the state for industrial growth is the Edo Production Hub, a facility that has now turned out to be the life-line to other industrial projects, serving as a lynch-pin for launching the state into its industrial age. Others are Edo Innovation Hub, Benin River Port, Emotan Gardens, CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant, and the Edo Industrial Park, among others.

Institutional Reforms

Governor Obaseki in repositioning the state for growth, identified the need for efficient and functional bureaucracy as the fulcrum upon which development in the state would revolve.

The governor commenced the civil service reform by ensuring that those who work hard for the growth and development of the state are assured financial security by ensuring that their monthly salaries and other emoluments are paid promptly. As a matter of fact, on the 26th of every month, all workers in Edo State get their salaries.

Pensioners aren’t left behind in this reform as they receive their pensions as and when due. This doesn’t only sustain the pensioners but provides hope for civil servants who are assured that once they retire from service, their emoluments will be promptly paid.

To improve productivity, the state government embarked on massive construction of new offices and secretariats for the workers, including the completion of Blocks C and D in the Secretariat Complex with the Treasury Building. The two blocks were abandoned for over 40 years.

The John Oyegun Public Service Training Centre is 95 percent ready. At the facility, workers in the state’s civil service are to be consistently trained on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. These trainings are essentially for retooling and equipping workers with the right skills and capacity to do their jobs.

Agricultural Reforms

Hinged on the huge potential of agriculture for wealth and job creation that could guarantee Edo people better life, Governor Obaseki has implemented well thought-out, strategic and far-reaching reforms that attract and retain investments in oil palm, cassava, maize, yam, rubber, cocoa, rice, vegetables, aquaculture and livestock production.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is investing a whooping N69 billion into the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP). The Edo State Agripreneur programme, which commenced in 2017, is part of the Governor Obaseki-led administration’s strategies to boost Micro, Small-scale and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and sustain current youth-focused agricultural initiatives in the state.

Under the scheme, over 10,000 hectares of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, and other crops are being cultivated in Agenebode, Warrake, Usugbenu, Iguoriakhi and Sobe. There were over 55,000 young beneficiaries while nearly 20,000 jobs were created under the initiative. In addition, the Edo Food and Agriculture Cluster (Edo-FAC) in Ehor, Uhunmwode LGA has benefited over 1,300 farmers. There is also a farm mechanisation programme for commercial agriculture in the state.

QUOTE 1

The governor commenced the civil service reform by ensuring that those who work hard for the growth and development of the state are assured financial security by ensuring that their monthly salaries and other emoluments are paid promptly. As a matter of fact, on the 26th of every month, all workers in Edo State get their salaries. Pensioners aren’t left behind in this reform as they receive their pensions as and when due. This doesn’t only sustain the pensioners but provides hope for civil servants who are assured that once they retire from service, their emoluments will be promptly paid

QUOTE 2

Obaseki was a trusted lieutenant, who served Oshimhole as the Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team. It is largely to Obaseki’s credit that the state’s Internally Generated Revenue shot up. One year after his appointment, he was able to secure, for the state, N25 billion infrastructure development bond from the Nigerian capital market in 2010. Deploying his knowledge as an Investment Banker, Obaseki helped the Oshiomhole administration to usher in an unprecedented era of prosperity to Edo. Particularly, for this reason of continuing to grow the state economy, Oshiomhole felt confident that he was leaving the state in the hands of a capable administrator