By Adibe Emenyonu
The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, Thursday took the oath of office for their second term in office, promising to continue to work for the welfare of all people of the state.
The oath of office, which was administered by the state Chief Judge, Justice Esther Edigin, was witnessed by the Chairman, South-south Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, represented by his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo; Vice-Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih; former Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolemene; and former Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, and former deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.
Others present at the Tennis Court of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, venue of the swearing-in were the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; representative of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Edobor Iyamu; Senator Matthew Urhoghide; Senator James Manager, the state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo; Speaker of the state assembly, Hon. Marcus Onobu; his deputy, Roland Asoro; and Hon. Omoregie Ogbeide Ihama, member, representing Oredo federal constituency.
Also in attendance were Senator Clifford Ordia; Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Edo State chapter, Pastor Magarette Agboifon; Mr. Kenneth Imansuangbon; and PDP House Caucus leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, among others.
The event was held with provision for virtual participation in line with government’s guidelines to check the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking after being sworn in, Obaseki promised that during his second term of office, his administration would be committed to working for every Edo State citizen and lifting their wellbeing by ensuring that the state grows into a globally competitive economy enabled by technology for the benefit of all her citizens.
He predicted that before 2025, the state would develop and grow its digital economy and operate a digital government, adding that: “We are building, we will plug into the new digital age and will ensure we deliver better and efficient services to all our citizens.”
Obaseki noted that in realizing the vision as reflected in the ‘Make Edo Great Again (MEGA)’ manifesto, the focus would be on the social sector by improving on education, healthcare system, provision of social security and safety nets, caring for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged in the society.
He also promised to rapidly develop critical energy, housing, digital and road infrastructure, which will provide a framework to drive inclusive growth; build the economy and drive industrialisation, trade and investment, to solidify the state’s status as the choice investment destination in the country.
Another key area Obaseki his second term would work on is to preserve the environment and public utilities, to make the state more functional and adapt to the challenges of climate change and rural-urban migration
According to him, “Our major drive will be the clean and green Edo initiative and sustaining our campaign to plant trees and restore the forest.
“Enshrine Peace amongst our people and improve the general security to lives and property within the state, by working closely with all religious, traditional and community stakeholders.
“Exploit agriculture and natural resources, by tapping our God-given resources to provide food security, create wealth and improve the livelihoods of our people.
“Strengthen Public Service, Public Finance and Public Revenue, by recalibrating our workforce for the future world of work.
“Sustain law, judiciary and legal reforms, to ensure justice, equity and fairness in private and public dealings.
“Promote arts and culture, to preserve the past, document the present, envision the future, and use our arts and culture as a springboard to develop tourism.
“Revamp the transport sector, by developing transport infrastructure to a more modern and affordable system.”
“We have identified key initiatives that will drive public service reforms over the next 12 months by accelerating capacity building; finding new ways of working and operationalising the Civil Service Training Centre as a centre of excellence in training public servants.
“With a target of ensuring a defined template for development and growth in our state up till 2050, we have set the modalities for a 30-year development plan to provide government with necessary tools, guidelines and milestones for development planning,” he added.
The governor thanked traditional and religious leaders for their sustained support and prayers all this while, adding that such support has been the major pillar of his programmes and policies in the last four years.
He also thanked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies, and President Muhammadu Buhari for upholding the constitution and allowing the will of the people to prevail.
He said: “This victory is the prize and vindication for family values that was bequeathed to me by the Ogbeide-Oyo Obaseki and Gbinigie families.
“That I stand before you today as the re-elected Governor of Edo State is a testimony to the awesome power of God Almighty and the indomitable will and determination of the great people of Edo State.
“The good people of Edo State spoke unequivocally through the ballot on September 19th and have entrusted us with the task of steering our state for another four years.
“I am encouraged by the trust you have bestowed on us and grateful for your belief in my leadership and my capacity to continue piloting the affairs of this great state.
“The world is currently going through unprecedented challenges, which is taking its toll on our collective wellbeing and demanding so much from the socio-economic and political structures that hold us together.
“We are battling a rampaging pandemic, COVID-19, which has claimed more than 1 million lives globally. It has shut down the economies of world super powers, overwhelmed some of the best healthcare systems and has redefined the way we work, live and relate as human beings.
“On the other hand, democracy and participatory government, is facing a crisis of confidence locally and globally. We are compelled, now and again, to reassess our choices in the light of the unfolding intrigues, paradoxes and conflicts that have come to characterize our political reality as people in the free world.
“As a result, the liberties, which democracy offers and which generations have taken for granted, are now being questioned.
“These have caused many to reevaluate the capacity of democracy to regulate the affairs of men and deliver freedom, equality and good governance.”
Going further, He said, “It is therefore gratifying that Edo is taking the lead in this onerous task of restoring faith in democracy in Nigeria and the entire globe.
“What you, my dear people of Edo State, achieved with the September 19 governorship election is the restoration of confidence in democracy and its institutions, and we have become a point of reference on how the will of the people can triumph in a democracy that functions properly.
“My re-election represents a new hope and I see myself as a vessel in the redefinition of democracy in Nigeria and I am not unaware that this places enormous responsibility on me.
“It is pertinent to state that there are many sides to the victory we are relishing today. Aside from the fact that it restores hope in democracy as a form of participatory government, our victory also offers an opportunity for us to bridge the gap between a challenged past and a promising future.
“The unfortunate crisis we have had to endure as a people over the decades has led to deep divisions, which has resulted in inequality, injustice, underdevelopment, poverty, insecurity and unequal distribution of opportunities.”
Nevertheless, Obaseki said this is the time to heal and to stop dwelling on the past.
“We are kith and kin with a common destiny. Let us now stop dwelling on the past. It is now time to take our collectives destinies in our own hands as Edo people and commence the arduous task of Making Edo Great Again (MEGA).
“As a people, our history is replete with evidence of greatness, courage, innovation and creativity.
“For centuries, as Edo people, we trod on uncharted paths, built empires, conquered territories far and near and deployed a rare knack for creativity, innovation and enterprise to attain global prominence.
“Together, as a people propelled by a common zeal in pursuit of progress and advancement, there is nothing that we cannot overcome if we have a consensus on how to move our state forward. What we need is what I call a unity template, with which to overcome our challenges.
“The unity template has the ability to help us respond to the economic consequences of the pandemic, to deal with our challenges of insecurity and underdevelopment and to put us on a path to Making Edo Great Again (MEGA).
“In the last four years, we have shown that there are superior ways of running government. We have utilized core values such as transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, prudence and co-governance. Today, we are acclaimed to be a success story in good governance in Nigeria.
“Because of our antecedents in managing resources and redefining and deepening the social contract between government and Edo people, we believe that despite the problems and challenges we currently face, we shall overcome.
“This social contract between government and the people, which you redefined in the last election, calls for trust and reciprocity. We do not claim to have the solutions to all our problems.
“And this brings me to the point of the need to deal with the false dichotomy between what belongs to the people and what belongs to government. We must realize that what belongs to government, belongs to the people and vice versa. It is the bridging of this dichotomy that would help us to deal with the realities and challenges that we face in our society today.
“This gulf also manifests in the apathy towards taxation, which is the core duty of citizenship. Why should we have problems getting our people to pay taxes to a government who they voted for? Government does not have money of its own. The money government utilizes to provide service for its people is actually the peoples’ money.
“What we guarantee you, my dear people of Edo people, is that we will provide value for your money (tax revenues) by utilizing it judiciously, transparently and with accountability.
“During our last term, we were able to improve access to quality education, quality of healthy, significantly upgrade our road networks, commence reforms in our civil service and justice administration, develop human capacity and created jobs, as well as improve the security of lives and property in Edo State.
“However, the coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruptions to lives and livelihoods around the world and Edo State was not an exception.
“While we thank God that we have been fortunate so far to have relatively low infection and fatality rates, we cannot let down our guard.
He therefore, enjoined people of the state to continue to observe all the basis coronavirus protocols and precautions such as social distancing, avoiding crowded places especially indoors, using masks, frequent hand washing and seeking medical care when they feel unwell, pointing out that in the last four years, “we have changed how government works with the introduction of memoranda of understanding and memoranda of agreement with organisations and communities, which assist government in allocating responsibilities and relating with the people and other partners in development”.