By Benjamin Atu
The festive atmosphere in Nigeria and Edo State that greeted the second term re-election victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki in the September 19th, 2020 Governorship Election has also been laced with intense conversation of the high expectations, anticipated by Edo people in his second term.
The comprehensive triumph of the Obaseki/Shaibu ticket in the polls despite some real and perceived odds and obstacles, has gone a long way to prove that no group or group of individuals can groom or impose any of it’s members to become the CEO of Edo State, without the endorsement of the people.
The victory was not one of those kind of hollow victories without honour and integrity, but a solid declaration of affirmation by Edo people that they had a choice and their votes must count. Apart from the plans of the opposition to produce the CEO of Edo State, they were also determined to translate their myopic, anti-progressive agenda into action by moving against all forms of dissent with maniacal definitiveness. However, they failed to realize that their public rating was at it’s lowest ebb with doubtful acceptability across the State.
Discerning public affairs analysts will fondly remember former President Goodluck Jonathan, who once noted that: “Politics in Nigeria is conducted like a primitive war. All is deployed, both fair and foul means. Politics has a way of letting you know the inner recess of the human mind. What promotes healthy economy is a stable Political system. But the battle for the control of Political power has led to Political instability, lack of good Governance and stunted development. Our political system is so Machiavellian that the end justifies the means”
Politics is not an end, but a means to achieve a defined objective which centres around providing good, democratic governance for the people. It is not a product, but a process. It’s the art of Government. Like other values it also has counterfeits. The reality has thus shown that so much emphasis has been placed upon the false that the significance of the true has been obscured and politics has come to convey the meaning associated with crafty, cunning, selfishness, instead of candid and sincere service, as was witness in the first tenure of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
It has often been said that the person who can give a sense of hope is the one who knows the human condition and can encourage us to face the realities of life.
Edo State is the Heart Beat of the Nation, known as a rich State endowed with natural and productive human resources but inhabited by poor people due to maladministration by successive leadership. That was the narrative of the State when Godwin Obaseki took over the affairs of the State in November 2016 when both human and productive human resources were untapped and unexploited for the benefit of the State.
Before his emergence as Governor, there was lack of confidence in Government arising from previous deceit and misappropriation of the common wealth of the people. Government was constantly found wanting and pronouncements by Government were in contradiction with their actions and conduct. Government forfeited the trust and confidence of the people due to lack of accountability and transparency.
As soon as the Obaseki administration was Inaugurated for his first term, he hit the ground running and one quick step taken by the government was the restoration of confidence in the affairs of Government through honesty, transparency and Accountability. It took a night, a very dark night for the Governor to regain the public confidence that was traded away by previous administration; Today, Obaseki has given the people a worthy reason to reawaken their faith in Government.
Since the creation of Edo State from the old Bendel State, one crucial cry of the masses, has been the need for effective and responsible leadership due to their suffocating administrative experience with unequal distribution of wealth and infrastructure among the people. The ordinary Edo Citizens bore the burden of these bad policies and mismanagement of the State resources. Plans were conceive and lorded upon the people with little or no thought for their wellbeing.
On assumption of office, Governor Godwin Obaseki reversed the system of elite control of Government that was in existence, where the masses were merely onlookers. He made the people the centre of every developmental plan of his administration.
From inception, Governor Obaseki did not leave anyone in doubt of his vision and intentions for the state, as encapsulated in his unwavering pledge to Edo people when he said: “I will be doing a disservice to this great State if I deny you good Governance”.
Indeed, one resolution that has paid off for the administration in the last four years was the resolve to stamp out corruption from the system. Noting that the fight against corruption was going to be an all out war, the administration’s determination to eradicate corruption while delivering its service to God and humanity, was going to be anchored on rendering account for every kobo generated by Government because it was the people’s Government and he owed them the explaination.
It was the unflinching commitment to the implementation of uncommon resolutions such as this by Governor Obaseki, that endeared him to the people and has enabled him win the public confidence of the masses which no alienation or deliberate manipulation of the narrative can reverse.
One key plan of the Obaseki administration was to re-engineer attitudinal change which entrenched a sense of pride in the dignity of labour and the importance of integrity and honesty in public life. This became necessary in order to restore the confidence of the people in governance and a major strategy adopted by the government to achieve this was to make governance participatory, by creating developmental plans in line with the uniqueness of the areas where the plans would be implemented.
Edo state watchers and analysts have unanimously concured that the Developmental plans of the Obaseki administration in his first term succeeded, largely because they were not conceived above the heads of the people but conceptualized and designed with critical input from the people themselves.
The consensus is that all his programs and policies in the past four years have fully taken account of the values of the people, their choices of projects as well as their active involvement in the implementation of such projects. This high level of engagement and participation in Governance endeared the Government to the people and their endorsement was manifested in the September 19th, 2020 Edo Governorship Election, when the people voted and guarded their votes in order to sustain democracy and development for their own interest.
Governor Obaseki’s administrative actions set new standards of public conduct which has redefined the ethics of public affairs management. He piloted the affairs of a Government that brought to bear, a new moral order and displayed high level commitment to fairness and justice in dealing with public issues. In a clime where public officials appeared to have forgotten the true meaning of selfless service, Governor Godwin Obaseki remained focused and true to his oath of office.
Indeed, Governor Godwin Obaseki couldn’t have proceeded to build new structures on wrong foundations. The singular fact that his Government was not beholden to any group or individual made the godfathers uncomfortable and there’s no doubt that Obaseki has written his name with gold as the first Governor who owes his accountability directly to the public and not to any individual or group of people. This is indeed a good time to be alive in witnessing the rebirthing of a prosperous Edo State.
As the second tenure of Godwin Obaseki/Philip Shaibu administration commences, Edo state will definitely witness further effort and consolidation of the ongoing interaction with more development partners who are determined to invest in the State and expand the industrial frontiers taken advantage of the peaceful atmosphere created by the administration for private investors to succeed and deliver greater benefits to the people.
The re-election of Godwin Obaseki is a concious decision by Edo People to keep the State on the path of development which has already began. The greatest expectation for doing this therefore, is the reward which will be delivered through the proper utilization of this opportunity to do more, which has been handed to him with full trust and confidence, by the people.
Governor Obaseki did say it in the course of the campaigns and interactions, that a better life has to be provided for the people with renewed vision and vigour. This has been demonstrated by placing high premium on rapid and sustained economic growth and development, which is expected to continue at pace in the second term.
The motivation to seek the second term in office, was thus to provide Governor Godwin Obaseki necessary gestation period to fully midwife the completion of the rebirthing of a prosperous and People centric Edo State. The rebirth process which the Obaseki administration had begun would have been in vain if he had lost the last Governorship election, but because his Government was People oriented, the same people stood with him and by him, to resist his traducers.
Never before in the history of Edo State has the public spoken so loud and clear in any election and turned out in their real numbers to decide their faith as witnessed in the September 19th, Governorship Election in Edo State.
The burden of leadership will surely be weightier on the able shoulders of Governor Godwin Obaseki in this second term, because it was the people’s victory and there is therefore no alternative than to meet public expectations in order to justify the confidence that the Edo people have invested on him.
The trust of Edo People in Governor Godwin Obaseki’s capacity and capability to deliver, is a collateral which the Governor is expected to trade with in order to make gains for the general welfare of the people in terms of developmental milestones in infrastructure, economic and social development of the State.
Usually in Nigeria, the first tenure of Governors are usually their working tenure while the second tenure is usually about consolidation. But this can’t happen in the forth-coming second term of Godwin Obaseki because the Governor has vowed to assume duty with double determination to exceed expectations due to the massive resolve of the people in ensuring his return as Governor, despite all effort to undermine the will of the people.
He actually said it in his first term, that he was elected to serve the people and indeed his conduct in office as one incorruptible Governor in Nigeria gave the people of Edo State renewed hope and vigor in Government. He had already shown the people the stuff he is made of as the former Chairman of the State Economic team and brainbox of previous administration and even with the election over, he has continued to work with without pause, in order to continue to meet the timelines and expectations of Edo people.
Ordinarily, it was expected that the Governor would have been financially reckless given the sharp increase in the IGR of the State, which his administration achieved with brilliant managerial acumen, but Obaseki has remained firm and true to the people. Every earnings of Government has been deployed to serve the need of those who needed Government services and attention the most.
His administration reduced the cost of governance in his first term, through stringent financial management which had helped to expose the extent of damage done to the State by the immediate past administration.
Now like never before, the people stand at the threshold of a new Edo and it is imperative that we should all commit ourselves to a common obligation that will evoke the best hopes among our people in our collective efforts to Making Edo Great Again.
It’s inline with this mission that Governor Godwin Obaseki took it as a duty to constantly remind the people of their obligation to a common destiny in order to collaborate together in taking the best route to achieving the collective destiny of the State.
A brief analysis of some sectors of the State will reveal at a glance the level of impact and achievement recorded by the Obaseki’s administration in just four years. If this below height could be recorded in his first tenure, just imagine another four years.
CULTURE AND TOURISM
Little is known about the massive impact recorded by the Obaseki’s administration in the area of Culture and Tourism.
Since Obaseki became Governor, the investment climate in Edo State has witness a breath of fresh air with bright atmosphere. The once clouded coast has become clear for investors both within and outside Nigeria through effective use of culture and Tourism. To achieve this breakthrough, Governor Obaseki conceived that tourism could be deployed as a panacea in tackling Socio-economic challenges confronting the State.
As a cultural State Edo is blessed with diverse cultures, traditions, festivals and artefacts, which have all attracted and excited investors from time immemorial. These natural resources were never exploited for the advantage of the State until the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
For example, Edo State has several tourist attractions like the Emotan Statue in Benin City, Ise lake and River Niger beach in Agenebode Etsako East Local Government, as well as, the Somorika hills in Akoko Edo, amongst others.
Through Culture and Tourism, Governor Obaseki has been able to move wealth from various nation’s to Edo State. Tourism now serves as a vehicle in the transfer of Socio-economic activities and wealth from one State to the other. This has made Edo State Government to galvanize the huge potential in the State for its comparative advantage and the administration has successfully harnessed these natural endowments in order to reposition and preserve the rich cultural heritage of Edo People as an ancient city.
The negative public perception that Edo was a pedestrian state has now naturally been wiped away my marketing the vast investment opportunities available in the culture and Tourism sector of the State.
Governor Godwin Obaseki has made Agriculture and Agro business to be attractive to both local and foreign investors. After several years of frustrations where farmers produce without ready market to buy their products, the Governor introduced an Agricultural policy that removed farmers from their lamentation. Governor Obaseki had told Edo Farmers: “Produce and I will buy them”. Today, like never before in the history of Edo State, there is now a ready market for every farmer. 0
In its drive to attain self- sufficiency in basic food production, storage and consumption the Governor has reinvigorated ailing Agricultural industries across the State. This was accompanied by construction of farm roads and irrigation facilities for water supply to encourage farming across the the State. In order to ease transportation of farm produce the Government constructed about 800 kilometers of farm access path. More than 33,000 jobs have been created from only Agricultural sector
Record breaking achievement has been recorded in the Health Sector in the last in four years. When Obaseki took over the leadership of the State, Hospitals were mere shadows of themselves with the best among them looking like a consulting room. But today the story is no longer the same in the Health Sector.
On assumption, the administration immediately embarked upon the renovation of 20 pilot primary Health care centers spread across the the State with 180 new Health centres under construction across the 18 local Government in the State. These health centres are well equipped with working tools and they also train professionals. This holistic approach to public health in the sector is aimed at the transformation of the health sector as well as providing responsive, affordable and accessible healthcare to Edo people with a specialist Hospital of international Standard in the Capital City of Edo State.
Roads in Edo State are indeed reflecting the true dividend of democracy.
Communities that were previously cut off from town due to bad roads have been reintegrated through good network of roads. The effort of Government in linking the urban to and rural communities together for rapid economic growth is indeed yielding the expected results. Many roads projects have been constructed across the State and this has enhanced the pace of industrial revolution by leveraging on the available infrastructural development.
Never before in the history of Edo State has any Government impacted the educational sector like the Obaseki’s administration. The previous Red roofs in the State where in themselves insufficient in creating the needed stimulating educational environment require in this century.
Through the Edo- Basic Education Sector Transformation ( Edo -BEST) initiative that was launched on 19th April, 2018, primary and junior secondary education in the State have been well impacted with 300,000 pupils, who are taught with information and communication technology facilities in both urban and remote Rural areas.
Under this program, more than 234 Schools have been reconstructed in line with the revolution that is ongoing in the sector. The program has also trained more than 11,000 teachers and head teachers who have been equipped with computer Tablets loaded with all the curricular that the teachers need to teach their pupils.
The ICT system is controlled in a way that enables the Governor monitor school attendance and performance of pupils from his office. Secondary and higher institutions in the State are not left out of the educational reform. For example, the massive rehabilitation of Government Science and Technical College has turned the technical college into a mini production industrial factory.
It’s a public knowledge that it was the Benin Technical College that produce some of the Chairs that have been supplied to Primary Schools in the State from their technical Workshop. The same level of high power human capital development is also ongoing across the State own Polytechnic and University.
Edo BEST has emerged as an excellent educational model in Nigeria worthy of emulation and it is no longer a secret that many States have not only made enquiries but have actually come to Edo state to learn from what the Obaseki’s administration is doing in the educational sector.
Unemployment is the mother of all other Social problems facing humanity in general and the Nigerian populace in particular. This has created negative ripples in various sectors.
On assumption of Office as the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki consciously declared war against the high level poverty that was obvious across the State. The prevalence of this poverty was due largely to the sharing of state resources among few elites that was the hallmark of previous administration, deepened the level of poverty and hardship.
The establishment of a data Bank for unemployed Youths in Edo State provided the much needed opportunity for the State Government to create openings in various sectors that can accommodate the working class youths base on available data.
The creation of the Edo production center is a testimony to the fact that Governor Godwin Obaseki has walked his talk in the area of job creation and opportunities in the State and to expand the employment net in the State, the Government also encouraged the setting up of Agricultural clusters and innovation hubs across the State in order to engage the youths productively.
A total of 3,434 jobs were created just from it’s job matching initiative and this is apart from many other laudable employment scheme which includes the internship and apprenticeship schemes and several others like the Central Bank Agricultural program where majority of the youths are currently self employed in their private enterprises
Entrepreneurs were trained through the State government Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Agency and while the job creation initiatives delivered over 167,000 jobs, over 22, 825 entrepreneurs have been trained in various areas like technology, Agriculture, Artisan services, paint production, natural skin care formulation, bee-keeping and several others in collaboration with development partners.
Industrialization was not left out. The Strategic development plan of the administration in establishing the Benin Enterprise Park, with almost 200 companies already prepared to invest, has already started yielding results. This will help in facilitating industrialization and create massive employment for Edo Youths.
As part of effort in preparing job seekers for employment and productive engagement, the Government took it as a responsibility in preparing job seekers for employment through training programs in various fields of endeavour and over 150,000 Edo Youths from various parts of the State benefited from the program.
With a well trained pool of workforce and human resources managers, the State Government has successfully created placement for over 4, 000 of the trained youths. This was achieve by the government’s active participation in assisting both public and private sector in recruiting job seekers in the State from the pool of train workforce with comprehensive data in the data Bank for unemployed Youths
One clear evidence to show that more than 200,000 Edo Youths were employed by the Obaseki administration in his first three years in office, was the high level reduction in thuggery, broad day-light robberies as well as car snatching that was a daily occurrence in the past. But now, like never before, these youths are no longer on the street due to high level industrialization that the administration has introduced to engage idle hands.
The popular Ring road in Benin was usually a beehive of unnecessary human and vehicular traffic due to regular protest by Pensioners, public and Civil Servant who have either been sacked unlawfully or owed months of salaries and allowances. But with the inception of Obaseki’s administration, the story started changing for good and the situation was no longer the same.
Protests over unpaid salaries and allowances have become a thing of the past because Government in the last four years has put in place viable industrial relations and there has never been any form of conflict between Government and the workers ever since.
The decision of the State Government in maintaining harmony with the public workforce is based on the truism that labour disputes constitute a major threat to the political environment. The working environment of the buarucrates has been transformed into a breath taking ambience and a conducsive working atmosphere has been created by the Obaseki administration.
The pride of place of the public service has been fully restored. Pensioners are no more seen all over the street begging to survive. The integrity of service and dignity in labour has been given their recognition and importance. Never again will a worker in the Edo State Government be seen struggling for their entitlement.
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS.
Governor Obaseki, in his first term, introduced a fast-track approach to Governance, which was evidenced in the ease of doing business in the State. The contracts awarding process that usually took many months to conclude is now done within days. This deliberate decision of Government has made Edo State a preferred destination for more investments
The Six Major Pillars that have sustained the Godwin Obaseki administration in the past four years are: his policies on Economic Revolution, Institutional Reform, Enhanced Environmental Sustainability, Arts Culture, and Tourism, Social welfare enhancement, as well as Infrastructural development
For the second term in office, the Pillars that are expected to sustain the wheels of administrative machinery have been summarized into his MEGA 12 point Agenda, crystalized into the MEGA manifesto. It’s a development oriented program of progress on key sectors like the Social Sector, Education, Health Care System, Pension and Social Security, Housing, as well as Lands and Survey. Other key areas that will also engage the administration’s focus in this second tenure include; Critical infrastructure and Energy, Economy and industrialisation, Trade and Investment, Environment and public Utilities, peace and security, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Public Service and Sports, Law, Judiciary and Legal Reform, Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Arts and Culture as well as Transportation.
The Vision and Mission of Governor Obaseki’s administration in this second term will center around the building of a modern and progressive State, where every citizen is empowered with opportunity to live life in its fullness as well as achieve economic prosperity for Edo State.
Based on this second term mission and vision it’s obvious that much more dividends of democracy await the eager and excited public of Edo state because expectations are indeed high. To whom much is given much is also expected and the feel good mindset and confidence of Edo people is based on the fact that since the Governor could achieve such a great height in his first four years in office, just imagine another Four years !!!
Benjamin Atu is a Broadcaster and Public Affairs analyst. He is the Senior Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor of Edo State on media