Periscoping Obaseki’s one-year in office
On Sunday, 12th November, 2017, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the soft-talking governor of Edo State would have clocked one year in office. In this report, correspondent ALEX MOMOH highlights the salient feats of continuity in the achievements recorded this far by the governor, even as he carries on from where ex-governor Comrade Adams Oshiomole stopped.
In Edo State today, despite what clearly seemed to be a ‘slow start,’ it is safe to say that the era of bamboozling people with sentimental rhetoric without any sincere commitment to undertake the concomitant matching action that is required to deliver on the promised expectations is gone from the conduct of government business.
Part of this evidence is in the fact that Governor Godwin Obaseki’s recorded achievements within the short space of time since he took over the mantle of leadership in the state are most remarkable and this is without any exaggeration.
Within his one year in office, Governor Godwin Obaseki’s passion and zeal to bring about a new lease of life for the people of the Edo State has not only been demonstrated, it is looking like going forward, even that zeal appears to be even much more stronger than ever.
To undergird this, feelers are that Governor Godwin Obaseki, together with the State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will on Saturday November 11, 2017 roll out the drums to mark the one year anniversary of the administration.
The Obaseki-led administration has in the past eleven months literally succeeded in making an average Edo person have mixed feelings of nostalgia and hope in the quest for the much needed paradigm shift in the leadership circuit that would help redefine politics and administration in the state as against what had been witnessed in the old order.
For the first time, for example, political appointments such as those of 192 senior special advisers, special advisers and commissioners were devoid of any protests from all across the eighteen local government areas in the state as it was done via grassroots participation where people choose their representatives unlike in the past when only few party leaders determined who gets what. Joined to this is the uncommon courage and determination to restore the Benin City through an elaborate urban renewal drive, coupled with the implementation of relevant environmental, traffic and illegal trade laws. With these, the state government has seemingly brought sanity to the famous Kingsquare and its environs which were hitherto known as a habitat for hooliganism and miscreants.
Indeed, one can now drive freely within the Benin metropolis with his two eyes closed as against the previous scenario where commuters and motorists spent many hours to navigate their way through horrible traffic jam situations.
Today , the fear of either being convicted or remanded in prison with the option of a fine by a mobile court has become the beginning of wisdom for road users, particularly bus drivers and traders, following the engagement of 360 EDSTMA officials and members of the Public Work Guards (PUWOG).
In his quest to reposition the state civil service for optimum performance, Governor Obaseki has commenced work at the abandoned state secretariat complex and introduced automation accounting system(Oracle) to eliminate fraud. Also, issues of career ascendency and promotions in the state civil service is now very stringently done on the basis of competence and ability to pass high-level examinations that are conducted by the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON.
“The point is that you cannot talk about development when you don’t have people who understand development, those who will help you drive your policies” said Obaseki, recently.
“We also insisted that we must bring in automation, I can confidently tell you today that Edo state now runs on an enterprise system called “Oracle.” Every kobo that we spend in Edo today is all very properly recorded by using that software. From my office I can see all the transactions that have occurred in Edo state today. So it brings in a certain level of transparency in how government is run,’ he explained.
Despite the global economic challenges occasioned by dwindling oil prices, the state government in conjunction with SEEFOR, a World Bank-assisted project, have resurfaced a number of adjoining roads within and outside the Benin metropolis.
“We promised to create about 3,000 kilometers of roads in our first four years and we are working very hard on this. As at today, we have built about 250 kilometers of roads and awarded contracts for another 250 kilometers. One of the reasons why we have not built many roads in this country is the high costs of road construction.
Moreso, the state government, with the full support of the Benin Palace has restored sanity to the operations of the Land Use Act and put an end to incidents of land disputes, land speculation , communal clashes and unnecessary bloodbath by proscribing the activities of Community Development Association (CDAs) which has effectively led to the taking over of land ownership from few powerful individuals, mainly youths, and their restoration back to the communities.
On the flip side, it is on record that things had indeed fallen apart at a point during the last eleven months between Obaseki and notably, his own party leaders who felt completely sidelined by his apparently elitist governance style and what they termed his indisposition to the real welfare needs of the people and the party structure since assumption of office.
Governor Obaseki had also during the electoral campaigns promised to create 200,000 jobs in the first four years of his administration and that the bulk of employment will come from the agricultural sector in Edo However, the aged, retirees from the state and local government civil service are at daggers-drawn with the state government over the issue of non-payment of their pensions gratuities and arrears spanning 10-42 months. The retirees who have been on street protests since the last nine months said they have lost quite a number of their colleagues in the struggle.
They equally challenged the government to account for the over N23billion Paris Club bailout fund that they claim has since accrued to the state.
Meanwhile, another challenge is that residents of Edo now live in perpetual fear and apprehension over the rising climate of insecurity as evidenced in the fairly rampant incidents of kidnapping, armed robbery and other wanton killings.
Indeed, the spate of criminality in the state assumed a more worrisome dimension recently when suspected gunmen stormed the Ogba Zoological Garden and Nature Park, leaving in their trail, victims, blood and tears. They killed three policemen and made away with the Chief Executive Officer, Dr Andy Ehanire.
Barely a week later, a Benin based musical icon, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph had his wife shot even as he was seized and taken away by suspected kidnapers, while a lecturer at the University of Benin, Otasowie Paul was shot dead by unknown assailants.
Some concerned Edo indigenes have attributed the current security challenge to what they say is a seeming Cold War between the Governor and the State Commisioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu.
A source close to the Government House has it that the Governor is indisposed to committing logistics to assist the security apparatus under the leadership of Gwandu who it was learnt had declined a Police Service Commission transfer from the state since July 2017.
In the view of the leadership of the state chapter of the rival Peoples Democratic Party however, the rising crime rate in the state is clearly traceable to the resultant effect of the large numbers of unskilled youths , men and women who they claim were used and dumped by the APC government in the course of prosecuting the November 28, 2016 governorship election.
Publicity secretary, PDP, Chris Nehikhare urged the Governor to tackle the substance rather than chasing shadows, asking him to climb down from his high horse to engage the police and other security agents in the state to combat the menace.
” It’s almost a year, and quite frankly, there is nothing to write home about the government! He should spend more time at home, engage the populace here and show more respect to Edo residents and citizens,” the opposition party scribe further counselled.
And in their own response to the upsurge of criminality in the state, members of the Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO) issued a 14-day ultimatum to the state government, the State House of Assembly and the Nigeria Police Force, asking them to arrest the ugly development promptly, failing which they threatened to pass vote of no confidence on the trio.
Spokesperson for the group that also embarked on a street protest, Comrade Omobude Agho said the government must support and synergise with security agencies and also put in place a Security Trust Fund.
But the Governor has ruled out the possibility of what he termed being coerced into the negotiating table with criminal elements and organized crime overlords, affirming that the law, order and liberty of law abiding citizens of the state was not up for sale.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Crusoe Osagie who denied any lingering feud between the Governor and the State Police Commissioner said the duo have the best of relationships.
” If the state commissioner of police has been transferred, it is an administrative issue. The Governor is not the Inspector General of Police; he is not interested in police administration. If he has been transferred, it is a matter for police public affairs to handle.”
In the view of Crusoe, the Obaseki administration has surpassed the people’s expectations in the last few months by creating the enabling environment for private investors and individuals to engage in meaningful business and employment.
On the link between insecurity and unemployment in the state, he posited: “a criminal will always be a criminal. Criminality is a decision people make. However, a large number of persons are now into agriculture via the land reform policy of the present administration.’
On his part, the immediate past Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Justin Okonoboh, described Governor Obaseki as a man with a very positive vision and called on the people to accord him the necessary cooperation and support to succeed.
“Judging from what we can see so far, we have a Governor that knows what to do to take Edo to the next level. In the next three years, Edo will be an eldorado,” he enthused.
For one who had to endure a bruising post-election judicial process, who was stepping into big shoes being vacated by his predecessor, and who has also had to ensure a very deft handling of the complex political dynamics in the state; for Governor Obaseki himself, it has indeed been some ‘slow start’ that may have really now begun to pick up in order that the administration would fully deliver on the promised ‘dividends of democracy.’
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State