Changing Face of Edo State: The Godwin Obaseki Touch

With barely three months to the expiration of his first term in office, there is compelling evidence that Edo State Governor, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki has stamped his imprint on the sands of time

“The responsibility for leading the march of the people of Edo State to greater tomorrow is mine, my Deputy Governor’s, and that of the government I will be announcing shortly. We take that leadership responsibility seriously with total commitment and with a full and sober understanding of the enormity of doing so. We have come a long way under my predecessor. Many of the fundamentals for major socio-economic development have been put in place. We need to strengthen and expand the infrastructure that has been established so that we have a solid foundation on which to build the New Edo State of our passionate Dream”.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, on inauguration November 12, 2016

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His inaugural address November 12, 2016, represented his article of faith and pact with the people of Edo State as he began his four-year tenure after taking his oath of office as the 12th governor of Edo State symbolically labelled the Heart Beat of the Nation. The above excerpt succinctly captured the mission and vision of Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as he moved into the hitherto uncharted waters of political leadership and governance. However, latching on his private-sector background where the right atmosphere must be created to achieve set-goals, Obaseki hit the ground running by boldly confronting and taming the terror gangs who masqueraded as revenue collection agents acting on behalf of the state government.

Sanitising the old system of revenue collection by private individuals or non-state actors who harassed, brutalized and extorted monies from traders, hawkers and commercial transporters, in the early days of his administration was not just a breath of fresh air to the hitherto traumatized Edo people, but greatly endeared the governor to them. The new revenue collection regime and tax reforms, which were introduced thereafter, ensured that revenues and taxes collected went into government coffers rather than private pockets. Under the new Edo Revenue Administration System, ERAS, the government was able to raise internally-generated revenue to from an average of N300 million monthly to over N2 billion, introduced automated revenue collection whereby revenue cards are used in collecting government fees, dues and other related charges, and eyed the creation of over 5,000 jobs.

And in pursuit of his avowed commitment to strengthen and expand the infrastructure that had been established by his predecessors in order to have “a solid foundation on which to build the New Edo State of our passionate Dream,” Obaseki set up the state’s skills development and Jobs Creation Agency, known as EdoJobs, to actualize his promise of providing 200,000 jobs to Edo people. So far, EdoJobs, according to the government, has created over 160,000 jobs, manages the Edo Innovation Hub, Edo Production Centre, and the Edo Food and Agriculture Cluster (Edo-FAC), all geared towards boosting productivity.

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Novel reforms have also been carried out in the education sector, which has made Edo State a reference point and a pacesetter amongst the comity of states in the country. Obaseki launched the Edo Basic Education Transformation (Edo BEST) programme, an initiative designed to train and equip public school teachers with top-of-the-range skills and expertise by deploying Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in classrooms to improve learning outcomes.
Introduced in 2017, Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, special adviser to the governor on Basic Education, and chairman, Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, is excited about the amazing impact EdoBEST has had on pupils in the state. Oviawe told the magazine that “Before Covid-19, unfortunately we had started what we called ‘Operation Every Child Must Read’. And the goal is that from Primary One, we want our children to read. And we already have children reading. Who would have thought just three years ago that a Primary One child in public primary school would know how to read? But we are already seeing that. So that is what we are doing in Edo BEST”.

EdoBEST is however not all about the pupils. Teachers are also being equipped to deliver results. Over 11,300 teachers have been trained to deliver tech-based teaching in schools, which is being implemented in 918 schools and benefiting over 300,000 school pupils across the state. There is also a strong emphasis on technical education, which has seen the revamp of the Government Science and Technical College (formerly Benin Technical College) to train hands-on workforce in the state.

In the course of his electioneering campaigns, which was also re-echoed in his inaugural speech, Obaseki had been unequivocal about his desire to make the state an investment hub. This vision, he is actualising with a number of legacy projects, which include: the Benin River Port Project, (Gelegele Seaport) the Benin Industrial Park, Modular Refinery, Benin Auto Park, Technology hubs, Edo Production Centre, and Edo Agripreneur Programme. Worthy of note is that the Edo Modular Refinery is set for commissioning in the next few weeks having achieved about 95% completion.

In the area of road infrastructure, the government says it has embarked on the construction over 800 roads across the state. While most of these roads have been completed, others are at different stages of completion. Crucial to business and industrial growth is the availability of power. In this regard, the Obaseki administration has, through a public private partnership, PPP initiative between the state government and Ossiomo Power Company, facilitated the extension of power generated by the plant to production centres in the state, power street lights running from Sapele Road to the Ring Road, as well as public facilities, including hospitals and other government offices. The government says equipment have been fully installed and test-run.

Aside the massive infrastructural projects, Obaseki has also led a number of social development initiatives. Placing premium on provision of affordable shelter, the Emotan Gardens Estate, for the governor, is a dream come true. Also a product of PPP, the Emotan Garden Estate which is a joint venture between the state government through the Edo Development and Property Agency, EDPA, and Mixta Africa, has delivered the first phase of 100 units of houses and they are already occupied. The houses, designed for civil servants, were commissioned by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, with a teacher getting the first unit.

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The state Judiciary has also benefitted immensely from Obaseki’s housing projects with the building of Judges Quarters (Maisonette), refurbishing of two blocks of the High Court complex, and most significantly, the construction of an Industrial Court Complex, the first of such in the South-south region of the country. The import of this is that lawyers in the state would no longer travel to neighbouring Ondo State for legal cases relating to industrial disputes. The Court is fully operational.

One project undertaken by Obaseki, and which has won the hearts and accolades of Edo people is the completion of the more that 40 years abandoned Secretariat Building off Sapele Road. Started by the regime of late Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, a retired Brigadier-General, the abandoned high rise buildings had existed as a monument of neglect by successive administrations who did nothing to redeem the wasting investments. It was a sad commentary on the lack of continuity in governance. Today, the once abandoned structures have completely changed the entire landscape, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the environment with its imposing presence. Obaseki, by his thoughtfulness, has turned erstwhile monuments of shame to monuments of the collective pride of Edo people.

Similarly, the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium has been remodelled to Olympic standard with state-of-the-art facilities. But for the last-minute suspension of the 20th National Sports Festival, the rehabilitated stadium which had regained its lost glory, was set to host athletes and officials from the 36 states of the country, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Worthy of mention also is the completion of the John Odigie-Oyegun Institute for Civil Service Training. Once upon a time an obscure and neglected structure with little activity going on there, the institute had been remodelled and upgraded structurally and operationally.

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Under its Edo-HIP (Health Improvement Programme) the Obaseki administration says the first phase of 20 pilot primary healthcare centres (PHCs) have been renovated with 180 more to be located across the 18 local government areas of the state. The government says its focus in the health sector is to develop a viable primary healthcare system to provide affordable and accessible health services to people in the state. The governor has launched the Edo State Social Health Insurance Scheme to provide for a robust sector that would attract private investors.

The Obaseki-led government is very keen on ICT development, which explains its focus on a number of projects that support and promote adoption of ICT in everyday life. He has also been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration.

In line with this, the state government converted the old Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) to the Edo Innovation Hub, which among other offerings, houses the South-South Innovation Hub. At the facility, no fewer than 1,500 youths have been trained in coding and other digital skills, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced computing skills for improved productivity.

Securing the lives and property of Edo people, had also been on the front burner with the government establishing a N2 billion security Trust Fund, launching of the security architecture, code-named Operation Wabaizigan which was equipped with two armoured personnel carriers, APCs, 90 patrol vehicles, 50 patrol cars, 40 pick-up patrol vans, three ambulances and 30 motor cycles. A Marine Police Base has also been established in Gelegele and equipped with armoured gunboats and speedboats to curb criminal activities along the coastal areas and waterways.

Prompt payment of salaries and pensions which are nagging issues in many states of the federation, is more or less taken for granted in Edo State as civil servants and pensioners receive their entitlements on the 26th and 25th of every month respectively. Serving civil servants have also migrated to the Contributory Pension Scheme while there is a group life insurance policy for civil servants under the scheme through which the state government had paid N81 million to families of 34 deceased civil servants.

And rightly, Obaseki is confident that his scintillating performance should earn him re-election to consolidate on what he had started. But beyond blowing his own trumpet, well-meaning Nigerians, cutting across party lines have also acknowledged and commended his good works. At a time he was still in the All Progressives Congress, APC on which platform he was elected governor, Obaseki got an endorsement for a second term in office from an unexpected quarter – a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Senator Daisy Ehanire-Danjuma, at a town hall meeting in Lagos January 20, 2020, organized by the state government, bat no eyelid in throwing her weight behind Obaseki’s second term ambition. Ehanire-Danjuma stated unequivocally that “He has done well and we want him to continue. I am a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of PDP but I support the governor and his policies. I support him for a second term. I am for development. Let us forget politics; let us develop”. Various professional bodies and media organizations have also recognized Obaseki’s remarkable performance.

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At the 2019 World Teachers’ Day celebration at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the national leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, on October 5, 2019, conferred on the governor the “Best Performing Governor Award for year 2019”. Obaseki was similarly honoured with the 2019 Governor of the Year award by two national newspapers, Daily Independent and the NewsDirect. The governor also received the Silverbird Group’s 2019 Extraordinary Personality award. The latest recognition, which came August 22, 2020, was from the Nigerian Association of Christian Journalists (NACJ), which named Obaseki as “The Most Outstanding Governor of the Year 2020”. The award came on the heels of another by the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, which on August 10, 2020, presented Obaseki with a plaque as the “Most Innovative Governor of The Year 2019”.

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