Saturday, October 15, 2016 11:12 am
Godwin Obaseki inherits multiple problems and challenges as he prepares to take over from Adams Oshiomhole as Governor of Edo state
“I hereby declared that, Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the APC, haven satisfied the requirement of the law by scoring the highest number of votes, is declared winner of the election and is hereby returned elected.”
With those words, INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, (Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Oye Ekiti), declared Mr. Godwin Noghoghase Obaseki, winner of the Edo State gubernatorial election conducted on Wednesday, 28 September, 2016. He defeated 18 other candidates, including his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, of the PDP, for the exulted position of the Executive Governor of the state, to take over from Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, on 12 November.
But like a Naija hip-hop song says, after the reggae comes the blue. The rigours of electioneering campaigns are over and the euphoria of victory is gradually dying download. Now sets in the reality, and it’s time to settle down and face the herculean task of governance, managing it’s human and financial resources, as well as providing a safe, conducive environment for investors who will help to create jobs.
To this end, TheNEWS in its tradition, examines the odds against him and asked the people what they expect from their incoming Governor, with a view to setting agenda for him.
Without doubt, Obaseki is very well aware of a Section of the Oath of office he would be subscribing to on 12 November, which says: “That I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.” Hence, he has no reason for lamentation, but to work hard to deliver on his electioneering campaign promises.
Good enough, he knows what lies ahead of him. At a recent media parley, he said “My first assignment is to put together a team and get appropriation for next year because we have to get to the ground running. The focus will not change in terms of infrastructure and education. The added focus will be on job creation and empowerment. That is why I need to focus on the budget and ensure I get enough appropriation to emphasis the social aspects which I promised during my campaigns. We will continue to build roads and refurbish schools. What is important is how to get people to work.” Indeed, he has to hit the ground running as soon as possible.
In his manifesto, Obaseki said his vision was “to make agriculture a viable business in Edo State” and “to leverage our comparative advantage to become the agribusiness hub in Nigeria,” as his mission.
To this end, the incoming Governor promised the teaming unemployed people of the state a minimum of 200,000 job opportunities through agriculture in the next 4 years. And to achieve this, Obaseki said: “Our strategy will be to focus on the key crops that are best adapted to our local environment for competitive large-scale production. We have mapped Edo State across key crop lines and will develop Crop Enterprise Zones in the different areas based on comparative advantages and availability of land.
“While our major focus will be on Oil Palm, Rubber, Cassava, Rice and Cocoa, we will also explore growth opportunities in Fruits and Vegetable farming, Aqua-Culture, Animal Husbandry and Poultry. Our key goal is to create shared prosperity for our people by encouraging and safeguarding investments in Agriculture through: Effective Policy and Administrative Framework: We will provide the enabling environment for agribusiness to thrive in Edo State by enacting investor-friendly policies and providing the necessary administrative support for effective project implementation,” he said.
He also promised to leverage on the roads and infrastructure development of Governor Ooshiomhole. “We will consolidate upon the massive road construction efforts of the current administration and improve access to other basic infrastructure such as power and water, which are necessities to support production, processing and marketing of farm produce,” he said, and to use skill acquisition and technology enhancement to “maximise the gains from key crops identified and stimulate optimal yield through farmers’ access to inputs, agronomic practices and modern farming technology and equipment,” and to “finance and local economic empowerment through Out-Growers Scheme,” with a view to boost the productivity of farmers by increasing access to capital under credit enhancement initiatives, including off-take contracts.”
It would be recalled that his emergence as candidate of the APC for the gubernatorial election at its primary election resulted in no small dissension among the major actors in the party. Being the Governor, Obaseki now becomes the leader of APC in the state and the father of all members of the party. And so, the task of reconciling aggrieved party members arising from the controversy that greeted his victory, rests squarely on his shoulders.
A house divided against itself cannot stand, just as nothing good comes out of a home devoid of peace. For these reasons, the incoming Governor should as a matter of urgency, resolve any real or imagined crisis within the party, especially now that it is enmeshed in leadership crisis at the national level. It is hoped that Obaseki will develop the large heart to carry everyone in the party along, irrespective of camp.
Coming to the saddle of governance at the time of economic recession is certainly not the best time and will without doubt pose some challenges to Obaseki. But like his predecessor would say, there is no room for lamentation, but to face the challenges squarely, to proffer solutions to the problems. After all, he was described as the brain box of Oshiomhole’s engine of success.
The huge debt profile of the state is another huge challenge Obaseki will have to contend with as Governor. Without a doubt, he is aware of that, since he himself helped to facilitate some of the loans and bonds. As at 30 June, 2016, Edo state, is rated among the states with the highest debt profiles, with a total of $179.52 million (4.91 percent) of the country’s subnational foreign debts. The task of servicing these loans from the meagre financial resources, coupled with the biting effect of the recession, and at the same time embarking on human and infrastructural development of the state will no doubt test his financial know-how and managerial competence. But it is hoped that he has the wherewithal to confront and surmount the challenges squarely.
Multiple and over taxation is another teething issue beaconing to the incoming Governor’s attention. Many people have castigated Governor Oshiomhole’s administration over this. They believed that many small and medium scale businesses in the state have collapsed either because of multiple or over taxation. A state without small and medium scale businesses at this time will certainly find it difficult to survive. Hence, the Governor-elect will have his hands full in this regard, to ensure that many more small businesses are set up to contribute to his economic empowerment/development of the people and the state.
The people of Edo Central senatorial district have felt aggrieved over alleged marginalisation by the outgoing administration of Adams Oshiomhole. In fact, they had expected that the APC would have picked its Deputy Governorship candidate from among them, but it went ahead to pick an Etsako man from the North senatorial district. To them, it is as if they are no longer part of state as of them, especially the people of Esan West local government area, have complained of being completely sidelined in terms of road construction and infrastructural development. In the spirit of reconciliation, Obaseki has a lot to do to assuage the feelings of the people, to give them a sense of belonging.
The rate at which land developers are abandoning the state because of the menace of so called youth/community development associations, who harass and extort money from would-be developers, is alarming. Many who could have erected their buildings and opened up communities around the state capital, particularly in places like Oluku, Amagba, Iduowinna, Ikhueniro and several others, have abandoned their projects. This has complicated housing problem and have also thereby inhibited development in such areas. It is hoped that the government of Obaseki will replicate the what happened in Lagos state where the menace of Omoniles had been successfully laid to rest, so that efforts of land developers will compliment that of the government too ease the problem of housing.
How Obaseki manages the seeming enmity between his predecessor and the family Igbinedion family, who might have felt humiliated by the defeat of their political godson and candidate of the PDP, will impact either positively or negatively on his government.
The same goes to the newly established Edo University, Iyamoh, which was greeted with propaganda when established. Many had argued that there was no reason why Oshiomhole should have built the school even when the state-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, is grossly underfunded, while others insisted that the university, even though was built with government’s fund that was never budgeted for, actually belong to Obaseki and his predecessor. How he manages these pockets of crisis will show the direction of his government.
What the people expect from Obaseki:
To whom much is given, much is expected. The people of Edo who voted overwhelmingly to make him Governor are expecting much, much more from Obaseki. Respondents who spoke with the magazine, amongst other things, want him to build on the legacies of his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole.
Emmanuel Aliu, a public servant said: “Obaseki is expected to build on the legacies of the outgoing government of Adams Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole has laid the foundation on infrastructure in terms of roads, schools and others. There is need for more roads to be opened up across the state to help in his agriculture programme drive to open up more rural communities.
“In the area of education, more teachers need to be employed to balance the equation of good teachers in good schools to give good and quality education. He needs to also work in the civil service which as currently constituted, lacks the capacity to give the needed manpower to drive government policies and programmes.
“He has to modify the structure of revenue collection where there are so many ’emperors’ collecting money from traders with their army of young people. These young people should be engaged in sports and agriculture sector.
Speaking in the same vein, Sebastine Ebhuomhan, a journalist by treining and policy analyst, is of the opinion that Mr. Godwin Obaseki “must demonstrate the will and courage democratic governance demands of him in Edo State, if he wants to be as successful as or even more successful than his predecessor, Governor Adams Oshiomhole. From my modest experience and knowledge of living and working in other states in the country and Abuja, Edo is one of the most complex states in Nigeria with many educated and enlightened citizens. He will be deliberately derided as an errand boy even when he is not. So, he must be careful and properly plant his feet on the ground.
“Secondly, he must make people the centre of his government by trying as much as possible to humanize his policies. Thank God he started by distinguishing his politics as “clean” politics. He must extend this catch-phrase by establishing a viable system of transparency and accountability; as well as listening, consulting, celebrating, rewarding and punishing deserving citizens [accordingly and] appropriately.
“In terms of infrastructural development, Oshiomhole stands tallest amongst all the past governors or administrators of Edo State. Obaseki must fill the large shoes he is inheriting from his predecessor in this regard by continuing from where his APC government stopped under Oshiomhole. Lastly, as a matter of fulfilling his electoral promises of 200,000 jobs ahead of 2020, Obaseki must ensure that he truly creates jobs, which is the platform upon which he campaigned vigorously and have a viable system of effective communication to the public of whatever he is doing.”
How true the statement that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. But it is hoped that the incoming Governor will strive to live up to the expectations of the people of Edo state, irrespective of their social, religious and ethnic affiliation and thereby endare himself to them, in the manner of the people’s Governor, Coomrade Adams Oshiomhole.