Recently, media reports have indicated that the cordial relationship between Edo State governor, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman and immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, also popularly known as “Osho Baba,” is heading for the rocks. It is not difficult to understand why this scenario is playing out even though there have been several denials of the reports by both sides. In our kind of politics, an estranged relationship is a normal and everyday event; we enjoy celebrating mediocrity because that is just the way we are. It partly explains why, as a nation, Nigeria has refused to move forward – we find it difficult to embrace the concept of ‘big ideas.’ Every conversation is reduced to a commercial transaction; we seem to forget in a hurry that money is the root of all evil.
Speculations that Obaseki will be denied a second term by an emerging force allegedly loyal to Oshiomhole are unhelpful because they are a source of distraction for hardworking Obaseki, who is focused and very keen to deliver on his mandate to Edo people. In typical Nigerian speak, what you hear is that His Excellency is not ‘playing ball,’ the popular euphemism among politicians when public funds or contracts are not shared to party members. The story also making the rounds that Obaseki is not paying obeisance to Osho Baba – whatever that means — is not true; it is another allegation from the pit of hell scripted by those who do not mean well for Edo State, the “Heartbeat of the Nation.”
I watched closely three years ago how Osho Baba campaigned vigorously for Obaseki in the run-up to the elections and he did a very good job marketing Obaseki’s credentials and the party’s manifesto at every campaign rally. My view is that Comrade Oshiomhole picked a worthy successor, based on his own experience and deep insights, and even if there are differences between them, I am confident they will mend fences and make peace, in the overall interest of Edo people. They have always related with each other as friends and brothers with shared values for the inclusive development of the state.
The truth of the matter is that we have some bad losers in Edo State who are using Osho Baba’s name in vain to gain recognition. Their primary objective is to cause bad blood between the governor and the APC national chairman. These greedy party men display an egregious sense of entitlement; they are heckling and blackmailing Obaseki because they lack the courage to confront him. The irony is that these same people have always been in government since the days of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, the erstwhile governor of Edo State, and they are hell-bent on causing disaffection within the party, but they will not succeed. Some of them were commissioners when Oshiomhole was governor, and their grudge is that Obaseki is “not carrying party members along,” same old story.
By November, Obaseki would be marking his third anniversary in office. It will be headlined by his signature event, ‘Alaghodaro,’ as he had done in the past. ‘Alaghodaro’ means His Excellency is committed to moving Edo State forward to achieve enduring wealth and prosperity for the people. His solid private sector background stands him in good stead all the time and it has helped to nurture his strategic management approach to governance. It is evident the bad losers who are no longer feeding fat on party patronage are worried and unhappy that Obaseki, popularly called the “Wake and See Governor,” because of his outstanding record of performance, could be given a second and well-deserved mandate by the Edo people during the governorship election next year.
In a fitting response to the bad losers recently, the governor, while receiving Muslim faithful at Government House, Benin, to mark the end of Ramadan, said the era of sharing public funds to “a few greedy politicians” was over. According to a story in The Cable newspaper, the governor said public funds at the disposal of the state would be used for the benefit of the people and development of the state. Obaseki also said the plot of detractors to frustrate his administration would never come to fruition. He called on his guests and people of the state to “continue to pray for the administration to succeed.”
“Only God gives power. What is going on in Edo State is the handiwork of detractors who want to frustrate the administration so we can fail in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. But that will never happen,” he said. “As a governor, I will continue to do my best and spend the state’s resources to ensure the people get the best.
“The election is still a year ahead. What is playing out is a plan by very few greedy people who are concerned about themselves. We will continue to do our best in paying our workers and pensioners, and will continue to develop the state, as the time for sharing money is over. The resources of the state are meant for the people.”
Since Obaseki assumed office in 2016, he has provided effective leadership by creating a culture of transparency and robust engagement; he is also encouraging innovation, creative enterprise and accelerating development through the PPP (public-private partnership) model, such as the Gelegele Seaport. His thematic pillars of development include healthcare, education, arts, culture and tourism; housing, technology, industrialisation and security.
The rich cultural heritage and the immense tourism potential of the state are attracting significant interests from investors around the world. With the over 50 tourist sites already identified, tourism is being positioned strongly as a major revenue stream for the state in the years ahead.
The hills in Ososo serve as a touristic backdrop for the annual Ososo Carnival in Akoko Edo Local Government Area, while Edofest is another annual showcase of the tradition, culture and lifestyle of the Edo people. In October, the state will be hosting the National Arts Festival (NAFEST) in Benin City, the state capital. The state will also be hosting the National Sports Festival next year – both events will not only attract a lot of visitors, they will enhance the value chain of the local economy.
Obaseki’s administration has transformed the education sector. For example, there has been significant improvement in the development of infrastructure in schools throughout the state. In addition, over 7,000 teachers upgraded their skills in digital applications. In the healthcare sector, the governor strengthened all aspects of primary healthcare, he remodeled over 50 primary healthcare centres across the state but his target is 200 units, as part of his plan to achieve improved wellbeing of Edo people under the Edo Healthcare Improvement Programme (EDOHIP). The state and all the 18 local governments save 1 per cent of their federal allocation for investment in the healthcare sector.
More than 100,000 jobs have been created by the governor in the private and public sectors in the state, although he promised to create about 200,000 jobs. The government initiated job matching skills, acquisition and entrepreneurship development, Edo Innovate, Train-to-Hire, Edojobs Internship Scheme for graduates and artisans, Edo Food and Agriculture Clusters, Edo Film and TV Village and Edo Production Centre.
“These initiatives are to develop the entrepreneurship skills of our people, as well as create massive employment and jobs in the state,” said Obaseki.
His other achievements include investment in the housing sector – the first phase of Emotan Garden Estate will be delivered before the end of this year. The cost of acquiring a certificate of occupancy has been reduced significantly to N50,000 and His Excellency also spearheaded the installation of night landing facilities at the Benin Airport, a project funded by the state government.
•Braimah is a public relations and marketing strategist based in Lagos