By John Mayaki
Prior to his election as Governor of Edo State, people had been fed so many stories about Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki. There were odious whispers that he would be a lackey to a former Governor, who was seen as his political godfather. So strong was the animosity towards Obaseki that the merchants of falsehood at play dragged former Governor Oshiomhole into their scheming.
Even if Oshiomhole supported Obaseki to win the gubernatorial election in Edo State, was there a rule preventing him from identifying, based on his perception of the serious development the state needed, a right man for the job? Upon realising that Obaseki had the right character for the job, he nobly supported him, but as mischief chefs would interpret it, he was being a ‘godfather’ and also plotting how to be a puppeteer to Obaseki, once the latter assumed power.
Due to Obaseki’s reserved demeanour, whisperers also erroneously prognosticated that his government would be hijacked by forceful politicians who understood politics and politicking. This was because, the rumours had it, he, hitherto, was politically naive. His deputy, Comrade Phillip Shaibu, and the current Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, were touted as those who would usurp Obaseki’s powers and battle it out with the governor for control. Some even postulated that Oshiomhole intentionally appointed Shaibu as Obaseki’s right-hand man so as to keep him in check. These are all grand laughable fabrications.
In the 60 days that Obaseki has functioned as governor, he has virtually exposed those lies as the mundane fabrications of over-imaginative minds. Such minds have been yanked from their lofty abodes in dreamland, and planted firmly in the reality of a developing Edo State.
During his campaign, Obaseki promised to run the state like a business entity. As soon as he was in power, he organised a 3-day retreat to orientate stakeholders in the development of the state into his vision for a new Edo. From December 8, 2016 to December 10, 2016, he gathered administrators, permanent secretaries, politicians, policy makers, members of civil society organizations, traditional rulers, religious leaders and former and serving officials of the state government to a strategy dialogue with the theme: “Setting the Agenda for the new Administration”.
The dialogue was strategic. Indeed, the event was particularly designed to highlight the challenges facing Edo State and sort out ways to tackle them. Obaseki was also present at Randekhi Hotel, where he participated in the final day of the event. Again, Edo’s 2017 budget is indicative of how the governor orchestrates these things himself. A close analysis of the budget indicates his commitment to revamping the economy of the state. Agriculture, under this new budget, will enjoy a new lease of life.
No more will the people of the State be overzealous to export themselves. Ceteris Paribus, Edo may be exporting agricultural products to other states. N22.2bn and N22.3bn have been allocated to economic stimulation and infrastructure respectively. Together, they total N44.5bn, which represents 30 per cent of the total budget.
Having shamed those who though a technocrat is not ideal to govern Edo State, Obaseki has dispelled idle talk of his lack of resolve. He has also indicated a high level of readiness to deploy new strategies as the times are changing. Once upon a time in Edo State, people were not technologically savvy. Now they are. Why not use technology to collect tax and save the government more money, he reasoned? During the 3-day strategic workshop, he dropped the hint that a situation in which people collect revenue for the government cannot be sustained if that government is to be run like a business entity.
He explained: “If we have other people, other entities, who are competing with the government for its own role and the people are not recognised by the constitution, it is a matter of time that they will become more efficient than government and topple government. For me, it is a risk we cannot afford to take. I believe if the bulk of the revenue was coming into government, it is a different matter but all of us know it is not. However, in doing so, we will ensure that we do not displace the economy of those people as we will try and accommodate them.”
On January 1, 2017, he announced a ban on private collection of revenue in the state. He pointed out that only officials of federal, state or local governments are constitutionally empowered to collect revenue on behalf of governments. Expectedly, the announcement has not gone down well with the contractors, who, last week, still rebelliously attempted to collect revenues and even prevented local government officials from doing the job.
It is estimated that the contractors erstwhile vested with the responsibility of collecting levies from designated locations within the 18 local government areas of the state had thousands of young men in their ranks, who helped to collect the revenues.
Obaseki called a meeting again and promised to draft 10,000 of these young fellows into the government work of collecting tax. However, manual tax collection would be outlawed. Only electronic means like POS and scratch cards would be used to collect taxes. The tax collectors would not go to the streets anymore. Their details and biometrics would be submitted by their contractors to the government and they would thereafter be registered on an internet portal so that people can pay taxes with dignity and with absolutely no fear of being harassed.
For those who do not comply, 20 squads of policemen have been deployed and are on standby to heed any calls reporting a breach of this law. Hotlines were also released for people to report defaulters. The police will be on ground to arrest the situation.
If any mulish sceptic still was not convinced of Obaseki’s potency in government, his relegation of politics into the background in Edo was a home run, socio-politically. Since Obaseki became governor, partisan altercations have gone out of fashion. Save for the governorship election tribunal that is billed to restart this week, political stories and news have virtually disappeared from Edo. Suddenly, the once volatile political clime in Edo has given way to calm.
Mayaki writes from Edo State
Obaseki had earlier indicated his eagerness to shun politics so that he will be able to concentrate on actualising his electoral promises. To him, excessive dwelling on politics could distract him from the more important tasks in the state. If he delivers on his electoral mandate, automatically, the party will be glorified.
It was even gathered that Obaseki asked politicians, who daily paraded the Government House in the past, not to visit him as he had no business to do with them for now. No wonder, a sombre atmosphere now pervades the Edo Government House, with few VIPs around.
Obaseki’s civil mien has also not gone unnoticed by many in Edo State. His urbane, humane and humble disposition is quite unlike what politics is used to. He, on Christmas day, dressed as Santa Claus with the Deputy Governor and visited IDPs in Edo State and encouraging people to join in taking care of them.
A governorship term comprises four years but in 60 days, Obaseki, has laid no the foundation initiated by ex-governor Adams Oshiomhole for peaceful governance in Edo State with firm statements of authority that have somehow, been understood and adhered to by the people.
Mayaki writes from Edo State