By John Mayaki
Between December 8 and 10, the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, gathered stakeholders such as administrators, permanent secretaries, 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 Randekhi Hotel venue of the dialogue hosted many eminent personalities including a former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Samson Uwaifo, who chaired the event. The gathering was designed to highlight the challenges facing Edo State, pinpoint ways to tackle them and fashion out policy direction. The attendees included deputy governor, Phillip Shaibu; Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie; Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele, and the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, Professor Julius Ihonvbere.
Some former commissioners in the immediate past administration including those of Environment, Clem Agba; Education, Gideon Obakhan and Housing and Urban Development, Francis Evbuomwan, were present.
In his welcome address, Justice Uwaifo charged the participants to engage in serious deliberations and proffer ideas that can move the state forward. On the second day, the participants went into the technical sessions, focusing on six areas – economic revolution, culture and tourism, environmental sustainability, welfare enhancement; infrastructure development and institutional reform. By the time the sessions came to a close that night, participants had deliberated upon and addressed the key governance issues in the state, giving the current administration a bank full of ideas.
On the third and final day, the participants presented their different ideas with virtually every sector of the state’s economy benefiting. From health to agriculture, education and sports, infrastructure and security, many issues that are critical to the state’s progress were highlighted. With the governor in attendance, listening and taking notes as resource persons including Justice Uwaifo, Emeritus Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, Dr Phillip Ugbodaga and others shared their thoughts; he could not but acknowledge the concentration of human capital in the state.
It is commendable that the governor acknowledged this much in his speech when he noted that Edo State ranks among the few states in Nigeria that can boast of the largest concentration of brain-power in diverse areas of governance, the academia and the economy.
His recognition of the people and his request that they join hands with his government in building a legacy reflect his desire to make a great impact on their lives. He spoke of the need to engage the great minds of the state to help build an inclusive and enduring Edo State. Expressing his appreciation of the diverse contributions at the forum, he assured the contributors that he would “comprehensively” look into their proposals and come up with actionable programmes and an implementation plan. “In fact, our promise from the beginning was that we were going to stop and desist from the situation where contractors and service providers were the ones who were defining government agenda and policies”.
One notable outcome of this event is the governor’s position on the need to ensure careful planning, enforcement of laws and implementation of policies. He promised that the expectations from commissioners and other political appointees will be determined before appointment, while emphasis would be placed on the meaningful collation and use of data across all spectrums of the themes discussed at the dialogue. As he put it, “without data, we cannot determine the size and extent of the issues, neither can we then proffer solutions for resolving the issues.” He also promised to intensify revenue collection and check wastefulness, which he identified as the biggest problem in the state.
One cheering aspect of the plan to increase the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, however, is his promise to do so without imposing further burdens on the people. Instead, he vowed to make the process of revenue collection more efficient.
Another good thing that the people of the state took away from the dialogue is that the governor is not claiming a monopoly of ideas. He is ready to listen to all the stakeholders in the state and aggregate their opinions with a view to coming up with a decision that will be in the best interest of all the people.
Indeed, the idea of the dialogue has been described as revolutionary, as the governor will now know the thinking of the people and he can easily carry them along as tries to execute his programmes that can now be based on the desires of the people, instead of operating in the dark without the benefit of what the people really want.
For this, the governor was well commended by the chairman of the occasion, Justice Uwaifo, who acknowledged that “the move to set the agenda for the new administration in Edo State is well conceived.” According to the respected jurist, “No doubt, it is the first of its kind and the essence of it is revealed in the vision and mission set out. The vision for the thematic pillars so systematically analysed is quite attractive and demonstrates a revolutionary approach to change in the art of governance. This is a practical exhibition of this administration’s plan to ensure inclusive government. Let me sound an admonition that this new era of governance should neither be misunderstood nor abused by any one in whatever sense. Let it be taken with gratitude that it is a sign that the governor has offered to serve the people with the best of intentions.”
With the governor now fully apprised of the views of the state’s stakeholders in the thematic areas of the dialogue, the people can look forward to a government that is well aware of their problems and is poised to bring them to pass. Gone, for now, are the days when governments in some parts of the country ruled their people by guesswork.
The effort of the state government to engage the state’s stakeholders is commendable and should be emulated by other state governments in the country. Governance in the country should no longer be by the rule of the thumb, but based on service delivery to the people who must have been allowed to have a say in the government’s programmes at the planning stage.
Mayaki is interim Chief Press Secretary to Governor Obaseki.