Hope dims on Obaseki’s promises 365 days after re-election
It is already a year since Governor Godwin Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shaibu, as well as their campaign train berthed every nook and cranny, wooed Edo people with countless promises in exchange of votes from over one million eligible voters and, ultimately, got the nod to pilot the political affairs of the state for another tenure of four years.
From the northern axis of the state through the central part to the southern region, it was promises galore to deliver good dividends of democracy to residents of the state.
This has become a norm for those aspiring for a political position and it isn’t peculiar to the governor who by November 12 would have spent 365 days in his second tenure in office.
After sailing Edo State through rough patches in his first four-year term, he requested another term in office to be able to consolidate on his achievements. Luckily, he was given the mandate to lead again.
The governor, who entered the electoral ring with sterling performances, anchored his vision, towards raising hopes of Edo people, on a catchphrase, “Making Edo Great Again” (MEGA).
Navigating Edo on the path of progress, Godwin Obaseki says he plans to leave a lasting legacy that will provide a roadmap required to meet the development plan of the state by 2050, upon completion of his second term in office.
The governor noted that his manifesto crystallised into “Making Edo Great Again (MEGA),” is a blueprint containing all plans captured in a detailed and integrated roadmap for the future of Edo State.
No doubt, the manifesto which is anchored on 12 pillars is a development-oriented programme of progress for Edo, and a step forward in building on his first term achievements.
He outlined his 12- point MEGA agenda to include Social Sector (Education, Healthcare System, Pension and Social Security, Housing, Lands and Surveys); Critical Infrastructure and Energy; Economy and Industralisation, Trade and Investment; Environment and Public Utilities; Peace and Security.
Others are Agriculture and Natural Resources; Public Service, Public Finance and Public Revenue; Women, Children, Youth and Sports; Law, Judiciary and Legal Reforms; Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs; Arts and Culture, and Transport.
Unfortunately, he met his first hurdle a month after the September 19, 2020 governorship election when the protest against alleged police brutality dubbed “EndSARS” was infiltrated by suspected hoodlums in Benin City leading to double jailbreaks in two correctional facilities in the state capital in October 2020.
Culminating from the #EndSARS protest, Edo State witnessed various unlawful acts such as robbery incidents, resurgence of cult clashes that claimed lives, several police stations and post were razed, and business activities came to a standstill while it lasted.
The growing security threat was compounded by the gloomy news of several deaths and countless abductions of travelers by suspected kidnappers on Benin-Auchi expressway.
Worried by the rising criminal activities in the state, Governor Godwin Obaseki launched the vigilante network – a community-led effort to galvanise local communities to partner with government security agencies to provide security and protect lives and property in the state.
Amid insecurity issue, there has been furore over the non-appointment of commissioners as well as continuous clamour by residents for the present administration to finish what he started in his first tenure such as the construction of roads, including Ekehuan road which is yet to be completed, desilting of drainage systems, many other requests.
Surprisingly, two days after his inauguration for a second term in office in November 2020, the governor approved the appointment of Osarodion Ogie as Secretary to the State Government, shelving all other appointments to the first week of February, 2021.
However, 10 months after his inauguration and nine months after Ogie was sworn in as SSG, the governor is yet to assign a political position or set up a cabinet within the timeframe he earlier mentioned.
As a result, there have been several calls on the governor to constitute a cabinet that will help in the process of rapid development and transformation of the state for Edo people.
In July, the governor received names of 129 commissioner-nominees, as well as 113 and 576 Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) and Special Assistants (SAs) nominees, respectively, who were screened by a 15-man committee led by Dennis Agbonlahor.
Receiving the names, Obaseki said the reason for the screening exercise is to bring in politicians with the mentality to serve the people rather than politicians who will come to frustrate the system and steal the resources of the State.
“They must have the interest of the people at heart, participate in the development of their communities, and support the administration’s agenda to develop the state.
“Political appointees must deliver on their responsibilities and duties as they will be evaluated based on their performance. Our party is working to ensure that we carry everybody along,” Obaseki said.
Also, in April, the Edo State House of Assembly gave a nod to the appointment of 15 Special Advisers nominated by Governor Godwin Obaseki. Consequently, Marcus Onobun, Speaker of the House, directed the Clerk of the Assembly, Yahaya Omogbai, to forward copies of the approval to the governor for immediate action.
But Nosa Oghogho, a Benin resident, queried the delay in appointing persons into the state executive council, saying that “It is an aberration to run a government with a three-man team. The governor should know better that he cannot do it alone without forming a cabinet. How do they even sit on exco meeting?”
Osazee Edigin, a civil rights activist, urged the governor to urgently constitute a cabinet to help superintend over the various ministries.
“Generally, not having a cabinet is not democratic. A state is not run by just three persons. If we want to drive development very fast, then people must be given responsibilities to drive such development.
“In developing a state, every hand must be on deck. The way it is now, not having a cabinet in place, elected local government chairmen will definitely stall the speed of development,” Edigin said.
“From what we have seen so far, there is nothing happening in the state. There are no good roads, traffic lights are not working, insecurity is on the increase, farmers can no longer go to the farms for fear of the unknown. I think these are issues that must be addressed as soon as possible.
“For now, the governor should connect with the yearnings of Edo people which one is expected of him to look into to inform his policies towards the next three years remaining to serve Edo people. But if he fails to reawaken the expectations of the people, then it means he will exit power without any remarkable thing attributed to his name,” he added.
Godwin Erhahon, a political analyst told BusinessDay Sunday that “even when he eventually announces a cabinet, they are just going to be rubber stamp. The previous commissioners never really had any input except the glamour of office and the name, commissioners. They were not allowed to make input.”
Almost a year gone in his last lap of his two-year tenure, residents in Edo State are anticipating that the governor will strengthen his administration’s developmental strides to impact lives, and build a legacy such as the likes of Samuel Ogbemudia and Ambrose Alli – two eminent political fathers who dedicated a greater part of their lives to the service of Edo people.
While some pundits are of the view that his second tenure, which will be completed in three years time, will be mere rhetoric and may not be able to achieve its proposed objectives. Others say he should prioritise key areas, particularly road construction and healthcare delivery.
But Chris Nehikhare, Edo State Publicity Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rated the present administration very highly in terms performance, saying that the man who holds the reins of power has done extremely well in the last 12 months.
“As regards health, he has succeeded in fighting COVID-19, and he is continuously executing infrastructural projects to make life easier for Edo people. For education, the EdoBEST has been a success and its third year anniversary was held a few months ago.
“In higher institutions, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma is being revamped and reset to bring it up to international standard. This has also been extended to the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, where the state government has promised that very soon student will start resumption,” Nehikhare said.
Nehikhare refuted the claims that no significant development is happening in Edo State, noting that it has been an eventful year after the governorship election.
“It is a misnomer for anyone to say the government is not working. This is the time to say Edo state is working. The governor and the government are governing, and they are ensuring that civil servants and pensioners get their entitlements as and when due.
“A lot of government activity is ongoing in the state. There is government presence in the state. Remember that after the fallout of the #EndSARs protest, the government set up a vigilante network which has effectively reduced the crime rate in Benin metropolis and recently across the other senatorial district. This is a result of deliberate government policies.
“I can assure you that the government is not in campaign mode for the next three years, his business is to deliver the dividends of democracy to Edo people, and this is being done strategically and systemically and they are achieving it. If you go round Benin metropolis, you will see the revamping of street lights, roads and drainage being constructed, waste management has also improved.
“But what people are not happy about right now is that political patronage has not begun. The interest of Edo people is what matters at this time and the governor is tackling it to make sure all the sectors are touched. The inner city roads are being fixed and rehabilitated. Few days ago, the governor released a list of 91 roads that will be rehabilitated across the three senatorial districts,” he added.
The number one political actor and chief executive officer of the state had his way a year ago, will Edo electorate have their way to reaping the benefits in the next three years?