10 November 2017

Nigeria: Edo's One Year of Governance Without Politics

Benin City — In two days time, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and the only All Progressives Congress (APC) governor in the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria, would mark his first anniversary in office. But his administration, which has a reputation of being frugal with state resources, is not without its problems as many politicians are kicking against his style.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also continuously criticised the government's polices particularly as they affect pensioners agitation, the multi million naira Central Hospital yet to be put to use and protests by some traders over alleged new tariffs which they argued are not pocket-friendly, among others.

The PDP said the government has not added value to the people of the state just as one of its chieftains, Nosa Adams, stated that what is happening in Edo cannot be isolated from the APC-controlled Federal Government, which he claimed has disappointed the people of Nigeria.

However, despite the burden of Abuja, the antagonisms of the political class and criticisms of the opposition PDP, the Obaseki administration has recorded some strides in its efforts to develop the state and several of these could be seen in the education, health and infrastructure sectors of the state economy.

In its budget for this year, prominence was given to education with expected revenue for the sector channeled to basic education. To achieve this, the governor appointed Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe, a seasoned education and human development expert who is a visiting Fellow at the Institute for African Development at Cornell University, as Special Adviser on Education who also doubles as Sole Administrator of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, (SUBEB).

The state also planned to hold a summit to chart a new cause for social welfare encapsulated in the six areas of Institutional Reforms, Economic Development, Environmental Sustainability, Social Welfare, Arts, Culture and Tourism which according to Obaseki, are the cardinal pillars upon which the government wishes to channel development and economic initiatives.

As at today, the Edo governor is believed to be operating one of the leanest governments ever in the history of the state but this policy has also shut out many persons who contributed to his emergence as governor.

There are fears in the political circle that if the situation is not properly managed, a Kayode Fayemi scenario in Ekiti could be created in Edo. While Fayemi was busy developing the state and cutting himself off from the people, an alternative was found for him in a "people-friendly" Ayodele Fayose, without minding the developments that Fayemi had brought.

Obaseki had pledged during his campaigns that he was going to face governance while his deputy, Philip Shaibu and Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, would handle politics but it appears that politics has been relegated to the background by the administration.

As guest lecturer at the 5th edition of the Correspondents Lecture Series held in Benin City recently, Obaseki said one of the reasons that delayed picking his commissioners for over eight months, was his decision to create a template for the administration so that when they come, they would just key into it.

He said this was the reason the state government organised series of workshops and symposia to create a foundation for his government following the steps of the achievements of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. But Obaseki, a politician with an aristocratic mien who is said to believe in the policy of self-integrity, has the challenge of servicing the leaders who dictate the pace and direction of politics in the state.

Analysts believe however that if he serves the people well, he would ultimately benefit from a massive support from the electorate if he decides to seek a second term of office but would face a herculean task in securing the nod of the politicians who control political platforms.

One of the actions he took was trying to create conducive environment for his policies, which led to a law prohibiting the CDAs (Community Development Associations) "because they were causing great damage in our communities." With the support from the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, a new plan for land developers in the state was laid.

And to stem the emergence of tin gods who engage in revenue collection for government, Obaseki banned all private tax collectors in the state saying all taxes and levies should be paid to or collected by government officials.

Another challenge that the government has been facing is the continuous agitation by pensioners who at a point made it a daily affair taking over Oba Ovonramwen Square at the city centre, insisting that they must get their entitlements with their protests causing traffic gridlock as they marched for several hours. Gabriel Osemwekha, spokesman of the pensioners associations, said their members die daily because they could not afford medical treatment.

Adams, who is also former State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, told The Guardian that the APC, both at the state and national levels, has failed the people. When asked to give a verdict about the Obaseki administration, he said, "You must set the parameter and look at the indices with which you can assess the performance or achievement of a government who has stayed in power for one year. The government must be able to impact very positively on the lives of its citizens and above all, the yardstick must be such that very good proportion of human endeavour must be well covered.

"The party is both in power at the federal and at the state level and you will agree with me that Nigerians have not fared better for the past two years of this Federal Government. So the one year of this present Edo government has dovetailed into the very abysmal performance of the Buhari-led Federal Government because the living standard of an average Nigerian has drastically dropped and the security situation gone from bad to worse."

So far, the governor has kept to his word of running a low profile administration while introducing private sector mentality in running the government. But there is an overwhelming belief that he may be forced to revert the order or modify it to service the party structure and machinery, otherwise elections might become difficult for the party to win. And as one politician told The Guardian last weekend, "You cannot play policy without politics."

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