By Crusoe Osagie
Governor Godwin Obaseki’s emergence as the new political leader in Edo State, was the product of a deliberate and intense search for someone who is conversant with the issues of development; inclusive socio-economic growth anchored on industrialisation, and someone who can enthrone a sturdy and sane political order; people-centred and reforms-oriented governance propelled by the Rule of Law.
Rare as the combination seemed, the lot fell on the investment banker cum politician given his flair for clear-cut strategies in delivering on assigned tasks and a knack for best practice.
With an illustrious career built in boardrooms and solidified in shopping for Nigeria-bound investments across the globe, Obaseki comes off as the result-focused industrialist, who goes into investment negotiations with clinical finesse, armed to the teeth with raw data and guarantees as well as a deep understanding of the sanctity of contracts.
A Team Player
On assumption of duty, the governor assembled a team of mainly technocrats with clear tasks and performance evaluation framework that will measure periodically, input, output and outcomes.
Obaseki’s Solutions Ecosystem
His close aides attest to his systems approach and orientation to issues and problems, which begins with defining a problem, designing and developing system solutions, with attendant models for evaluation.
The designed and tested solutions are set in legislation templates and transmitted as bills for enduring laws, to the legislature.
Development experts contend that the lack of depth and policy short-termism account in part, for policy failures in developing countries.
Governor Obaseki would rather create a network of related issues to a problem and proffer myriad of sustainable solution options for tackling the problems.
Creating an ecosystem of sustainable solution options to problems cannot happen in one day, which explains his disposition to engagement with experts and other stakeholders, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Alaghodaro Investment Summit
Obaseki’s predisposition to development models anchored on well researched ideas gave birth to the first edition of the Alaghodaro Investment Summit, which brought together subject matter experts who converged on Benin City from November 10-12, 2017, to chart a better future for Edo people and residents in the state, with the theme, “Envisioning the Future.”
The three-day investment summit took the place of a one-year anniversary funfair that would have cost the state millions of naira, at a time the country was struggling to come out of a recession.
The governor assembled local and international investors and business leaders, bankers, policymakers, lawyers, the academia, industry experts and members of the diplomatic community for a three-day idea incubation session, covering agriculture, manufacturing, culture and tourism, civil service reforms, forest regeneration, education and healthcare.
A Prudent Manager of Men and Resources
Governor Obaseki took over the reins of power at a time the Nigerian economy was neck-deep in the worst recession the nation has witnessed in decades.
His expertise in the frugal application of scarce resources was called to task. At a time most states in the country, including the supposed rich states, were owing salaries, the Edo State government under his watch was up to date in salary payment. Civil servants received their salaries regularly before the end of each month.
From the early days as the Chairman, State Economic Team, under former governor Adams Oshiomhole, Obaseki had developed an acute understanding of the developmental needs of Edo State, perfected which holes to plug for the state’s economic resurgence and when duty called, he wasted no time in providing a clear direction for his team.
He sounded a note of warning to all government officials, including civil servants, that there would be no room for frivolous spending of the state’s resources.
Specifically, the governor migrated revenue collection from analogue to digital platform to ensure transparency in the revenue collection process, embarked on the reform of the education, health, sports, justice sectors and began the retooling and retraining of civil servants.
He has been nicknamed the ‘Wake and See Governor’ by Edo people and residents in the state, who are overwhelmed by the ease with which developmental projects spring up in their neighborhoods.
Investment/ industrialisation drive
From his close study of the state, he understands that the state possessed several strategic assets that make it an investor’s delight.
He had deployed this skill in brokering for investment for the globally-acclaimed, record-setting 450MW capacity Edo Azura Independent Power Project (IPP), among others.
More so, the industrialisation plan pursued by the Edo State Government is quite grand and encompasses a wide range of strategically connected projects, namely; the Benin Industrial Park project that will host over 1000 companies; the 1800 housing-unit Emotan Garden project; the Benin River Port in Gelegele, which will serve as the gateway for evacuating products manufactured in the industrial park; an auto assembly plant; a modular refinery and pockets of innovation hubs that will be scattered across the state, amongst other projects. On completion, these projects will not only see to the rise of the state as an economic hub, but as a cynosure of all those seeking to make an industrial city from what used to be a largely civil servants’ state.
The most intriguing part of Obaseki’s numerous conceptions, is the nexus between one project and the other. Edo State currently has a community of related projects, in which the main or bye product of one project is useful to the other project (s).
To illustrate, the 1800 housing-unit Emotan Garden project will source cement, sand, steel, tiles from companies that are located in Edo State. The demand for these building materials will impact positively on the scale of these companies whose managers will hire more Edo youths to produce to scale and meet the demand of the housing estate.
This interconnection has also been factored into the ongoing repositioning of the colleges of agriculture in the state, which will train young graduates for the numerous large scale farms in the state.
In same way, the Benin River Port is the link to the international market for companies that will operate from the Benin Industrial Park.
The governor’s penchant for technology-driven systems has also found expression in the state’s education sector, where tech-based teaching method has been adopted in public schools.
The reigning Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) initiative, is winning hearts and minds of Edo people, most of whom have begun withdrawing their wards and pupils from private schools and moving them to public schools where information and communication technology tools such as minicomputers are now being used for teaching.
Edo-BEST is a basic education reform blueprint that prioritises the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in teaching, as well as harmonises teaching and learning outcomes across locations and promotes interactive classroom management model, among others.
Barely 18 months in office as the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has demonstrated that governance is about deep and strategic thinking, as well as the execution of people-centred projects that will enhance their wellbeing.
Keen watchers of developments in Edo would agree that Governor Obaseki deserves accolades for the clearheaded leadership he has provided in Edo State, amid a very turbulent economy, particularly, as he adds another year today.
Even though in his modesty, he is the last person to pay attention to accolades and praises, it would almost be a crime against nature to allow this day pass without wishing him a very happy birthday.
Crusoe Osagie is the Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy to the Edo State Governor.