For three days –Thursday December 8 to Saturday, December 10, Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, gathered stakeholders – administrators, permanent secretaries, politicians, policy makers, members of the 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”.
Stuck in the middle of the hall at the Randekhi Hotel venue of the dialogue, the event chaired by a former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Samson Uwaifo, was designed to highlight the challenges facing Edo State, pinpoint ways to tackle them and fashion out policy direction. A high-profile affair, the attendees included deputy governor Phillip Shaibu, Secretary to the Edo State government Osarodion Ogie, the 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 deliberation and proffer ideas to 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, infrastructures and security to other issues critical to the state’s progress, all 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.
“Edo State easily ranks among one of the few states in Nigeria that can boast of the largest concentration of brain-power and this brain-power span the whole diverse area of governance through to the professionals, academia, and in every aspect of our economy,” said Obaseki.
“Therefore, I am very pleased to bring those of you who are not Edo citizens to join in this worthy task of building a legacy for our people.”
He explained that in spite of the various challenges, the state had “over the last eight years been able to build a strong foundation for the take-off of the Edo project which is what I campaigned on and it is time to build on that foundation and that is exactly what we are trying to do now”.
He said, ”Eight years ago, we had a vision of what we called the Edo Project and I’m happy that some of you here today were part of that project. It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to be at the index of functioning states in Nigeria to reclaim the position and rank we have always occupied since we became a region and a state. We now want to engage the great minds of our state in this country to help us build an inclusive and enduring state. We need institutions that will help us unlock the ingenuity of our people, our land and location in creating an economically prosperous and socially stable Edo State”.
Reflecting on the dialogue, he said, “I am fortunate to have the distinct pleasure of listening to most of the submissions. I must say that I am gratified to have the privilege of your wisdom, your commitment and support of our ideal. I know that many of you continue to wonder what would happen to our deliberations. Some of you might even feel that this may be another talk-shop. I want to assure you that what we are doing now is very deliberate and that under my leadership, I would not indulge in frivolities nor will I play to the gallery. I want to assure you that all the reports would be comprehensively looked into and studied with actionable programmes and 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”.
Obaseki spoke on the need for careful planning, enforcement of laws and implementation of policies, saying the expectations of commissioners and other political appointees will be determined before appointment. And knowing he will be evaluated after his first term to inform any chance at re-election, Obaseki stressed that meaningful data must be available.
“We’ll have to invest significantly in gathering data across all spectrums of the themes we have talked about because without data we cannot determine the size and extent of the issues neither can we then proffer solutions for resolving the issues,” he said.
The governor said that he has noticed within the month he has been in office that “our biggest problem is wastefulness” and he promised to eliminate it. Obaseki also promised to intensify revenue collection without imposing burden on the people, asserting that he intends to make the process of revenue collection “a lot more efficient.”
Earlier, the chairman of the dialogue, Justice Uwaifo, described the workshop as revolutionary approach to governance and stated that effective leadership required good decision making. He urged the people not to misunderstand or abuse the dialogue platform as it was a sign that the governor was ready to serve with the best of intentions.
“I think the move to set the agenda for the new administration in Edo State is well conceived,” Justice Uwaifo said.
“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 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 intention.”
•Mayaki is interim Chief Press Secretary to Governor Obaseki.