As Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, begins his second term in office, after been sworn in last week in Benin City, correspondent, MYKE UZENDU, takes a look at the major task and challenges facing the governor, who is going into his last tenure on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The re election of Governor Godwin Obaseki has no doubt altered the political history of Edo state. Obaseki was drafted into partisan politics by former governor Adams Oshiomhole initially as a technocrat in economic matters.
In 2015, despite deafening dissenting voices, Oshiomhole foisted him on the party as the only candidate that has the wisdom to crystalize his transformational ideas.
The build up to the 2019 general election witnessed unprecedented power tussle between the erstwhile National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the governor who declared war against his political godfather and his political empire.
The governor stealthily pulled the party’s administrative structures off Oshiomhole’s feat as he was suspended by his ward chairman and subsequently sacked by the court as the National Chairman of the party.
Oshiomhole also unleashed all his arsenals on the governor, culminating in his disqualification from participating in the party’s primary leading to his last-minute defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obaseki told everyone who cared to listen that he fell out of favour with his principal because he denied him and his cronies access to the state treasury.
He said, “I barred thugs (agberos) from the roads and markets and ensured that they stopped harassing market women and other persons in Edo. But some of the (APC) leaders said they would have none of that because, according to them, they helped me into office.
“As for sharing of the state’s money, I insisted that we must use the money for the people and change their lives with it. There was work on ground to be done and if we used the available funds to entertain politicians, there would be nothing left to work for the people”.
All hell was let loose as the election inched closer. Politicians sponsored thugs that freely unleashed mayhem on each other, including an attack of party supporters at the palace of the Oba of Benin. Campaign vehicles were shattered and all sorts of video littered the social media with various threats of using ‘lions and tigers’ to scuttle the polls.
Political parties pointed accusing fingers at each other, the state House of Assembly members was sharply divided and politicians used all sorts of unholy means to arm twist each other at the expense of the helpless electorate.
The security situation in Edo state, prelude to the September 10 governorship poll degerated so high, leading the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I and members of the National Peace Commission led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), who had to wade in to avoid further human and material carnage.
The election has come and gone and governor Obaseki in his victory speech boasted that all the ‘lions and tigers’ have been caged to the zoo which leaves him with no excuses but to deliver on his commitments with the electorate.
“You have helped me cage the lions and tigers in the State, you will never see them again in Edo because they are all in the zoo now where they belong.
“Today, I promise you that we will work for Edo people because no one will hinder us from delivering the dividend of democracy to Edo people.
“The next four years in the state will be the one that all citizens will live to remember as we will consolidate on our developmental achievements in the State,” he said in his victory speech.
The level of the implementation of the N153.4billion 2021 budget of the state is one of the indices that will determine the commitment of the governor to the socio-economic transformation of the state. The ambitious budget christened “Making Edo Great Again” (MEGA) contains N94.8bn recurrent expenditure, representing a 24 percent growth from the N76.6 billion actual expected in the 2020 fiscal year.
According to the budget estimates, N153 billion revenue would accrue from FGN/FAAC, N71 billion; Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), N36 billion; Grants, N9.8 billion; Loans 15.3 billion; Capital Development Fund Receipts, 13.8 billion, while the state will have an opening balance of N7.5 billion in the fiscal year.
The education sector will gulp N20.8 billion; human capital and civil service reforms, N6.1 billion; pension and gratuities, N12.8 billion; contribution to the State Health Insurance Scheme, N1 billion; health sector, N10.3 billion and physical, urban and regional planning will gulp N9 billion just as roads and transport infrastructure will gulp N14.8 billion; economic growth and employment enablers, N7.6 billion, while administration will get N8.7 billion.
The governor will also score a big mark if he is able to generate more revenue with the successful take-off of the Edo Modular Refinery with a refining capacity of 60,000 barrel per day (bpd).
The governor is also expected to find a political solution to the legislative impasse where the seat of 14 members are still vacant.
While commenting on the situation, the governor said, “For more than 180 days they did not come. They refused to represent the people. Those seats became vacant; that’s what the constitution says.
“There is nothing I can do to that at this time. I wish it did not happen but people were playing God and promising what is not constitutionally possible.
“We should learn that democracy is underpinned by the constitution and the law. Even if I wanted today to bring them back, I don’t have such powers”.
Having successfully tamed god fathers in the state, the governor is further expected to toe the path of Lagos state and abolish pensions and all entitlements for former governors. This move will not only endear him to the electorate but enable him save more money for the execution of critical projects in the state.
Obaseki must reconcile all dissenting voices in the state and ensure that both members of PDP and other stakeholders are carried along in state affairs.
The governor is also expected to look at the infrastructural decay in places like Okpella which is a very high revenue earner to the state due to the rich mineral deposits beneath its soil.
Kassim Afeghbua, former commissioner for information in the state, and renowned anti Obaseki campaigner, though a PDP member, who hails from Okpella, has accused the governor of total neglect for his people.
He said, “The roads in my limestone community of Okpella have remained mere eyesore, begging for completion from where Oshiomhole took them, yet, Okpella contributes hugely to the internally generated revenue.
“Thrice, Governor Obaseki came to promise my people, raised their hopes, and dashed their hopes without qualms” Afegbua lamented.
The governor is also expected to improve upon the power situation in the state. He is expected to complete the 55 Megawatts CCETC-Ossiomo Power plant facility located at Ologbo, on Benin-Sapele road as well as the 450MW Azura- Edo power project.
Improving on the security of the state is another challenge the new chief executive of the state must tackle headlong. This will improve the business eco-system in the state and restore the confidence of the investors in his administration.
Other critical infrastructure the governor needs to set rolling is the Benin Industrial Park, Edo Water Storm project, the Auchi – Benin road abandoned by NDDC, rehabilitation of schools, hospitals and erosion control among others.