January 31, 2017

Edo: A technocrat on the saddle

THE decision of Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki to run for the office of Governor of Edo State in the twilight of 2015 introduced a new element to the political equation of the 2016 gubernatorial battle. He was generally regarded and referred to as a technocrat rather than the run of the mill politician.

Not many people we approached had a clear idea of what was meant by the term technocrat but most party leaders recalled to mind that there was a shadowy figure that worked hard for results behind the scene under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Therefore, the term came to be generally accepted by core politicians as a connotation for knowledge, hardwork and efficiency.

The word technocrat for purposes of enlightenment was coined by W.H. Smyth in 1919 to mean basically ‘ management of society by technical expert’. Simply put, a technocrat can be defined as an individual usually in leadership position who makes decision based solely on technical information. A technocrat sticks to scientific approach to public policy issues and never swayed by extraneous considerations, be they political or otherwise. The technocrat acquires skills and competences through training and experience. In the run up to the September 28, 2016 election, the fact of being a technocrat became Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki’s most persuasive selling point!

From start, the campaign was guided by technocratic principles and practices as introduced by the gubernatorial Aspirant and later, Candidate himself. The objectives and strategies were clearly defined namely; that the objective was to win the primaries and ultimately, the general election. Therefore, the strategy was to take the Aspirant / Candidate and his message to the people where ever they were located to solicit their support / votes and not the other way round.

Every resistance and obstacle on our way was to be confronted with resilience till overcome. The Campaign Headquarters in Benin City was essentially devoted to strategic planning and operational meetings by field operatives and the topflight IT driven technical corps of the campaign. The conference room hosted group meetings and solidarity visits. Most other persons who came to the campaign office were tale bearers and beggarly elements. They were legion and came in all forms and shades; as Pastors, Prophets, Imams, widows, etc. Some requests were as odd and ludicrous as payment of house rents, school fees and hospital bills!

Barely three months in office as Governor of Edo State after securing deserving victory at the polls on September 28, 2016,  Mr. Obaseki has left no one in doubt that he is fearless,  strong- willed, imaginative and strategic, and above all, that he is a seasoned technocrat. Against all odds, he pleaded with the political class to allow him time to get down to the brass tacks of erecting the fundamentals of his administration without distractions. That was a clear signal that a new dawn had arrived! The fact of being the Chairman of Edo State Economic and Strategy Team for eight years no doubt bestowed an advantage but the office of Governor is a different ball game entirely.

It demands an in-depth global picture of the entire machinery of government. He chose not to be presumptuous while technically and scientifically processing all briefings. Most unusually, he officially called to duty by appointment only the core team of government functionaries namely; the Secretary to Government and the Chief of Staff, preferring to invite additional expert hands as the imperatives of situation dictates on adhoc basis. An action that sent shockwaves to the political class even more!

In the heat of the electioneering period, he stated in several press interviews that the dearth of technically skilled labour was a source of worry and a huge challenge that must be confronted. In the same vein, he identified lack of capacity as a major problem in the public service, promising to structure a system of capacity building such that every public officer will be able to add value to the process of governance. Governor  Obaseki’s visit to Benin Technical College as soon as he assumed office was deliberate and informed by these concerns and determination to reverse the negative trend. It certainly was not a product of any brain wave!

His visit to School of Health and Technology to resurrect the ailing institution, his actions so far with regard to repositioning the Local Government administration for effective performance, his decision on the elimination touting, extortion and quasi militarisation of our streets are part of the plans on ground to take Edo State to the next level. The promise to start Road construction with Awaen Road in Etsako West and all actions so far can be found in his small notebook. Every meeting he held, he took notes which has now been distilled into separate lines of action. Only a seasoned technocrat does this. Truly, Edo State has ushered in an era where a governor ‘walks his talk’!

Governor Godwin Noghghase Obaseki promised to rebuild Edo State economy and to create 200,000 jobs through the attraction of new investments into the State. He has since sailed off with missionary zeal and apparently in a hurry for results. The recent visit of the Governor to China and India on investment drive, the setting up of Greg Ero Committee on the building of Container Port, the setting up Osaro Idah Committee on Agriculture, the collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on programmes funding options, the BIU – Edo State Government MOU on Waste to Wealth initiative, the Talkshop on Agri-business and several other programmes in-view are geared towards realising the goals of government on rebuilding Edo economy. All of these programmes have been technically and scientifically processed and evaluated in the most punctilious manner with a view to achieving maximum results.

Perhaps, the greatest obstacle to the realisation of the lofty plans would have been finance. But the Governor has demonstrated an unusual capacity to raise funds in the past and funding all the programmes capable of stimulating the economy is certainly not beyond his forte. With a clear vision of where the State is headed in place, the State Executive Council will very soon be constituted and Special Advisers appointed in order to effectively mann every Ministry and agency with the right personnel that will drive the process.

And sooner than imagined, the anxious political class will be able to leverage on the opportunities that will be unleashed in the economy. The degrade politics of the stomach will be replaced by the progressive politics of development based on production. Edo people must therefore roll their sleeves and be ready to work for the expansion of the productive base of our economy and thereby create a new progressive economic narrative for the State. No doubt indeed, a core technocrat is on the saddle of affairs in Edo State!

Aiyevbekpen Osakue, was the State Oordinator of Godwin Obaseki campaign organisation, Edo State.