February 17, 2017

Much ado about Obaseki’s govt

SO much effort is being deployed by the image makers of the new governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to project him as a positive departure from the administration of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – an administration of which Obaseki is reputed to have being the “talisman”, for the eight years  it lasted. On a regular basis now, we find image building articles in the national dailies, one of which was written by one Ernest Omoarelojie and published in a national daily of January 24, 2017, with the title: Edo: Things are Looking Up.

Taking into account the apparent verisimilitude of styles of approach to governance between the Oshiomhole administration and that of Godwin Obaseki, one cannot help but wonder how things can be said to be looking up. We cannot forget in a hurry that we were told that Obaseki designed the economic blueprint of Adams Oshiomhole – a blueprint that resulted in serious hardship for Edo people, as Ernest Omoarelojie inadvertently pointed out in his article.

Omoarelojie wrote in the fourth paragraph: “Clearly, he (Obaseki) came on at a time when, among other headaches, the state required a governor with the ability to rein in the hydra-headed unemployment challenge running loose in frightening double digit figures. He came with his depth to put an end to alleged double taxation, release all local government finances, curtail the nuisance values of certain characters employed as muscles for revenue mop”. The foregoing sums up the characteristics of the APC government of the past eight years in Edo State. A government that let unemployment run loose in double digits; a government that emasculated the citizenry with multiple taxation; a state government that appropriated local government funds to itself; and a state government that elevated  miscreants to billionaires and overlords whilst forcing the poor to pay taxes they never had. This is the reality, and Ernest Omoarelojie said it.

Ironically, this same writer says Obaseki has come to set right the grievous error that the Oshiomhole administration, largely, was. The question that follows such an assertion is: where was Godwin Obaseki while Oshiomhole foisted a negative and punitive economic regime on Edo people? Interestingly, as Obaseki and Oshiomhole told us, he was embedded in the same soulless administration. In fact, he confessed that he was the architect of the administration’s economic policy – a policy defined by the despicable attributes referred to by Ernest Omoarelojie. Yet, the writer says that Obaseki has come to reverse the policy he reportedly approved of while he was the chairman of Oshiomhole’s economic team for almost a decade.

Well, even if we are to give Obaseki the benefit of the doubt that he has suddenly realised that he used the inferior part of his technocratic brain to advise Oshiomhole, it is still difficult to trust him because we have not forgotten that he campaigned on the promise of continuity of the Adams Oshiomhole administration. Since he came on board, have we seen anything positively different? The answer is, no.

Those celebrating Obaseki’s suspension of the activities of revenue contractors should be reminded that it is the same way Oshiomhole began. We are witnesses to the “no more ticketing” declaration in 2008. Sadly, upon his exit in 2016, Oshiomhole had become the grand patron of bloody and heartless private revenue collectors. The change we witnessed in what Oshiomhole said he abhorred, was simply personnel. Another set of ticket sellers were employed by him. Is this not the same route Obaseki is taking? The information making the rounds is that Obaseki had to displace the major revenue contractor, who incidentally is the APC State Youth Leader because the notorious Oshiomhole chief enforcer had become too rich, impudent and constituted a threat to the new administration. Omoarelojie, who apparently is a government insider, in his article inferred this in the phrase: “curtail the nuisance values of certain characters employed as muscles for revenue mop”. It is also being reasoned that the suspension became expedient in view of the election dispute at the Tribunal, for which Obaseki wants public support given that the APC may be praying for a rerun of the Edo State Governorship Election that may be cancelled if Obaseki’s governorship declared by INEC cannot be upheld.

In almost a hundred days of Obaseki’s governorship, what tangible evidences are on ground to justify the declaration that things are looking up for Edo people? It has all been promises without corresponding action. And some funny people want us to celebrate because he has set up one or two committees. At any rate, what is fantastic about a new administration setting up committees.

Interestingly, Omoarelojie also gloated about Obaseki “giving the assurance that even the councils that received zero allocation will receive financial aid from the state so that they may be able to meet statutory monthly obligations, including payment of salary”. What a shame! In Edo State, under the APC, it has become an achievement for local government councils to meet monthly obligations, namely, salary payments. This is in spite of the fact that the state government keeps to itself the entitlements of the Councils. Is this not what Obaseki wants to continue while patronisingly beguiling the Councils? Need he be reminded that the Councils would have no zero allocation situation, and thus no need for his “aid” if he pays them their fifteen percent entitlement of the state’s IGR; if he gives them back revenue generating assets seized by Adams Oshiomhole; and if the state, at least, shares in the burden of paying primary schools teachers’ salaries? Obaseki may even not be aware that the local government administration is presently not properly constituted.

As with the last administration, Obaseki is toeing the line of dubious secrecy. For instance, he has kept mute on the refund of the N11billion Paris Club debt overpayment by Edo State Government in the regime of Chief Lucky Igbinedion. He has not divulged to the the Edo people what application he plans to put the apparent bonus. And someone says things are looking up!

How can we even be delighted by things that are looking up when there are no signs of things on ground? Over two months after being sworn-in, the state cabinet is not yet in place to give the administration focus, and someone is shouting hosanna! How then are things looking up? Perhaps for the new set of political managers of Edo State.

So early in the day, it is manifestly clear that Godwin Obaseki intends to run Edo like a private estate in continuing partnership with Adams Oshiomhole. Thus, we have Oshiomhole’s godsons as Deputy Governor and SSG, respectively. This also applies to the retention of Oshiomhole’s kinsman and ally as Chairman, Board of Internal Revenue. When the commissioners are eventually appointed, we can be rest assured it will be of the same pattern.

Unfortunately, Obaseki has also shown a penchant for self patronage, a crime that Oshiomhole was accused of, by giving the first multimillion naira agriculture consultancy job to Afrinvest – a company he, Obaseki owns. Things are obviously looking up for the partners that own this company and not Edo people.

In conclusion, we can say that despite Obaseki’s attempt to impress and despite the attempt by his image makers to rebrand him, the signs indicate more of the past we would rather not have than the future we earnestly hoped for. This administration, of a truth, definitely looks like the other side of a coin.

Mr. By Nosa Omorodion , a political  analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.