By Isaac Aimurie
There is a common story making the rounds in political circles in Benin, the Edo State capital. It is about how conversations at party gatherings of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have taken on a new texture. It is neither about who gets into what position, nor what amount will be shared at such political gatherings.
“More and more, it is either about how one massive road construction would link community A to Community B; or how Governor Godwin Obaseki has attracted another new business corporation into Edo State or one new law or policy meant to address critical deficit in governance,” explained a leader of one of the fringe opposition political parties in Edo state, recently.
There is no reason to doubt this observation, at least going by the spate of defection from opposition parties to APC between October and November, after Obaseki undertook a state-wide tour, tagged, Thank-you- tour, to APC voters who put him in power. The visits ended up to be a new political reorientation strategy meant to wean the teaming Edo populace off the non-progressive politics of old.
Rather than making the tour a money-sharing jamboree and an occasion for the outpouring of unctuous stream of unrealisable promises, Obaseki preached a new politics of purpose. For instance, at Ubiaja, Esan South East local government area, Obaseki promised an agricultural processing zone at Ilushin in addition to a vocational centre that will provide the necessary skills for the youths of the area. The skill acquisition center is meant to prepare them for the jobs his administration will provide. This is in addition to the cash rewards to the wards that performed well at the last election.
The governor assured them, too, that roads in the council area will not be forgotten.
Obaseki’s style of administration has witnessed sweeping reforms in governance architecture. Like he has done in politics, Obaseki’s style of introducing institutional reforms is through the engagement of critical stakeholders; laws and policy enactment; reworking of weakened governance architecture; creation of enforcement agencies; improvement in living standards especially in health and education. In the last one year of his administration, Obaseki has introduced an entirely different approach to governance.
On laws, policy enactment and enforcement agency creation, for instance, not a few policy wonks would be amazed at the ease with which a new property protection law has been driving investments into Edo State. Before his coming as governor, landed property transactions were mostly mired in skirmishes on account of traditional land holding and tenure system.
One of the enforcement agencies revamped by Obaseki is the Edo State Traffic Management Agency (ESTMA). Before his coming, traffic snarl in the city capital of Edo was nightmarish. But with the creation of the traffic management corps made up of highly trained officers, traffic jam has rapidly begun to ebb. Meanwhile, Edo state government has begun a gradual phase out of mini buses and vans as means of commercial transport in the state.
Rather, the state is introducing fully air conditioned luxury buses to be given to private sector players on loan scheme basis.
No better place has institutional reforms in Edo taken root than in the areas of education and health.
The state government commenced schools census exercise, recently, geared towards providing credible and reliable data for planning while the inspectorate department is being revamped. Special Adviser to the Governor on Basic Education and Sole Administrator, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Joan Oviawe, said Obaseki is keen on teacher professional development and data-driven decision-making.
On health, the Edo state governor has doubled down on primary health delivery. Going by plans, policies and investments in this critical human development sector, Edo and Obaseki stand apart.
The state governor plans future intervention in his state’s health sector as part of what he calls, Social Welfare Investment (SWI) package; and it is just one out of the interdependent thematic pillars of Edo’s development, namely Institutional Reforms; Economic Development; Environment; Social Welfare; Arts Culture and Tourism apart from SWI.
Taken his interest in primary health further, recently, the governor approved health centers in markets. This reaffirmed Obaseki’s commitment to not only curb neonatal deaths, but also work on revamping primary health sector.
*Aimurie, a communication expert, is based in Benin City