By Mike Ebonugwo
THE emergence of Godwin Obaseki as Governor of Edo State obviously did not come to many as a surprise given the fact that he received the full endorsement of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who enjoys a kind of cult followership in the state.
The open endorsement served to remind all and sundry that he was certainly the man, in the estimation of the popular former Labour leader, capable of initiating the relevant programmes to consolidate on the development achievements of his predecessor.
So after picking the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the party’s primary, he had gone ahead to confront the hurdle standing between him and a fiercely contested election where his opponents tried all that was fair and foul to upstage him. He eventually emerged victorious and was subsequently sworn into office as governor. But this has not stopped those opposed to his emergence from pursuing a sustained campaign to discredit him.
Obaseki’s response to this, according to state government officials, was to immediately initiate development-oriented programmes to consolidate on the well-lauded work of Comrade Oshiomhole and by so doing demonstrate his appreciation of the confidence reposed in him by those who voted for him. The immediate outcome of this, they added, is that the state is presently enjoying “unprecedented era of economic expansion”.
According to keen watchers of developments in the state, he has brought a new sense of urgency to the drive for development which has grown the status of the state as a model for others to follow. Officials are convinced that it was on account of this that a few weeks ago, a top-level World Bank delegation to Nigeria passed a vote of confidence on the reforms initiated by the administration as well as ongoing projects in Edo. The verdict of the World Bank delegation, according to the officials, is that the reforms and projects are already having the envisaged positive impact on Edo and its people, a reason for which many now see the state as “a model for development at the sub-national level in developing countries.”
They were also not shy in claiming that this became possible because Governor Obaseki brought the benefits of his board room finesse and clear headedness to bear in the process of providing meticulous and world-class leadership.They said, “The governor’s policy stance has been to tackle rot from the base, as can be seen with the focus on basic education and primary healthcare reforms; on skills development, captured in the commitment to revive technical education and the emphasis on creating a conducive environment for business exhibited in landmark initiatives like the Public Private Partnership Office, and the Business Bureau”.
Dividends of democracy: According to them, the refrain for the governor’s growing profile as a development merchant is captured in the nickname, “Wake and See Governor.” The sobriquet is considered appropriate because of the governor’s style of working without unnecessarily blowing his own trumpet. His main concern, they said, has been to reposition the state as an investment hub not just to boost productivity, but to assure better, fulfilling life for residents and indigenes. They explained that the Governor’s policies “are aimed at improving the quality of life, reducing poverty, empowering the people to live life to the fullest and ensuring that society is guided by the rule of law”.
And to buttress their claim in this regard, they readily point at new roads springing up daily in urban, semi-urban and rural areas. This, they added, explains why he has silently turned the state into a construction site. Some of the road construction projects in the state include reconstruction of Lucky Way in Ikpoba Hill area, Benin City; rehabilitation of Wire Road, TV Road, construction of Ogiefa Street, Ogiefa lane and Amadasun Street and reconstruction of Nevis Street off Forestry Road, emergency repair of Okonkpon Bridge, among others.
In Edo Central, some of the projects include Old Agbor Road-Ugbegun, Ekpon-Ubiaja Road, Angle 80- Illushi, Ewohimi Usehi Junction-Okaigbeu, Opoji-Ugbegun Road, Akia Roundabout-Niyelen; reconstruction of Olele Street, Eguare Irrue and reconstruction of Erewele Street, Eguare Irru, among others.
At the same time, rehabilitation is said to be ongoing for Benin Township Roads such as Edebiri Irowa, Osuma Streets, College Road, Goodwill Street, Erediawa Street Off Ekenwan Road, Oziengbe-Emwanta Off Urubi Road, Asoro-Igbesamwan-Aruosa Street, Nekpen-Nekpen Road. There is also the construction of Irhirhi – Aruogba – Obazagbon – Obagienevbosa – Ogheghe Road with spurs to Enogie Palace, and Ogbekpen community and emergency repair of Evbuobanosa-Oza-Igbanke Road bridge and some failed section along the road, Reconstruction of High Court internal roads, James Watt Roads and Idahosa street in Benin City, among others.
Governor Obaseki’s desire to see Edo emerge as an economic hub is presently being pursued through an expansive plan to industrialise the State which includes strategically linked projects. “We are pursuing an aggressive industrialisation drive. Our goal is to utilise our endowments, particularly the available energy and logistical advantage so that we can become a major industrial hub,” he said, during the last Alaghodaro Investment Summit.
The Edo industrial corridor
By this grand industrialisation plan, the state is expected to be serviced by gas-powered power plants, housing refineries, seaports, industrial clusters, innovation hubs, smart neighbourhoods and a number of other investments, taking advantage of Edo’s central location, availability of gas, onshore, and other supporting structures as well as the extensive raw material deposits.
The legacy projects: The Obaseki administration has also won accolades from Edo people for its widely celebrated legacy projects which include the Benin Industrial Park, Benin River Port Project, Modular Refinery Project, 1800-unit housing project and some educational and health projects, all of which officials say are being implemented with meticulous attention to details.
The Benin Industrial Park, according to information, is to be handled by three co-developers who have indicated interest to partner with the state government in its development. The park would host a number of industries that will source raw materials within the state and convert them for local use and export. Speaking on this, Governor Obaseki said: “Three groups have registered to be co-developers and by October 2019 the first tenant will move in. When the park is ready, we will have over 1,000 companies in that park, generating an excess of $3 billion annually.”
Also being touted as a major achievement is the Benin River Port Project being built by China Harbour Engineering Company, CHEC, Limited, with information that preliminary soil testing has been completed and the company ready to commence the next phase of the project. The communities in Gelegele and environs are said to have thrown their weight behind the project.
Another landmark project being promoted by the state government is the Edo modular refinery project for which approvals are being finalised by officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, with preliminary work soon to commence. The project is being handled by a Chinese consortium, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the state government for the development.
The consortium is made up of Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China, PCC; Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation, SIPS, which is a subsidiary of Sinopec, the top Chemical giant in the world and African Infrastructure Partners, AIP, a Nigerian Infrastructural company. To ensure that Edo did not lose out in the local content component of the deal, Governor Obaseki has submitted thus: “We will ensure that Edo citizens are trained in welding, refinery operation and fabrication works to enable them participate in the construction of the refinery as well as its operation, post-commissioning. The refinery construction will provide jobs for several unemployed Edo youths including the Libya returnees.”
Upgrading education in the state: On government’s plan to upgrade education in the state, Acting Chairman of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe notes: “Every other sector is using technology, education must change, teachers must follow suit; teachers are nation builders. With the use of digital lesson plans, teachers can work with prepared lesson plan to ease their burden and give more time to supervise the children and manage their classrooms.”
Oviawe who was speaking about Edo State Government’s initiative to deploy Information Technology, ICT, tools to classrooms said it was part of Governor Obaseki’s bold reforms in the basic education sub-sector, known as the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation, EDOBEST.
A component of EDO BEST is a Teacher Professional Development Training programme known as EDOSTAR. It is intended to build the capacity of teachers in the use of digital technologies in classrooms as well as new classroom management techniques.
Dr. Oviawe informed that the teacher training programme will equip teachers with knowledge and skills in deploying new technologies in the classroom, noting that over 2,000 teachers and Headmasters/Headmistresses participating in the exercise will receive computer tablets and smart phones.
To ascertain the number of schools, population of teachers, students, available infrastructure and the location of schools across the state, a census has been carried out by the Obaseki administration. As the figures of the census are being processed, the state government has said the data gathered from the census would guide critical policy undertakings in the sector such as the construction of new schools, deployment of teachers, chairs and tables, laboratories, libraries and other resources.
The governor is also said to be leading reforms in technical education by reconstructing the old Benin Technical College to serve as hub for skills acquisition. The plan includes using the college to re-skill Edo youths for the emerging industrial sector in the state.
“The Benin Science and Technical College is a work in progress and we anticipated that it would be near completion before the end of the year. When the project is completed, it will enable victims of human trafficking and others acquire technical and vocational skills which will offer them hope,” Obaseki said recently when he was speaking with some delegates from Europe.
According to Obaseki, the college, on completion, will supply technical manpower to the Benin Industrial Park, the planned Benin Modular Refinery and other enterprises that require technical and vocational manpower. The impact of the aggressive repositioning of Edo State’s education sector is more visible in the tertiary education sub-sector as the government has rolled out a new multi-campus architecture for institutions of higher learning in the state.
There are also plans, Obaseki said, to operate the Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor, as well as multi-campus College of Education with sites in Igueben, Abudu and Auchi. “While the Abudu campus is to serve as Special Training Centre for teachers at the Basic Education level, the campus at Igueben will focus on training teachers for technical and secondary education,” the governor said during a visit to the campus at Abudu. He did not stop there.
“After revamping this institution, it will serve as a centre for training and certification of new sets of teachers for the basic level of education. This will prepare the teachers to adopt modern teaching methods at that level of education,” he added.
As part of efforts to revamp primary healthcare in the state, government is said to have proposed a state-wide health insurance scheme for workers and other residents. There are presently 20 functional primary healthcare centres, with the governor saying that plans are underway to build 200 more to expand the reach and access to healthcare.
“One of our key agenda is to fix the healthcare system. We are thinking through the challenges in the health care system and determined to solve them. The health care system, worked effectively at a time, but failed later because we departed from the key building blocks.
“In Edo State, we are determined to fixing the problem by addressing the challenges with primary healthcare system. A part of the reforms is to equip the primary healthcare centres with qualified medical personnel,” he said. He added that a set of 20 primary healthcare centers are operating across the state, and in the next two years, the state government intends to roll out about 200 primary healthcare centres.
The bill for the state health insurance scheme will soon be passed at the state house of assembly.