The spate of development, rapid industrial expansion and boom in economic activities across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Edo State, distinctly marks Governor Godwin Obaseki out as one of the few conscientious performers who came into politics primarily to serve his people.
In the last three years of his administration, the governor through his systematic and methodological approach to development has journeyed on a steady path to growing a proactive, progressive and productive state. This is evident in the massive improvements recorded in social welfare, economic growth, governance and infrastructural projects across various facets of the state.
To achieve this, Governor Obaseki, as a first line of action in November 2016 when he assumed office, identified different sectors that required transformation and set to work on them. Among the governor’s six thematic pillars through which he is driving reforms across the state is the commitment to ensuring law and order (judicial reforms) and enlivening the civil service (civil service reforms).These are in addition to radical transformation spreading across basic education, primary health care, sports development, urban renewal, security, job creation and industrialization, among others.
Law and Order (Judicial Reforms)
There is hardly any form of development in a society where the people’s actions are not guided by well-spelt-out legal and security guarantees to spur growth. Governor Obaseki knew that if anybody was coming to Edo State for any reason, whether business or pleasure, the person needs to be sure of his security and safety, as well as the security of his or her investments. Coincidentally, the pre-2016 Edo State was characterized by thuggery, armed robbery, hooliganism, and brigandage, where various non-state actors seemed to have annexed different segments of the state to themselves. This climate of fear and terror was an immediate variable of disinclination for investors.
The governor started with the removal of individuals and groups who posed as warlords to collect revenues on behalf of local governments, with 90 percent of the revenue they collect ending up in their private purse; proscription of the Community Development Associations (CDA) to check land grabbing and other menace perpetuated by the CDAs, and the Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency (EDSTMA) was set up to bring order to the metropolis. The state government also launched a security architecture code-named Operation Wabaizigan, while non-state actors that were hitherto obstructing the peace and development of the state were eased out.
Other milestones achieved by the Obaseki-led administration towards ensuring law and order in the state were within the judiciary. The state government constructed the first executive residence for Judges in Aiguobasimwin Road, within the GRA, which is the most secured neighbourhood in the state, to ensure that the welfare of members of the top brass of the judiciary is well catered for. New Court complexes were also constructed, with the old High Court revamped.
The Benin Division of the Industrial Court was created, with the governor building an Industrial Court Complex and donating same to the court. This makes Edo the 2nd after Rivers State to donate a court building to the federal government. Stenography machines and other modern equipment were procured and court clerks trained for efficient, fast and seamless judicial process. The governor has ensured that the state’s judiciary is empowered and laws made to prosecute violators as part of efforts to maintain law and order.
Civil service Reforms
From the first day in office, Governor Obaseki identified the need for efficient and functional bureaucracy as the fulcrum upon which development in the state would revolve. This is because there is no way anyone can develop a system without first reforming the bureaucracy that runs it, hence, the need for civil service reforms.
The governor commenced the civil service reform by ensuring that those who work hard for the growth and development of the state were assured financial security by way of ensuring that their monthly salaries and other emoluments are paid promptly. As a matter of fact, on the 26th of every month, all workers in Edo State get their salaries.
Pensioners aren’t left behind in this reform as they receive their pensions as and when due. This doesn’t only sustain the pensioners but provides hope for civil servants who are assured that once they retire from service, their emoluments will be promptly paid. It therefore helps them to be more patriotic, focused and dedicated to the work knowing their future is secured. The pension reforms in the state have also helped in clearing the backlog of pension arrears accumulated for almost 20 years before the current administration. Workers in the state have been migrated to the contributory pension scheme. The success of the scheme at the state level has inspired the extension of the scheme to the local government level.
To improve the productivity of any person, one of the things you must consider apart from enumeration is the environment where the person operates. That is why the Godwin Obaseki-led state government embarked on massive construction of new offices and secretariats for the workers, including the completion of the Blocks C and D in the Secretariat Complex with the Treasury Building , which was abandoned for over 40 years.
The governor also ensured that workers progress within the civil service on the basis of merit and professionalism, taking the minds of the people from the age-long malpractice where people get ahead appointments and promotions on the basis of favouritism. Governor Obaseki entrenched a system where everyone is given an equal opportunity to advance in their careers based on excellence at work, efficiency, effectiveness and performance, creating a new spirit among the workers.
It is an obvious fact that no one can give what they don’t have, hence, workers will be able to deliver and perform to the extent of their skills and knowledge. In driving this, the governor ensured the construction of a training centre for public servants, named the John Oyegun Public Service Training Centre, where workers in the state’s civil service are to be consistently trained on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. These trainings are essentially for retooling and equipping workers with the right skills and capacity to do their jobs.
The productivity of the civil service in Edo State today is at unprecedented level. Consequently, more women are growing in service, unlike like what was attainable in the past. Edo State, perhaps, has the highest number of women Permanent Secretaries in Nigeria. This is basically because everyone is given equal opportunity to soar based on competence and capability.
No wonder the state is flying high compared to its contemporaries. Currently, in Edo State, all that is been heard are the echoes of Obaseki’s transformational reforms and policies, which are tied up to an organic whole of a systemic plan to better the lives of Edo people. Governor Obaseki is not just an exemplar but an enabler of good governance.