Governor Godwin Obaseki

By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin

Governor Godwin  Obaseki of Edo State has said Nigeria can adopt the novel interventions and radical changes implemented in the state in tackling the myriad of challenges and stem the country’s current slide to economic and socio-political crisis.

The governor said, yesterday, while delivering the 2022 Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Distinguished Lecture Series entitled, “Making Politics Work for Citizens, Governance and Development: The Edo State Experience,” at the institute, in Victoria Island, Lagos.

He said: “We should also reflect on why we the political actors particularly those of us who are the political elite, who have the responsibility not only to institutionalise the democratic process but also to develop a political culture, which should foster and enhance development, have so far failed to do so.”

He noted that although politics and democracy have not dealt favourably with Nigeria, this does not deny the existence of the potential for democracy to be the vehicle for the delivery of development to the people.The governor said some of his achievements include attracting $500 million into the state’s agriculture sector; creation of 300,000 jobs; the 95MW Ossiomo power project; improved basic education for over 400,000 pupils, and the 6000bpd-capacity Edo modular refinery, among others. “In Edo, we had to take deliberate and intentional steps to retool our politics to engender development. This has led to the introduction of people-centric policies and programmes which have won our administration significant public trust,” he said.Decrying the failure of the political class, Obaseki, said:  “As we commence another political transition in our democratic journey, we must reflect on the challenges faced in this Republic, so that we can better understand why our democratic experience to date has not provided good governance and why our economic and socio-political development have remained stunted.”Some of the defects of Nigeria’s political system, according to him, include entry barriers to the political system such as age restriction and high cost of nomination and expression of interest; negative perception of politics and the attendant skirmishes, including mudslinging, deliberate character assassination and blackmail, which make it unattractive for accomplished professionals to participate in; prohibitive cost of the electioneering process; proliferation of political parties with no clear ideology, and electoral malpractices which have instigated voter apathy.On the reforms implemented in Edo State, he said his administration inherited a state that was essentially under the control of various non-state actors, who served as enforcers for the old political order in the state, noting that in exchange for their loyalty and service, the pay off was the collection of revenue that should have accrued to the public purse.According to him, “Following this, we were able to open up the political space to a broad range of players to the chagrin of the godfathers. These patrons of the old order thrived in the exclusion of the majority from participating in the political process. For them, the fewer the actors in the system, the more relevant they were and the more they were able to take the process hostage.“With the opening up of the political system, we embarked on institutional reforms to enhance the capacity of the government to deliver public services. This was done by enhancing the work environment, ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions, improving compensation packages, and creating better conditions of service for workers.“We also revamped the public service to cut back on waste and with this, we were able to deliver more projects with less resources than would have been required.“Having built public trust, we had to open up the business environment which led to robust partnership with the private sector and international development organisations. With their support, we have been able to substantially curb the menace of human trafficking and irregular migration, which once pillaged our most valuable resources – our young people.” 

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