By , CAJETAN MMUTA
As the clock ticks towards next year’s governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki looks unstoppable in brushing off perceived bumps on the tortuous path ahead of his second term bid, CAJETAN MMUTA reports
For Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, he does not require any more trumpeters, having tactfully passed through the thick and thin of political training. He had watched his predecessor (now National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, hold sway as governor of the Heart Beat state from 2007 to November 2016.
There is also no doubt that the taciturn Obaseki, by now must have had his feet on the ground, having lately come face to face with the turbulence associated with power, influence and authority. But, determined to etch his name on the sands of time, the governor has since assumption of office kept track aimed at realizing his vision, mission and policy thrusts towards achieving set goals of living up to the promise of his administration to Edo people.
He has vehemently refused to be distracted in all circumstances and to do away with the old order as regards governance. Some analysts are of the opinion that the governor is right in his resolve to toe the right path in line with global best practices and standards and not yield to the whims and caprices of self-styled political demi-gods, part of what has pitched him against his predecessor.
While political war mongers and those opposed to Obaseki’s government keep sharpening their bows and arrows ahead of the epic battle come 2020 in the state, the governor in his undeterred poise has, to the cheery admiration of Edo citizens, enormous projects meant to put smiles on the faces of all residents as his bragging right.
The APC led government in Edo State under Obaseki has, no doubt, carved a niche for itself with visible reforms in all sectors. These are noticeable in massive road construction that cut across the 18 local government areas and three senatorial districts of the state and improvement in the standard of education through e-education that has brought enormous fortunes to teaching and learning through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme.
Also, the state, now parades itself as the industrial hub in the South-South with the establishment of industrial parks and Benin-Gelegele Seaport, production center, commendable boost in agriculture, enthronement of harmony in the state’s justice system, effective civil service and many more.
Added to these is the regular payment of workers’ salaries as pensions to retirees. The security architecture of the state has equally improved to guarantee safety and protection of residents at all times while making the state investors friendly as well as for other businesses to thrive.
More so, the regular ritual choruses of “we no go gree, we no go gree” by aggrieved workers, labour unions and market women over minor disputes have not only ceased, but completely disappeared in all the sectors, agencies and parastatals.
The health sector is not left out in this regard with the existence of effective service delivery system and needed facilities in place to meet the health needs of people of the state.
In the governance system, the administration has continued to cut unnecessary costs and expenditure to meet demands, while the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state and councils has tremendously appreciated.
It is not surprising, therefore, the endless flow of calls and endorsements by various groups, individuals including traditional rulers drawn from across the state for Governor Obaseki to seek re-election for a second term in office.
The people are convinced that Obaseki, as a steward, has judiciously dispensed the little resources that accrue to the state towards delivering on his campaign promises. For the governor, to whom much is given, much is also expected and it must not be business as usual to fritter away what belongs to the people.
Admitted that life is full of battles, but the governor is no longer a small fry in politics and cannot be dismissed by a wave of hands, having garnered the tough and thick skin to weather storms. Added to this is his firm grip on the intricacies of governance, adequate support base and financial muscles to put off likely resistances and match possibly political tuffs or bumps likely to rear their heads on his way to the Dennis Osadebe Avenue Government House Benin City.
With the support of forces like the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie; Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu; Chief of Staff, Hon. Taiwo Akerele; former Political Adviser to Oshiomhole, Mr. Charles Idahosa and some top chiefs of Benin royal palace, among several others, it is strongly believed that the 2020 project for Obaseki is certain.
Unarguably, the battle next year is neither going to be an easy contest nor a child’s play, but Obaseki seems set for those out to scuttle his second term bid. He had in June this year sacked eight commissioners, appointed and inaugurated another eight new ones as replacement.
While many said the move was targeted at Oshiomhole, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy told New Telegraph that it was “normal and we are not targeting anybody. It did not stem from any bitterness. The government is trying to reposition itself and restructure for better delivery of democratic dividends to the people of Edo state.”
Also, Obaseki, last week showed about 265 Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) and Special Assistants (SAs) drawn from the state’s 192 wards, 18 councils and three senatorial districts the way out and promised to make fresh appointments in 30 days.
A statement by the SSG (Ogie), said: “This development is in line with efforts to reorganise the governance structure to enhance efficiency in service delivery to Edo people. Fresh appointments will be announced within the next 30 days.”
While Ogie added that the state government offers its immense gratitude to the outgoing assistants for their service and assures of continued cordial relations in the years ahead, it was learnt that some of the sacked aides were members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) believed to be a strong loyalists of Oshiomhole.
The state chapter of the APC had last week threatened to take decisive and concrete actions against the EPM and its purported members. The party noted that the existence of the alien group is not supported by its constitution.
Chairman of the party in the state, Anselm Ojezua, in a statement warned that the party would not allow the “reckless antics of shameless and selfish individuals to dictate the fortunes of the party.” He further explained that the decision was aimed at preserving and protecting its integrity since the group has refused to desist from associating their nefarious activities with the state APC.
But the leadership of the EPM in a counter reaction described the threat by the APC in the state as an empty one. The group also dared the APC chairman in the state “to do his worst.”
Co-convener of the EPM and former Attorney General of the state, Hon. Henry Idahagbon said: “He (Ojezua), has never won his unit, ward let alone his LGA. He’s a serial failure. We in the EPM dare him to do his worst.”
But, as the dust of suspense over Obaseki’s second term pervades, the governor declared recently that he deserves a second term in office because he has fulfilled most of his promises to Edo people and also needs to consolidate his developmental strides in the state.
He stressed that his administration and cabinet members are focused on mental, not stomach infrastructure. He also emphasized that his second term in office is “not negotiable.”
Obaseki stated this when he played host to members of the Benin Unity League at the government house in Benin. He noted that “no individual can determine who will become governor, nly God and the people can make the decision.”
Speaking further, the governor said his interest to continue in office is for the right reasons.
His words: “I have said it clearly and I told my cabinet members that second term for me is non-negotiable. I am demanding it because I deserve it and I think I have earned it. We need to have it so we can continue what we are doing today.
“I want to assure you that this is a fight in which we will prevail. We will fight and succeed. If anybody thinks I will back out, he must be day-dreaming because it is not my fight; it is a fight for the right purpose. I am not going to back off because I know victory is sure.”
He added that nobody can accuse him of implementing a wrong policy, adding that the accusations had been on him not focusing on stomach infrastructure.
“We earn less today than we did in 2016, when we came into power, so where is the money to waste? We know how much we inherited as debt; we have to service them. Some people sit and say we should focus on stomach infrastructure. I said no, that I will rather focus on mental infrastructure,” he said.
President of the League, Dr. Gregory Osa, in his speech said the visit was to join other Edo sons and daughters to reject the mischief in some quarters aimed at prematurely pulling the governor out of office, describing the move as “borne out of selfish motives.”
Osa added: “You are providing an enabling environment to make Edo an industrial hub. We are particularly interested in your push to develop the Benin River Port and the Benin Airport. You will not only win the battle; you will win the war.”
As it stands, both the state and national leaderships of the APC and their supporters need not be reminded that next year remains most critical and therefore indulgence in any unholy game may spell doom for both the state and the party should caution be thrown to the wind.
Unfortunate as the crisis to control the Anthony Enahoro legislature may seem, the stakeholders in the state must set aside all sentiments and selfish desires and put their house in order, ensure a united front and allow peace to rein, else they may end up licking their wounds from the hard hit of ever ready opposition in the state.