Activities marking the one year anniversary of the Goodwin Obaseki administration in Edo State climaxed last week with an inter-denominational thanksgiving service held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium where political big wigs from across the country and across party lines showered encomiums on the governor and his All Progressives Congress, APC party for having performed creditably well. The state chapter of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, however, differed; alleging that the last one year of Obaseki’s administration had been one of untold suffering.
The grand finale of the first-anniversary celebration attracted such dignitaries as the governors of Ondo and Bayelsa states, Rotimi Akeredolu and Henry Seriake Dickson, the deputy governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga, as well as the minister of transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his Niger Delta Affairs counterpart, Usani Uguru Usani.
In his sermon titled ‘The Set Time Has Come’, state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Oriname Oyonnude Kure, said: “With Godwin Obaseki, the set time for the state has come as the governor, in his one year in office, has been able to touch the lives of the people of the state with his people-oriented programmes such as the provision of infrastructure.”
Kure, the general overseer of the Evidence of the Gospel Ministries, noted that the governor had been able “to present a clear vision to stakeholders, and the people are behind him.” He urged him to run with the vision and should not allow himself to be distracted. His predecessor in office, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole commended Obaseki’s leadership quality, stating that he was proud of his achievements.
“I am proud he has not disappointed the people of the state. His commitment to delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of the state is not questionable. He is developing the state’s infrastructure and the safe environment he has created in the state for business to thrive is laudable and worthy of emulation. He has started well and I wish him well in the leadership task before him,” Oshiomhole said.
Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, a member of the PDP, commended Obaseki for the success he has recorded in his one year in office and called on him to “be focused and ignore distractions from anyone.” Dickson enjoined Obaseki to do all within his power to fulfil his electioneering promises to the people of the state and called on Edo people to pray and support the governor. In his words, “Leaders need prayers to be able to do what they promised their followers. I call on you to pray for Obaseki to do more for the state. He has started well but can do much better with your support.”
Though visibly pleased with the accolades he had received, Obaseki decided to also blow his own trumpet. He said despite the difficult times, his administration had been able to make considerable progress in various areas and thanked God, members of his cabinet, and the people of Edo State for all the successes his administration had recorded even in the very difficult times the nation is going through.
“I have been nicknamed Wake and See Governor, my cabinet and members of the state House of Assembly have been doing so much work and with zeal, to ensure we succeed as a government. The chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria has given me the name “God Servant-Governor,” I accept it because in the past one year, it is God’s mercy and favour that have helped us through the difficult times, and today, we are celebrating. I thank all Edo people, religious leaders and our Royal Father for the great support they have given to me to succeed.”
Various activities had been lined up to commemorate the first anniversary. These included a three-day investment summit tagged Alaghodaro 2017 with the theme “Envisioning the Future” which attracted key players in the private sector of the Nigeria economy, and the ground-breaking of a N200 billion Edo State Industrial Park at Iyanomo, near Benin City, performed by Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law and senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN. The ceremony also had in attendance the esteemed presence of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11. Nigeria’s foremost industrialist, Aliko Dangote, delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the three-day investment summit which witnessed rich assemblage of Nigeria’s business gurus and movers and shakers of the economy.
Performing the foundation laying ceremony of the industrial park, Osinbajo was excited that when completed, the park would create 170,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute significantly to the further development of the country’s manufacturing industry. Congratulating the governor for the huge investment, the vice-president stated that “this is what the country has been waiting for to take it to greater heights. Several other countries have embarked on this line of industrialisation and succeeded. If we put in the same effort other countries have put in, we will also excel.”
According to Osinbajo, “This strategy has been adopted in some Asian countries and they have achieved several economic growths, diversified their economy, and are now exporters of consumer goods.” He was optimistic that the industrial park would not only lead to job creation but would also reduce the cost of goods and services in the state and the country at large. He believed that the park would also help change the face of the Nigerian economy and unleash its industrial potentials. The vice president assured the state government of necessary support by the Federal Government to ensure the completion of the project.
Earlier in his remarks, Obaseki had said that the park would be the first in a series of parks his administration would establish to make Edo an industrial hub. He explained that the park was being undertaken under a public-private partnership initiative designed by Mahindra Engineering in conformity to 21st-century standard, adding that the private sector would contribute about 74 percent investments to the industrial park.
For the governor, the proposed industrial park was evidence of his keeping faith with his electioneering promises. He reminded his audience that “I promised that if I became governor of the state, I would commercialise the state, create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and improve the quality of the lives of our people.”
The governor was happy that his government’s industrialization programme is already yielding results and was hopeful that it would create employment for thousands of people in the state. He assured that the park would be ready within 12 months. Obaseki was banking on the assurance given to him by Narayanan Ramanathan, the Chief Operating Officer of Mahindra Engineering, who also promised to deliver the project within the stipulated time.
But as far as the state chapter of the PDP was concerned, the APC government was celebrating failure. At a press conference, the party said it was using the forum “to appreciate and congratulate the good people of Edo State for surviving Governor Godwin Obaseki’s one year of harsh and unbearable government policies.” It noted the government’s alleged insensitivity to the plight of pensioners who had almost on a daily basis been protesting and agitating for the payment of their entitlements. Dan Osi Orbih, state chairman of the party, regretted that “unfortunately, they have been blackmailed and intimidated by the government, accusing them that they were being sponsored by the opposition party”. According to Orbih, Obaseki cannot now turn round to blame the problems facing the state on PDP government, stressing that “the only government you can blame now is the eight years of Oshiomole’s government which is APC government in Edo State. So, we are completely out of the picture unlike in the past, at every turn, they will say what we are facing is PDP years in government. Now, what can they say?”
The PDP blamed the predicament of the state pensioners on the nine years of APC government which it claimed had turned the Edo State Pension Board into “a den of thieves, operated by their party officials and working in collaboration with government officials,” adding that “as we speak, the woman leader of the APC is facing trial over what they have done with the money they were supposed to use to settle pensioners.” Orbih, therefore, pleaded with the government to address the problems of pensioners by paying them their dues.
The PDP dismissed the Alaghodaro Summit as a mere talk-show, on which a lot of money was allegedly squandered. Alaghodaro in Benin means progress. In his words, “they call it a business summit. But what people are beginning to see that summit to be was the coming together of friends of the governor; most of them were financiers of his campaign and the others are staff of Afrinvest. I think all that they succeeded in doing was bringing his friends together, entertain them and call a few people to deliver lectures that are unproductive and will not impact on the welfare of our people.” In his assessment of the performance of the governor in the different sectors, Orbih said apart from scoring a distinction in imposition of taxes on the people, the government performed woefully in all other sectors like health, education, construction and rehabilitation of roads, his promise of 200,000 jobs, security and sports development amongst others.
The state PDP chairman expressed disappointment that over a year that the immediate past Oshiomhole’s administration invited the President, Muhammadu Buhari to commission the multi-billion naira emergency ward of the Central Hospital, the facility had remained desolate. According to him, “the only activity recorded by the hospital was the day I rushed a patient to the hospital and discovered it was an empty place after the billions of Naira spent to build it. It is a shame that one year after, APC-led Obaseki and eight years of Oshiomhole could not make the hospital functional.” The PDP also regretted the lack of basic facilities and equipment at most health institutions in the state such that doctors and nurses attend to patients with candles and torch lights.
On road infrastructure, Orbih lamented that roads across the state have gone from bad to worse. “The state capital can no longer be accessed from Edo Central and Edo North. It is easier to Edo Central through Agbor in Delta State and Edo North through Ifon in Ondo State because Obaseki considered the Benin-Auchi Road a major infrastructure that passes through Ekpoma, a federal road.
He posited that Obaseki ought to have taken a cue from his Delta State counterpart who had worked on eight federal roads because of their importance to the people of the state.
Orbih berated the Obaseki’s government of plunging the state deeper into foreign debts which he said had increased by $34.43 million under one year of his administration. According to him, the foreign debt of Edo State had increased from $179.9 million when Oshiomole was governor, to $213.95 million. He accused Obaseki of spending more time out of the country than in the state, alleging that Obaseki had broken his predecessor’s foreign trips record which did not produce one foreign investor to the state.
“He has travelled to Dubai, China, Indonesia, France, Malaysia, Singapore, India, America, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, amongst others, without any economic value to the state. “I advise that he should spend more time at home to face the business of governance because governance is a serious business.”
Accusing the governor of plan to sell off the assets of the state, Orbih said: “this technocrat has turned to a strip manager of state assets.” According to him, the Obaseki-led government has concluded plans to sell off state assets like the Bendel Publishing Company, publishers of the Observer titles; as well as the Edo Broadcasting Corporation (EBS) like he did with Edo Line and others just to inflict pain and sufferings on the people he swore to provide for their welfare. According to him, “All Obaseki has been doing in the past one year is talk shows. How can you attract investors without security? On daily basis, you hear stories of kidnapping and armed robbery. People are no longer safe. So why spend money on talk shows when you cannot provide adequate security in the state? I advise people to tighten their belt because there is no way this government will make things better in the state. People should only hope and pray.”
The press conference was not without some melodrama and mischief as the PDP announced a donation of 200 moveable shelters for men of the newly reintroduced Edo State Transport Management Agency (EDSTMA) to shield them from the elements as they carry out their onerous task of traffic control. Orbih who was all laughter as he announced the donation, explained that the gesture became necessary because since the agency came into operation, 60 to 70 percent of its staff had been suffering from malaria due to the excruciating effect of the sun.
Reacting to the PDP’s criticism, the Edo State Government in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said Edo PDP is still stuck in primitive, archaic and medieval style of governance, stressing that “the Governor Obaseki-led administration is forward-looking and has since moved on with result-oriented governance, backed by millions of discerning Edo people.”
The governor’s spokesman said, “the PDP has again demonstrated its lack of capacity to appreciate the new direction the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration is taking the state, with the opposition party’s consistent embarrassing comments on the well-thought-out programmes of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
He noted that “the very few people still left in the ragtag, drowning PDP have shown that they are stuck with their medieval and archaic approach to governance by attempting to tarnish the rising profile the state has earned with her lofty programmes, especially the Alaghodaro Investment Summit.
“We wish that the PDP remnant will follow their former members who have evolved from stomach-seeking politics, have come to terms with the new people-oriented governance, and have found a place in the APC. It is not surprising to see that the feeble PDP remnants cannot see the benefits of an investment summit that assembled over 5,000 business leaders from across the world in Edo State to discuss the opportunities that abound in our state,” Osagie stated.
Puncturing the opposition party’s allegation that the governor’s trip had had no economic value in terms of attracting investments, Osagie listed companies that had invested billions of dollars in the state. These, he said, included including the BUA Group whose $1billion three million-tonnes cement plant was inaugurated by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo recently in Okpella; the Dangote Group, that is kicking off a $1 billion cement factory in Okpella to expand its cement production in Nigeria; the Mahindra Group that is collaborating with the Edo State Government to build the N200billion Benin Industrial Park, and Tolaram Group, to mention a few.
Lampooning the PDP which he described as wallowing in ignorance, Osagie posited that “you cannot give what you do not have. The PDP clearly lacks the capacity to see the opportunities in the governor’s investment drive because of his profile as an investment banker. His expertise is currently on display at the Edo Chemical and Fertiliser Company which was a drainpipe for the PDP to syphon state funds, but is now up and running and producing fertiliser to Edo farmers and Nigerians at large.” He said his principal was “open to sharing his ideas and knowledge and is particularly willing to teach the remnant PDP members what it takes to deliver measurable concrete, and verifiable investments from business trips, unlike their widely reported globetrotting that pauperised our people when they held sway”.
Osagie described as rather unfortunate that “the same PDP which was the cause of all the mess that the APC government had been clearing in the past nine years in the state, is now begging the question by providing shelter for officials of the Edo State Traffic Management Agency (EDSTMA)”. He, however, stated that “we have received the shelter without thanks to them because we know that the funds used in procuring those items are a fraction of our common patrimony which they plundered with reckless abandon.”
While insisting that “a dignifying act would be to bring back the looted billions so that the APC can fast-track the development of the state,” Osagie said “the PDP has always been known to thrive through the misrepresentation of facts and the telling of outright lies. But Edo people are much more sophisticated than the PDP and know that their claims of the state’s indebtedness are all lies and should be discountenanced.”
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