Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State recent marked his the first 100 days in office. Expectedly, his performance so far has elicited divergent views, PATRICK OCHOGA writes.
t is already over 100 days since Godwin Obaseki won the governorship mandate in Edo State, under the platform of the All Progressive Congress, (APC). He came into the governance with a huge expectation to surpass the achievement of his predecessor, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Obaseki, a technocrat and investment expert have been able through some of his policies show that his wealth of experience in the business and cooperate world will come in bare.
In a bid to ensure that his government does not lose track, he met with party leadership, civil servant, traditional and religious leaders across the state at a retreat where a decision was reached on how to achieve some of the key policies the government.
First, in a bid to introduce sanity in the governance of the state, Obaseki shortly after he assumed office brought in reforms in the collection of revenue by disbanding revenue collectors, an action which was hailed by many citizen of the state.
In a concerted move to fulfil part of his electoral campaign to employ thousands of youths under the 200, 000 jobs plan, the government is currently collating data of jobless youths across the 18 local government area of the state.
Areas where the government intend to create jobs include agriculture where the government hopes to make over 1, 000 millionaires. It also considered the traffic and waste management sectors.
With regards to road rehabilitation and construction especially in the city centre, the Obaseki- led government has won the hearts of many motorists and commuters as many link roads are currently been re-habilitated.
It is also noteworthy to state that in ensuring that Gelegele port comes into full stream, the government had set up a committee to work out the modalities that will fast-tract the taking off of the port into an free export processing zone which will eventually boost economic growth and development in the State.
Obaseki speaking on his 100 days in office reiterated “As a basis for our economic growth, we had another workshop where we brought over 70 investors in agriculture from outside the state. We have been able to set up an Agric ad hoc committee led by Chief Osaro Idah.
“We are preparing about 5000 hectares of land and we expect to get about 200 or more people to invest. We are making arrangements for over 25,000 metric tonnes of maize this season and we are hoping to get more than 200 of our young men and women to go into profitable agriculture as a business.
“We also listened to the yearnings of our people. One of the issues the opposition raised during my campaign was what they referred to as ‘double taxation’. We quickly tried to understand what was going on, and found that there were all sorts of people collecting levies and fines on the streets and the money was not coming to the government’s coffers.”
On roads he pointed out that the state government has “also been able to negotiate with some of our contractors”, adding that it “has rehabilitated more than 45 roads within the Benin metropolis. This is in addition to completing those inherited from the previous administration under the SEEFOR programme.”
Accessing the government performance, a leader of the APC, in the state, Hon Charles Idahosa, while submitting that the Obaseki’s government had performed well in the last 100 days noted that the government had brought sanity in governance and politics of the state.
He said “I think a hundred days is quite a short time in the life of a government I think he has done very well. I have been in the politics of this state in the last 40 years. I have been around and I have seen different governments. Within the 100 days of Obaseki he has achieved what no government have been able to achieve, bring sanity in the polity, making politics decent and making governance look transparent. People do say politics is a dirty game but I do believe it is clean only that some people inside are dirty.
“That singular action he took within the short time that he came on board, the ban on manual revenue collection, we all know about the small warlords who had taken over the nook and crannies of the state, physically extorting money under the name of tax collection, revenue collectors, brutalizing our people, spreading anger among our people, has stopped because of that single action.
“As far as I am concerned no government has been able to do it , no one could take on the war lords because they were using them as political thugs for election and Obaseki was able to stop that and I salute him for the courage.
Speaking further, the former Special Adviser to Governor Adams Oshiomhole also recalled thus: “I remember one incident when some of these war lords came to government house and they were exchanging gun fire inside government house but what happened made Obaseki to descend on them, today there is disciple in the party.
“Before if politicians were invited for a meeting in government it will be a like a war front because those invited and uninvited will be battling to undo one another but today we now have sanity.
“In terms of infrastructural development in a 100 days, Obaseki has done what will last us for 4 years because I have had the privilege of seeing this happened before. In the last 100 days what Obaseki has done is to reposition the civil service because the real machinery for government is the real technocrat in government and not the politicians because they are the once to execute the policies and program put on ground by the technocrat. That is why you see people praise Late governor of the old Western region, Samuel Ogbemudia. But we are back to that era and that was why we have viable industries located in different part of the then Bendel State.
Politically, the governor may not have fared well in the handling of matters that requires political solution, a development that is currently causing ill-feelings among political gladiators in the state.
He has been accused of shutting his doors against those who had worked to ensure his victory in the November, 2016 governorship election. He was reported to have told politicians to stay away from government house.
At an event when APC women leaders visited him, Obaseki reportedly told the visiting women that Osadebey Avenue, the seat of power is not a bank where people come to take money, the women were said to have left disappointed for the party and governor they massively voted for.
Expectedly however, the opposition party has pointedly accused Obaseki of running the state like a sole administrator in his last 100 days in office.
State chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, while giving his assessment insisted that the inability of the governor to appoint commissioners and board members during the period in question, was to facilitate his mismanagement of state resources.
Orbih said the PDP came to this conclusion having observed that since Obaseki took office, he has been asking for waivers from the Office of the Auditor-General of the State for huge sums of money, just as he alleged that the governor also approved same to be paid in cash for some state transactions.
In Orbih words, “On December 2 last year, the governor approved N191m which was paid in cash to a contractor who supplied two Nissan pickups, one Prado SUV and three ordinary SUVs.”
The PDP chairman also stated that it is very worrisome that the governor has now officially perfected the practice of asking the Auditor – General of the state to ignore all legal procedures and due processes for financial transactions in the state.
The PDP State chairman also condemned the spending the sum of N134m in December 2016 for the purchase Christmas cards, Rams and petty items and another N7m for their transportation, whereas workers were being owed backlog of entitlements by the governor.
“He has established an unusual pattern of executing government jobs using Building Maintenance Officers, BMO to prepare bill of quantities for direct labour execution of government projects,” he alleged.
He said that the governor’s approval of another N77m for the repainting of the Government House and the deputy governor’s office last year followed this unusual process.
On the non-provision of financial estimates for drugs for the many general hospitals across the state in the 2017 budget, Orbih said he was shocked that in the same budget, the governor asked for the sum of N3m monthly to buy drugs for the State House Clinic.
Expectedly, the first 100 days were always going to be froth with challenges just as perceptions would define the extent of the governors performance so far in light of the rest of his four year mandate.