By Gloria Adagbon
Since Governor Godwin Obaseki assumed office on November 12, some degree of tranquillity has accompanied his approach to governance. From the get go, he defined what will drive his government and the focus – work, work, and work silently, and let the work speak for him. Little wonder that since he became governor, he has practically visited almost all key areas of governance to see things first-hand.
I remember his first day in office, where he took unprecedented steps to tour round government house, meet the staff, ascertain their roles and responsibilities, check their offices and send packing political hangers-on.
Many had thought that based on his background as a technocrat, he would be too inexperienced to handle governance and politics, but he has proven them wrong and surpassed expectations. He is not only in charge; he is well in control and personally defines what he wants, how he wants it and how it should be implemented.
To me that is leadership with clear attention to the minutest of details and it is important that others know about the silent governance revolution currently going on in Edo State.
His progressive approach
Zero tolerance to waste
Cutting waste and creating efficiency in governance is evident in almost every step Governor Obaseki has taken thus far. This has come to define his approach to changing the Edo landscape with prudent management of resources. He adopted the Lady Mechanic initiative to refurbish and revive government vehicles by the Lady Mechanic, Sandra Aguebor, instead of shelling out a fortune to purchase new vehicles. This has saved Edo people huge amounts of money that would have been expended in purchasing new vehicles.
The e-governance methodology
Good managers do not fail for lack of managerial skills, but for lack of a solid plan and strategy to dispense their skills. This may have informed governor Obaseki’s approach to e-governance with emphasis on building a database to plan and implement government policies and programmes.
Currently, the Edo state government is undertaking the registration of job seekers – on the Edo jobs online platform and at the various local government areas at Obaseki’s instruction. This approach will go a long way to document data of how many unemployed people Edo have, the skills and qualifications they possess, their age brackets, and most importantly, provide more robust information on how to go about planning for the job recruitment process and training where necessary.
This is certainly the way to go and I can see the bigger picture in terms of what this laudable registration exercise will do for Edo in monitoring the workforce and tracking the human capacity and skills shortages, with a view to finding lasting solutions.
There is also the e-tax collection initiative of Governor Obaseki in which the POS system will be used to collect levies and taxes. This will undoubtedly cut off the touts and ‘Agbero’ style tax collectors, who often harass and intimidate citizens to pay taxes, which may end up in private pockets.
The personal touch and feel on issues
Governor Obaseki has a pragmatic appeal and personal touch on issues and this scores him highly on the governance scale. I recall how, after the visit to Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor he immediately set up of a project team to fine-tune the master plan to make the university technologically driven, and benchmarked on global standards. Governor Obaseki personally chaired the Development Committee of Taya Akpata University.
Similarly, at the inspection visit to the College of Education, Igueben, Governor Obaseki exhibited this personal touch and feel when he saw first-hand the level of decay in the school. He sat with the provost and management of the school to listen to their issues and challenges and said government would quickly commence the rebuilding of the decayed infrastructure, pay salary arrears and improve the level of funding to the school. He then gave the provost and other management staff of the school, a 90- day ultimatum to ensure the institution was ready for accreditation and demanded for an audit of the TET fund projects executed and those being executed in the school.
Again, during the inauguration of the Edo Social Investment Program Committee where Governor Obaseki tasked the Committee to finalise all the ongoing work and ensure adequate mobilisation of people in Edo to qualify them for the school feeding programme and the National Conditional Cash Transfer of N5, 000 monthly stipend, he exhibited the personal touch.
Governor Obaseki personally undertook to chair the Committee as he attached significant importance to the SIP saying it is the most important program that will affect Edo people hence he would chair the Committee to make sure they deliver for the benefit of the people.
The open door policy
Collaboration and partnership with private investors, civil societies and NGOs has set Obaseki’s administration apart from the crowd. A notable highlight is the commitment to collaborate with Dagomo Elderly Care Centre, an ultra-modern Elderly Care Centre built by Dagomo Foundation Limited in Benin City.
The move to collaborate with Dagomo Foundation was informed by Obaseki’s need to raise very clear policies on how to deal with the issues of the elderly and the disadvantaged in the society.
Also, with the partnership between the Obaseki-led government and Saro AgroSciences, a leading company in the agricbusiness space of Nigeria with expertise in crop production and protection, which is part of the Agricultural Empowerment Initiative targeted to create 80,000 jobs, his open door policy is visible.
In addition, there is also the agripreneural development project to raise 2,000 agripreneurs, an initiative that could provide jobs and food for not only the state, but also the entire South-South region. The project itself will see the Obaseki-led state government provide livestock pens and efficient off-take arrangements for potential agripreneurs.
Building capacity and capability
Governor Obaseki’s insistence on human capacity development and the holistic approaching to addressing skills gap is another ongoing silent revolution in Edo. The bid to revamp Benin Technical College, the technical and vocational education workshops for apprenticeships holding in Edo are all in line with his administration’s vision to revamp technical education in the state.
During the workshop, tagged ‘Revamping Technical and Vocational Education’, Governor Obaseki underscored the premium he placed on making education a priority to build, reconstruct and equip Edo schools.
He committed to the continuation of the provision of modern furniture for schools, and where necessary, building new schools. Furthermore, he said the recruitment, training and retraining of teachers would be a continuous process and that opportunities would be given to teachers to upskill and retrain themselves. He listed his preparedness to collaborate with the private sector to infuse new technologies into the teaching and recreational needs of Edo students and restructuring the Supervision and Inspection divisions of the Education ministry to ensure efficient, effective and quality service delivery.
In his bid to ensure Edo’s human capacity development, Obaseki tasked the Education workshops to focus on:
i. how to align basic education with technical vocational education training
ii. how to attract, retain and motivate teachers and school managers
iii. how to effectively address the concentration of teachers in the urban areas at the expense of the rural areas
iv. the best instruction technology to adopt and how do we introduce this into the school system
v. how to retrain existing teachers to efficiently utilise the new technologies that will be deployed
vi. how to partner with the private sector and development agencies to restructure our basic education system
vii. how to inculcate the spirit of effective leadership and service into Edo school system.
These are clear-cut out steps to revolutionise Edo’s skills gap and capacity development that will boost the general depreciation in technical and vocational based education in Nigeria.
The impact of this particular capacity building revolution cannot be overemphasised due to the skills shortages occasioned by our certificate-based system, where graduates or even PhD holders lack requisite employability skills. Obaseki’s Technical and Vocational revolution will bring a radical shift from the unemployable workforce to a workforce equipped with capacity, confidence and skills sets for gainful employment. A good example is the training of 50 Edo youths on concrete pavement technology for road construction in collaboration with AG Dangote. The importance of this technology is to develop proficiency in the trainees so that they could become contractors in building roads with cement, assuring them that he would support them with capital and equipment in order to commence constructing roads as his administration would give them contracts.
Empathy for the people
Good governance architecture demands that the people are at the heart of the government’s programmes and policies, and decisions taken for the benefit of the people. Governor Obaseki has continued to place Edo people at the heart of his decisions, ensuring that whatever decision are taken are in their best interests.
During his campaign, people complained about taxation and he has taken deliberate steps to put an end to the harassment and intimidation facing Edo citizens at the hands of unscrupulous tax collectors by outlawing them and making the government responsible for tax collection and harmonising taxes and levies.
The transparent manner of doing things
Governor Obaseki’s transparent approach to governance is another silent revolution in Edo. From the outset, he adopted the approach to open, honest about issues, without window dressing. The manner in which he conducted affairs in respect of Edo 2017 Budget, which he tagged “Budget of Consolidation and Prosperity”, showed transparency.
According to an advocacy group, BudgIT, only eight of the 36 states of the Federation made their annual budgets transparent. Atiku Samuel, the Head of Research in BudgIT, informed the News Agency of Nigeria that only Lagos, Gombe, Bauchi, Ekiti and Kaduna ran transparent budgets. Furthermore, Samuel said the other states with transparent Budges are Edo, Kwara and Kogi.
In the short space of becoming Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki has taken giant steps to place Edo among the best in Nigeria. Running transparent budgets, according to BudgIT, is a requirement given by the Federal Government for accessing the bailout package in which states should publish their budget documents and budget implementation reports online. That the Edo 2017 Budget is online is a testament to Obaseki’s transparent approach to governance.
In the Budget, Obaseki outlined six focal points of his administration namely, Economic Revolution, Infrastructural Expansion, Institutional Reform, Social Welfare Enhancement, Culture & Tourism and Environmental Sustainability. The belief is that “if these objectives are pursued with vigour and unflinching commitment, their realisations will create new jobs, provide greater opportunities, boost the economy of the state, and ultimately usher in a brand new society filled with peace and prosperity for all in Edo State”.