By Williams Ifidon

The strong nexus that exist between the quality of political leadership and sustainable socio- economic development of any nation has been exhibited for eons. For this reason Athenians had a concept of an ideal, well rounded man who is both physically and mentally fit to dictate the destinies of men and materials. Indeed, centuries ago, Roman education was predicated on producing such thinkers who would have ‘ a sound mind in a sound body ‘, as handed over to them by Homer.

While Socrates ( 399-469BC ) came up as the founder of ethics, and subsequently Plato, his disciple enunciated skills acquisition as the answer to the leadership question, Aristotle brought the twin principles of ethics and politics, all dovetailing into finding the best hands to pilot the affairs of the state.

This has over the years been transmitted to other civilizations and empires. Nigeria is therefore, not an exception. In our determined quest for leaders who are visionary; who know where the shoe pinches the common man and are ready to provide solutions, democracy has been seen as the most dependable avenue to meet such. And in the Nigerian context, Edo, the heart beat of the nation, had the most admirable and courageous comrade in Nigeria as governor from 2008 to 2016, comrade Adams Oshiomole who set the pace of development in Edo state.

The challenge however, became more obvious when Oshiomole -led administration, was winding up in 2016. Who then would carry on the baton and run the good race? That was the most pertinent question in the minds of well meaning edolites in 2016. But unknown to many, Godwin Obaseki the renowned financial guru was waiting in the wings, tasking himself to be that singular man!

When he took that critical decision to throw his hat into the gubernatorial ring, some thomas’s were wailing and imagined the refined technocrat style, some said he is not a politician, while some asked if he was adequately prepared for the onerous task ahead? What he would do in form of innovation in the delicate art of governance to assuage the pains of the people? What new policies, programmes and projects would he bring to governance? And how best was he going to do that?

Even then, he was aware that having served the state as chairman of Edo state economic team, he was aware of the dynamics of Edo affairs,  more like the lines on his palms. He knew. Indeed, but the political aspect was a different ball game, what was he to do?
The answers came through the assemblage of tested hands that would be the wind behind his sails. For, as the American businessman, Sam Walton had rightly observed, ‘ individuals do not win but teams do’. With that firmly in place he made a determined paradigm shift by becoming the first governorship aspirant to tour 192 wards and 18 local government areas not just to seek their support but to also learn first -hand what precisely their daily economic, social and even political challenges were. As a member of his campaign team, it was during the tour that I saw a man who had come not just to serve the good people of Edo state but to redefine the political space.

Interestingly, it was during such tours that some of the laudable ideas like decongesting the city center to ease movement of commuters, banning of illegal street trading, hawking and having each special assistant ( SA )from each ward which will liaise with the people at the ward level and report to the state government on issues affecting the common people. This was highly instructive and remarkable.

It is therefore, not by any magic wand or a whiff imagination that as at today commuters enjoy the free flow of getting to their various destination without hitches. Since he assumed the mantle of leadership to pilot the affairs of the people of Edo as governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, the quintessential and untiring technocrat has acquired the enviable reputation to develop Edo state to an industrial hub. That sobriquet was acknowledged early in this administration by even the opposition, undoubtedly, astounded and overwhelmed by his pragmatic and meticulous approach.

Within the first four months, the Obaseki – led administration had already constructed and rehabilitated major roads within the city center and some long- neglected inner city, pothole – riddled roads reeking of muds and mire as well as opening up more inner roads within the city center. His pragmatic approach in addressing pertinent issues of human face gave rise to the name ‘ Wake and see Governor ‘. But that is just part of the intriguing story of good governance emerging from practical experience of policy makers.

We must admit at this juncture that notwithstanding the accolades received be the previous administration on infrastructural development, governor Obaseki astute leadership style is one that has endowed him to the hearts and minds of millions of people residing in the state. Another visible shift in leadership that is people friendly is that of governance with human face.

As far as Obaseki is concerned, the obnoxious appellation of government as being for the rich as against the interest of the poor would no longer hold sway. Nigerians, nay the good people of Edo must come to see governance, more so in a Democratic setting as theirs. Only that would engender the spirit of sustained allegiance to the state, the governor understood intuitively the role the private sector plays in the economy. As such, Edo State is carrying the private sector along as critical stakeholder. For example the Alaghodaro Investment summit held in November 2017 was co- chaired by Mr Asue Ighodalo. The Alaghodaro summit showcased economic and institutional reforms being implemented by Godwin Obaseki  – led administration which is aimed to open up investment opportunities in different sectors in state.

The quintessential governor knows his onions. Few days ago, Mr Obaseki signed a memorandum of understanding ( MOU ) with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited ( CHEC ) for the development of Gelegele Seaport and other transport infrastructure in the state. In addition, the governor however extended his hand of business friendship following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a Chinese consortium for a 5,500 barrel per day modular refinery in Edo state as these stride will provide more jobs and reduce the nightmare of unemployment in the state. The governor is looking beyond oil and he knows the state has a huge potential natural resources deposit, from agriculture, mining, human capital, infrastructure, real estate as well as reforms being undertaken to make the state investment friendly.

Consequently, true development now focuses more on people as their object of attention rather than growth in the volume of goods and services. Good enough, Obaseki has started justifying that. Like a lily flower at dawn, his petals have started unfolding to the warm rays of Edo sun.

Williams Ifidon writes from Benin.