Just Before We Transit in Edo State
By Sen. Domingo Alaba Obende
The rowdiness in the Court was unusual – the day Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was declared Governor in 2008 – this was after both petitioners and defendants in an election petition showed appearances at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City.
Suddenly, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole poked his head through the roof of a black SUV heading southwards from the Appeal Court and surveyed what he had wrought – sweet victory; no orphan.
Don’t forget, before this roller coaster day, the lower court gave what the higher court reaffirmed – that the people gave Oshiomhole what the PDP took away; this is one of the truest and most resounding judgments so far, in the history of our judiciary, when it comes to Election petition – unpredictability.
And so, Oshiomhole ignited the ancient city, summoned a gathering out of thin air; a reminder that, for the right person, the city can be activated at any moment – and such was the undying memories of the Oshiomhole’s historic day, when he was announced the duly elected Governor of Edo State.
Assumption and Governance
Upon assumption of office, Comrade Oshiomhole and his team, past and present, no doubt, worked unconscionably long hours, both into the night, either in Exco meetings or project inspection so that an accurate job according to specification was carried out.
If the work and task of the present modern city was often hard, it was always great fun too; the convivial and stimulating times spent knocking heads together, the long distance trekking, and the sweating it out in the name of projects inspection – don’t forget, Oshiomhole inherited an infrastructural hemorrhaging state.
Never-mind – some say he is obsessed, others argue he is over-ambitious, while a fragment say the reconstruction of Benin City and Edo state in general, for Adams Oshiomhole, is a gargantuan project that would fail and as such, dismissed it out-rightly when he assumed office.
Even the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) would agree in secret that Oshiomhole has done well, suddenly, for political reasons and for electioneering purposes claim in adverts that the Governor should have overlooked the issue of taxation and urban renewal among others, a situation that suggests that they seem to have lost memory of where we were coming from.
They forget in a hurry, the long neglect in development such as the stench that pervaded Ring Road and the dilapidation and complete collapse therein – infact, the entire state was in squalor. Let me, in the course of this analysis, bring to bear, a little past of the place known as ancient city now undergoing massive reconstruction – this modernization proved to all and slightly to our surprises, even more taxing, no doubt to Oshiomhole himself. There were, it is true, precarious policies that affected the people negatively but, the people are the best for it today.
My first distinctive memory of Ring Road is of traffic; the chaos and nightmare that characterized ring road now known as Oba Ovonramwen square. It is the widest, roundest most beautiful roundabouts in Nigeria; this claim is however, subject to scrutiny or superior argument.
Inside the roundabout is the National Museum, the most awesome water fountain in Nigeria – courtesy Adams Oshiomhole, the Military cenotaph in honor of the unknown soldiers, and a beautiful park and garden. Just around there is one of the World’s most revered royalty, the palace of the Omo N Oba N Edo, the state House of Assembly complex, Central Bank of Nigeria, among other new generation banks.
This spot was highly mystified due to inability of successive governments-even refusal-to do anything about it all these years was the monster. It used to be the stinky popular commercial hub of the ancient city. Again, before now-the demystification, it was a paradox and a nemesis to Benin City. Although more or less a melting point that had provided over decades sundry materials for the visual arts. It was the place with no bedtime, and, therefore, no time for waking…..in the similitude of the pre-Raji Fashola Lagos Oshodi.
Like Ojuelegba, near Surulere in Lagos, it used to be one bedlam of confusion; I mean Oba Ovonramwen Square. It was characterized by filth and almost everything indecent under the earth- road side traders, rough-shod motorists, pickpockets, rapists, street urchins, the homeless and other wayward characters were always there with different missions.
It was never a question of Benin trying to accommodate Oba Ovonramwen Square but of the all-important roads accommodating Benin where traders hustle to sell their wares, motorists sweat profusely inside their vehicles in the usual traffic gridlock, occasioned by the lawless “tuke-tuke” bus drivers picking passengers discriminately in the middle of the road just as street hawkers thrust their wares at passers-by; all created a confused atmosphere.
Change is constant; Oshiomhole confronted the monster bare-handedly though not without planning. He restored sanity to the place. Today, we easily forget this picture formerly called Ring Road not that we have blurred memories, no.
In no uncertain terms, Oshiomhole vindicated himself, an idealistic and ambitious project that was doubted impossible. A new-look Ring Road sprang up to the bemusement of objective critics; making those who swore never to have anything to do with it eat their words. Today, most people transiting through or having to transact business on the Square, either in the day time or at night, have refreshing stories to tell.
All the roads leading into it, have been illuminated……Airport road, Sapele road, Sokponba road, Akpakpava road, Mission road, Forestry road and Oba Market road from where crowds surges in seamless motion with no one looking at the other with suspicion at night anymore. Lest I forget, there is now a musical water fountain right inside the Square.
“This is impossible”, Oshiomhole’s worst critics hollered on top of their voices when they were told of the plan to dualise Airport road. “Who told you it’s impossible? It is possible”, Oshiomhole would fire back – today, we’re all witnesses.
Governor Oshiomhole promised to lay a good and solid foundation for his successor in the similitude of former Lagos state Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who laid the foundation upon which ‘Captain’ Raji Fashola built upon. Fashola was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff when he was Governor just as the present Governor, His Excellency Akinwunmi Ambode was Accountant General – he was a technocrat.
This invisible technocrat was made visible by the mandate of the good and development-driven people of Lagos State – and today, he is moving “mountains” in Lagos – he had passed through the political mills of the “Asiwajuism” and incidentally, the Chairman of APC National Campaign Council for Edo State Governorship Election.
However, what is now certain is the model of political structure in governance for which Oshiomhole has adopted. Several models have evolved in recent times since 1999 in terms of succession, though these models are not static or cast-in-stone, neither are they classical-institutional-rules for the exchange of batons.
From benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Comrade’s intention is to tailor Edo’s development looking at the Lagos-Tinubu model in terms of sustainable economic foundation for his successor through alternative revenue generation; he wants to toe “the Jagaban’s” step in terms of the model of succession, this is quite clear, with the victory of his Chief Economic Adviser and Chairman, Economic and Strategy Team, Mr. Godwin Obaseki at All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary.
A most recent twist to this whole models is the present situation in Lagos state; a former Accountant-General or simply put, a civil servant becoming the Governor of the state. It’s not surprising because the very ‘actor’ whose economic foundation the Comrade wants to toe, endorsed Akinwunmi Ambode’s candidature. So, in all of these, Lagos can be said to be an enduring and shining example in terms of political structure in the succession of good governance.
Indications, flowing from the Lagos example – where Oshiomhole’s cabinet had her inaugural lectures being the first retreat in 2008 – shows that we are likely going to have a structured model; this is more so, since the forces that laid the sustainable economic foundation for the prosperity of the state and who have been part of the system from inception cannot abandon work half-way for others to experiment.
Obaseki, if you like, have been, among others who have been around Oshiomhole from inception and are fully abreast with its policy initiation, formulation, and implementation – in fact, he was at the center of it all just as he was with “Asiwaju” when he was the helmsman. On a very serious note, I can see the relationship between Edo and Lagos – the successors are not really politicians but qualitative men who can drive the system and achieve results.
Significantly, this is where Obaseki hold the ace – he was the engine room for all those retreats organized for government officials and which culminated into the economic direction of the Oshiomhole administration. It is on this plank that Edo people view Obaseki as the viable alternative who has the magic wand to the socio-economic challenges pervading the entire spectrum in the country and the state in particular.
Though, not the itinerant Nigerian politician, Obaseki, no doubt, was born into a most politically conscious and sagacious family upon which he would leverage on. I am told his father had carved for himself, a large dose of political capital and being one of the foremost family in the Benin Kingdom, he isn’t a hard-sell or neophyte – Edo people since bought into this project – thanks to the leadership of His Excellency, Akinwunmi Ambode, the Chairman of APC National Campaign Council for Edo State Governorship Election.
This man – Obaseki, for Oshiomhole, provided the courage and seamless financial providence for which he was able to address the critical monetary challenges that was his lot in government – this quiet, politically unsung and soft spoken gentleman.
For him, the challenge of taking Edo state to next level is the provision of massive works and employments for the people with his contacts home and abroad in the private sector. We are told that the ability of the state government to increase her internally generated revenue and get support from World Bank and other donor agencies is the instrumentality and ingenuity of Obaseki – all these economic prowess, Obaseki would bring to bear, when given the mandate on September 10th.
Obaseki’s mission statement
And so, about a month ago, precisely at the Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium – Ogbe Stadium – it was Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his running mate, Comrade Philip Shaibu’s gubernatorial campaign flag-off.
Obaseki, then a little-known behind-the-scene Oshiomhole’s economic strategist delivered a 72-minute manifesto that set his political career fully blown in motion while his running mate, Shaibu had begun his political career as a parliamentarian – they stood side-by-side during the policy statement.
The event – launched with the rocket-fuel intensity that Obaseki’s speech provided, set a new generation of young and old, men and women, boys and girls, APC and some PDP youths alike jockeying for attention into their future careers in the soon-to-be-formed government.
The water-tight manifesto, no doubt, sent quivers to the opposition party – when Obaseki gave a peep into what we should expect from his government, especially the 200,000 job surplus, it came with disbelief to the opposition party but, he has offered to assist with an explanation on its workability.
Now, you can see the Obaseki’s awesomely crafted manifesto – which he delivered with grace and clarity – but bad politicians in the opposition have a duty to be critical to the pursuit of the document that would herald the emergence of future stars and alleviate poverty, if not eradicate it.
Obaseki’s speech was a master-piece – he made the most cogent statements needed in our present political and socio-economic reality in Nigeria. Maybe you think its rich of someone praising Obaseki just as to cite Oshiomhole’s messianic zeal – but actually, Obaseki’s ambition is entirely different from the opposition’s party. Obaseki has the essential humility and decency to offer detailed plans of what he intends to do when he gets into office. And this Oshiomhole tried honestly and passionately to persuade voters of his point of view during campaigns.
Obaseki didn’t promise the “world” with no clue how to deliver. He didn’t descend to cheap attacks. He shares a lot with Oshiomhole – he was in the engine room with every other decent men and women who want the best for Edo state.
Finishing Well Comrade
I credit the stream of knowledge which constitutes the concept of finishing well to the Chairman of the Economic and Strategic Team – Obaseki. It was his school of economics and governance which provided the verve and lifeline with which workers in the state go home monthly, with their pay-check till date and this also provided the basis of my understanding of values in governance and service to the people for which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is now famously known in Nigeria.
Edo people owe a particular debt of gratitude to him – Obaseki. His brilliance and selfless industry to father land and common sense illustrations of how governance should work throughout his service to fatherland – this is unparalleled. He’s been an inspiration to all those who came across him.
What about his tradition of clear thinking and simple exposition? Aren’t they admirable? No doubt, he has influenced our modern generation positively and this I can vouch he would deploy into governance when elected on September 10th – I mean these core values.
Let me add, quickly, that the development of the specific ideas for which this government has successfully implemented and which we are better for today as a state, was enhanced by discussions at the various retreats. The Team leader’s careful and methodical analysis of the ideas and achievements today, not only made it more imperative for a perfect compliant successor but will make these policies more consistent and cohesive, thereby helping us to better understand the larger picture that the people of Edo State have decided to espouse come September 10th – Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu.
Sen. Domingo Alaba Obende is Chairman, Publicity and Media, APC National Campaign Council for Edo State Governorship Election and Chairman, Special Duties, APC Edo State Campaign Council.