Edo State, the Heartbeat of the Nation, has witnessed tremendous progress across all sectors in the last six years. Thanks to the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government which breathed life into many rather comatose sectors and wrested revenue collection from non-state actors, the state has leaped from a yearly IGR of about N18 billion to over N41 billion in 2022, with a target of hitting N60 billion in 2023. From wearing the tag of a ‘civil service state’, the Obaseki-led administration has transformed the structure of the Edo economy to a productive one, with a larger part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) represented by the private sector.
Today, there is no sector in Edo State that has not felt the impact of Obaseki’s transformational strides – from education to security, infrastructure provision, staff welfare, creative industry, land administration, power, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and much more. A few examples will suffice.
In education, which is the bedrock of development, over 300,000 pupils in the state’s 1,500 public primary and junior secondary schools and some 15,000 government teachers are benefitting from the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme, which has been recommended by the World Bank as a model that can effect a holistic transformation of basic education service delivery in states across Nigeria.
Gloria Joseph-Raji, World Bank’s Senior Economist, during a courtesy visit to Governor Obaseki in October 2022 as part of activities marking the bank’s Edo Basic Education Sector and Skills Transformation Operation Program-for-Results Assessment visit, said, “Within Nigeria, EdoBEST is doing so well by helping to improve foundational learning. The management of the World Bank thinks that this is a model that can be scaled to other states in Nigeria. The Bank thinks that it is a useful model that other states in Nigeria can learn from.”
Governor Obaseki, in a recent interview, pointed to the transformation in the state’s education sector, which is ongoing, as a major legacy he would want to leave behind. He said, “I want to be remembered in one, two or three generations from now by that Edo child who benefitted from the world-class education delivered in our public schools. He or she will look back and say, ‘Thank God we had a Governor like Governor Obaseki who made it possible’.”
The Obaseki administration also places paramouncy on workers’ welfare, for which reason the government reconstructed the Edo State Civil Service Secretariat Complex to create an enabling work environment for the state’s workers. Apart from being the only state in Nigeria where workers earn the highest minimum wage of N40,000 when most states are struggling to pay the N30,000 national minimum wage, workers in the state government’s payroll are paid promptly on the 25th of every month. Pensioners are not also left out. Meanwhile, the state’s civil servants are enrolled in the Contributory Pension Scheme in order to secure their pensions for the future and make life after retirement less cumbersome. They are also enrolled in the Edo Health Insurance Scheme (EdoHIS) so they can enjoy affordable healthcare and eliminate out-of-pocket spending to access healthcare services. Plus, Edo public and civil servants undergo continuous professional development at the John Odigie Oyegun Training Academy, another innovation of the Obaseki-led government, where they are equipped with relevant skills for better service delivery.
In sports, everyone who paid close attention to the recent Nigerian Professional Football League would remember that many matches were played in the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in the heart of Benin City, where the Bendel Insurance FC, the pride of Edo people, acquitted themselves creditably – all thanks to the remodelling and refitting of the stadium to a world-class, Olympic-standard stadium equipped with state-of-the-art facilities carried out by the Obaseki government.
The impact of the governor’s development strides has also been felt in the creative sector. Of course, Edo State has always held its head high whenever this sector is mentioned – be it music, acting, visual arts, movie-making, or other forms of entertainment. This is the state that gave the world legends like Sir Victor Uwaifo, Amb Osayomore Joseph, Majek Fashek, Sonny Okosun, Felix Liberty, and other musical greats whose songs continue to move the crowd. Today, Edo State boasts of highly talented stars across all genres of entertainment. From acting to music to comedy, names like DJ Neptune (Patrick Imohiosen), Rema (Divine Ikubor), MC Casino (Lawrence Osarenkhoe), MC Edo Pikin, Osas Ighodaro, Adesua Etomi-West, Mercy Aigbe, Ikponmwosa Osakioduwa (IK Big Brother), Johnny Drille (John Ighodaro), Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, Joe Praize (Joseph Omo Ebhodaghe), Waje (Aituaje Iruobe), Victor Sanchez Aghahowa, Djinee (Osayanwen Nosa Donald), Rex Nosa Okunzuwa, Charles Inojie (Mr. Lucky Johnson), Ini Dima-Okojie, Ruth Kadiri, and Madrina (Cynthia Ikponmwenosa Morgan) easily come to mind.
What better way to appreciate the established talents and harness the burgeoning ones than to create an enabling environment for them to thrive? This was why Governor Obaseki set out to make the state a more befitting entertainment hub as a way of “trying to get more young people employed particularly as it relates to the entertainment industry”. This was what birthed the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub located on the premises of The Nigerian Observer.
“When you see any production – music, video production, festivals – you see one, two or three Edo names on the credits. If they all have to leave home to go somewhere where the facilities are available, why don’t we make the facility available to them at home? With that, many more talents will be discovered,” the governor said in an interview.
Today, testimonies are flowing in as entertainers from the state reap the fruits of Obaseki’s foresight. Edo State-born MC Casino, in an exclusive interview with The Nigerian Observer in Benin City, attested to the impact the Obaseki administration’s creative sector investments and support are making on the growth of indigenous talent. He said the Obaseki government realises that entertainment is the next oil money and is working assiduously not just to promote the entertainment industry, but also to promote the indigenous creative minds of the entertainers, to see how Edo can make an impact in the creative industry.
“The government has invested a lot. So many big productions are being done in Benin. Iroko TV was here for almost two years, in partnership with Edo State government, and they employed more that 2,000 persons. I have at least seven friends that benefitted directly. Jobs were created, hotels were sold out, even one of my cousin’s house was used to accommodate people. More than 3,000 persons were on set. You know what it means to have 3,000 persons working in a small place, you know the economic impact that would have, and everybody smiled,” MC Casino said.
“They did ‘Blood of Enogie’, they did so many movies, they brought people from abroad, people made money. I know some of my friends that made up to N5 million, actors and actresses that would usually be paid N20,000 for roles. The project was big, the state government was involved, so they didn’t come here to slave my people, let the creative artists also enjoy,” he said.
The renowned comedian also gave the governor an A in terms of security, which is a precondition for night life to thrive.
“Benin City is now safer compared to how it used to be. There is no way comedy shows can take place in an atmosphere that is not secure. The state government should continue to make Edo State secure,” he said.
In ICT, the government has invested massively in fibre technology, making Benin City one of the most connected cities in Nigeria with over 400km of fibre lining around Benin City alone. The establishment of EdoJobs, Edo Production Centre, and Edo Innovation Hub by the Obaseki-led administration has meant that Edo State now produces highly trained skilled youths, especially in ICT, making it possible for global ICT players like Amazon, Google Africa, Curators University, LinkedIn, CADD Center, GIZ, Oxfam International, HPLife, Center for Women Development, Facebook, GidiMobile, etc to deliver ICT skills training, solutions, and connect beneficiaries to jobs in the IT sector. The state has also digitised governance and improved the quality of services in government such that citizens can apply from their phones for land and other services that government agencies deliver. Digitalisation of revenue collection, for instance, has brought about a healthy tax system and eliminated double taxation, ultimately resulting in increased internally generated revenue to N4 billion monthly, providing needed funds for the government to embark on projects that are of benefit to the people of Edo State. Market women and traders would recall how thugs used to besiege them with illegal fees in the guise of being government revenue collectors. All of that has long been consigned to the dustbin courtesy of the Obaseki government.
In road construction, the government has done some 571 roads totalling 845 kilometres across the length and breadth of the state.
These landmark achievements have been made possible because of a robust cordial relationship existing between the executive and the legislative arms of the Edo State government. The Obaseki-led executive needs this rapprochement to continue in order for the government to continue its good work and take Edo State to greater heights. A way to do this is to ensure that the governor’s party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), wins majority seats in the forthcoming House of Assembly poll in the state.
And this is the point that those who do not understand the principle of separation of powers often tend to misconstrue. Separation of powers does not mean endless squabbles between the arms of government. The theory of separation of powers, as propounded by French political philosopher Montesquieu, simply means division of labour among the arms of government. In other words, separation of powers means that government responsibilities are divided into distinct branches such that legislative, executive, and judiciary powers of government are vested in separate bodies to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another. The intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances. This does not preclude a healthy understanding between the arms of government in such a way that advances the cause of the state.
Governor Obaseki is working assiduously to achieve his mandate of Making Edo Great Again (MEGA). He has set the engine rolling, and the Edo electorate who wish for this trend of development to continue should not think twice before voting for PDP candidates on March 18.