It is pedestrian information that in his effort to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living in the country, triggered by the recent removal of subsidy on petroleum products , the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki , raised the minimum wage for workers on its payroll from N30,000 to N40,000.
Also heartening is the awareness that the workers have been permitted work from home twice a week and show up in the office three days per week, measures which the governor noted were taken as the state’s immediate response to the stoppage of petrol subsidy payment by the Federal Government, which pushed up food costs and petrol price.
Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without criticism.
For instance, I have within these few days of that announcement, seen many argue that the governor has done nothing exemplary or impressive with the paltry N10,000 increment, particularly as the N40,000 minimum wage cannot truly alleviate the economic situation of a household in today’s Nigeria.
Even more, I have equally heard others demonstrate how the latest spontaneous increment of workers’ salary by the governor cannot be sustained, as it is laden with in-built risks that the governor is yet to discover for the so-called increment was neither system/budget supported nor was method-based.
As the debate ‘flourishes’, the truth is that whether the increment was not practical or pragmatic, even though it was not ‘system supported or method based’, Governor Obaseki has set separate but similar examples for his fellow state governors and of course the Federal Government.
Aside from demonstrating that we are poor as nation, not because of our geographical location or absence of mineral resources, the Edo State Governor has through this singular action, exemplified that he considers Edo state civil servants as soldiers in the state’s development army, having the same ranks and tasks with him just as it exists in traditional armies.
Unless the leader of these teams (civil servants) provides them with the right incentives, care and encouragement, they will never conquer obstacles needed to assist the state achieve developmental goals and objectives.
Regardless of what others may say, the hour has come and it is urgently true that if we are to remain as one united Nigeria, those in the position of authority must stop creating second class citizens. Our governor must internalise as well as recognise that ‘power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve a purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, economic, political, cultural and religious changes’.
What is also needed is a realisation that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. That power at its best is love implementing the demand of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
As the excruciating pains arising from the sudden removal of subsidy continues to fester, what Obaseki’s example educates other public office holders in the country is that to avoid failure, a leader must develop his vision according to a strict timetable, because delay and procrastination are the enemies of success. That many leaders lost crucial battles because they did not make the right decisions at the right time; when they finally did, it was too late – the situation had changed and potential victories turned into defeats.
Viewed broadly, his prompt attention to the plight of Edo civil servants is aptly in consonance with the leadership ideology/vision of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum , a great leader and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate (UAE), who among other leadership remarks emphasised that ‘behind every major failure, lies a failed decision, and behind every failed decision lies government that failed its people – a government that did not carry out its duties properly, having made the wrong decisions or delaying the right ones’.
Without doubt, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo, may not be a saint or an angel, but in this junction of our nation’s history, with visible shortfalls in dedicated and courageous leaders that are reputed for ‘public good and greater good for greater number, there are indeed more reasons why he deserves commendation.
This fact becomes overwhelmingly valid when one remembers that this is not his first impressive and exemplary people-focused leadership provision.
Take as an illustration, a few months ago, precisely in January, 2023, it was in the news that under his watch, the Edo Modular Refinery commenced operation at its 6,000 barrels per day (bpd) plant in Ologbo, Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of the state, with plans underway to complete the phase II of the project, and after which, its production capacity will jump from 6,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 21,000bpd.
The modular refinery going by media reports, is a fully funded project undertaken by AIPCC Energy Limited, in a joint venture between AFCOM Oil & Gas and Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China, but was developed by Edo Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited (ERPC) with support from the state government through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Separate from the awareness that Obaseki’s people-oriented and development focused leadership in the state is coming at about the same time when other state governors in the country cannot revitalise infrastructure in their states, or incubate new ones, also remarkable is the fact that the referenced refinery which had the capacity to produce 50percent of diesel (500,000 litres), 25 percent of naphtha (300,000 litres) and 200,000 litres of Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO), is not the first, but the second attracted to the state by the administration of the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, to boost investment inflow and drive industrialisation in the state.
Through Governor Obaseki’s efforts in the state, it was reported that thousands of direct and indirect jobs for the good people of Edo state have been created-men and women, young and old alike, while the coming of the refinery have increased the state’s revenue base.
Even as this author joins Edo civil servants to celebrate Obaseki’s leadership benevolence with accompanying request that he do more for the people of the state, it also necessitate the call on all Nigerians to recover their moral and strategic ‘health’ to stand again for freedom, demand accountability from their leaders particularly their state governors for poor decisions, missed judgment, lack of planning, lack of preparation and willful denial of the obvious truth about serious and imminent threats that are facing their states. The time is ripe for Nigerians to reject the false and horrendous reasons being offered to them by their clueless state governors as an explanation for why their states are not yet developed.
Obaseki is not the only public office holder in the country but his recent leadership actions and inactions are addressing the scary unemployment levels in his state through productive partnership with key players in the nation’s private sector.
This is a lesson that other state governors must learn; the only way to survive is to creatively support industrialisation of their various states as failure to do so, will see the state continue to find itself faced with difficulty accelerating economic life cycle of its people.
Finally, if we are to move forward and solve the multifaceted challenges bedeviling the nation, this piece calls for enthronement as leaders, Nigerians with needs of the masses close to their hearts and contemplate industrialisation via productive collaboration with private organisations that have surplus capital to create employment.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO).And could be reached via [email protected]/08032725374.