Obaseki says Nigeria can adopt solutions from Edo govt’s interventions to stem the slide as Edo attracts $500m investment into agric sector

Obaseki says Nigeria can adopt solutions from Edo govt’s interventions to stem the slide as Edo attracts $500m investment into agric sector

… chides political elite for failing to engender devt

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said Nigeria can adopt the novel interventions and radical changes implemented in Edo State in tackling the myriad of challenges and stem the country's current slide to economic and socio-political crisis.

The governor said this while delivering the 2022 Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Distinguished Lecture Series titled, “Making Politics Work for Citizens, Governance and Development: The Edo State Experience,” at the Institute, in Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to the governor, “We should also reflect on why we the political actors particularly those of us who are the political elite, who have the responsibility not only to institutionalize the democratic process but also to develop a political culture which should foster and enhance development, have so far failed to do so.”

The governor noted that although politics and democracy have not dealt favourably with Nigeria, this does not deny the existence of the potential for democracy to be the vehicle for the delivery of development to the people.

The governor said some of his achievements include attracting $500m into the state’s agriculture sector; creation of 300,000 jobs; the 95MW Ossiomo power project; improved basic education for over 400,000 pupils, and the 6000bpd-capacity Edo modular refinery, among others. 

“In Edo, we had to take deliberate and intentional steps to retool our politics to engender development. This has led to the introduction of people-centric policies and programmes which have won our administration significant public trust,” he said.

Decrying the failure of the political class, Obaseki added, “As we commence another political transition in our democratic journey, we must reflect on the challenges faced in this Republic, so that we can better understand why our democratic experience to date has not provided good governance and why our economic and socio-political development have remained stunted.”

Some of the defects of Nigeria’s political system, according to him, include entry barriers to the political system such as age restriction and high cost of nomination and expression of interest; negative perception of politics and the attendant skirmishes including mudslinging, deliberate character assassination and blackmail, which make it unattractive to accomplished professionals to participate in; prohibitive cost of the electioneering process; proliferation of political parties with no clear ideology, and electoral malpractices which have instigated voter apathy.

On the reforms implemented in Edo State, he said his administration inherited a state that was essentially under the control of various non-state actors who served as enforcers for the old political order in the state, noting that in exchange for their loyalty and service, the pay off was the collection of revenue that should have accrued to the public purse.

According to him, “Following this, we were able to open up the political space to a broad range of players to the chagrin of the godfathers. These patrons of the old order thrived in the exclusion of the majority from participating in the political process. For them, the fewer the actors in the system, the more relevant they were and the more they were able to take the process hostage.

“With the opening up of the political system, we embarked on institutional reforms to enhance the capacity of the government to deliver public services. This was done by enhancing the work environment, ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions, improving compensation packages, and creating better conditions of service for workers.

“We also revamped the public service to cut back on waste and with this, we were able to deliver more projects with less resources than would have been required.

“Having built public trust, we had to open up the business environment which led to robust partnership with the private sector and international development organisations. With their support, we have been able to substantially curb the menace of human trafficking and irregular migration, which once pillaged our most valuable resources – our young people.”

The governor added: “We rolled out infrastructure projects in a fair and equitable manner that engenders a sense of inclusion among the people across the various sections of the state.

“We were able to win the trust of the electorate in Edo State because we had focused on ideals that have come to define our politics and through which we have made the most impact in their lives.

“We placed the people at the center of our politics, which led to huge investment in human capital development, particularly across all tiers of the state’s education system, starting with the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme, which has transformed the lives of over 400,000 pupils across the state and improved learning outcomes.

“There has been a deliberate emphasis on strengthening partnership with the private sector, from which we have reaped immense benefit. We signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Ossiomo Power Company to provide stable power to government institutions and to also drive the state’s industrial sector. Today, the company generates 95MW out of 550MW it has set out to provide, supported with a distribution infrastructure that has been developed to supply government offices, streetlights and the state’s growing industrial sector with constant electricity.”

On the Edo example, the governor said Edo presents a very striking example of how Nigeria can fix its intractable electricity problem, which has plagued the country since independence.

He said: “With robust partnership with the private sector, the state government has succeeded in encouraging generation by attracting firms like Azura (450Mw) and Ossiomo Power (95MW), and is now proceeding to create its own electricity markets to encourage investments in the distribution of power within the state. Currently, there is stable electricity to power public institutions and infrastructure in metropolitan Benin City.

“In agriculture, we have attracted almost $500 million investment into palm oil cultivation, having allocated the first phase of 60,000 hectares of land under the Edo State Oil Palm Production Program (ESOPP). Nigeria has not witnessed this scale of oil palm cultivation since independence.

“Following the effort to change the paradigm in Edo State and the result it yielded, which highpoint was victory at the election, in which the people freely exercised their franchise and elected a leader of their choice, there is a need to scale this political achievement to the entire country.

“If what happened in Edo can be replicated in the forthcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections, Nigeria would have taken a critical step to democratic consolidation.”

On his part, Director General of NIIA, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae said the lecture is rich because the governor is stewed in the classical tradition with his background in classics, which is demonstrated with the achievements recorded in the state since his foray into politics.

Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Bola Akinteriwa, said the lecture is a reminder that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy, noting, “We do not have a good international image because of the way we govern ourselves. People often believe that anything goes in Nigeria. But today, we have someone who is doing things well. Whoever wants a constructive solution must learn from the experience of others. It is going to be empirical and a case study.”

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