Last Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the September 28, 2016 election victory of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Edo State. In an interactive session with reporters, minutes after the verdict, Obaseki said the time is ripe to focus on governance. Niyi Bello reports.
Next step after litigation
Well, you should expect a much more focused government. As you are aware, we are currently having a retreat for our commissioners in Lagos. We decided to bring take them to Lagos so that they can rub minds with their colleagues here who have done very well in the area of governance. Over the last eight months, we have spent time putting together several workshops and calling experts to help us look into specific areas of interests where we promised our people in Edo State.
So the contest is over and with our cabinet in place, we are good to go. What you should expect from us is what people would term a high-performing government to deliver the services, which we promised our people during the electioneering campaigns.
Of course, we shall immediately continue with the programme we started a month ago. Despite recession, we are massively building houses and putting infrastructure in place. Our goal is to build over 3,000 kilometers of roads in the next four years and we are close to the first 1,000 kilometers. The construction work is in progress in Edo as we speak especially in Benin city. And so we would continue with putting up infrastructure to encourage economic growth particularly in areas of agriculture, industrialisation and mining.
We are also working very hard at ensuring that key drivers of governance, the institutions, the Civil Service, the Local Governments as well as the Judiciary are re- awakened and given the impetus and the support they need so that they can develop because without the institutions, we are not going to be able to run as fast as we would want to. So we are doing a lot of work in all of those areas and you can come to Edo State and testify yourself.
We have always said we run an all-inclusive government. When we build roads, we do not look at the areas we are taking in to. It would interest you that one of the major roads under construction today is where Ize-Iyamu lives. So while he was in court, we were building the road to his house. It is my belief that our activities must touch every Edo citizen.
Tackling fund paucity
You can never be able to have all the money you need to do the things you want to do. But as long as you are very focused on what you want to accomplish and you are committed and passionate, you would look for the money. Don’t forget that my background is finance and it is an area I am not particularly scared of. So what we have done in Edo is first, to be very clear about what our priorities are. Secondly, we are determined about where we would get the money from and our first focus is to look inwards. What are the areas of waste we can cut to make savings to pursue our plans for Edo State.
We also need to make sure that we get appropriate prices for what we want to do. So those are the things we are looking at; first by ensuring the we streamline our priorities, second that we cut down on risks and third, to ensure that we procure properly and to ensure that we are getting value for money. With all those, we believe that we don’t have excess but what we have is enough to start.
On allegations of too many political appointees
Unfortunately, some people are uninformed. In Edo State today, you can go and check, we have the least number of political office holders in Nigeria, as it is less than 400. I don’t think that is too much. The total cost of paying political office holders related to our total cost of cost of personnel is about one twentieth, so I don’t it is too much. The rationale behind the appointments came while going round during my electioneering campaigns. I realised that there has always been constant cries about marginalization, like we see today in Nigeria. We see people feeling they are not represented and that they are not part of government.
So at least, as a starting point, I should have Political Assistants in every ward. This is to ensure that they work out of Local Governments to provide information to the Governor’s Office on issues and activities going on such as state of the schools, the state of the Primary Health Centres and things government should deal with on a monthly basis. They should send down these reports. Based on those reports, we will then actually carry out necessary actions.
I should say that these people were not randomly appointed by the governor, they were chosen and selected from the decision made by the representatives of communities at the ward levels. Each ward, for instance, they have their meetings and I asked them to nominate three people and one of them must be a woman who has leadership qualities within that ward to represent their interest.
So at the best, I don’t think the number they are talking about is too large. But more importantly, those are people who are have something to offer to their people and the government.