Monday, July 15, 2024
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HomeOpinionObaseki @67: A Legacy Steeped in Excellence By Crusoe Osagie

Obaseki @67: A Legacy Steeped in Excellence By Crusoe Osagie

When historians write about the exploits of great men, they are always careful about the details, ensuring to capture the elements that define a person’s epocal milestones. Most times, the stories are told of their triumph and victories, other times, of their frailties. But ultimately, these tales speak to the essence of a person’s greatest battles and how they overcome them and chart a new, definitive course.

When the story of Godwin Obaseki, who today turns 67, is told, it will feature a rich chapter dedicated to his triumphant foray into public service, with numerous pages preoccupied with showcasing his bold, courageous and eventful stay in office, where he wrestled principalities and laid the foundations to restore Edo’s glory – somewhat like a renaissance era in the 21st century.

Obaseki, no doubt, had an eventful career as an investment banker. His exploits are the stuff of legend in corporate Nigeria, where he strode like a colossus, amassing a dashing profile as an investment banker, helping companies raise capital, taking Nigerian businesses to the global stage and contributing to industry-wide reforms that continue to reverberate in the larger economy.

However, serving as Governor of Edo State, Obaseki showcased an unbridled appetite for development and progress. Apparently, a personal trait that many may have missed in their study of Obaseki’s character is an uncanny focus on delivering results. This much was apparent in the manner in which he administered the state.

In a careful analysis of his campaign promises, manifesto and policy documents placed side by side with his developmental strides, one sees an emphasis on ensuring that targets are met with clinical precision. It is as if one needs a particular angle of vision to truly appreciate his genius – a birds-eye view of the somewhat disarticulated activities on the ground level that ultimately leads to all pieces properly aligning to deliver the best of outcomes. In different spheres of development in the state, this eagle-eye view is apparent.

As a governor, he is not one given to noise, grandstanding or frivolous talks. He fought back and challenged ideas and personalities headlong. Even when many wonder what is driving his quest, they only come to appreciate his concerns when reality kicks in years after. Case in point is Nigeria’s current economic impasse occasioned by years of reckless economic mismanagement, which Obaseki warned about years ago.

As a governor, he pursued aggressive reforms. He also worked tirelessly to deliver on key policy changes that led to catalytic progress – from education to healthcare to agriculture and environmental sustainability, among others. Above all, what is incontrovertible about the governor is his stubborn belief in what is right and proper.

The governor will be completing his eight-year stint at Dennis Osadebe Avenue, in Benin City, on November 12, 2024. But what would be running through the minds of many is the legacy he would be leaving behind – what has defined his stay in government and what the generality of the people will remember him for. Such posers are expected given that he led the state through a period of transitions, from a point when the world was transiting to new modes of living and working to an era characterised by global upheavals with a slew of wars, climate concerns and economic instability.

Did Obaseki give a good account of himself? What would historians write in his own chapter in the annals of Edo history? Do Edo people really sit back to appreciate the extent of his reforms in changing the state’s development trajectory? Will he be celebrated after he leaves office?

First, it would be said that as Governor, Obaseki fought many battles. In many of these battles, he came tops. The harder question would be if the battles were necessary or if he should have taken a less confrontational or diplomatic path. In his reading, the governor has volunteered that he believes there was no other way to instill the kind of changes he has engendered. Many would defer. But that remains for posterity to unravel, especially given the peculiar nature of Nigeria’s political space.

Edo’s economy has grown by almost 150% in the last seven and half years since 2017, with the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, now in the region of $25bn. This can be attributed to concerted efforts to open up the economy and transit from a ‘civil service’ state to an industrialised economy. Some of the pieces that many have not taken into account in this puzzle is how fast it will grow in the coming years on account of Obaseki’s reforms.

This is premised on a solid groundwork rooted in sound policies and programmes implemented in the last few years. Aside from providing quality education for over 400,000 pupils in schools and ensuring a pathway to sustain their current levels of literacy and numeracy up till tertiary levels, the government has also set a template for driving productivity.

In boosting economic growth, the governor has fixed a crucial problem that plagues efforts at sparking industrial growth in developing countries, which is creating that essential link between producers of raw materials to processing business that need their inputs to produce finished and semi-finished goods.

So when allocating farm estates to interested businesses, the Edo State Oil Palm Programme, ESOPP, designed a model that would ensure that makers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, FMCGs, got the land needed for their Backward Integration drive. As a result, some of the biggest FMCG brands in Nigeria are sourcing raw materials for their industrial plants from Edo State. Not only does this boost job creation and productive use of land that had been hitherto deforested due to years of encroachment on restricted forest reserves, the state is now better positioned to serve as a major source of raw material for local and international business concerns. The long term benefits of this scheme is that Edo would become the major supplier of raw materials and semi-finished goods.

The other critical investment is in the state’s digital infrastructure. Over 2000km of fibre optic cables have been laid across the State connected to healthcare, education and technology assets. This is strategic in positioning the state and its youths to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Already, the Edo Tech Park is training tech talent with youths getting upskilled and realising their goals of kicking off tech careers from Edo State. Investment in electricity and the rep operational modular refineries in the State also add colour to the firmament of industrial activities in the State.

This trend is replete in the other areas where Obaseki has made the most impact. The tradition of thinking of development in hubs is a peculiar feature of the Obaseki-led administration. There are at least six hubs that have been established in Edo cutting across Education, Health, Creative Economy, Agriculture, Technology, among others.

As he leaves office in November, the question remains: who will remember Obaseki’s legacy of excellence? Ask the 400,000 Edo children and their teachers who are covered in the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) Programme. Ask investors and the several businesses along Sapele Road and other parts of Benin City who are hooked on Ossiomo Power. Ask pensioners and civil servants. Ask subscribers to the Edo Health Insurance Scheme. Ask the over 30,000 investors and citizens who have processed their Certificate-of-Occupancy (C-of-O).

It is undeniable that Obaseki is leaving Edo far better than he met it. What is even more enabling is that he has set in motion a 30-year development plan that would guide the state’s development trajectory. This speaks again to his unrivaled penchant to prioritise results and performance over rhetoric. He will remain, undoubtedly, as Edo’s most prolific reformers.

Osagie is the Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media Projects.

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