Paul Ohonbamu is the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation. In this interview, he speaks on governance in the state and efforts by the Godwin Obaseki-led administration to reposition the state. CAJETAN MMUTA reports
What has been your experience working with Governor Godwin Obaseki?
The governor has proven to be dedicated, purposeful and a committed person. In choosing portfolios, he knows what suits everyone. He knows what he wants and he places people accordingly. This is government by objective. He has kept government clean. Anything that brings mud to the administration is not entertained. He has blocked loopholes as regards revenue. The governor believes the rule of law must prevail. So, we have a governor who believes that Edo must work and that Edo must succeed. We are focusing on the people in this second year anniversary, so Edo people should continue to pray for the Edo project.
There are concerns over the many Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) entered into by Governor Obaseki in the past two years. What is your take on that?
Signing of an MoU is entering into an agreement, setting the pace so that we know the ambit of how everyone works. We have released N700 million for the modular refinery. If the MoU is worthless without agenda, President Muhammadu Buhari would not be part of it in China. The governor travelled with the President to China to finalise deals on the Benin River Port, industrial park and modular refinery. The work at the industrial park is not to be done by the state government. Dunlop has collected a portion. Many Chinese firms have secured places at the park. Government can only provide an enabling environment and security.
But, do you think Governor Obaseki is getting his politics right?
Politics, just like democracy, is an unfinished business. Everyone has his own way of doing things. There are certain things he has done he did not do unilaterally. All appointments he made came through party leaders in all the wards. There may be cacophony of voices, maybe in terms of contract, but in critical decisions the governor has taken, he has carried party leaders along. The governor will always refer you to the party. He has Special Assistants (SAs) in all the wards. His modus maybe different, but it is still for the project. His kind of politics is unique to him and it is not favourable to many people because of what they are used to. When he calls leaders, they listen to him. He is surrounded by politicians in government. If generating wealth is an Olympic event, Obaseki will win gold.
The opposition has always accused the governor of not spending money on security, which they claim, is the cause of insecurity in the state?
Solving security issues are things you cannot see. They are sensitive; they are not for public consumption. Ask yourself why criminals are arrested within 24 hours of committing crime. There are other ways resources are spent on security. At a time, vehicles and communication gadgets were given to security agencies. The governor likes to deal with security issues without making noise. Do you see him flagging off projects, but projects are going on. He wants to achieve results.
Has the Obaseki government achieved his plans in terms of the six thematic areas of focus?
Governor Obaseki has done superlatively well. We have not had it so good as we have now. Obaseki has improved on the legacy of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He has taken development he met further. We now have a God sent governor, who has taken development to the doorsteps of everyone. All the areas of the state have been touched. At the inception of this government, we gave out six thematic pillars, which will drive the government. In the area of economic revolution, there is job creation, industrialisation and agricultural improvement. Because of the far reaching reforms we have carried out, Presco Company recently commended us because of the expansion of its farm.
We reformed the Geography Information System (GIS) for easy land administration. We want to allocate land to those who really want to do business in Edo and who want to treat land the way it should be treated. Governor Obaseki has emphasized the need for wealth creation. This will enhance both micro and economic life of the people. We want to make Edo the miracle economy. In wealth creation, we have the EdoJobs, where we carry out skill acquisition, skill development, enterprise development and job matching. We are into partnership with some big firms in the area of job matching. In all the programmes we have carried in EdoJobs, the beneficiaries’ amount to 45,392.
What is happening to legacy projects like the Benin River Port?
We have expanded the scope of the terrain of our industrialization. The whole idea is to make Edo the miracle economy of this region. Apart from the industrial park, we have the Benin River Port that will be used to export manufactured goods. Obaseki has linked water ways. The process is on to have police post in the riverine communities to provide security on the water ways. The last time the governor travelled to China with President Buhari, he entered into an agreement with the oldest university in China on technical assistant for the purpose of manufacturing equipment needed for various purposes in the state.
People are complaining about the state of roads in the state. What would you say about that?
In terms of infrastructural development, Obaseki has done lots roads. In Edo Central, over 21 roads have been constructed even in local government areas where PDP chieftains hail from. In Esan West, we have constructed the Ekpoma township road and other adjoining roads. At Igueben, we have done several roads. In Edo South, you can see how the governor has transformed the city. Obaseki has brought sanity to the state and the system. When Obaseki came in, he discovered that development will be the greatest casualty in an unstable polity, so he removed those things that will cause hindrance like the Community Development Association. Obaseki obliterated all those things that will stalk development. You can move around and see people building houses without molestation unlike before when people pay through their noses.
Some party chieftains accuse the governor of using police to harass them…
Whoever has infraction with the law is punished. Obaseki does not believe that the law should be blind to personality and political parties. For him, whoever has driven on the devil’s express way must not expect to arrive at God’s destination. Whoever has slept on the laps of Delilah cannot expect to wake up in the bosom of Abraham. There is punishment for any infraction. Any action committed that is on the other side of the law cannot be accidental.
There are also complaints about depleting work force in the state…
Institutional reforms carried out in the civil service have seen to the training and retraining of civil servants. The governor has said he will not sack anybody. The 21st illiterate is not the person who cannot read and write but the one who cannot learn. Government has ensured that there is training going on by leveraging on technology. There is remodeling of our secretariat. We want to make sure that all our offices are in one building to make governance easy. Edo is one of the states that ensure ease of doing business. The idea is to make Edo a one stop shop. Edo is now an attraction to investors.
Those who cannot key into the security architecture and the peaceful tendencies will have to leave. In the education sector, Obaseki said it is not good to address the symptoms, so we have to cure the rot in the sector from basic education. Our EdoBEST programme is the best in the country. Recently, we graduated over 7,000 teachers leveraging on technology. They now use tablets to teach. If you meet pupils from our public schools, you will marvel about how we have improved them.
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