Before Edo goes to the polls

By  Domingo Alaba Obende

ThE rowdiness in the court was unusual – the day Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was declared Governor in 2008 – This was after both petitioners and defendants in an election petition made appearances at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City. Suddenly, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole poked his head through the roof of a black SUV heading southwards from the Appeal Court and surveyed what he had wrought – sweet victory; no orphan.
Don’t forget, before this roller coaster day, the lower court gave what the higher court reaffirmed – that the people gave Oshiomhole what the PDP took away; this is one of the truest and most resounding judgments so far, in the history of election petitions.
And so, Oshiomhole ignited the ancient city, summoned a gathering out of thin air; a reminder that, for the right person, the city can be activated at any moment – and such was the undying memories of the Oshiomhole’s historic day, when he was announced the duly elected Governor of Edo State.Upon assumption of office, Oshiomhole and his team, past and present, no doubt, worked long hours, late into the night, either in Exco meetings or project inspection, so that an accurate job according to specification was carried out.
Never-mind – some say he is obsessed, others argue he is over-ambitious, while a fragment say the reconstruction of Benin City and Edo State in general, for Adams Oshiomhole, is a gargantuan project that would fail and as such, dismissed it outright when he assumed office. Even the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) who would agree in secret that Oshiomhole has done well suddenly, for political reasons and electioneering purpose, now claim in adverts that the governor should have overlooked the issue of taxation and urban renewal among others, a situation that suggests that they seem to have lost memory of where we were coming from.
They forget in a hurry, the long neglect in development such as the stench that pervaded Ring Road and the dilapidation and complete collapse therein – in fact, the entire state was in squalor. My first distinctive memory of Ring Road is of traffic; the chaos and nightmare that characterized Ring Road now known as Oba Ovonramwen square.
Inside the roundabout is the National Museum, the most awesome water fountain in Nigeria – courtesy Adams Oshiomhole, the Military cenotaph in honour of the unknown soldiers, and a beautiful park and garden. Just around there is one of the world’s most revered royalties, the Palace of the Omo N Oba N Edo, the State House of Assembly Complex, Central Bank of Nigeria, among other new generation banks.
This spot was highly mystified due to inability of successive governments-even refusal-to do anything about it all these years. It used to be the stinking popular commercial hub of the ancient city. Like Ojuelegba, near Surulere in Lagos, it used to be one bedlam of confusion; I mean Oba Ovonramwen Square. It was characterized by filth and almost everything indecent on the earth –  road-side traders, rough motorists, pickpockets, rapists, street urchins, the homeless and other wayward characters were always there with different missions.
It was never a question of Benin trying to accommodate Oba Ovonramwen Square but of the all-important roads accommodating Benin where traders hustle to sell their wares, motorists sweat profusely inside their vehicles in the usual traffic gridlock, occasioned by the lawless “tuke-tuke” bus drivers picking passengers indiscriminately in the middle of the road just as street hawkers thrust their wares at passers-by; all creating a confused atmosphere.
Oshiomhole vindicated himself, an idealistic and ambitious project that was dubbed impossible. A new-look Ring Road sprang up to the bemusement of objective critics; making those who swore never to have anything to do with it eat their words. Today, most people transiting through or having to transact business on the Square, either in the day time or at night, have refreshing stories to tell.
All the roads leading to it, have been illuminated……Airport road, Sapele road, Sokponba road, Akpakpava road, Mission road, Forestry road and Oba Market road from where crowds surge in seamless motion with no one looking at the other with suspicion at night anymore. Lest I forget, there is now a musical water fountain right inside the Square. Governor Oshiomhole promised to lay a  solid foundation for his successor in the similitude of former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who laid the foundation upon which ‘Captain’ Raji Fashola built. Fashola was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff when he was Governor just as the present Governor, His Excellency Akinwunmi Ambode was Accountant General – he was a technocrat.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Comrade’s intention is to tailor Edo’s development looking to the Lagos-Tinubu model in terms of sustainable economic foundation for his successor through alternative revenue generation; he wants to toe “the Jagaban’s” path in terms of the model of succession. This is quite clear, with the victory of his Chief Economic Adviser and Chairman, Economic and Strategy Team, Godwin Obaseki at All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary.
Obaseki, if you like, has been, among others who have been around Oshiomhole from inception and is  fully abreast with his policy initiation, formulation, and implementation – in fact, he was at the centre of it all. I can see the relationship between Edo and Lagos – the successors are not really politicians but qualitative men who can drive the system and achieve results.
Significantly, this is where Obaseki hold the ace – he was the engine room for all those retreats organized for government officials and which culminated into the economic direction of the Oshiomhole administration. It is on this plank that Edo people view Obaseki as the viable alternative who has the magic wand to the socio-economic challenges pervading the entire spectrum in the country and the state in particular.
This man – Obaseki, for Oshiomhole, provided the courage and seamless financial providence for which he was able to address the critical monetary challenges that was his lot in government – this quiet, politically unsung and soft spoken gentleman.
For him, the challenge of taking Edo State to next level is the provision of massive works and employments for the people with his contacts home and abroad in the private sector. We are told that the ability of the state government to increase her internally generated revenue and get support from World Bank and other donor agencies is the instrumentality and ingenuity of Obaseki –economic prowess he would bring to bear, when given the mandate on September 10.
Obaseki didn’t promise the “world” with no clue how to deliver. He didn’t descend to cheap attacks. He shares a lot with Oshiomhole – he was in the engine room with every other decent men and women who want the best for Edo state.
I credit the stream of knowledge which constitutes the concept of finishing well to the chairman of the Economic and Strategic Team – Obaseki. It was his school of economics and governance which provided the verve and lifeline with which workers in the state go home monthly, with their pay-check till date and this also provided the basis of my understanding of values in governance and service to the people for which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is now famously known in Nigeria.
What about his tradition of clear thinking and simple exposition? Aren’t they admirable? No doubt, he has influenced our modern generation positively and this I can vouch he would deploy into governance when elected on September 10 – I mean these core values.
Let me add, quickly, that the development of the specific ideas for which this government has successfully implemented and which we are better for today as a state, was enhanced by discussions at the various retreats. The Team leader’s careful and methodical analysis of the ideas and achievements today, not only made it more imperative for a perfect compliant successor but will make these policies more consistent and cohesive, thereby helping us to better understand the larger picture that the people of Edo State have decided to espouse come September 10th – Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu.

Sen. Obende  writes from Edo State.

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