Godwin Obaseki, the new governor of Edo State already has his work cut out but he must leverage on the big ideas hovering around him writes OLAMILEKAN OKEOWO.
|Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki who is affably called the Investment Grand Master by friends and associates can actually ride the wave of change that the former governor, Adams Oshiomhole brought to Edo eight years ago.|
Unlike Oshiomhole who rode to power largely on his popularity as a labour leader and activist, Obaseki emerged essentially from the reputation of his predecessor as a tested, fearless and patriotic leader who will be remembered for his vision and infrastructural strides. So it will be fitting to say that Obaseki has taken off on a sound footing, like his counterpart in Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode who inherited a stable and functional state.
But in taking on the big ideas which are issues for the moment, Obaseki needs to work consciously towards making a difference, especially with regard to establishing himself as a modern-day manager of people.
Bearing in mind that growth will be a veritable means of scoring his administration even in the first few years, he must take on initiatives that are not only possible and revolutionary but also enduring.
This is the reason Obaseki must give agriculture and adjunct sectors the highest priority. For instance, if the rest of the world agrees with the United States’ Feed the Future programme which radically challenges hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition, then the new governor must urgently key into this American dream. He should take full advantage of Feed the Future scheme by unlocking the enormous agricultural potentials of Edo State.
As an investment expert, the governor fully appreciates hunger and its link to underdevelopment. He also knows that for a state to be healthy and productive, the people must have adequate nutrition.
Fortunately, Edo State has all it takes to drive a robust and ambitious agricultural project with limitless possibilities. Without any doubt, Edo remains one of the most endowed states in terms of favourable climate and weather conditions — across the three senatorial districts. This accounts for the spread and high yield of crops such as palm produce, rice, rubber, cocoa, maize, pineapples, cassava, plantain, banana, cashew and yam, among others. And since 1991 when the state was created, both cash and food crops have sustained the local economy, providing employment opportunities to people of the state.
But the government must go a step further by facing squarely the promotion of cash crops which are potential huge revenue earners for the government. If this is done faithfully, Edo will not only become a hub for agro-allied products but will have enough to feed, sell and even export for foreign exchange.
Another big idea revolves around the largely unexploited huge mineral deposits in the state. A few years ago, Obaseki, then chairman of the state’s Economic and Strategy Team had expressed hope of a new dawn in the untapped minerals following federal government’s recognition of the role of states in the extraction of solid minerals. He had at the time, commended government at the centre for removing solid minerals from the exclusive list, a policy that now encourages states to partner with potential investors in joint ventures.
One of the fallouts of that change in policy is the partnership with Dangote Group which already has a functional cement factory in the state. Now as governor, Obaseki has a duty to evaluate the Dangote experiment, reach out to other budding investors and urgently start feasibility work on the over 200 untouched mineral deposits across the state.
As an active participant in the last administration, the new governor has to consolidate on the existing atmosphere of peace. In the entire South-South, Edo stands out as a preferred destination for business and leisure but more work needs to be done to take full advantage of the state’s proximity to Lagos and the entire South-West.
From his body language and campaign promises, it is evident that Obaseki thinks highly of investing in new industries and attracting private capital. But there are still big ideas latent in either revamping or outrightly selling off the state’s moribund industries like Bendel Breweries, Edo Line, Cassavita Plant in Uromi and Fruit Juice Processing Plant at Ehor. As we make a case for these dead industries, we must never lose sight of the fact that they are all telling examples of how terrible government is as business managers.
Given the historical relevance of Edo State in global affairs, a sustainable tourism industry will also give the new government the much needed push. It is tragic that despite the famous and larger-than-life stories of ancient Benin Kingdom and its great monarchs, the state is yet to maximize its enormous advantages in the areas of culture and tourism. But with a new Oba, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11; an upgraded social infrastructure under Oshiomhole; a brand new governor and a state that is fast reclaiming its lost glory, Edo State looks ready to re-invent itself under the new administration led by Obaseki.