Obaseki: What Legacy in Edo?


 By Augustine Osayande

The phrase "dividends of democracy" refers to the tangible benefits and improvements that democratic governance should deliver to its citizens. In Edo State, however, this ideal has often seemed elusive over the past eight years under Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki's administration. This period has been characterized by numerous challenges and widespread disillusionment.

Governor Obaseki's tenure can be distinctly divided into two phases: his first four years under the All-Progressives Congress (APC) and his ongoing second term with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Throughout these years, many citizens held hopes of experiencing the progress and benefits that democracy promises. Unfortunately, instead of witnessing improvements, the people of Edo State have faced significant hardships and disappointments.

The anticipated democratic dividends—such as improved infrastructure, better public services, economic growth, and enhanced living standards—have largely remained unfulfilled. 

Obaseki's governance has been marred by criticisms and perceived failures. The initial optimism that his leadership would bring positive change has dissipated, giving way to widespread disillusionment. 

The supposed dividends of democracy have turned out to be mere illusions, as the administration has struggled to effectively address the pressing needs of the populace.

A notable example is the education sector, where the administration touted significant advancements, particularly through the EdoBEST Programme. This initiative, which aimed to integrate technology into teaching and learning across all educational levels in the state, has faced severe criticism. My personal experience visiting Adolo Primary School in Oheze-Naka, Orhionmwon Local Government Area, revealed a stark reality: children from primary levels 1-6 were crammed into a single classroom due to a shortage of teachers and lack of ICT facilities. This situation was not unique to this school but was reflective of the conditions in nearby villages as well. 

Apart from EdoBEST, the administration has struggled to present and implement any other meaningful educational initiatives over the past eight years. The plight of state-owned tertiary institutions, especially Ambrose Alli University, is equally dire, with reports of professors unable to afford school fees for their children.

In the security sector, the administration claims to have engaged over 5,000 security operatives and hunters. However, insecurity remains a significant issue, with frequent reports of kidnappings and cult clashes across major towns in the state. The kidnapping of the PDP State Chairman, Tony Aziegbemi, and recent cult-related violence highlight the ongoing security challenges.

In the realm of road construction, the administration's claims of excellent performance appear illusory, as several newly-constructed roads are being eroded by poor drainage. During his 2016 campaign for Governor under the All Progressives Congress (APC), Obaseki traveled throughout Edo State, including Egor Local Government Area, making extensive promises. He assured residents he would rehabilitate and pave Evbuotubu Road, from Asoro Bus Stop to Ogida Barracks, extending to Uwelu Spare Parts Market and Uwasota Road, even pledging to rename it "Second Western Road" upon completion. 

Nearly eight years have passed, and the condition of the road has continued to deteriorate. In 2022, former Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, attempted to initiate construction on the road following the intervention of APC chieftain Barr. Henry Idahagbon in Egor. However, Governor Obaseki deployed military personnel to halt the construction, asserting that it was a state government project and that his administration would address it soon. To date, this promise remains unfulfilled.

As the gubernatorial election approaches, Obaseki and his associates have commenced apparent roadwork activities, seemingly as a campaign tactic. With only a few months until the election, contractors have been seen digging holes on the road under the pretence of constructing drainage systems, with claims of an intent to repair the road. This raises the question: Who is Obaseki attempting to deceive? The people of Egor, who have been disappointed before, or the entirety of Edo State, now more aware of his unfulfilled promises?

A prominent example of this issue is Ekehuan Road, located less than 10 kilometers from the city center, where Obaseki's progress has been notably slow. Even sections that have been completed are deteriorating, highlighting the substandard quality of the construction work. Obaseki appears to be using these roadworks as a campaign promise of continuity, replicating this election-driven construction approach across various parts of Benin City as part of a broader strategy to mislead the electorate. However, the politically aware citizens of Edo State are now fully cognizant of these tactics. It is imperative to hold Governor Obaseki accountable for his actions.

The Gelegele Seaport and Benin Industrial Parks are being showcased by the Edo State government, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, as significant achievements. The state's administration emphasizes the transformative potential of these projects, highlighting the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) for their development. However, despite these grand announcements, tangible progress on the ground remains elusive.

The Benin Industrial Park, envisioned to accommodate over 1,000 companies, alongside the Gelegele Seaport, which is intended to serve as a major export gateway for manufactured goods from the region, are ambitious projects with the potential to substantially boost the local economy. The seaport, in particular, is strategically positioned to facilitate trade and enhance the industrial output of Edo State. However, the significant discrepancy between the state government's ambitious plans and the actual on-ground developments raises critical concerns. Despite the high-profile MoU and the projected economic benefits, there have been no substantial reports of construction activities on these sites. This disparity lends credence to the prevailing public opinion that the Edo State government, under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki, is primarily focused on signing MoUs rather than delivering tangible results.

In conclusion, the past eight years in Edo State under Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki's administration starkly contrast the ideals of democracy that promise prosperity and development. This period serves as a poignant reminder that the mere existence of democratic governance does not automatically translate into the realization of its dividends for the people. The experiences in education and security, among other sectors, underscore the need for a more effective and genuinely transformative approach to governance in Edo State.

■Augustine Osayande, PhD, contributed the article via austinelande@yahoo.com

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