I watched with rapt attention the video that you made for the people of Edo concerning the 19th September gubernatorial elections. Indeed, no matter where we are from, we are all part of a social web of life that supports and sustains us. So, I want to thank you for the interest that you have shown in the political happenings in our dear state. So much so that you took the pains to record the four-minute and forty-seven seconds-long message.
Let me also state that history will not forget the vital role that you and others, like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, played in giving Nigeria a strong opposition party in the All Progressives Congress. This was at a time when Nigeria was tending towards one-party dominance with the ruling People’s Democratic Party. The views about your performance as governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007 may not be as complimentary. But that is not the subject of this piece.
Now, back to the video. You were unequivocal in your call for Edo people to reject the candidacy of Godwin Obaseki, the incumbent governor of the state, and flagbearer of the PDP in the forthcoming elections. As your primary reason, you cited illegality in the constitution of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly. But sir, are we to ignore the fact that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State—upheld the proclamation made by Governor Obaseki?
I concede. Opinion on this subject is divided, even among legal practitioners. There are gaps in the system that can be exploited for varied interests. However, when it comes to the question of performance, the consensus is that the Obaseki government has given Edo State more than any government in our recent history. In the last four years, Obaseki has demonstrated an unquestionable commitment to building systems and structures, as he has to building people.
Edo Citizens have greater access to healthcare, as primary healthcare centres are being revamped and upgraded statewide. The quality and enrolment rate of school-age children in public primary schools has increased, thanks to the reforms in basic education. And there has also been a boost in Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Young people are being equipped with vital skills to make them more employable or to start their own business. An estimated 161,271 jobs have been created in agriculture, manufacturing, ICT, and the creative sector, thanks to Obaseki’s visionary leadership and drive.
Under this administration, salaries of civil servants are regular and prompt. Our aged fathers and mothers—who were denied the fruits of their labor by previous régimes—now have a reason to smile. Pension arrears, dating back to 1996, have been cleared. And monthly pensions and death benefits are paid as and when due. This government has initiated massive infrastructure projects. Among them are the 6,000-barrels-per-day Edo Modular Refinery, as well as the 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo Power Plant. When completed, these would boost the industrialization of the state and create more jobs for the talented youths of Edo.
It is clear to all that Edo state—with Obaseki in the saddle—is on the path of progress. While we appreciate your concern, we cannot afford to return to the biblical Egypt, where self-acclaimed godfathers and career politicians kept a stranglehold on the state, as they fed fat on our commonwealth. We, the people of Edo, have resolved to join hands with Obaseki in building an Edo that works not just for the rich and connected. But one where every citizen is empowered with opportunity to live life to its fullest. As in every true democracy, the will of the people is supreme. And we are going to ensure that, come 19th September.
–Tony Usidamen, a public affairs analyst, writes from Benin