By Dapo Akinrefon
LAST week, Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki was at the Edo State Government Executive Council 2017 Retreat, which was held at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, when news filtered in that the Supreme Court had affirmed him as governor of Edo State.
Governor Obaseki, in this interview, said with litigations over, he is ready to move the state forward. Excerpts:
Now that the litigation is over, what is left to do?
Well, you should expect a much more focused government. As you are aware, we are currently having a retreat involving all our commissioners in Lagos. We decided to take them outside to Lagos so that they can rub minds with their collegues in Lagos who have done very well in areas of governance.
Over the last eight months, we have spent time putting together workshops and calling experts to help us look into specific areas, interests we promised our people in Edo State.
So the contest is over, with our cabinet in place, we are good to go. What you should expect from us is what they would term a high- performing government to deliver the services which we promised our people during electioneering.
What will be your priority now?
We would continue with the programme we started a month ago. Despite recession, we are massively building housing and putting infrastructure. Our goal is to build over 3,000km of roads over the next four years and we are close to first 1,000 km of roads. The construction work is in progress in Edo State as we speak especially in Benin City.
And so we would continue with putting in infrastructure to encourage economic growth particularly in areas of agriculture, industrialisation and minning.
We are also working very hard at ensuring that key drivers of governance, the institutions, the Civil Service, the Local Government, the Judiciary are re- awakened and given the impetus and the support they need so that they can develop because without the institutions, we are not going to be able to run as fast as we would want to. So we are doing a lot of work in all of those areas and you can come to Edo State and testify yourself.
We’ve always said we run an all- inclusive government, when we build roads, we do not look at the areas we’ve taken it to. It would interest you to know that one of the major roads under construction today is where Ize- Iyamu lives. So while he was in court, we were building the road to his house. It is my belief that our activities must touch every Edo citizen.
What are you doing about the poor state of Auchi Road?
It is unfortnate that Auchi Road is in that shape especially when you remember that Edo State has produced three Federal Ministers of Works and they couldn’t dualise it. But having said that, I have been in touch with the present Minister of Works and as we speak, he has sent out his team to undertake remedial work.
Unfortunately, most of the delay we have experienced is with the passage of the budget, which has caused delay in mobilising the contractors and paying them.
But as we speak, I have secured the assurances from the Federal Ministry of Works that it is going to take remedial action on that portion of the road.
Why the large number of special assistants?
Unfortunately, some people are uninformed. Edo State today, you can go and check, has the least number of political office holders in Nigeria. The number of political office holders is less than 400. I don’t think that is too much. The total cost of paying political office holders related to our total cost of personnel is about one twentieth, so I don’t think it is quite much.
The rationale behind the appointments came while going round during my electioneering. I realised that there has always been constant cries like you see today in Nigeria which is about marginalisation, people feeling they are not represented, they just feel they are not part of government.
So it sounds that at least, as a starting point, I should have assistants, I should have political assistants in every ward. This is to ensure that they work out of local governments to provide information to the Governor’s Office on issues and activities going on; such as state of the schools, the state of the Primary Health Centres and things government should deal with on a monthly basis. They should send down these reports. Based on those reports, we will then actually carry out necessary actions we should.
I should say that these people were not randomly appointed by the governor, they were chosen and selected from the decision made by the representatives of communities at the ward levels.
Each ward, for instance, they have their meetings and I asked them to nominate three people and one of them must be a woman who has leadership quality within that ward to represent their interest.
So at the best, I don’t think the number they are talking about is too large. But more importantly, those are people who have something to offer to their people and the government.
Can you give assessment of the opposition in the state and what role you expect them to play now that the battle over the election has ended in your favour?
It is not my place to tell the opposition what role they should play, if I should tell them anything, I would tell them to come and join me.