Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, recently received his baptism of fire from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who accused him of lethargy and non-performance in the first 100 days. Banjo Aluko reports.
In its role as the opposition in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) never ceased to appraise the government of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who bowed out of office on November 12, 2016. Immediately the PDP wore the cap of opposition in Edo from November 12, 2008, the party swung into action, critically keeping a tab on the activities of government and sensitising Edo people to the perceived ills it observed in the then Adams Oshiomhole’s government.
Despite the confusion rocking the party at the national level, the PDP in Edo State had increased the momentum of its opposition during the second term of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. It maintained that gear till the governor handed over to his successor, Mr Godwin Obaseki in November last year.
Though, many had expected that the PDP would tone down its criticisms when Obaseki as APC’s candidate was declared winner of the September 28 governorship election in the state, due to the fact that Oshiomhole, who was seen as a man who took delight in castigating the PDP at every turn was no longer in power. The PDP, however, proved persons wrong by taking on Obaseki with similar verve.
The PDP saw a good opportunity to announce its readiness to continue the opposition role when Obaseki clocked the traditional 100 days in office. Unlike Oshiomhole, who specialises in stirring the hornet’s nest, Obaseki is not known for taunting the PDP. As a technocrat in government, he used his early days in office to demonstrate that he would rather be focused on delivering the dividends of democracy to Edo people including his promised 200,000 jobs. The PDP would, however, not be placated by Obaseki calm mien. The day he marked 100 days in office, the PDP literally opened fire. At a press briefing to assess Obaseki’s government, the PDP concluded that his government was not in anyway different from that of his predecessor. The party also said that the Governor has failed to showcase any achievement in his first 100 days.
State chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, said Obaseki’s first 100 days in office were devoid of observable blueprint to develop the state, stating that the governor has been inactive with no recognisable achievement since he assumed office. Orbih also said that it was shameful that about four months after Obaseki and Oshiomhole brought President Muhammadu Buhari to commission the Accident and Emergency Ward of the Benin Central Hospital, the building remained under lock and keys, regretting that the duo of Oshiomhole and Obaseki apparently brought Mr President to town to commission an uncompleted project. He noted that Obaseki should have used the early days of his government to equip the hospital.
Orbih also accused Obaseki of ignoring standard procedures and due process in the spending of the state resources, criticising the governor of running a state like a sole administrator since he became governor. Orbih said that the PDP had observed that since Obaseki assumed office on November 12, 2016, he had been getting approvals for waivers from the Office of the Auditor-General of Edo State for huge sums of money.
According to him, it was worrisome that Obaseki has introduced a novel but out of the books approach to governance which he said can only aid impunity. He added that the PDP will not fail to expose any illegal activity perpetrated by the government just as it did to former Governor Oshiomhole. The PDP chairman condemned the governor for spending much in December 2016 to purchase Christmas cards, rams and petty items and transportation whereas, according to him, workers were being owed backlog of entitlements.
Orbih said that on December 2, 2016, the governor approved the sum of N191 million which was paid in cash to a contractor who supplied two Nissan Pickups, a Prado Jeep and three other SUVs.
“If you look at the approval the bogus side of it is stated very clearly that the financial implications for the direct purchase of these vehicles by cash is authorised by the governor. He has established an unusual pattern of executing government jobs using Building Maintenance Officers (BMO) to prepare bill of quantities for direct labour execution of government projects.”
He said the governor’s approval of another N77 million for the repainting of the government house and the deputy governor’s office last year followed a similar illegal process. On the non-provision of financial estimates for drugs for the many general hospitals across the state in the 2017 budget, Orbih said he was shocked that in the same budget, the governor asked for the sum of N3 million monthly to buy drugs for the state house clinic. The Edo PDP chairman, who also condemned what he called the unlawful 14 per cent deduction of workers’ salaries in the state for what was called a phantom pension scheme.
The lawmaker representing Edo South in the Senate, Matthew Urhoghide, who also assessed the performance of Governor Obaseki, said nothing has changed from the Oshiomhole’s days.
He said, “I think things have not changed from the time Oshiomhole was there. Are there verifiable or visible evidence to say that things have changed? As a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I should not be overtly partisan, but I can’t see any changes. I have said it before now, that no street off the major roads in Benin is motorable. Go and check these things out if I’m correct or not.”
It took a while before Governor Obaseki spoke about his first 100 days in office. Recall that the governor had expressed reservations about the marking of the first 100 days in office, saying he did not believe in it or that 100 was never enough to assess an administration. The governor’s statement came 107 days after he took over office. In his speech to Edo people, he explained what he had accomplished in the last 107 days and what he hoped to achieve in the future.
He said: “My mandate is clear; you gave it to me on a progressive platform — so our agenda is a progressive one; a people-oriented one in which we agreed to pursue policies that will help improve the lives of our people. We promised to provide a minimum of 200,000 jobs within four years of our administration because we realised that employment constitutes one of the state’s most daunting challenges. I promised to do all that is within this government’s power to focus on the economy and improve it to ensure that we lift our people’s living standard to where it should be. I also promised, if you recall, strengthening our party, making it supreme, and separating governance from politics.
“In addition, I promised that, as governor, I would ensure that we have peace and stability, without which we cannot have economic growth and political development.
“We were sworn in on Saturday, November 12 and on Monday November 14th, when we started work, after meetings with the permanent secretaries to understand the state of affairs, our first assignment was to the Benin Technical College. This was deliberate – if we promised to create 200,000 jobs, then we had to identify how to go about it. We wanted to send out a clear signal that institutions for training people to acquire skills would be our first priority.
“Thankfully, it went viral. People applauded the move because they could perceive its importance. Since then, we have done a lot more. As recently as last week, we went out to tender a new design for that school, which does not only include rebuilding the school itself, but encompasses plans for creating an industrial park around the school where students can go and work and acquire more knowledge.”
But the PDP did not allow matter to rest there. It spoke further through the State Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, who stated in a statement that Obaseki was already attempting to surpass the record of his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole in terms of foreign trips, adding that nothing might come out of the trips just like it was with Oshiomhole.
Nehikhare said: “He has not told us the whereabouts of the N11billion Paris Club refund he collected on behalf of Edo people. He has been mute as if he wishes Edo people are not aware of this windfall. He has not told us what he and his godfather, former Governor Oshiomhole, did with $54 million received from the Federal Government in 2014. Four months after the commissioning of the Emergency ward, cum “five star specialist hospital”, there is no sign that the building situated along Sapele Road is being put to use. Governor Obaseki should tell us if the N500 million budgeted for the completion will be the last of such as this project is looking more and more like a financial drain pipe to siphon Edo State money.”
However in a reaction, interim Chief Press Secretary to Governor Godwin Obaseki, John Mayaki, said the Edo PDP has a penchant of displaying fake government documents to deceive the people, adding that the PDP chairman lacked knowledge of the workings of government.
He said: “For a public document like a voucher purportedly obtained from the government house to be authentic and taken seriously, it must be either the original or a certified true copy. In this case, the PDP, in furnishing journalists with the said vouchers did not disclose whether it was the original copy or a certified true copy let alone which authority certified it assuming it was the latter.
“On the issue of cabinet formation, Governor Obaseki will not be blackmailed into making mistakes, for, so we can infer from PDP’s unwise press conference. He is taking his time to put a credible and competent team together with appointees who must be recommended from the 192 wards to the state government
“On the issue of Contributory Pension Scheme, Orbih should be asked what is wrong in initiating schemes designed to protect workers’ welfare at an old age. The Pension Reform Act of 2004 gives the state government authority to implement its provisions in favour of workers.
“Besides PDP and Orbih lacked the gumption, even they were extravagantly outlandish at the ill-conceived press conferences to reveal to Edo people that Governor Godwin Obaseki budgeted N6 Billion to facilitate the scheme just as deductions are paid into designated pension funds custodians.”