Wards, local governments to nominate my commissioners ― Obaseki

• Meet Buhari’s CoS over stolen Benin artefacts

About seven months after his inauguration for a second term in office, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, has directed wards and local governments in the state to submit names to be nominated as members of his cabinet.

He disclosed this to correspondents after a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.

The governor explained that putting his state executives together had delayed because of the restructuring of the state civil service to make it more efficient.

He said having restructured the civil service and introduced technology, he is now ready for the political class to give the needed political direction to the administration.

Obaseki said: “Well, you see I spent the first four years as governor. So, I know what the challenges of governance are. We spent the last six months trying to restructure the process of government, particularly the civil service because no matter how great a cabinet is if the government and the functions of government are not operating properly, the executive cannot function optimally.

“So, the last six months, we’ve tried to redefine the structures of governance, working through every layer of the civil service, define the roles, the responsibilities, trying to understand the resources available, and put in place key performance indicators and scorecards for every MDA in government.

“And this we did, such that the civil servants have no excuse to say they couldn’t do what they’re doing because of political interference.

“So, we’ve tried to keep politics out of government in the last seven months, to redefine the processes to define the structures and define the service delivery criteria for the government.

“Now that we have done that, we now hired a whole crop of civil and public servants. We have about 1500 of them, we have hired, and we’re introducing technology. We have, perhaps one of the best training facilities in the country. And we are now ready for the political class, for the commissioners, to now step into government and do what they’re supposed to do and give political direction to the process of government.”

Asked about the timeframe for the nomination of the commissioners, he stated: “Well, as I speak, as I speak, I have mandated wards, local governments to give me nominations. The nominations are coming in from the wards and the local governments. And the selection team is being put place to screen these candidates for submission to maybe before passing to the state House of Assembly.”

He also explained the crisis that was brewing in the state ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying that it was a question of blending together the old members and those who joined with him from the All Progressive Congress (APC).

The governor added: “It’s an ongoing process. I mean, it’s very normal in a political system in a political arrangement that when two parties meet even, in fact, in nature, when two rivers meet, it takes a while for them to blend before they get an even call off.

“So, that’s the process we’ve been going through as governments, the people who came with me from my old party who have joined the new party and have to be accommodated.

“The people in the old PDP also have to get used to the new people coming in, and that process is taking a while but it’s settling. It’s not unusual. As long as there’s openness, as long as we are talking, it will be resolved.”

The governor revealed that he met with Professor Gambari over stolen Benin artefacts that are to be returned from Europe, saying that the state government in collaboration with partners are setting up a museum for them in the state.

He expressed the hope that when completed, the museum would be a tourist attraction and source of revenue for the state.

Governor Obaseki posited: “I just decided to pop in to see the Chief of Staff and to just touch base on a few issues, particularly as it relates to the artefacts.

“I’m sure you know that we’ve been in conversations with the federal government on the artefacts. Lots of Benin artworks are in Europe and the Americas.

“We’ve had conversations on how to return these works, particularly as some countries have indicated their interest and desire to return the works.

“I just come to bring the Chief of Staff on the steps that have been taken on the level of collaboration with the federal government. And the plans to build a museum in Benin that will host these works.

“And also that beyond the works, we are going to be having much archaeological work undertaken to see what we can find and also research and resurrection of cultural heritage are the most.”

On how ready the state is to receive the artefacts, he explained: “As I said, a lot of work has been done. We have the legacy restoration trust, which is currently obtaining resources from very, very interested donors across the world.

“We expect that by the last quarter of this year working with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, we should begin the construction of a pavilion, a world-class pavilion that will meet all the conditions required by which this works can be kept. And as you know, many of them are very fragile and very old, but they have to be kept in protective conditions.”

Speaking on the benefits of the initiative, Obaseki further said: “Museums today have become catalysts in the evolution and development of cities. There is a city called Bilbao in Spain, and that was the head of the Basque separatist movements many years ago.

The investment by the Guggenheim foundation by the Guggenheim family museum in Bilbao has changed the economic fortunes of that city. Today, Bilbao earns more than a billion dollars from just the presence of that Museum in that city. Because everybody wants to come in to see what’s in that museum.

“So, bringing back these works, this world cherished works, bringing the originals back to their home, I mean, you can imagine for years to come, people, children unborn, all over the world want to come and see these pieces.”

On the form of the planned museum, he said: “Well, it’s going to be in two phases. There is a plan. We’re now currently designing a whole cultural district for Benin. And this museum is going to be situated within that cultural district.

“As I speak the planners from Latin America are in Benin City, looking at work and doing the surveys. That process should end in about August. And we believe that the museum is going to be a series of, you know, buildings, you have the pavilion that where this works will be brought in initially will be kept.

“We also undertaking as much more archaeological excavations, and whatever we find will be kept in the pavilion.

“We have a national museum that currently exists. And that’s going to be refurbished, then we have the main Edo Museum of West African arts. And the construction for that will take another one or two years to begin.”

He explained that the project is not an Edo state wholly funded project, saying: “It’s not an Edo government project alone. It’s going to be a collaboration between Edo state, the federal government, other International museums and international donors, because as you know there are lots of foundations globally, that invest in the arts, and almost everyone is interested in this project.”

“At this point in time with these designs are being finalised? But it is going to be a project that will be iconic. It will be a project that will represent Africa to seek restitution.”

When asked whether there would be restitution demand over the artefacts, he said: “For us today, the most important issue is to get this works back. Other issues will follow so that we can reconnect with our past. Other issues will follow if they have.”

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Wards, local governments to nominate my commissioners ― Obaseki

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