The verdict of posterity cannot be rigged.
Usually, it delivers the final judgement, after all jealousy, political bickering, ill-will and media hype are no longer in play.
I have reserved a copious amount of sympathy for whoever the next Governor of Edo State is going to be, after His Excellency, Mr Godwin Obaseki, disembarks on November 12, 2024.
The grim political and economic outlook of our country, coupled with the sheer colossal amount of development Obaseki has managed to churn out with such limited resources would certainly create a towering legacy, which his successor will grapple with.
Many states in Nigeria, in the past six years, have been essentially rudderless. This is the result of a complete change in the paradigm of governance. It used to be that governors would head to Abuja monthly to collect reasonable amounts of money, go back home to pay salaries and use what is left for pockets of capital projects across their states. Not so straightforward anymore. In the last six years, the fundamental change in revenue patterns has left states comatose.
Governor Obaseki has, however, shone brightly amid the gloom, leveraging private capital.
Three weeks ago, we visited two communities in Orhionmwon and Ikpoba Okha Local Government Areas of Edo State, where a $250 million agribusiness investment is unravelling.
This multi-million-dollar investment comprises two integrated farm projects, one of which is a 10,000-hectare oil palm estate and the other, a cassava project, accompanied by an ethanol production plant, which will get its feedstock from the vast cassava farm.
At the last count, the state has over 62,000 hectares of oil palm plantations undergoing development with private companies leading the charge, resulting in the largest ever oil palm development project in the history of the country.
When these projects come on stream, Edo State would further establish its dominance as the major source of raw materials for secondary industries in the food and beverages sector of the country, even as it is poised to earn massive tax revenues from all the ensuing businesses.
The state’s electricity sector is also experiencing an unprecedented revolution as an off-grid power solution birthed with the Ossiomo Power Project – a project midwifed with a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), signed between Governor Obaseki and private investors – has set the state on the path of becoming self-sufficient in electricity supply. The off-grid power solution has created a new market. A new distribution architecture is supplanting the existing, wobbling option, as the space is expanding to accommodate more players in the state. Industrialists looking to expand their businesses now see Edo as the best place to locate their plants, as they are assured of constant electricity.
The impact of the project is being felt across the spectrum. With the ever-expanding power distribution network, major roads and streets in the Benin metropolis being lit up with street lights, powered from the 95MW Ossiomo Power Plant, which also supplies electricity to industrial layouts, estates and public buildings such as hospitals, government offices, the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, among others.
Under the governor’s watch, there is a revolution in the education sector, which has seen the training of not less than 15,000 teachers on tech-driven teaching methods and delivering globally-rated education to over 200,000 pupils across the state. The project tagged EdoBEST 2.0, has been expanded to secondary and tertiary institutions in the state, creating a knowledge pipeline to drive sustainability, impact and prosperity.
Obaseki’s digitisation drive has led to transformational partnerships with technology companies such as Facebook, MainOne and Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL), which has resulted in the laying of over 400km of fibre optic cables, which serve as a superstructure for the state’s technology ecosystem, creating a new lease of life for business and technology hubs, expanding internet access for entrepreneurs, tech workers, government agencies and schools.
The ecosystem has birthed a knowledge economy through which not less than 150,000 youths have received Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training, and are gainfully employed. Conscious of the need to create high-net worth startups and a globally sought-after talent base, the governor entered into an agreement with a talent training firm, Decagon, to train not less than 15,000 elite software engineers at the Edo Tech Park, a campus-style institution for training a new corps of young technology trend-setters.
There are quite a few individuals across the political class in Nigeria who hate Obaseki’s guts; and one would understand why this is the case, because he appears to be making headway where others see roadblocks and an insurmountable financial hurdle. Where a lot of states have cut salaries due to dwindling revenue from the centre, the governor announced a new peg for minimum wage in the state – N40,000. This is above the national average, which puts Edo far above other states, as the highest paying public employer in Nigeria.
The governor’s astute ability to manage resources and capacity to leverage private capital to finance projects have no doubt set him apart from the pack. He sees opportunity in chaos. This can be said to be one of the game-changing skill sets that has ensured the Edo success story.
It is this attitude to adversity that has earned him enemies. His frankness has also not particularly won him friends. He speaks his mind on serious issues when others won’t, for fear of political backlash. Be it the abysmal management of the nation’s economy or the new rave of Nigeria’s youth dispassion towards the two major parties, he is in his element when speaking truth to power – especially the political class.
Although his numerous jaw-dropping projects sprawl across the state, a few who have chosen to be willfully blind still take up the uphill task of criticising Obaseki unjustly.
However, because posterity is the final judge, the Edo State Governor, who is 65 years today, has no reason to worry.
This impartial judge has since vindicated former Governor of Bendel State, Professor Ambrose Alli, who was initially sent to prison for his fidelity to his people.
Also, former Governor of Midwest State (later Bendel State) Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, has had his name etched in gold by the same impartial judge, who does not have political affiliations.
In much the same way, posterity will rise in the defence of Obaseki’s legacies for decades to come, even though many, due to their personal biases, would wish it to do otherwise.
*Osagie is the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Projects.