Edo State has become an investors’ delight in the last three years with reforms being spearheaded by Governor Godwin Obaseki. From November 8 to 12, Nigeria’s business community will converge on Benin City, for the third edition of the Alaghodaro Summit, which showcases the landmark achievements in education, primary healthcare, business and other sectors, being recorded in the state, writes Ambrose Nnaji
When Governor Godwin Obaseki, during his inauguration on November, 12, 2016 identified agriculture, education and industrialization as strong pillars on which the Edo state’s economic revolution would stand, many believed it was one of the plausible and chimerical chants sung by politicians, with little or no intention of fulfilling them.
Justifiably, the belief may have held some water because since the advent of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999, most governors have been widely adjudged to have performed poorly, despite uninterruptedly completing their two-terms of eight years in office. While some were found to be somewhat power-drunk, corrupt and without a strategy of implementation of policies, others chiefly think more about self, family and loyalists than the populace. But in barely three years, Governor Obaseki is already rewriting history, bringing governance and its dividends to the doorsteps of Edo people.
Unlike what was attained in the past, there is an exciting breath of fresh air in various sectors of the state including education; economy; infrastructural, human capacity and industrial development; agriculture and rural development. The governor has touched almost every nook and cranny in the state in terms of developmental projects that are visible for ‘any doubting Thomas’ to see.
More so, apart from bringing panache and dignity to governance, Obaseki through his populist and people-oriented reforms has elevated the face of leadership and redefined politics to be able to make government respond to the yearnings of the suffering masses, which ordinarily should be the penchant of any government in power.
A visitor in Edo State will be astounded by the rate of massive industrial and infrastructural developments, as well as the strategic execution of laudable policies and reforms, which prescient observers say have repositioned the state to investor’s destination, tourism hub and construction site. With a pellucid vision, the Obaseki-led administration is pulling every string available to attract investors, build local capacity and create wealth for Edo State and its people.
Alaghodaro: The Summit
Right from the electioneering seasons, the governor has remained resilient and focused on his visions and aspirations to transform Edo State to a business destination haven. Almost on a daily basis, the ‘wake and see’ governor, unveils policies and strategies to break the ground in fast-tracking the state’s industrialization and economic diversification.
This is one of the reasons for the birth of the Alaghodaro Summit. With the theme, “Delivering to Our People, The Next Level”, the 2019 edition will create an avenue to evaluate how the Obaseki-led administration’s policies, programs, and initiatives have been able to transform the lives of ordinary Edo people and articulate aspirations for further achievements.
Alaghodaro, meaning progress, started in 2017, bringing big-ticket investors from all parts of the world, thereby exposing the state to more investors and expanding its economic space. Last year, it was a “People’s Summit” that brought all Edo people and residents together in one place, face-to-face with their governor to discuss challenges confronting the state and identify peculiar and innovative ways to tackling them. But the 2019 edition of the summit will enable the government to assess the impact of the people-centered policies, programs and projects of the governor on job creation, youth empowerment, basic and technical education, healthcare, food security, among others.
Already, the impacts of the governor’s effort to unlock the state’s potentials are eminently felt in all sectors. One of Obaseki’s blueprint for development in the state is the harnessing of agriculture’s immense capacity to accommodate more hands. With a vision to create over 200,000 jobs after his first tenure at the helm of affairs of the state, he has gone all out to craft policies and initiatives to get more youths into agriculture through a value-chain driven agricultural development model designed to ensure smooth commodity-to-market flow.
In Edo, the government is building a strong nexus linking youths, agriculture and jobs. The state government believes that tapping opportunities from its vast arable, loamy land to provide jobs for teeming youths would quell job crisis. The idea is hinged on the thinking that agriculture has a huge potential for job creation, which affords the people a better life.
Already, the farmers in Agenebode axis of the state have started reaping from the bouquet of policies of the Obaseki led administration, harvesting several metric tons of rice in farms cultivated in partnership with the state government, who provided inputs and technical support for the farming season.
The farms were captured under the state’s Agriprenuer program, which prioritizes the cultivation of a number of crops, including maize, cassava, and rice. Over 10,000 hectares of land in various locations across the state are being cultivated under the agri-preneur programme. The state government intends to harvest 17,000 metric tons of rice by cultivating 4,000 hectares of land at the end of the planting season in 2019.
The state government also boasts a Fertilizer Plant. Governor Obaseki said during the opening ceremony of the Edo Fertilizer Plant, that the plant was a key peg for engaging youths in the state, especially as it provided needed input to fast-track agricultural development. According to him, “This achievement is an open call to other investors to bring in new technology, create more jobs and expand our economic opportunities.
Also, the industrialization plan pursued by the Obaseki-led Edo State Government is quite grand and encompasses a wide range of strategically connected projects which does not only targets to see the rise of the state as an economic hub but as a cynosure of all those seeking to make an industrial city from a lowly civil-service state.
The government has been committed to its grand plan to reincarnate the state as an industrial city serviced by gas-powered power plants, housing refineries, seaports, industrial clusters, innovation hubs, smart neighborhoods and a number of other investments.
Revamping Technical Education
As Obaseki goes around courting investors, an extensive overhaul of the Government Science and Technical College, formerly known as Benin Technical College is still ongoing. The revamp is in order to train a new breed of technicians and scientists that will be absorbed by investors in the new companies expected to sprout from the Industrial Park and other projects that will be requiring technical manpower. The government has, in the same vein, been training youths in enterprise development and other critical skills required in the 21st-century workplace through its EdoJobs platform.
A critical sector that the state government has beamed light is the education sector, which is expected to supply the needed manpower for the lofty ideals of the government. Reforms in basic and technical education are ushering in a new breed of human resources to drive the state’s development efforts.
Re-enacting basic education with Edo-BEST
One specific reform in the sector that has continued to earn the governor accolades and recognitions is the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EDOBEST) program spearheaded by the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
Aimed at transforming the basic education sub-sector and consequently improving learning outcomes in schools, the project recently earned the governor a national honor by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). The feat has attracted the international community as the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have sent representatives at different times to Edo State to understudy the Edo-BEST initiative. Just recently, Lagos State Government adopted the Edo State Basic Education model after officials of the state came to learn how the program works.
So far, the program has impacted 11,300 government teachers, reaching 918 schools and around 300,000 children. A recent study conducted in the state showed higher academic attainment among children in the project. Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the program will, “develop a highly-skilled teaching workforce by training, supporting and motivating Edo State teachers to succeed in the classroom of tomorrow, empowering our children to compete effectively in the world of work. The program will leapfrog the basic education delivery systems by leveraging technology to gather and utilize accurate and timely data to drive policy and planning decisions.”
Guests on parade for Alaghodaro 2019
All these and many more are part of the reasons the Alaghodaro Summit was put up, examine the success of the three years of project execution of the Obaseki-led administration and identify new paths to be explored in improving the lives of the Edo people. The events will bring together all Edo sons and daughters, home and abroad, as well as businessmen, investors across the globe.
Some of the prominent guests expected at this year’s Alaghodaro Summit are the Managing Director of Shell Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Osunbor; Executive Director, Dangote Group, Halima Dangote; Chairman, Nosak Group, Dr. Toni Ogunbor; Toni Adepoju of KPMG Nigeria, among others.
According to Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, “In the last three years, Edo people have witnessed an incursion of businesses into the state to take advantage of the reforms being implemented by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government. One of the iconic things we have done for the business community is to ensure that that we respect the sanctity of contracts and also make doing business in the state seamless.”
“The people know what this administration has done with the fight against human trafficking, through which our children are now free from the grip of human traffickers. Investors are coming to the state to harness prospects in projects such as the Benin River Port, the Edo Modular Refinery, Edo Innovation Hub, Edo Production Center, and the Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park.”
Osagie continued: “The governor has continued to receive commendations on job creation with the opening of the Edo Production Centre, skills acquisition training programs for youths which have benefitted over 150,000 persons, support to farmers to boost food security and other laudable initiatives to drive industrialization, economic expansion and create wealth for Edo people.”
“The interesting thing about the 2019 Alaghodaro Summit is the focus on how the Obaseki-led administration has continued to deliver dividends of democracy to Edo people and residents.”