By Paul Omoruyi
There was time, not so far back, that communication between a Nigerian State Governor and the citizens was virtually non-existent. A Governor is only seen on TV or in tinted siren-blazing SUV convoys zig-zagging precariously through Nigeria roads with arrant disregard for vehicular traffic rules. Any motorist that does not “disappear” from the road (road that can only occupy one car at a time!) will be subjected to untold merciless assault by the “ready-to-kill” looking body guards, policemen and sometimes military personnel.
The Nigerian Governor is more or less like an unreachable “celebrity” that gets free billions of Naira check every month from the Federal government and goes on a spending spree with his buddies and family members. Whatever is left, he puts in the public account waiting for the following month’s allocation check to arrive. The Governor does not need to work hard or have any necessity to come up with creative ideas like those in the private sector where wages/salaries depend on quarterly or annual job performance.
Life is good for Nigerian Governors. They do not need job performance rating to get their free billions of Naira every month; they are unquestionable and not accountable to their people. As a result, most of the Governors do not care much (or maybe just do not know) about coming up with innovative ideas to develop and grow the economy of their state; ideas to harness the talents of their people, bolster economic activities, reduce unemployment and improve healthcare delivery.
In the last couple of months, I have been following the activities of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to get a feel of his “aptitude”, passion and agenda. From his inaugural speech, constant social media updates and response to questions to the British High Commission courtesy visits and his meetings with local organizations, the Governor never ceases to speak about Edo State being open for business and investment opportunities. This guy appears to have some “juice in his brain” with business-driven acumen, I thought.
Unlike former Governor Oshiomhole who has been a household name in Nigeria since his days as Nigeria Labor Congress president, I knew nothing about Godwin Obaseki’s background besides a local friend telling me that he was the “brain behind Oshiomhole’s economic policies”. I became curious about his background. A quick Google search gave me these facts about him:
Primary Education: St. Matthews’ Anglican primary school, Benin City
Secondary Education: Eghosa Anglican Grammar school, Benin City
Universities: University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Bachelor of Arts/ Columbia University and Pace University MBA in Finance and International Business – New York, United States.
He also served as an executive board member of several private companies including Afrinvest, Dorman Long Engineering Limited, Pillar Oil Limited, Seric Impianti International Limited. He was the founding secretary of a New York based US Africa Chamber of Commerce in 1992, which promoted US organizations doing business in Africa.
Now I see why Governor Obaseki understands the important role that economic development and business investment friendly environment will play in developing Edo State. He has spent his career in the private sector growing businesses from ground up; not just feeding off free public monies all his life.
Although it is still very premature for me to give Governor Obaseki a passing or failing grade, but I believe he is presently taking the right steps to making Edo State Nigeria’s investment destination. A state where world class manufacturing, technology, agriculture, mortgage, and services business can thrive.
Alaghodaro 2017 Investment Summit that will take place in Edo State from November 10th-12th bears witness to Governor Obaseki’s understanding of the need to spur Edo State economic development through private sector investment. The summit is a deliberate move by the state government to steer off heavy dependence on oil money by showcasing the vast private investment opportunities in Edo State.
Dangote Group has proposed extensive investment in cement manufacturing in Okpella axis of Edo state estimated at over $1bn, which is strategic to extending the frontiers of the conglomerate in southern Nigerian. The plant is expected to take advantage of Edo’s strategic location as a logistics hub linking eastern, northern and western parts of the country, in moving its finished products across the country. The state’s massive limestone deposit is also a major consideration for investments in cement manufacturing.
In the summit, other International companies will be present to jumpstart their investment aspirations in the State.
No doubt Edo State is fast becoming Nigeria’s most business friendly investment destination. Edo state’s location, diverse culture, intellectual base, college graduate pool, hardworking peoples, rich soil, freedom of religious practices and welcoming environment are key discriminators compared to other Nigeria’s state.
Edo people all over the world are watching the performance of the Governor and the outcome of Edo State Alaghodaro 2017 Investment Summit. I hope someday the Edo people can see the economic transformation and sing in unison “Osho Baba do a thousand, Obaseki don do ten thousand.”
God bless Nigeria and may God bless the people of Edo State.