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Edo success and governance reform – Part 2

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Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki . Photo; TWITTER/GOVERNOROBASEKI

Continued from yesterday

On the other hand, the unitary character of the Nigerian federal constitution destroys the fiscal creativity of the few states, like Edo, that are viable and have the capacity to grow fiscally But even such viable states are further enmeshed in a public service reform trap characterized by (a) a public service that is not capacity ready to deliver public goods and services, (b) an adversarial trade unionism and industrial relations that undermine performance metric and productivity profile in ways that limit good governance, and (c) a dysfunctional inter-governmental relations that undermine the spirit of genuine fiscal federalism. Once we take all these in, we immediately come to the acknowledgment of the huge institutional and governance progress that Governor Obaseki has foisted on Edo State and its citizens.

A good place to start the assessment of Obaseki’s governance and institutional reform projects from is the statement of reform intentions. That is provided for in the Edo State reform document titled “The Road to Prosperity, 2017-2020.” This document presents the vision of the Obaseki administration as follows: “To develop a modern and progressive Edo state where every citizen is empowered with opportunity to live life in its fullness.” The mission statement is: “To achieve Economic prosperity for Edo State.” The reform architecture is anchored on what has been called “the key pillars of the brand hexagon.” These pillars are: infrastructure revolution, institutional revolution, economic revolution, socio-welfare revolution, environmental revolution, and new township development. And in the context of facilitating the successes of these reforms, the government also initiated the Alaghodaro Edo Summits that opens up the government reform agenda to public and private engagements with government, nongovernmental and nonstate actors in ways that demonstrate the awareness of the Obaseki administration about the all-inclusive nature of governance in the twenty first century. The trajectory of the first two summits, and this present one, tells a story of an unravelling visioneering.   The first two summits had investment and human development as their themes. This present one is titled “Delivering to the People: The Next Level.” These summits are meaningful only when one places them vis-à-vis the governance reform focus of the Obaseki government. This reform blueprint is anchored on six factors: (a) Building governance capacity; (b) Strengthening public institutions; (c) Promoting fiscal management; (d) Ensuring security of lives and properties; (e) Reforming the civil service; (f) Encouraging public participation.

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Governor Godwin Obaseki has an intimidating background grounded in a solid education and professional practice, together with political and developmental involvement in Edo State. Charting the course of his emergence as the governor of Edo reveals some kind of single-minded determination, right from the choice of a course in the university, to the adoption of a career path, and the professional direction, and even down to kind of commitment packages that Obaseki had been involved with since the establishment of his Afrinvest West Africa Limited. All of his politics and policy participation in Edo development hinge around what he knows how to do. Thus, while we have the profile of an active reformer and dedicated achiever, we still need to set in place specific governance and institutional parameters.

There are three different but correlated questions that will enable a fundamental assessment of the Obaseki administration and its reform initiatives and projects. The questions are: Where was Edo State, pre-Obaseki administration? Where is Edo State right now after the administration has been instituted, and has already spent three years plus in office? Where does Edo State need to be? These three questions speak to the reform imperatives of restoration, transformation and repositioning. With regard to the first question, and the imperative of restoration, it will not be fair to conceive of the pre-Obaseki administration as a ground zero of barren achievements from Obaseki’s predecessors. We all will agree that since government is a trajectory of continuity, no governor could ever meet a governance ground zero bereft of past and ongoing projects, initiatives, and innovation, especially in terms of institutions and infrastructures. Thus, with this in mind, it does not serve any purpose to outline or highlight what was in place before Obaseki assumed leadership of the state. It suffices to say that he inherited both benefits and burden; and governance positives and negatives that he needed to transmute into his own legacy framework.

The more important question however is: What has the governor done different, and what has that helped him to achieve so far? The methodology Governor Obaseki adopted is to be expected. He is too steeped in the development thinking not to immediately see the obvious advantages of a developmental approach to governance that was rooted in a knowledge and competency-propelled leadership. This led to the urgency of harnessing analytical competencies made up of multidisciplinary expert teams needed to generate a nuanced baseline scenario analyses that serve as the envisioning platforms for understanding the future Edo State, and that also serve as the bases for strategic planning that took the governor six (6) months to complete. This was available for a cross section of stakeholders to engage, review and validate at the 1st Edo Summit in 2017. This methodological approach is pragmatic in its simplicity: as a developmental model, it took lessons from past governance efforts—what worked, what did not work, models simulation that relied on portfolio of policy options, scenario building, benchmarking of lessons of experience from good, smart and best practices locally, continentally and globally; a dynamics that delivered a set of knowledge packs, manuals and toolkits for translating policies into strategies and for driving implementation and for project management.

But then, while technical and technicist dynamics and requirements have their place in the facilitation of reform success, it is definitely impossible to say that the level of successes witnessed so far in Edo State is the function of technocratic competences alone. The additional but most fundamental variable that need to be referenced is the political will and willingness to put government intention into implementation through first, the design of a viable and realistic policy blueprint; and, second, the exploration of the vast governance space to harness a deep level of stakeholders engagements, including a dynamic partnership with nongovernmental organizations and other nonstate actors. I will briefly highlight three of the most fundamental achievements out of the numerous others that decorate the Obaseki administration since its inception in 2016.

To be continued tomorrow
Prof. Olaopa, a retired federal permanent secretary & Executive Vice-Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), Bodija, Ibadan, presented this keynote paper  at the Alaghodaro 2019 – The Edo Summit – on the theme “Delivering to the People: The Next Level” convened by Governor Godwin Obaseki in Benin Cit recently.

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