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Edo success and governance reform – Part 3

By Tunji Olaopa
15 November 2019   |   2:56 am
It is part of the visionary leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki to make the connection between governance and institutional reform and the state of law and order in the state.

Godwin Obaseki.<br />Photo: GovernorObaseki

It is part of the visionary leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki to make the connection between governance and institutional reform and the state of law and order in the state. The pre-2016 Edo State was characterized by incessant thuggery, armed robbery, hooliganism and brigandage. This climate of fear and terror was an immediate variable of disinclination for investors. The new administration launched an integrated security system networked to a local neighborhood watch system and joint security agencies system alignment. This is heavily resourced and backstopped with a security management information system that not only deploys technology to gather intelligence but provides real time security alerts that make crimes too risky for criminals.

Thus, it is so easy to see, for instance, why the disempowerment of NURTW touts, that extracted most of the state’s revenues in the past, could bolster the Edo State IGR which rose from N19.1 billion in 2015 to 23 billion, 25 billion and 27 billion in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. The second is the alacrity with which the Obaseki administration latched on to the urgency of a civil service reform architecture. It is only axiomatic that a functional public service is only functional in the face of a pragmatic vision and political will that are capable of engineering the shift from ‘business as usual’ mentality to the ‘can do it’ transformative orientation which is now being globally celebrated.

And it is this very baseline change management tactics that backstop the Edo Infrastructural Miracle right in front of us all. For the governor and his remarkable team, the only way to achieve a functional public service and infrastructural development is to institute a meritocratic and competence-based HRM system. This has become the base competitive structure that has been applied not only to the appointment of permanent secretaries in the state, but it serves also as the structural model for promotion dynamics moderated by ASCON and backed with highly intensive training and retraining programmes.

The third achievement of the Obaseki administration is radical and very dear to my heart. Human capital development is a critical element that is crucial to the developmental profile of any state. For instance, a state’s human capital becomes the sourcing point for the recruitment and training of a new breed of public managers needed to take the public service into the twenty first century knowledge and technology-based economy. But such a proactive human capital framework requires an even more proactive educational sector that is optimally capacitated to educate the modern workforce.

This is where Obaseki took the initiative for EdoBest, the acronym for “Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation.” This is a revolutionary reform initiative that is founded on the fundamental belief that the development of a state begins from the reform of its education. And so, in order to radically transform the learning outcomes for over 300,000 pupils across the over 1,500 public primary and junior secondary schools across Edo State, the Obaseki administration is aiming not only to infrastructurally improve these schools, but also develop and capacitate the over 15,000 government teachers whose teaching and learning strategies ought to significantly impact the pupils for the overall economic development of the state.

This educational reform is hinged on curriculum design, community partnership, teacher development and school governance. The government teachers are also taken through a relearning process that enable them to acquire pedagogical and technological knowledge and expertise that will assist them in harnessing data intelligence and classroom instructional efficiency to deliver real and qualitative contents to the students.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Governor Godwin Obaseki has achieved a lot in such a short period. Whereas Lagos State used to be the benchmark for the “pocket of effectiveness” reform template, Edo State has now become a rival template. What makes the new Edo governance politics even more remarkable is that the Obaseki-led administration has refused to be inundated by the “politics of the belly” that pits godfathers against the citizen-motivated governance.

It must have been clear to Governor Obaseki that if he lost the people, he has lost all. And so, in that spirit, Governor Obaseki has indeed been delivering to the Edo people since he became the helmsman of the state. Yet, we need to note that reform achievements are measured, and are indeed measurable, only in terms of legacy and generational quantum. In other words, we cannot give Governor Godwin Obaseki a legacy plus to his pass mark just yet until we are sure that the administration has put in place structural and institutional dynamics that will ensure that post-2020, the dividends of democratic governance that the Obaseki administration has championed and put in place to deliver to the Edo people, keeps delivering good governance. That will be the foundation that keeps the Obaseki legacy ringing even after he has left office. Having made this point, three questions become fundamental in charting the way forward to a reform legacy for the Obaseki administration.

The first question is straightforward: How do we create a balance between what citizens consider to be of value and what is really of value in terms of public goods and services? This is a significant distinction because what the people consider to be valuable may just be a perception of the short-term “stomach infrastructure” while the government must always think in terms of what will yield medium- and long-term institutional value to create distinctive good governance template that goes beyond the trivial achievements. The second fundamental reform question is: What system and processes should drive the delivery of these values in healthcare, education, utilities, infrastructure, etc.? This question speaks primarily to systematic institutionalization of the reform processes and procedures in ways that will achieve an institutional logic beyond human whims. It is this institutional logic that will ensure continuity and sustenance of the reform achievements so that they are deepened and consolidated to last. It also makes it impossible for the governance and institutional achievements to be reversed by less-than-transformational leadership.    

The last question is equally significant: What are the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the delivery of good governance to the people? No reform is ever successful outside of an evaluative procedure that projects the deepening of the reform through the feedback mechanism that reports on the performance of the structures and institutions already in place. Such evaluative mechanisms will include the following. The urgent importance of deepening citizens participation and engagement within bottom-up planning methodology and agenda setting with citizens embedded reviews and satisfaction feedback which will be critical to the sustainability of current legacies and governance gains.

Thus, for instance, while it is worthwhile to significantly increase the IGR, the Edo people will get more value from transparent reporting of disbursement to projects and reports of impact of those projects; Periodically convened performance review stakeholder meetings to review service delivery standards, benchmarks and performance; Deepening of how government communicate development by utilizing the full scope of strategic communication targeting culture change in the dynamics of citizens engagement and inclusive policies and programmes design, implementation and reporting The first condition that makes for a successful reformer is courage.

Reform requires administrative and political courage. It demands that the reformer must be willing to commit class suicide by visioneering on behalf of the citizens rather than being locked within the hubris of greed that often characterizes elite politics. It is exactly this courageous politics that characterizes the reform success of Governor Godwin Obaseki and his administration. And the critical point to make, which is really the subtext to this keynote, is that more courage is often required to sustain a reform architecture than is required to establish it. This becomes immediately clear once we note that reform is a legacy project that keeps an administrator forever in the minds of those whose lives have been empowered to live the good life.
Thus, as the first term of the administration’s exciting reform-filled tenure comes to an end, the attention should be directed at consolidating the institutionalization process that grounds the reforms into a persistent delivery mode which continues to deliver the goods and services to the Edo people.
Prof. Olaopa, a retired federal permanent secretary & Executive Vice-Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), 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 recently in Benin City.


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