By Orobosa Omo-Ojo JP
In the early hours of June 18, 2022, the Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, called and invited me to accompany him to Owa and Iseele-Uku, in Delta State, to pay condolence visit to the family of late Princess Margaret Obaigbena, mother of Prince Nduka Obaigbena, Publisher of THISDAY Newspaper and to also attend the presentation of Pope Francis Dame of St. Gregory and St. Sylvester award to the President of Delta State Customary of Appeal, Justice Patient Elumeze.
On our way back to Benin City, we made a stop over to see the intrinsic ongoing work in Abudu, headquarters of Orhionmwon Local Government Area.
Our first point was the hitherto moribund Abudu College of Education. As we drove into the school premises, I was confronted with massive structures of different architectural designs, all arranged in a manner reminiscence of the ‘Guggenheim’ .
What are you building here sir? I asked the governor! During the tour he conducted himself, he explained the different sections of the sprawling buildings to the horde of reporters.
The brand new Abudu Teachers Training College, Obaseki explained, is “The Demonstration School”, which has been earmarked to be a laboratory to train basic education teachers. The college is part of plans to revolutionize education in Edo State.
Obaseki’s vision is to use the facilities in the new college to transform Abudu into one of the education hub in Nigeria.
According to him, the college will provide technologically driven training for teachers in the foundational basic education level.
There were engineers and artisans working frantically to put the necessary fittings in place for the practical laboratories and technological aids that will train National College of Education (NCE) teachers on the art of modern teaching.
Next to Abudu College of Education are the Primary School and High School – designed to compliment the states’ vision to revamp and position Abudu as a commercial town.
And directly opposite the basic institutions are the completed blocks of offices, hostels and cafeteria that will serve staff and students of the college.
Several buildings, built to high engineering standard, lay majestically on the beautiful slope of Abudu open plains.
The symmetrically paved roads, provides natural channel for rainwater. The quarters, aptly, are learner-centered and knowledge- centered environment.
To demonstrate the seriousness of Edo State Government, Obaseki spoke like he was in a hurry to breathe life into his vision next September.
He shared government plans to admit students and hire academic and non-academic staff.
“We want to make sure that we have complete end-to-end requirements for producing world-class teachers for our schools because we cannot compromise on the education regulation which we have started.” The governor eccentrically stressed.
Having delivered on the State College of Nursing in Benin City, Obaseki is confidently pursuing his visions authoritatively. He spoke of a similar altruistic on-going intervention at the School of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, just as he reassured.
“That’s how we want to build our educational system.
“First, you have to have quality schools, and then quality teachers to now produce the kind of students you need. But in all of these, we have to focus on producing people who can get jobs.”
To complete the reflation process of Abudu, Governor Obaseki revealed that his administration was set to break the age-long jinx of rural electrification in the state.
“We are currently having a conversation with some energy companies to see how we can power some communities in Edo and see how we can generate and distribute between one to two megawatts of power in some of these cities.”
His larger vision is to decongest the state capital.
“We want to decongest Benin City. I want to see how we can begin to dispatch the population and create activities outside Benin City.
“Like I have said, we promised to have about 10 to 15 other mini-cities outside of Benin, by the time we are leaving office and Abudu is going to be one of them.”
Satisfied with the pace of work, we continued our return trip to Benin City. The over thirty something minutes journey offered me the rarest opportunity to play the ‘devil’s advocate’.
I engaged His Excellency with all the complaints I could remember. From very serious ones that has to do with physical structures and to knotty political matters.
I informed the governor that people were worried about the quality of repairs on the intra-city roads in Benin City. I added my voice too, that, the contractors handling the roads were using low cost materials and depriving government of value expectations.
His Excellency betrayed his emotion when he musingly recounted the pressure that was mounted on him to patronize local contractors. The result he explained, are the rapidly increasing failed roads, despite the huge resources government had spent on road construction within the metropolis.
We shared our thoughts on ‘community buy-in’ of the roads to forestall poor execution. In this direction, the governor promised to institute periodic Townhall Meetings with stakeholders to receive first-hand reports on the work done in their localities.
Not surprising, His Excellency spoke about his plan to provide a central market for furniture manufacturers in the state.
The planned Furniture Hub that will be cited in Ikpoba Hill, will gave manufactures one year ‘rent holiday’ as incentive.
He also shared his vision to clean-up Ikpoba River as part of the landscape beautification that has been earmarked for the hilly Tempoga axis of Benin City.
We discussed extensively on the 3S’s of Tourism and how Edo State can bite a sizable chunk from it – especially with the slow flowing rivers across the state – especially with their beautiful white sands. This certainly, we both agreed is an untapped resources that should position Edo State as preferred destination.
So much for one rare trip with an administrator with eyes on the big picture and who thinks strategically, while paying attention to the smallest details.