Opinion –The award of best performing governor for the year 2019 bestowed on Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, the governor of Edo State, on October 5, at the Eagles Square, in Abuja, has been like a very hot balm on the faces of the likes of Gen. Charles Airhiavbere and a few other hapless politicians in Edo State.
There is no denying that the award would cause them sleepless nights because they have chosen willful blindness to the transformation of the state in less than three years since the governor came into office.
Airhiavbere, for anyone familiar with Edo politics, has not only remained a sore loser but a bad product among the Edo electorate, jumping ship with reckless abandon and brandishing thugs as a means to erect and sustain a fickle political base.
Obviously pained by the achievement of the governor – which he and his co-travelers are trying hard to deny – Airhiavbere has taken to the rostrum to sell himself as the alternative, spitting on the joy of thousands of Edo teachers, who, on account of the impressive work condition, exposure to new pedagogy, improved teaching gears, among other benefits they have enjoyed with the Obaseki-led government, have not recorded any strike action in the last three years.
The effort at political grandstanding by Airhiavbere is dead on arrival not only because it is coming from someone with a streak of failure as laurels in Edo politics, but because not too long ago, he represented – and still represents, if you speak to the right people – the worst of the lot in Edo politics.
When Gen. Airhiavbere tested his popularity in Edo during the second term governorship election of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, he was beaten so mercilessly that he didn’t even win a local government area in the state. Being a sore loser, he dragged Oshiomhole to court on account of his educational qualification, arguing that the former governor didn’t go through the school system.
This battle dragged for so long that it became a distraction to the government. It is this same man today that is trying to rubbish the good works of Governor Obaseki. It is obvious he has elected to play the role of a rabble rouser in the polity, always looking for issues where there are none, and cruising headstrong to self-immolation at every turn.
His duplicitous nature was also on full display during the Presidential elections in February. As a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Airhiavbere worked actively against the party at his polling unit in Garrick Memorial School grounds where, against Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rules, he brandished his ballot to his supporters to show them that he voted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He rooted for the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and engaged in anti-party activities to ensure that Atiku won in his unit.
The calculation, according to people familiar with his motives, was that he would deliver the candidate of the PDP, who in turn would support his ambition to become governor in Edo state in 2020, which clearly is a pipe dream.
During the election at Garrick Schoolground that February, he went about with thugs on red beret, charging at people like a ragtag warlord intent to unleash terror on anyone who crossed his path. It was easy to get the sense that he was a disaster waiting to happen were he to be gifted with power, no matter how trivial.
Airhiavbere elected to cast spokes in the education achievements of the governor on account of the governor’s resolve to do things right, which goes to show that though a military man, he may be more at home with chaos and disorder than a system that upholds structure, systematic planning and design-thinking to solving problems.
The Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme, which is infuriating Airhiavbere, is today the toast of national and subnational governments across Africa. The state government has received delegations from Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Lagos State, among others, all coming to learn from the success of the programme in Edo State.
It is sad that Airhiavbere only thinks about brick and mortar when it comes to development. It is said that the most powerful weapon against ignorance and illiteracy is knowledge. When you build structures including physical and institutional structures, to tackle the rot in the education sector, you are sure to record a more lasting change than just building school blocks. Hence, the Edo-BEST programme runs on five prongs, hinged on governance, teacher development and instructional design, community partnerships; infrastructure and the support and development of the local education authority.
Under the EdoBEST programme, evidence has shown that pupils learn more in a term than they used to learn in three years in the old system. On physical infrastructure, 243 primary schools are being re-constructed across the state. Teachers and pupils look forward to and enjoy the teaching and learning experience.
The Government Science and Technical College (GSTC), formerly Benin Technical College (BTC), is also now wearing a new look, with new blocks and modern design that would astound anybody that knew the state of the college some years back. Edo people are scrambling for space for their children at the college, all because of the breath of fresh air at the facility. The reforms are to be extended to other such colleges in the state’s three senatorial districts.
In line with efforts at systemic overhaul, an executive bill for the law re-establishing Edo State College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Iguoriakhi, has been passed by the Edo State House of Assembly and signed by the governor. This new law kickstarts an overhaul of the school and places it on the path of progress. It has now been reformed to operate as a tri-campus entity, harnessing the state’s resources for optimal productivity. Massive restructuring is ongoing in the three campuses, which is made possible with the new law. The likes of Arihiavbere cannot appreciate this sort of move; they would rather the school churn out half-baked graduates without skills to compete in the labour marketplace.
In case Airhiavbere does not know, Edo people know him very well, even more than himself. The likes of him cannot be governor in Edo State, in the light of the enlightenment the Edo people have been exposed to under Governor Obaseki, where progressive ideas define and direct government policies, not brawl and thuggery.
In fact, in a matter of speaking, where does an ‘honest’ retired Army General get the sort of money to repeatedly run for the office of governor, which we all know is an extremely expensive venture. Everybody knows that the salary of Army Generals is structured and defined. With the help of a calculator, one can determine what Airhiavbere has earned in and out of military service.
One wonders, therefore, where the general amassed the ‘extras’ he is deploying during every election cycle to make feeble attempts at becoming a governor and in the process outing himself as an unrepentant loser, who obviously seeks power for self-aggrandisement.
*Crusoe Osagie is the Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy*