Precisely 129 days into his second tenure as governor of Edo State after his election on September 20, 2020 and inauguration on November 12, 2020, Godwin Obaseki, has not formed his cabinet.
This has generated some flaks from different quarters, including the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), constitutional lawyers, political analysts, public commentators, residents among others.
While others feel that Obaseki has not committed any crime or breached any law, others believe that he is running a one-man administration and must go ahead to form his cabinet.
They argued that going by Section 192 of the 1999 Constitution, the governor is obliged to form a cabinet, saying this is a circumvention, which the state House of Assembly should take action on.
Obaseki had said that his government is strengthening and reforming the state’s civil service, the engine room of government, to spur productivity and ensure efficient service delivery without which the executive council will not be constituted.
The governor noted that ongoing reforms in the civil service is aimed at energising government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the right tools and skills to deliver efficient service to Edo people.
He said the ongoing recruitment of 1, 400 professionals into the state’s public and civil service is part of reforms to strengthen service delivery.
“What we have done in the last 90 days is to retune the engine of government to make it more viable. This has led us to a whole lot of reforms in the civil service.
“We are reforming our civil service; we are in the process of hiring about 1,400 people into the system to make it more effective. We already have a centre where we will continue to train our civil servants to equip them to perform optimally.
“Our focus is on the engine of government, that is, the civil service. We want to ensure it is firm first before we appoint political office holders,” he declared.
He Wants To Transform Into A Dictator – APC
But, the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), described the governor’s assertion as lame excuse.
The state APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Col. Dr. David Imuse (rtd), in a statement, said “the unwarranted delay by Governor Godwin Obaseki in announcing a cabinet more than three months after assumption of office is unacceptable.”
Imuse said while some of the governor’s supporters say he is busy searching for competent hands and bidding his time to avoid making mistakes, the excuse is inane and only goes to portray an elected public servant with a strong desire to transform into a dictator.
The APC chairman’s statement signed by Victor Ofure Osehobo, Assistant State Publicity Secretary, reminded the governor that when he announced the appointment of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) on November 16, 2020, he promised to make all other appointments in the first week of February, 2021.
This is the third week of March, the governor’s inaction has not only crippled government business, but demonstrated that he is a man whose word is not his bond.
“Edo State can ill-afford further delay by the governor to make these vital appointments. Section 192 of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) is clear on the issue of state commissioners and permanent secretaries cannot do much as they look up to commissioners for direction on policy issues.
“The section gives the governor a public mandate, rather than private, to appoint commissioners to form not just the state’s executive council, but also the think tank for the development of the state’s economy and well-being of the people.
“Right now, the day-to-day operations of the different state ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), have come to a halt, while the coordination of important government businesses has become weaker with the unnecessary overload on the Secretary to State Government (SSG).
“Since the governor assumed office in November last year, over 100 days ago, with his disabled State Assembly, using permanent secretaries as acting heads of ministries whose capacities are limited, he has more or less turned a Sole Administrator.
“Edo people are very disappointed by this attitude that this is 100 days after his assumption of office, for a second term, meaning he is not a first timer. The truth is that Edo people are tired of these excuses. He should act fast and in the public interest,” Imuse added.
Action Is Intentional – PDP
Dr. Anthony Aziegbemi, Edo State PDP chairman, faulted Imuse for questioning the governor’s failure to meet up with his February date.
According to Aziegbemi, “the transitional committee has brought up a lot of things that it would have been suicidal if we had gone into selection of people into cabinet positions.
“Let me place this on record, this government and this party, anything we do, we do it intentionally. For any decision we take, there is a reason for it and nothing is done by chance or because we don’t want to or we want to, it goes through a process or thinking.
“The cabinet is not in place. That is intentional. I am sure you are aware there is a Transitional Committee in place. I am sure you are aware that the Transitional Committee has not submitted its report.
“I am sure you are aware that Transitional Committee has brought up a lot of things that it would have been suicidal if we had gone into selection of people into cabinet positions.
“So, I will want to reassure our party members and indeed Edo people that there is no cause for alarm. We have hope. Everything is being done for the good of everybody.
“I am sure by the end of the month, the governor has said the Transitional Committee is supposed to submit its report at the end of the month. It is only after that report that we will look into and the obvious loopholes and leakages in the system have been knotted. Then, we will have a cabinet in place.
“I can assure you we are going to have a very credible set of people in the cabinet.”
Doors Of Executive Arm Shut – Obayuwana
Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, a human rights lawyer, said the process of governance in Edo State is being denied of the deliberative process of input into conception of ideas, consideration of those ideas and implementation of those ideas.
“What we are talking about is the collective wellbeing and interest of the people. The best form of government is one that allows popular input in the process of governance.
“The non-constitution or composition of an Executive Council for the state limits the kinds of expenditure that the state can embark upon,” he said.
Obayuwana, who served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the state in Adam Oshiomhole administration further declared, “Don’t forget that the Executive Council, even one that is subject to being imposed by Mr. Governor at his discretion in terms of portfolio to give to who, the need for an Executive Council is statutory in the sense that there are approval limit to the kinds of contract that the governor singlehandedly can award.
“There are sizes of contract or project that are only amenable by the executive council and the whole idea of the composition of the executive council being wide spread and composed of people from different parts of the state.
“As a matter of fact, from every local government, it is to also provide opportunity for input from all the local governments. People may find it easier to reach the commissioner from their local government.
“So, in terms of access to the corridor of the executive arm of government, it is like the doors have been shut. Many people will be discouraged by the rigors of what it will take to gain access to Mr. Governor.
“So, I am not quite clear as to what the reasons are order than perhaps the politics of it. Yes, it is correct that Mr. Governor will want to put together a team that he believes can optimally assist in the realisation of his vision, after all, he is the one that was voted for.
“All others that he is bringing along are simply to assist. But, if I can borrow from our culture, the Benin people, we say, “aru kpa ezi-hin uwa.” It means “no single individual can think through an idea that stands for the benefit of all” and that is the essence of democracy.
“It goes to show how democratic our people have been even for thousands of years, even before our contact with the white man.
“So, deliberation, good faith deliberation is what good governance is anchored on. Even the whole idea of perfecting the civil service, as the governor claimed, it is not one that should be conceived of by an individual.
“You will also recall that our people say, “erhan kpa e- egbo”. “You cannot talk about a forest made up of one tree”. It’s got to be several trees.
“So, collective affairs are best managed collectively. I think the whole idea of this interview is to send word across to Mr. Governor in terms of the expectations of the people for good governance and that is a form of check and balance.
“Many people are raising the issue that it is time and Mr. Governor cannot imagine that he is completely oblivious to it. But, the affairs of state are collective and I think it is time for Mr. Governor to have a rethink and be decisive, if there are competing pressure point from different political circles.
“In the final analysis, the bulk stops on his desk and he should be the one, after all, it is his team that he is to put together. The issue now is not about who he appoints, but he should please just go ahead and appoint a team and make the process of governance in Edo State a deliberative one.
“The economic implication of this is, like I mentioned before, there are limits to contracts that he can single-handedly implement or award.”
Citizens Want Welfare Of People Considered
Aghadiuno Dorothy, a trader at Agbado market, Benin, said, “There is no way one man can do the job of maybe 100 persons or think ideas for about a 100 persons, no matter how intellectual or vast in knowledge he is. There is a limit to what one man can do given there is limitations and time frame.
“What Mr. Governor should put into consideration is that this administration has a termination date, meaning that all that is expected of this government has a time lapse.
“Whatever the reason is for the delay in constituting the Executive Council should be put aside, rather the welfare of the people should come first. They are the ones that voted.
“I think people’s welfare should be put above all consideration because there is no government without the people. The people make the government and not the other way round. And without an executive council to take decision on behalf of the people, that government should be regarded as a totalitarian.”
Dr. Clement Obagbinoko, a Benin-based lawyer, in his reaction, said, “It is very normal for this kind of delay to affect the activities of government. But, once again, you can see that the narratives in Edo State has changed.
“Obaseki was in APC. Now, he is in PDP, you can see that the stakes are high. Now, when you talk of those people that are involved, he has changed platform and it will not be easy for him to satisfy all the stakeholders.
“He needs to do a lot of consultations. Though it is not healthy for general administration, the delay is not healthy because if he has to do consultations before he appoints commissioners, it is at the detriment of the state. But, he is doing it to satisfy the politicians that aided him to win election.
“So, I think mainly that may be the reason. He is doing it at the detriment of the state. He is doing it to favour his own, primarily the politicians, which is normal. It is expected; but it is not healthy.
“On the legal implications, I don’t think it has any legal implication. If there is anybody that should take Obaseki to task on this matter, it should be the representatives of the people, the House of Assembly. But, they are weak.
“They should be the one to put him to task and activate activity so that he can appoint new commissioners that the people they are representing are suffering.
“Like I said, there is no basic legal implication. Buhari did it for six months. It has no legal implication. But, it has political implication, social implication, and economic implication for the people and for the state.”
Also, Barrister President Aigbokhan, Executive Director, Freedom of Information (FOI) Counsel, Benin City, said, “Generally, a governor cannot govern with a selected few without a fledge cabinet. Nevertheless, there is no verified indices of governance pinned to round table nomination and appointment.
“What the electorate wants to see is good drinking water, good road, equipped schools and hospitals. Whether an individual cabinet member or an appointed group can make a governance work, is an issue of further debate.
“Customarily, we are used to seeing members of our local community appointed as a commissioner. It is part of our custom and law. The law is for man and not man for the law.
“If cost of governance is checked by sole administration, it should be chosen above mass congregation in the interest of the public,” he declared.
Peter AIKO Obobaifo, a senatorial candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the last National Assembly election for Edo South Senatorial District, believes that the governor should not be stampeded into appointing the usual “that is how we do it”.
“Edo State had the opportunity of roundly rejecting prebendal politicking. Never again is the future of Edo State going to be entrusted into the hands of people nominated by miscreants/ agberos who will rather obey their godfathers than work for the altruistic development of the state.
“So long as the governor works assiduously for the state, appointment of commissioners can only be indispensable when there is the mutual desire and commitment to selflessness in service,” he said.