BY CRUSOE OSAGIE
In the last 11 months, since the commencement of the second term of His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, there is one individual I have been shocked not to have run into either in the waiting room of the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Mr. Osarodion Ogie Esq., or that of the Chief of Staff, Mr. Osaigbovo Iyoha. That individual is Mr. Erasmus Ikhide.
Ikhide is known to pay repeated visits to any new government in place in his home state, Edo State, to offer his gun for hire or draw the battle line should the political actors he approaches refuse to yield to his coercion.
In the first tenure of the Obaseki government, I had a chance encounter with Ikhide both in the office of the SSG, Mr. Ogie and that of the one-time Chief-of-Staff to Governor Obaseki, Mr. Taiwo Akerele.
In both occasions, the two senior government officials asked me to accommodate him, citing how fiery he could be with his pen.
Thereafter, I invited him to my office for a chat and soon realised that he was just playing his script of trying to intimidate government officials with something to hide into offering him an appointment in the media and communication arm of government or parting with financial patronage from time to time.
Unfortunately for Ikhide, in this irresponsible voyage to the Obaseki-led government, he would go back empty-handed for two major reasons. The first is that this time, the man at the helm of the management of the governor’s media and communication architecture was my humble self, an experienced journalist and media manager who has had to deal with Ikhide’s types many times before either as colleagues in the newsroom or as boogeymen going after clients I have worked for as a media consultant.
The second reason was that there was really nothing untoward going on in Obaseki’s government that anyone needed to give hush-patronage to cover.
So, I told Ikhide at the time to go to hell in such a polite way that he looked forward to the journey in delight.
Ikhide cannot deny these visits because in those lobbies in Government House where he used to lurk, waiting for nickels and dimes to fall, there are security cameras which are stored in a repository with date and time that can prove that he was at these places on those days.
It is important to beam some light on the character of the author of some of these sanctimonious articles so as to protect the innocent and unsuspecting reading public from accepting con-men as whistleblowers.
I recall an admonition I got from a senior colleague, Nik Ogbulie, when I was in my twenties and had just taken up this challenging career of journalism: “there must be a more honorable way to earn a living.”
Ogbulie was referring to the strongarm tactic which some irresponsible journalists relied on to get patronage. Ikhide should have received this counsel much earlier in his career as a writer.
As for the tissues of lies he spewed in his article “Decaying State of Education Under Godwin Obaseki’s Watch,” it was very annoying to read a piece packed with total falsehood from the heading to the last line. Ikhide premised the preposterous conclusion he made in his headline on zero facts and logic. He did not even attempt to tell the lies in such a way that they are believable. No verifiable indices such as number of out of school pupils in Edo compared to other states or the rate of success of students from Edo who sit for standardized national and international examinations.
Nothing on the teacher-student ratio or the state of physical infrastructure of schools in Edo, among others, in the drivel.
It was just a garrulous tale of lies printed by unsuspecting media handles intended to deceive people who don’t live in Edo.
Governor Obaseki’s expansive footprint in the education sector is one that is as transformational as it is groundbreaking. The seismic shift has been witnessed in the basic education sub-sector, with foundational revamp ongoing in technical and vocational education, as well as other institutions of higher learning.
In the last two weeks, public announcements have been made for admission into the Edo State College of Nursing Sciences, which was recently reaccredited to offer 3-year nursing programmes by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). This college used to be the Edo State School of Nursing and Midwifery, which was an eyesore when the governor took office.
The rot was so deep that the governor couldn’t fathom that the state was training nurses in an institution with such deplorable infrastructure and inefficient management system. It was said that not only were the courses at the school not accredited by the NMCN, but that the graduates could not secure gainful employment because of the poor standard of training.
The revamp process has seen the rebuilding of the school and its restructuring to a college specializing in nursing science. New lecture halls have been erected; offices have been remodeled; laboratories have been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and a new management structure has taken foot. A visit to the college site on Limit Road, along Sapele Road will expose the devious hatchet job undertaken by Ikhide to hoodwink the public with lies.
In the same light, the Edo State College of Education has been transformed into a multi-campus institution with campuses in Abudu, Igueben and Afuze. The college has a new management and is set to resume academic activities early next year. New teachers have been recruited to deliver quality education.
With the new arrangement, instead of having disarticulated colleges scattered across the state, with little or no administrative cohesion and sub-standard tutoring, the state now boasts of a multi-campus College of Education, with a main campus and two sister campuses, catering to the educational needs of Edo youths.
While the campus in Abudu is focused on special teachers education on primary education with a digital training centre; the Igueben campus specialises in secondary and science teachers education and the Afuze campus is meant for Technical Education, Physical Education and Special Education.
The Edo State College of Agriculture with campuses in Iguoriakhi, Uromi and Agenebode is another institution of higher learning that has received a lot of attention. The new multi-campus college is taking shape with work completed on the design of how the campuses will harness the natural resources in the state to drive growth and development. While a 1000-seater auditorium is nearing completion, with a number of facilities being built at the main-campus in Iguoriakhi, the government is concluding the process of recruiting capable hands to man the college when it welcomes its first crop of students early next year.
The government’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme is also well on course with the revamp of the Government Science and Technical College (GSTC), Benin City, recruitment of over 104 teachers and a roll-out of a scheme to refurbish all the technical colleges in the state with support from development partners.
The reforms at the Ambrose Alli University, the Edo State Polytechnic, Usen and Edo University, Uzairue are all testaments to how Governor Obaseki has placed education on a high pedestal in the state. With dynamic management supported by the Obaseki-led government at these institutions, deep-rooted re-engineering has birthed changes that continue to drive growth and development.
Aside these efforts, a much-needed fundamental change introduced at the basic education sub-sector through the Edo State Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme has drastically improved learning outcomes in primary schools across the state, impacting over 200,000 pupils with over 11,400 teachers trained to deliver instructions in an exciting manner aided by digital technology.
The impact of the programme has seen pupils learn three times more than they would in a term as well as improvements in numeracy and literacy skills across primary schools in the state. The success of this programme earned the Governor the Best Performing Governor Award in 2019 by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). The World Economic Forum, on account of the feat recorded through EdoBEST, listed Edo State as one of the top 5 governments in Africa blazing the trail in solving learning poverty.
That Ikhide decided to turn a blind eye to these and undertake a fruitless, vainglorious rant filled with lies tells a lot about his character deficit and also exposes his intention to turn facts on its head for pecuniary gains from his paymaster.
The public is advised to be wary of his lot, as their intention is really to obfuscate reality for a loaf of bread and not to serve the public good.
*_Osagie is the special adviser, media projects to Godwin Obaseki_*