Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, said he has directed wards and local governments in the state to forward names as nominations for members of his cabinet begins.
The governor disclosed this to State House correspondents on Tuesday after meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari at the presidential villa, Abuja.
He added that a screening committee has convened to screen the candidates.
The nomination comes about six months after he was sworn in for a second term in office.
The Governor clarified that the process had been delayed due to restructuring of the state civil service for more efficiency.
Having restructured the state’s civil service, Obaseki said he was ready for the Edo political class to give the required political direction to his administration.
“Well, you see I spent the first four years as governor. So, I know what the challenges of governance are.
“We spent the last six months trying to restructure the process of government, particularly the civil service because, no matter how great a cabinet is, if the government and the functions of government are not operating properly, the executive cannot function optimally.
“So, the last six months, we’ve tried to redefine the structures of governance, working through every layer of the civil service, defining the roles, the responsibilities, trying to understand the resources available, and putting in place key performance indicators and scorecards for every MDA in government.
“And this we did, such that the civil servants have no excuse to say they couldn’t do what they’re doing because of political interference.
“So, we’ve tried to keep politics out of government in the last seven months, to redefine the processes to define the structures and define the service delivery criteria for the government.
“Now that we have done that, we now hired a whole crop of civil and public servants.
“We have about 1500 of them we have hired and we’re introducing technology.
“We have, perhaps, one of the best training facilities in the country. And we are now ready for the political class, for the commissioners, to now step into government and do what they’re supposed to do and give political direction to the process of government.”
When quizzed about the duration for the nomination of commissioners, the governor said “Well, as I speak, I have mandated wards, local governments to give me nominations. The nominations are coming in from the wards and the local governments.
“And the selection team is being put in place to screen these candidates for submission to maybe before passing to the state House of Assembly.”
Obaseki also spoke about the ongoing crisis at the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, saying it was an issue of blending the old members and those who joined with him from the APC.
“It’s an ongoing process. I mean, it’s very normal in a political arrangement that when two parties meet even, in fact, in nature, when two rivers meet, it takes a while for them to blend before they get an even call off.
“So, that’s the process we’ve been going through as governments, the people who came with me from my old party who have joined the new party and have to be accommodated.
“The people in the old PDP also have to get used to the new people coming in, and that process is taking a while but it’s settling. It’s not unusual. As long as there’s openness, as long as we are talking, it will be resolved.”
The governor said he had come to the Presidential Villa to meet with Professor Gambari over stolen Benin artefacts that are to be returned from overseas.
He said that the Edo State government is collaborating with partners to set up a museum for that purpose.
When completed, he enthused, the museum would be a tourist attraction and source of revenue for the state.
“I just decided to pop in to see the Chief of Staff and to just touch base on a few issues, particularly as it relates to the artefacts.
“I’m sure you know that we’ve been in conversations with the federal government on the artefacts. Lots of Benin artworks are in Europe and the Americas.
“We’ve had conversations on how to return these works, particularly as some countries have indicated their interest and desire to return the works.
“I just came to bring the Chief of Staff on the steps that have been taken on the level of collaboration with the federal government. And the plans to build a museum in Benin that will host these works.
“And also that beyond the works, we are going to be having much archaeological work undertaken to see what we can find and also research and resurrection of cultural heritage are the most.”
To receive the artefacts, Obaseki said, he has worked to set up the legacy restoration trust currently obtaining resources from interested donors across the globe.
“We expect that by the last quarter of this year working with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, we should begin the construction of a pavilion, a world-class pavilion that will meet all the conditions required by which these works can be kept. And as you know, many of them are very fragile and very old, but they have to be kept in protective conditions.”
He highlighted the importance of the initiative saying Museums are catalysts in the evolution and development of cities.
He referenced the city of Bilbao in northern Spain which was the seat of the Basque separatist movements in the 19th century.
The investment by the Guggenheim foundation by the Guggenheim family museum in Bilbao, he said, has changed the economic fortunes of that city.
He said Bilbao now earns more than a billion dollars from the Museum.
“So, bringing back these works, this world cherished works, bringing the originals back to their home, I mean, you can imagine for years to come, people, children unborn, all over the world want to come and see these pieces.”
Speaking about plans for the museum, the governor said “Well, it’s going to be in two phases. There is a plan. We’re currently designing a whole cultural district for Benin. And this museum is going to be situated within that cultural district.
“As I speak the planners from Latin America are in Benin City, looking at work and doing the surveys.
“That process should end in August. And we believe that the museum is going to be a series of, you know, buildings, you have the pavilion where this works will be brought in initially will be kept.
“We are also undertaking more archaeological excavations, and whatever we find will be kept in the pavilion.
“We have a national museum that currently exists. And that’s going to be refurbished, then we have the main Edo Museum of West African arts. And the construction for that will take another one or two years to begin.”
Obaseki explained that the project is not an Edo state government wholly funded project.
“It’s not an Edo government project alone. It’s going to be a collaboration between Edo state, the federal government, other International museums and international donors, because as you know there are lots of foundations globally that invest in the arts, and almost everyone is interested in this project.
“At this point, these designs are being finalized. But it is going to be a project that will be iconic. It will be a project that will represent Africa to seek restitution.”
Asked if there would be any restitution demands for the artefacts, he said,“For us today, the most important issue is to get these works back. Other issues will follow so that we can reconnect with our past. Other issues will follow if they have.”