The then Bendel State where I had my secondary school education in the seventies as an indigene, was the best in almost all the National Sports competitions held in the country at that time.
When the Joint Matriculation Examination into the nation’s universities was introduced in the seventies by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), my state had the largest percentage of the candidates that applied all over the country.
Many of those who made the highest mark in the examinations were indigenes of the state. We also came first in most of the national schools debates.
In terms of industrialization, we had breweries, cement factories, textile mills and mechanized agricultural projects. In the area of infrastructure, many towns and villages in the state had electricity and pipe-borne water;and because of the pride I had in my state, I refused to lay claim to another state of origin where I would have had free education and easy access to wealth and power despite persuasions from my elder siblings. I was eventually punished for this but I doggedly remained a Bendelite.
The question that arises from here is: How did these achievements come about? The answer lies in the good governance of the military administration of one man – Chief Samuel Ogbemudia, who was first the Administrator and later Military Governor of Midwestern(later Bendel) state from September 1967-July 1975. It laid the foundation for the development of the State.
Unfortunately, subsequent military administrations destroyed the foundation the Ogbemudia-led administration laid through neglect and abandonment.
The civilian government of Professor Ambrose Alli tried to rescue the situation. It did very well especially in the area of education but it could not achieve much in other areas during its life span of four years between 1979 and 1983. When Ogbemudia came back as civilian governor in 1983, he spent only three months in government house before the military struck again. General Muhammadu Buhari became the Head of State.
The worst era of the state was under the civilian government of Chief Lucky Igbinedion who was governor from 1999 to 2007. Instead of uplifting the state, the governor was mainly interested in looting the state’s treasury. Subsequently, Edo became a home of prostitutes and armed robbers. Most Nigerian prostitutes in Europe especially Italy are said to have come from Edo State.
Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, who came after Igbinedion tried to do some restoration within the short period (May 2007 – November 2008) he was in Government House but he was being weighed down by the pressure from a political clique who did not mean well for the state. He eventually lost in court to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The Comrade Governor came at a time of great expectations. Even though, he had done very well as a labour leader having been a two-time President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), not many gave him a chance to perform well as a politician. But he proved most of his critics wrong. He built roads, schools and constructed boreholes. He created employment for many of the citizens of Edo State. Above all, he gave Edo people freedom from political denomination and intimidation by a clique.
Before now, anybody who tried to challenge the political hegemony of the State under the leadership of this clique was doing so at his or her own peril. A man with a small frame but a large heart came from nowhere and uprooted the tradition. It looked like ‘abomination’ but in fact, it was freedom for most Edolites who felt that a time had come when elders should allow their children to grow up and attain maturity. Doing otherwise would have made the children to be stupid.
The city of Benin was said to be ancient to the extent that it could not be modernized. But that line of thought has been banished. Many structural renovations are taking place in Benin. It is gradually dropping the name of ancient city.
Edo Central was said to be an area where boreholes could not be sunk. Today, there are many boreholes in the area.
In Edo North, rivers and hills were said to have made the construction of roads impossible. This theory has been defied. Many villages in the area have now been linked with roads.
I am one of those who ran away from Edo State for many years because there was nothing to look forward to. Now, I visit Edo regularly and I am again beginning to see the sun shining brightly in Edo because of what Oshiomhole is doing in the State. I am happy to say I went home to vote in all elections.
As the comrade governor settles down for his second term, my candid advice to him is to see his landslide victory in the last election as a call to rededicate himself to work harder than he ever did in his first term. He should not relent. He should complete the projects he started and possibly embark on new ones.
Barrister Mack Ogbamosawrote from Lagos