By Chief Edwin Clark, OFR, CON
IMMEDIATELY we returned from that journey, I wrote a report to Governor Ogbemudia, the indefatigable soldier, also requesting that mattresses, desks, tables, chairs, cutleries, etc, be bought and sent to them. This request was graciously and speedily granted by this very kind man. Less than a week after our visit, Lories loaded with these items were sent to the schools in the East. In addition, it was decided that some of our students should be taken from our schools and sent to the East to continue their education, in order to hasten reconciliation. Some parents objected stating security reasons, while some others accepted the idea. On my part, I withdrew my eldest daughter, Rebecca Clark, now Mrs. Rebecca Okorodudu, from her “comfortable” school, St. Theresa College, Ughelli, and sent her to Queens School, Enugu. For that reason, I became an active member of the school’s Parents Teachers Association, PTA, where we made contributions and bought a bus for the school.
In addition to what we did at the Queens School, Enugu, Ogbemudia ordered me to rehabilitate ten staff quarters at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, which I did. I approached the then Registrar of UNN, Dr. Vincent Ike, stating that now that the war is over, they should begin to look outward. Some teaching and non teaching staff were thereafter recruited from UNN by the University of Benin. Some of them are Prof. John Ene and his wife, Prof. S. Nwankwo, Prof. Ogbuehi, Prof. Titus Okereke as the first set who came to join the existing staff. Prof. Ogbuehi was sent abroad by the University of Benin to Canada, to study Optometry. At his return, he became the Head of Optometry. The University of Benin became the first university to offer the course.
Architect of modern Midwest
Brig-Gen. Ogbemudia, carried out the instructions of the Head of State, Gen. Gowon, so well that people began to call him an Ibo man because he ensured that the Ibos were not in any way sidelined. So when people talk about Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s No Victor, No Vanquished and 3R Policies, credit must be given to Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia. Back home in the Midwest, Brig-Gen Samuel Ogbemudia is the architect of modern Midwest, which comprise present day Delta State and Edo State. His developmental strides in the State are quite enormous. He embarked on physical development of the State such that no Governor thus far, has been able to meet up with his records, not to talk of surpassing it.
Roads: There were no tarred roads in Benin City when he assumed office, except red soil routes. He built new roads including the rehabilitation of some existing roads, such as Ihama Road, Eguobasini Road, Airport Road, Forestry Road, Akpakpava Street, Mission Road, 1st, 2nd, 3rd East Circular Roads, Benin-Warri Road, Warri-Ughelli Road, Ughelli-Asaba Road, Warri-Agbor Road, Ughelli – Patani Road, Owhoro – Bomadi Road, etc.
Education: In education, he established the famous University of Benin, which he himself called “a child of circumstance,” because of the reason which necessitated the establishment of the institution, which time and space will not permit me to state here. But I have narrated it elaborately in my book “The Founding of The University of Benin.” He established the Head Masters’ Institute, upgraded the Auchi Technical College to Auchi Polytechnic. He built a number of modern primary and secondary schools, etc. He built schools even in the remotest areas of the State. Ogbemudia did not stop at renovating and establishing schools. He directed that the schools be equipped and books be made available to them to enable the students study. In order to ensure that this directive was carried out, books were provided by the Bendel Library. The government ensured that these books got to all the schools, no matter the location using Lorries and boats. This made Midwest/Bendel to rank very high in education in the country.
Transportation: He developed water transportation for the riverine communities by establishing the Delta Boat Yard. He provided land transportation by taking over the famous Armel Transport which he named Midwest line.
Industries: He established a number of industries including the Midwest Brewery.
Health Care: He established the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City and several Hospitals and Health Centres in every Local area.
Sports: He built the Ogbe Stadium, developed the Afuze Sports Institute as a result of which Midwest State always won almost all laurels during sporting competitions in the country. As a matter of fact, even as a governor, he was one of the teachers at the Institute. He was the father of sports.
Social Amenities: He built the Oba market. He introduced rural electrification in many communities all over the State, some of which are still functioning today. He provided facilities such as Museums which showcased the rich tradition and culture of the people and Television Viewing Centres for relaxation.
Nationalism: S. O. Ogbemudia was a true nationalist. He was very much prepared to aid any part of the country to develop. He sent Primary School Teachers and Science Teachers to both Primary and Secondary Schools in the North to assist them with science subjects. He promoted exchange of students between Midwest State and other States in the country, particularly in the North.
Due to his impeccable records and the love the people have for him, he was massively voted a civilian governor of Bendel State. A position he held for only three months before the Government of His Excellency, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was overthrown by the military.
This great man should be immortalized. I hope my proposal since 2009, that the popular Ring Road which he built should be named after him and a statute of him be erected there, will be carried out now. Memories will never be forgotten. Good acting Dear Boss. Good night!