By BEIFOH OSEWELE
How does one describe the event of Monday, November 12 in the historic city of Benin, the Edo state capital? For want of better term, it could be termed mother of all carnivals. Boisterous. Grand. Colorful. Wild. Mammoth. On that day, the city, nay the entire state, was in a party mode. And mood. It was not just the regular run-of-the-mill-everyday type of celebration. It was the rare kind- one of gargantuan proportion. The landscape was wrapped in a shawl of feverish and infectious revelry.
It began as soon as the first ray of light cracked through the dark cloud to birth a new dawn. From the four corners of the city and even beyond, the great march was on. It was like the biblical Exodus. All roads led to the Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium. The Old. The young. Men. Women. Even the physically challenged were not left out. The blind came. The lame came. The deaf and dumb too.
They braved the odds to be part of the epochal inauguration of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole who they had handed a popular mandate at the poll last July 14. So, they had converged to witness the swearing in of their choice, Oshio Baba, who they handed the mandate to run the affairs of the Heart Beat of the nation for another four-year term. Indeed, the celebration was not restricted to the people or residents of Edo State alone. From far and near, friends and well-wishers of the state came in drove. Politicians across party divides. Captains of industries. Artistes and entertainers. Technocrats and royal fathers.
Artisans and Traders. Various groups and association. They came from all walks of life. In fact, as early as 8am, not only was the sprawling stadium filled to capacity, all the adjoining streets and neighbourhood had been metaphorically submerged in a sea of human heads, such that if you tossed a grain of sand into the sky, it would not make its way to the ground, as the locals would put. It would mostly likely land on a human head or shoulder. With all manner of theatrics and drama on display and emotion and adrenalin running riot, the crowd waited for the momentous occasion, with bated breath.
School pupils gaily dressed in the various uniform as well other guests took positions either on the stand, red tartan track or on the lush green foreground of the stadium. Those who could not make their way into the arena joyfully kept vigil outside. For the security and traffic personnel, it was no easy task. They were stretched to their limit in their strive to maintain the peace. Osakpamwan Eriyo, chairman, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) described the turnout as “very fantastic and overwhelming.” According to him, “that everybody in the state came out en masse in solidarity is because Oshiomhole has done well for the people of Edo state. Everybody has benefitted from Oshiomhole.
And we expect more good things. We know he is going to surprise us with good things” No fewer than seven governors across the political divide were at the stadium. The roll call included Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Peter Obi of Anambra State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, Babtunde Fashola of Lagos State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Also in attendance were General Yakubu Gowon, former head of state, multi-billionaire business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chief Bisi Akande, former Governor of Osun State and national chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, first executive governor of Edo State, Aremo Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Chris Ngige, former Governor of Anambra State and Otunba Niyi Adebayo Governor of Ekiti.
The royal institution was fully in attendance as demonstrated by the presence of the Oba of Benin represented by palace chiefs, the Sultan of Sokoto represented by the Magajjin Sokoto, even as the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, His Royal Highness, Eheneden Erediauwa and other monarchs were conspicuous in attendance. At exactly 9:38am, the Edo State police ceremonial parade made up of four senior police officers (SPOs), eight Inspectors and 149 ranks and files led by Efik Bassey, began their well-synchronised display to the admiration of the mammoth audience. At I0:05, the deputy governor, dressed regally in a snow white lace and bead with his delectable wife in tow stepped out from the state box and made his way slowly to the field.
At the dot of 11:44am, he stepped out to the dais where the Hon. Justice Cromwell Idahosa, the state chief judge was already on standby to administer the oath of office and oath of allegiance on him. But the climax came when Comrade Oshiomhole stepped forward to take his oath. But this was not before Professor Eddy Eragbe had done justice to his impressive citation on the man of the moment. It took him about ten minutes and it was well received. Addressing the crowd after his swearing in, the governor brought tears to more than a few eyes when he drew attention to one glaring fact: the absence his wife by his side. “Allow me to pay a special tribute to my late wife, Clara, who stood by my side here on November 12, 2008 during my first inauguration,” he began. “Today, even though she is not physically present, I feel her presence right here as I speak. Not only for the gift of the wonderful children that she gave birth and nurtured for me, but also for her wise counsel and unflinching support through thick and thin.”
Notwitstanding the loss of his wife, the assasination of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, his private secretary and the death of some journalists on his entourage during the campaign, the comrade governor vowed to keep the state on the path of growth by pursuing his electoral promises with vigour and sincerity. He thanked the people of Edo State for their hard work, sacrifice, contributions, courage, and support, throughout this period noting that: “I can continue to depend on your wise suggestions, prayers, and criticisms now and in the future.” In a rare flashback, the governor noted that prior 2008 when mounted the saddle the state was shipwrecked by mismanagement, oppression, corruption, poverty, marginalisation of the people, suffocation of civil society, and the general neglect of the basic needs of the masses.
“There was hardly a difference between the rural and urban centres in terms of planlessness, unemployment, infrastructural deficit and decay, unaccountable leadership, political manipulation, waste and criminal diversion of state resources, and general insecurity” unveiling his second term roadmap, the former union leader promised that his administration would continue to rebuild faith in government and governance at all levels; mobilise the people to commit to collective growth and development, and strengthen institutions for efficient and effective service delivery.
“Allow me to say that while we will continue to work on infrastructure, we plan, in the next four years, to place emphasis on promoting sustainable economic growth and development. Our Government will emphasize human capital development, training and retraining of teachers and public servants; promotion of agriculture for food production, employment and increased income to our farmers and rural dwellers; small and medium scale industrial development. We shall continue to attract local and foreign investors to Edo State so as to create more jobs for our people. “We shall continue to use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and ensure that all forms of waste are eliminated in the public service. In collaboration with the security agencies, we shall continue to work hard, to ensure and assure the safety and security of our people. Our goal is to ensure that Edo State becomes a major investors’ haven in Nigeria and that our small and medium scale industries are fed with products from our agricultural initiatives.
“Let me pay some brief attention to three issues: agriculture, local government and education. Our goal is to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) of Edo State, create jobs for our people and forge strong linkages between agriculture and industry. To achieve this, our government will provide substantial incentives such as provision of rural roads and other incentives to promote large scale commercial agriculture. Emphasis will be placed on productive partnerships, processing and storage that will generate new opportunities for training and income to our small scale industries and farmers.”
As the Oshiomhole train departs the terminus for another four-year journey, virtually everyone in the state agrees that the state has witnessed a glorious ride in the last four year. According to a lawyer, Emma Usoh, the last four years of Adams Oshiomhole administration has been challenging, eventful, with giant strides in various fields of endeavour. The administration has brought to bear real human and capacity development. Infrastructural upliftment, educational upliftment.
He has demonstrate great concern for the mass of our people. Will the party continue? Hon Pally Iriase, a member House of Representatives allayed any fear that the giant strides of the last four year may witness a decline. “The Adam Aliyu Oshiomhole that I know will ensure in the next four years that he proves skeptics wrong. In fact, he will want to outperform the first term, so that people will know that what he did in the first term was not a fluke.” The people of Edo State and, indeed, all Nigerians, are watching to see if Oshio Baba would keep his promise , maintain the momentum and ensure Edo State does not slip back into reverse gear.