If it were possible for man to hold back death from performing its duty, citizens of the old Mid-Western Region, later Bendel State of Nigeria would have stopped the pang of death from ceasing their leader and mentor, Brigadier-General (Dr.) Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia who passed on to eternal glory last Thursday.
Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia meant so many things to so many people. Born September 17, 1932, he was the first Military Governor (1968-1975) of the Mid-West State, and civilian governor of Bendel State from October 1983 to December 31, 1983 when the military led by Major-Gen Muhammadu Buhari announced their ouster from power vide a coup d’etat.
He was respected in the army and fought on the side of the Nigerian Government during the Civil War masterminded by General Chukwuemeka Odimegu Ojukwu who led the Biafra secessionist group to prosecute the war which sought to break away the old Eastern Nigeria from the rest of the country. Ogbemudia had a very successful military career that was translated into his appointment as military governor of the defunct Midwestern State at the beginning of the civil war.
As Governor of Old Bendel State, the legacy he built in governance remains unequalled. His record has not been broken by any Governor who have served the two states carved out of the region till date. All Governors who emerged, whether as military or civilian or even those aspiring, usually see his achievements as the benchmark for them to aspire. They all promise to want to meet his record of achievement. But till date, no one who has served has been able to surpass his record of achievements.
It was his monumental feat recorded while a military governor that propelled the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN to entice him into politics in 1982 when he contested for governor of defunct Bendel State upon which he emerged as the party’s candidate for the 1983 governorship election, defeating Prof. Ambrose Folorunso Alli. He won the election and served for three months before the Muhammadu Buhari led coup truncated the Second Republic.
Among his hordes of achievements was the University of Benin, which he established in the early seventies and which honoured him with a doctorate degree.
As Governor of Bendel State, Ogbemudia established the Rural Electricity Board which ensured that all local government areas which had no National Electricity supply had the REB supplied electricity. There was steady supply of electricity at that time.
He equally established the Water board which ensured the supply of potable water to all nooks and crannies of Bendel State. The water was well treated and went far into the rural areas.
Ogbemudia established the Mid-West Line, later named Bendel Line and thereafter, Edo Line. Mass transit buses covered all parts of the state into the rural communities. He established a number of companies for production and manufacturing. He created employment with his understanding that labour creates wealth and the state under his control was rich and people enjoyed gainful employment. He constructed so many roads across the length and breath of Bendel.
Ogbemudia in 1968 established the Bendel Newspapers Company Limited, publishers of the Nigerian Observer titles. For a very long time, the Observer Newspaper was the most circulated newspaper in the country, little wonder the Observer chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) named their annual Forum after the man they believe established the company and gave them opportunity to excel in life.
As a fact, it was Dr. Ogbemudia that brought me into journalism when he established Hope newspaper. I joined him in Hope at that time and cut my teeth in journalism. Mr. Augustine Aibueku was the Editor of the newspaper at that time. His achievements are enormous and unquantifiable. He was simply an enigma in leadership.
Under Dr. Ogbemudia, Bendel became a leading state in education, sports and industry. As two-time governor of Bendel, comprising present-day Edo and Delta states, he will be fondly remembered for the strong foundation he laid for the infrastructural, social and economic development of both states.
He was a wonderful man, unique and so many of us learnt so much from him. We are all going to miss him. Many people, his children, both biological and non-biological, are sure going to miss him. In my considered opinion, the University of Benin should be named after him. The University should be named Samuel Ogbemudia University, Benin City to immortalise him for his foresight and contribution to the educational sector of Nigeria
Samuel Ogbemudia was the governor of Governors and as Minister of Labour and Productivity, his legacies, remain indelible. In all spheres, he lived a wonderful life worthy of emulation by all.
He was undoubtedly, a detribalised Nigerian who touched many lives and lifted millions of citizens out of poverty. His ingenuity and creativity stood him out as an dazzling leader and a father figure that wanted the best for his people. Before the last governorship election, Ogbemudia moved from community to community in Edo South in search of a successor for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and he eventually zeroed in on the current Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and rallied support for his election. This he did in the belief that Edo deserved the best.
Shortly before the election, he announced his resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he served as a member of the Board of Trustees. He literarily had to quit partisan politics before he took his final bow from mother earth. The last public engagement of the octogenarian soldier turned politician was in November last year when he was honoured by the first set of graduates of University of Benin.
Ogbemudia was a father to all of us and iconic statesman. he was good- natured and a man with a golden heart and passion for his fatherland. All citizens of Edo and Delta states and Nigerians at large would continue to remember and celebrate him always whether in life or in death. Adieu Governor’s Governor.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State