BENIN CITY stood still as nine governors; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; and captains of industry stormed the state for the inauguration of Mr Godwin Obaseki as governor of Edo State.
Emotions were high as former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who just completed his second term in office, arrived the venue of the inauguration.
Oshiomhole’s supporters, who wept, said they would miss him. Meanwhile, Obaseki told the mammoth crowd at the inauguration held at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin-City, that his administration will work hard to build on the legacies of the Oshiomhole administration and thus put to shame those who have been criticising the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari of non-performance. Among the dignitaries present were the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; Buhari, who was represented by Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Ambode Akinwunmi of Lagos State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Simon Lalung of Plateau State, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Hamid Yari of Zamfara, State, Abdulrazeez Abubakar of Buachi State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
Others are a former governor of Edo State, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor; Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Information and Orientation, Lai Mohammed; Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; a former governor of Ekiti State and National Vice Chairman of APC, Chief Segun Oni; Chief Bisi Akande; Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Capt. Hosa Okunbor; Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie; wife of Kogi State Governor Aisha Yahaya Bello, who represented the First Lady, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari; a former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; Oba of Benin, represented by top palace chiefs, led by the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri; Senator Domingo Obende, Mr Femi Otedola and many others.
The Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Cromwell Idahosa, administered the oath of office on Obaseki at exactly 12:24pm, and, thereafter, he drove in a motorcade to inspect the guard of honour mounted by men and officials of the Nigeria Police.
The governor also took a salute as the police, school children and different groups matched past. It was a befitting outing for the former governor of the state, Comrade Oshiomhole, as he arrived the stadium at about 11am to witness the swearing-in ceremony of his successor. Oshiomhole, accompanied by his wife, Iara, drove himself in his Wrangler jeep to the occasion.
Market women and youths scrambled to shake his hand when they sighted him, while some wept uncontrollably as they will miss him. Justice Idahosa administered the oath of office on the new governor at about 12:24pm and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, at about 12:05pm before the mammoth crowd of eminent personalities and guests.
Obaseki, in his speech, expressed gratitude to Oshiomhole for his immense support. “I wish to give glory to God for seeing us through a very peaceful election where the will of the people prevailed. I have the rare honour and I’m proud of being sworn in today barely a fortnight after His Royal Majesty, Omo N’oba N’edo uku, Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11, Oba of Benin, ascended the throne of Benin Kingdom”, the governor said.
“I am humbled and proud of succeeding a governor, who, in the last eight years, provided dedicated, fearless, inspired leadership that has transformed our great state in ways in which most people considered impossible. Taking the reins of office from my leader and mentor, Adams Oshiomhole, is an honour that I will always treasure. I will always respect and hold dear his love, confidence, counsel and inspiration.
“ I want to thank you Comrade Governor in the presence of all and before the whole world for being the leader that you have been for the people of Edo. I want to assure you that as we take over today from where you stopped we have resolved to build on your legacy. The responsibility of leading the march of Edo people to a greater tomorrow is mine, that of my deputy governor and that of the government I will be announcing shortly.
“Many of the fundamental major socio-economic development has been put in place by you Comrade Oshiomhole, we need to strengthen and expand the infrastructure that has been established so that we can have a foundation of which to build a new Edo State of our passionate dream.
“We will need to build and sustain a robust human intellectual, philosophical and even metaphysical infrastructure because, without them, it is virtually impossible to attain significant progress and derive the extraordinary value that we desire from our effort as we build a great Edo State. To this end, during the campaign, I declared that my mission was to achieve prosperity for my people by progressing the work of those who came before me. That is the only way to shame those who have been critising the APC and President Buhari of non-performance.
“Today, as we begin our journey to build a new Edo State, I want to repeat and affirm that promise, I have pledged to create 200,000 jobs in the next four years. And we will achieve this by leveraging our comparative advantages and our key factor endowments in production and commerce. Our key factors will focus on commerce and agro business value chain, entrepreneurship, investment in industries and technical and vocational skills.
“We will also fill all vacancies in the civil service, optimize the job creation potential in infrastructural development. Agriculture is a major focus in our socio-economic programme because of its strategic importance in many areas, from food sufficiency to rural development, economic development, job creation and critical revenue generation. For us we will make agriculture as business. Many Edo people will generate wealth by keying into our value chain develop of oil palm cassava, coach, grains, rubber, fruits and vegetables.
“We will support the growth of over twenty thousand micro small and medium enterprises, with further creation of over fifty thousand associated jobs in the next four years through access to low interest financing. We will utilize the advantage which we have in generating electricity in Edo State and our location as the heart beat of this country to attract industries.
“We will help local businesses particularly small and medium enterprises by creating the enabling environment for them to thrive. The Edo State government will establish a one stop shop center to provide incentives and support to make easier for our people to produce their goods and services. We will take education and development of the girl-child very very seriously.
“Some of the intervention skills that government will launch will be under the leadership of women with improved access to low interest financing. There will be renewed effort in technical and vocational education. ICT is a key component to achieving our objective. We want to make Edo a center of excellence on health care.
“Therefore we will partner international agencies to reposition our health care system. Those who contested against us also articulated ideas genuinely intended to transform the state and the condition of our people. We do not claim to have monopoly of what is good for Edo people, Edo State belongs to all of us irrespective of political affiliation.
“Our destiny is defined by a common purpose and any good leadership after a hard fought campaign, takes the trouble to gather all ideas that have been articulated by other parties and integrate them into the grand agenda of the transformation for our well-being. We will continue to study these ideas and seek with diligence to select what they promise for our people and state and seek to integrate them to our agenda for our common good”.