MOOD of ecstasy enveloped many Edolites both at home and in the Diaspora as their state of origin which was amongst the 12 states created during the military interregnum of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in their thousands rolled out drums and maracas to celebrate Edo State 30 Years Anniversary.
The current developmental government in the state, led by the indefatigable cum sagacious Governor Godwin Obaseki set the pace for the anniversary as it rolled out drums to mark the Anniversary with the commencement of tree planting campaign in line with his reforestation initiative of planting 10 million trees spanning ten years across the state.
The tree planting initiative no doubt, is monumental to the to the state as it will ensure sustainable regeneration of Edo State Forest Reserve for generation unborn. Indeed, the skies above Benin City, the Edo State Capital provided the stage for a dramatic air show, as the state’s biggest cake was wheeled out for the celebration.
Interestingly, Friday, August 27, 2021 was indeed a unique day for Edo and other 11 States of the Country. It marks exactly 30 years of creation of one-third of the 36 states of Nigeria, namely, Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Taraba and Yobe. The creation of the states on August 27, 1991 by the Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime elicited spontaneous celebrations from the indigenes of the states, most of who had been complaining of marginalisation in their parent states.
Abia was carved out of the old Imo State; Delta and Edo emerged from the defunct Bendel State; Adamawa and Taraba arose from the defunct Gongola State; Anambra and Enugu (old Anambra State); Jigawa was carved out of old Kano State; Kogi (from old Kwara); Osun (from old Oyo); Kebbi (old Sokoto State) and Yobe (old Borno State). But this writer will limit himself to Edo State anniversary alone
With the creation of Edo state, the expectation was that developments would be rapidly spread to the grassroots in the state. The state has emerged from the status of a rural state to one of the 10 best states in the country in terms of purposeful governance and all round development especially in the past five years. Many health institutions have been built. Now, Edo State is among the few viable states in Nigeria coping with the debilitating economic downturn in terms of internally generated revenue.
It is imperative to briefly go into the historical foray how the idea to create Edo state was conceived some thirty-five (35) years ago. Historically, “If the Others Go…” was the heading of the address presented by the then Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa when he inaugurated the Edo State Movement 35 years ago and this movement agitated for what is now know as Edo State.
According to one of the Founding Fathers of the state and a foremost Editor-in-chief of The Bendel Newspaper Company Limited (BNCL), Publisher of the Nigerian Observer Titles, and the Enogie of Obazuwa-Iko Dukedom, Prince Edun Akenzua, few weeks before the inauguration meeting of the Movement, Oba Erediauwa invited the late Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Sir Alfred Eghobamien and himself (Prince Edun Akenzua) to the palace for a meeting that was attended by two of them alone with the Oba.
“The Oba expressed concerned about the spate of agitations for creation of states by ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. In Bendel State, Aniocha, Anioma and Delta each demanded for their respective state. Each supplied a map of their proposed states. Each of their maps included parts of Edo land. That was what the Oba was concerned about. He did not mind that people demanded a state of their own but the new states didn’t have to annex any part of Edo land. At that time, Edo State had not formally requested for the creation of a state. The meeting with the Oba lasted for two hours.
“Four weeks after the palace meeting, the Oba invited eleven (11) Traditional Rulers namely: Onojie of Uromi; Onojie of Ekpoma; Ima of Somorika; Onibillo of Ibillo; Okumagbe if luleha; the Clan Head of Warrake;, The Okuokpillagbe of Okpilla, and 35 prominent sons of Edo that include Prince Yemi Eweka; Prince Edun Akenzua; Chief R.O Ize-Iyamu; Chief Anthony Enahoro; Courage Ogbebor; Senator Odion Ugbesia and host of others and later constituted the Steering Committee of the Edo State Movement, which met bi-monthly in the palace as the Oba was the Chairman while Anthony Enahoro assisted him, Senator Odion Ugbesia acted as the Secretary respectively.
“After some meetings, the need to draft the request to the National Assembly became obvious. The Secretary , Odion Ugbesia dashed indefatigably to all the members of the committee, putting the papers together. There was also the need to pay a visit to the National Assembly to formally present the request for the creation of Edo State”, Price Akenzua revealed
The meeting with the National Assembly by the Edo state creation steering committee was made possible by the the Esama of Benin, Sir. Chief (Dr.) Gabriel Osawaru Igbinodion, who was the former employer of Dr. Joseph Wayas, the then Senate President. Although, the Esama was not a member of the Steering Committee, the Oba, according to Prince Akenzua directed Chief Igbinodion who later became the Chief Launcher of The Edo State Movement, paid the Fifty Thousand Naira launching fee, printed T-shirts and Caps for the launching to make the appointment the Senate President, hence, the the birth of Edo State.
Worthy of note, Edo has had 10 governors, both military and civilian, since it became an independent state 30 years ago. These are the names of all the Governors that have been administrators of the south-south state:
*Colonel John Ewerekumoh Yeri:
When Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta States in 1991, Yeri was military governor and technically became the first governor of the state.
*John Odigie Oyegun:
Oyegun: is Edo’s first civilian governor, elected. He remained in office till November 1993 when he was removed by the military government of General Sani Abacha, a coup leader who aborted the Third Republic after the ill-fated annulment of the 1993 presidential election.
*Colonel Mohammed Abul-Salam Onuka:
Onuka deposed Oyegun and served as Edo’s military administrator for less than a year between December 1993 and September 1994.
*Colonel Bassey Asuquo:
Asuquo served as the military administrator of Edo State between September 1994 and December 1996 during Abacha’s regime.
* Group Captain Baba Adamu Iyam:
Iyam served as Edo’s military administrator between August 1996 and August 1998. He reportedly sacked thousands of civil servants during his regime, a trademark of military administrators of the time
*Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem:
Onyearugbulem was Edo’s military administrator between August 1998 and May 1999. He controversially attempted to make the chairmanship of the Edo Council of Obas rotational, an attempt considered as affront the highly-esteemed Oba of Benin. The Imo State native became Edo’s last military administrator when he handed over to a civilian government in 1999. He died three years later at the age of 47 while he was contesting to be elected Imo governor in a democratihc election.
*Chief Lucky Igbinedion:
Lucky Igbinedion was inaugurated as Edo governor in 1999. Igbinedion was elected the state’s civilian governor during the return of democracy to Nigeria. He served two terms as governor between 1999 and 2007.
*Professor Oserheimen Osunbor:
Osunbor’s reign as Igbinedion’s successor was short-lived after his electoral victory was declared invalid by the election tribunal and Court of Appeal based on voting irregularities. He was governor between May 2007 and November 2008.
Oshiomhole took over as Edo governor after Osunbor’s victory over him was annulled in 2008. The former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) went on to serve two terms until 2016.
The erudite and focused government who has the Late Generator Samuel Ogbemudia’s developmental road map on his head became the governor of the state in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020 following his sterling performances in office.
However, truth must be told, the present administration in the State no matter the level criticism against it, has contributed positively to the transformation of the physical, infrastructural and socio-economic development of the people of the State. So, as the state celebrated 30 years of eventful statehood, , the citizens/residents have a lot to continuously pop champagne for. It is time to celebrate the industrious people and founding fathers of the state. But beyond the ululations of the celebration, the people and leaders must brace up for the onerous tasks ahead to keep the state on the trajectory of rapid development. The leaders must shun divisive politics and join forces to ensure that the state did not return to its sorry past. All the gains made in education, health, agriculture and industrialization must be sustained.
Happy 30th Anniversary Edo State