The Dawn Of A New Era In Edo State
BEING AN ADDRESS BY COMRADE ADAMS ALIYU OSHIOMHOLE AT HIS INAUGURATION AS GOVERNOR OF EDO STATE, ON WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER, 2008, AT SAMUEL OGBEMUDIA STADIUM, BENIN CITY.
1. My dear good people of Edo State and my brothers and sisters across our beloved nation Nigeria, you may recall that some nineteen months ago, precisely on the 14 April 2007, the majority of the people of Edo State, the heartbeat State of Nigeria, turned out enmasse to perform their civic duty and they voted overwhelmingly for me to be Governor of this State.
2. I recall with great sadness, the incredible situation that most of our people had to put up with just to exercise their right to cast their vote. The intimidation, brutality and savagery to which they were all subjected by those who had held our State hostage for several years was unprecedented. In the process a lot of them were dehumanized while some others lost their lives. Nevertheless, I am aware that our people put up with these circumstances in the high expectation for the emergence of a new leadership, a new culture, a new way of doing things, away from the sordid past in which our people had been held hostage and emasculated for so long.
3. The uproar that greeted the infamous declaration by INEC was loud and unequivocal. You, the people, rose in vast numbers and spontaneously rejected the wanton attempt by INEC and its political masters to steal the mandate you so clearly conferred on me. As I had promised you, I took necessary and appropriate steps to protect the votes you all cast in my favour. By the special grace of God I have fulfilled the very first promise I made to you, to defend your votes.
4. Today, nineteen months later, justice has been done by this epoch and landmark judgment. By the grace of the Almighty God, the will of the people has prevailed. Today, in this ancient city of Benin, the Capital of former Midwest Region and Bendel State, we are once again witnessing the making of history. I recall that it was the noble role played by our leaders and founding fathers who led the vanguard of a successful struggle for self determination by our people, which in 1963 culminated in the successful creation of the first new region, the Midwest, through a popular vote. To this date, the Midwest remains the only region or state created through popular vote and the proper application of constitutional provisions. Today, some forty five years later, by a popular struggle, you have once again successfully defended the will of our people to choose their own governor.
5. I give glory to the Almighty God for permitting truth to triumph over evil and falsehood, for defending the defenceless and for supporting me inspite of my meagre resources against the reckless deployment of vast State funds. I was encouraged during these past months of our struggle by the outpouring of love, goodwill and support from all and sundry across our State and Country and across party divide. My will and determination to defend the mandate that you freely gave me was immensely strengthened.
6. We profoundly acknowledge and appreciate the erudite judgment of the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal led by Honourable Justice Orilonishe (rtd.), which was yesterday affirmed on all grounds by the courageous Justices of the Court of Appeal led by the President of the Court, Honourable Justice Umaru Abdullahi. By these courageous verdicts, the confidence of our people in the judiciary has been rekindled.
7. This victory is not personal to me nor does it solely belong to the coalition of the Action Congress and the Labour Party. It really also belongs to the hardworking and determined people of Edo State and indeed all Nigerians. I express to you all today my grateful thanks from the depth of my heart.
8. For the first time since 1999, the people of Edo State can rightly say that they, rather than godfathers, have chosen their governor.
9. As we celebrate, we must remember that the struggle that produced this moment has been costly. Above all else, we must dedicate this victory to the memory of those who lost their lives in the process of the struggle. On April 14 2007, at the Oba Akenzua Primary School, three young men in their prime were cut down as they sought to exercise their fundamental right to vote. We must ensure that their death is not in vain, by guaranteeing that the right of the people to vote freely can not indeed be taken for granted in the future. Only then will our governance structure truly become a government of the people, for the people and by the people. As we settle down, we will immortalize the memory of these fallen heroes. Their blood that was so senselessly shed must be preserved as a flowing river that will forever nurture our democracy.
10. I assume the leadership of Edo State today, fully conscious of the urgent need to reconstruct our State, restore her to its past glory and regain her enviable status as the reference State of our Country. We will proceed without delay to install a leadership and administration that will guarantee to every citizen of our State all the basic needs of human existence under a healthy, enduring and secure environment where all individual and collective aspirations can flourish and be actualized. It will not matter whatever your political persuasion or religious belief may be; whether you are male or female, young or old, whether you are from Edo North, Central or South, everyone will receive equal and fair treatment by our government.
11. We must realize that as important as today is, it only marks the beginning, and not the end, of a process. Monumental challenges lie ahead of us and we must galvanize our energies and intellect to meeting those challenges. At the forefront of these challenges are the need to re-build our educational system, revamp infrastructure and create employment through the stimulation of production in both agriculture and industry.
12. It has long been recognized that free and qualitative education provides the surest and quickest sustainable way out of poverty. As part of the old Western Region and later as a region and state, Edo state made major strides through a qualitative and dynamic public school system. Many Edo indigenes, who came to hold numerous important positions in the service of the nation were products of this public school system. The state of the public school system today is an embarrassment. We will urgently embark on the restoration of a qualitative public school system. We will ensure that the child who is presently dumped in a virtual cell in a dungeon-type classroom that houses two classes, with teachers alternating turns, is liberated and placed in a conducive environment for learning and creative development.
13. Furthermore, our higher institutions of learning, at the apex of which is the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, will be empowered to create quality environment for students and staff with a view to the attainment of excellence, which is the surest way to development in the knowledge-driven world of today.
14. Movement within our cities and across the State will be progressively made less hazardous through the provision and maintenance of good road networks. Particular attention will be paid to the quality of our environment including erosion and flood control, pollution and garbage disposal. Our people deserve decent and affordable shelter and so the provision of housing to the various strata of our society will be an important part of our agenda. We will accelerate the installation of enduring infrastructure which will support rapid industrialization of our State and provide massive employment opportunities.
15. A major plank of our electioneering campaign was to make poverty history in Edo State. To attain this, in addition to our interventions in education, health and water, we will bring the masses of our people, who are currently unemployed into productive and sustainable employment. The surest way to achieve these public works in the short and medium term is to attract investment into agriculture and industry, including tourism. We shall put in place appropriate incentives and policies that will turn the state into the preferred destination of investment. In the immediate term, we plan to make urgent interventions to reduce unemployment. In this regard, government will announce a programme soon to employ between 5000 and 10000 people in public works, environmental sanitation and associated activities across the state.
16. We will revamp and restore our health institutions. The rot in our hospitals and the general decay in healthcare delivery over the past two decades or so have resulted in the untimely death of several of our loved ones. This is unacceptable. No one should die of curable deceases on account of economic status.
17. Our State is located in a geographic belt of fertile soil and good weather capable of sustaining an agrarian revolution. We should be able to feed ourselves as well as other parts of Nigeria.
18. In days past, this State was foremost in feeding national teams with the bulk of sportsmen and women, many of whom have become stars in distant lands. This government shall quickly put in place an urgent programme to rejuvenate and vigorously pursue ways and means to restore our pride of place in national and international sports.
19. Edo State is historically endowed with rich and vibrant culture as well as a wide range of exciting tourist attractions. We will make the State beautiful and secure with enhanced amenities which should attract visitors and tourists to our State on a constant basis.
20. The current level of insecurity in our state is a major source of capital flight and the inability to attract new capital. The spate of crime and insecurity, however, is symptomatic of the failure of governance in the past. Many of our youths have been drawn into crime, not because they are innately criminals, but because they have been unable to secure self fulfilling means of livelihood. While we cannot justify criminality on this score, we need to understand the objective conditions breeding it if we are to effectively deal with it, decent jobs, jobs and jobs. We must measure progress in terms of the number of new jobs created.
21. While we will seek to empower and encourage the police to more effectively fight crime, we appeal to our youths to return to the path of honour and morality for which our people are traditionally known. We will spare no efforts in seeking to eliminate the social conditions which act as push factors to crime. The glory of the Edo people will only be truly restored when we wean our youths off crimes and criminality. We will restore self respect and dignity to our people. We shall reclaim the true and authentic Edo spirit.
22. No more oppression and extortion of the poor. All manner of extortions and levies, other than legitimate and legal government taxes and levies, must stop immediately. All individuals and kingpins, who have in the past, perpetrated these extortionist levies on our fellow citizens, whether in the markets, in the transportation sector, in schools or any other sector of livelihood are called upon to cease such activities at once. Taxes and levies will henceforth be collected only by governments on the basis of clear legislation and the proceeds will be transparently accounted for and employed for the good of all. While as a government we are willing and indeed anxious to work with all and accord respect to all, we will not tolerate those who impose unnecessary burden, hardship and exploitation on our people, either as self appointed godfathers or overseers. We will deal ruthlessly with extortionists within the limit of the law.
23. I reach out to the Honourable Members of the State House of Assembly. The principle of the separation of power is a fundamental ingredient of our presidential system. In seeking elective office into either the executive or the legislative arm, we were all driven by a passion to serve our people and bring development to our State. I will engage with the House of Assembly and I call on all its members to rise above party affiliation and cooperate with us in repositioning the State. Doomsday prophets who are projecting frosty relations between the executive and the legislature must be put to shame. I congratulate all the Honourable members for their elections.
24. The Judiciary is a crucial tier of government. I am aware that currently, of all the three tiers of government, the Judiciary is most marginalized. The conditions of work of judicial officers lag behind those of officers in other tiers. We will redress this, not through tokenisms, but through a systematic and fundamental empowerment of the judiciary. The judiciary must be isolated from partisan politics. The independence and impartiality of the courts must be maintained so that the average citizen can confidently approach our courts for justice.
25. Our country has been held down for too long by corruption. My administration will exercise zero tolerance for corruption. We will run an open, transparent and accountable government.
26. The attainment of these goals will by no means be an easy task. All hands must be on deck. We need the full participation of the people if we are to be successful in rebuilding our state and restoring its glory. You have already demonstrated your capacity in this regard in the way you trooped out on April 14 2007 to cast your vote, in spite of intimidation and inducement, as well as the manner you rallied round the struggle for the validation of your mandate. In the course of the campaign, you transformed the broom into a veritable weapon of social mobilization and communication. We must collectively build on this to create a transformational movement for our state and indeed our country. It is only with the full participation of our people that we can meet the challenge of rebuilding our country so as to create a caring, egalitarian, just and humane society. I am convinced that with your indomitable spirit, we will realize our envisaged governance structure in which the people will truly lead and lay the foundation to make poverty history.
27. As I congratulate and thank the working class who have kept the engine of State running, I must remind them that in the days ahead there is the need for even more vigilance and dedication. All our policies, no matter how well articulated will be but a pipe dream if our Civil Servants who are indeed the implementors shirk their responsibilities. Therefore, all Civil Servants must be ready to embrace work culture.
28. One major challenge of governance has been the weak delivery of development by our local governments. We will engage with the Local Governments with a view to ensuring that they deliver development for our people. The people will be encouraged and emboldened to hold their local government administrations accountable.
29. I cannot conclude this statement without paying befitting tribute to a number of associates, family and friends who have played key roles in this struggle. As we establish this people’s government in Edo State which makes its entry as the second Action Congress Government in Nigeria after Lagos State, we look forward to a new dawn and to refreshing changes in governance. I thank the leadership and rank and file members of the coalition of Action Congress and the Labour Party in Edo State for remaining steadfast in our struggle during the past several months.
30. I wish to appreciate President Yar’Adua for his commitment to the rule of law. It is this commitment that has made the judgements of a courageous judiciary which have enthroned us today possible. This people’s government will collaborate with the Federal Government in fostering development. In particular, we seek to cooperate with President Yar’Adua’s initiative to reform the electoral system. Elections ought to be won and lost at the ballot box. Stiff penalties need to be adopted for those who are found guilty of electoral offenses. We will also seek to align our policies and development efforts with the Federal Government’s Seven Point Agenda.
31. I thank the entire nation labour movement. I am aware that there are many of our supporters who are angered and pained by what we have had to go through in the past 19 months. Some of them may even be nursing the spirit of vengeance. My friends, there is so much to be done. Hate and vengeance can only suffocate and impede the clarity of thought and purpose. The battle has been fought and won. it is now a time for unity and reconciliation. The spirit of forgiveness will open up our minds to the challenges that lie ahead. Let us seize the moral heights by stretching out our hands of forgiveness and friendship.
32. My experience in the labour movement has taught me that a virile opposition is necessary for good governance and the deepening of democracy. We hope for robust and constructive engagement with the opposition as we work to reposition the state. The state belongs to all of us and even if we disagree on how to move the state forward, the contestation must be at the level of ideas. The state would be the richer for such contestations.
33. The challenges facing us require that we look beyond party affiliation and loyalty in sourcing requisite manpower to pilot development. indeed, the state is more than the AC, LP, PDP, ANPP and all the political parties put together. We will count on all Edo people, including professionals, entrepreneurs, business people, women, youths, the unemployed, the disabled, the aged, workers and pensioners, in the task ahead. We are open to suggestions and advice, as we seek to entrench a bottom-up approach to development. We will also look up to our royal fathers under the leadership of Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin, for their guidance and wisdom.
34. My indefatigable technical team who have worked tirelessly with a team of the finest and most talented lawyers ensured that the mandate you gave me was not stolen. I express to them my profound appreciation and assure them I will never forget their efforts.
35. I do not wish to mention the long list of dedicated friends across the country behind the scene who, because of their belief in me and concern for justice, deployed their hard earned resources with no strings attached to see me through. My promise to them is that I will not let them down by my performance in office.
36. I wish now to reassure my brothers and sisters across the political divide that the time is now to sheath our political swords and work together. As we are all passionate in our collective commitment to the development of our dear State and the upliftment of our citizens, I look forward to working harmoniously with everyone in the months and years ahead. It is my sincere hope that we will all join hands to take Edo State to the premier position in Nigeria that she richly deserves.
37. Finally, I wish to thank my family for their strength and support. In particular, I wish to thank my dear wife, Clara and our children, who have endured my absences and tolerated me these past years. I thank them for their love, devotion and tolerance of me. I am indebted to my late father. I thank my beloved mother who is here present. My parents inculcated in me early in life the spirit of courage, service, hard work and determination, which have defined who I am. I owe them all that I am.
I thank you all.
God Bless Edo State.
God Bless Our Country, Nigeria.