By Rene Johnson “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. “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. “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. “We profoundly acknowledge and appreciate the erudite judgment of the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal led by Honourable Justice Orilolunshe (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. “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. “For the first time since 1999, the people of Edo State can rightly say that they, rather than godfathers, have chosen their governor. “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. “We must realise 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. “It has long been recognised 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.
“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. “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. “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 this 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.
“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. “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.
“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.
“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. “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.”
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