By Jethro Ibileke
As countdown to the zero hour for the Edo State governorship election continues to tick, gladiators in the election are ready for the final showdown that will climax in the emergence of the governor-elect.
Nick-named ‘The Heart Beat of the Nation’, Edo State was created on August 27, 1991, when the then Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta States. It occupies a very strategic location in the physical and political arrangement of the country.
Located in the South-South Region of Nigeria, Edo State covers a total area of 17,802 km2 (6,873 sq ml), ranks 22nd largest of the 36 states in Nigeria, with a population of 3,233,366 (2006 census, now estimated to be five million in 2014).
Till date, Edo State has been governed by five military administrators and four democratically elected governors.
Below is the profile of previous governors:
1. Col John Ewerekumoh Yeri
This army officer was the pioneer governor of Edo State. He served as Governor of Bendel State between 1990 and 1991, and then continued as governor of Edo State until January 1992 after Bendel State was split into Edo State and Delta State.
He handed over to Chief John Odigie Oyegun who was elected governor in 1992.
During his tenure, the administration made some investment in improving the roads of the state.
2. John Odigie Oyegun
John Odigie Oyegun is the first executive governor of Edo State. Born on 12 August 1939, in Warri, Delta State, to an Edo father and Urhobo mother from Agbarha Ughelli, Oyegun attended St. Patrick’s College, Asaba, from where he proceeded to the University of Ibadan where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He later served in various capacities as a federal civil servant working as a development planner.
Oyegun was elected as civilian governor of Edo State on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He served from January 1992 to November 1993, He was however removed in November, 1993, when the the late General Sani Abacha’s military junta sacked the civilian government after a military coup.
Later, when General Abdusalam Abubakar restored the nation back to democracy in 1999, Oyegun again found his way back to politics and became a leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
3. Col Mohammed Onuka
Mohammed Abul-Salam Onuka was a Nigerian soldier who served as Military Administrator of Edo State between 9 December, 1993 and 14 September, 1994. He took over from the civilian governor, John Odigie Oyegun, after General Sani Abacha led a coup that overthrew the civilian government in 1993.
Colonel Onuka who hailed from Okene in Kogi State, is first cousin to the present Governor of Kogi, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. His attempt to develop the tourism potential of the scenic area of Ososo, in Edo North, was truncated with the sudden end of the Abacha military government.
4. Group Captain Baba Adamu Iyam
He served as Military Administrator of Edo State during the military regime of General Sani Abacha, from 14 September 1994 to 22 August 1996.
He will be remembered for his inglorious commando-like format of government, during which he sacked 8,000 civil servants with a stroke of the pen. He also halted all grants to the State-owned University in February 1997, allegedly on the ground that government ought not to fund universities. He appointed a Sole Administrator for the university.
5. Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem
Born on 9 July, 1955, at Ikeduru, Imo State, Navy Captain Anthony Ibe Onyearugbulem was appointed Military Administrator of Edo State in August 1998. Being the last military governor, he handed over the reins of power to democratically elected governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion on 29 May, 1999.
He died on 26 July, 2002 at the age of 47.
6. Chief Lucky Igbinedion
Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion was born on 13 May 1957. He is the eldest son of billionaire business magnate, the Esama of the Kingdom of Benin kingdom, Sir (Chief) Gabriel Osawaru Igbinediin.
He attended the University of Wyoming, Laramie and The Jackson State University, Mississippi, USA, where he bagged a BSc (Marketing) and an MBA in 1982 and 1983 respectively.
His political career began in 1987 when he was elected chairman of Oredo local government area, a position he held till 1989. During his tenure as chairman, he chose not to be paid any salary by the council and was remunerated by his family business.
Lucky’s achievements as Chairman of Oredo local government which included upgrading the facilities in Benin City, perhaps endeared him to the people of the state, resulting in his being election as Governor of Edo State in 1999 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He was subsequently re-elected in 2003 for another four-year term. During his term as governor, Lucky was elected by his colleagues as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.
Upon leaving office as governor in 2007, Lucky retired to his private business. He was later appointed Deputy Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier private university, Igbinedion University, Okada.
7. Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor
Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor succeeded Chief Lucky Igbinedion as governor of Edo State after contesting election on the platform of the PDP and was sworn-in on 29 May, 2007.
The professor of law was born on 5 October, 1951, in Iruekpen, Esan West Local Government Area of the state. He attended P.T.T.C Demonstration Primary School, Igueben, from 1957 to 1962, then Anglican Grammar School Ujoelen Ekpoma from 1963 to 1968 and then obtained his sixth form at Holy Trinity Grammar School Sabongidaa-Ora Edo State.
He studied law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigerian Law School and the University of Warwick.
Osunbor was elected Senator for Edo Central at the start of the Nigerian Fourth Republic, in 1999 and again in 2003, on the platform of the PDP. He served as chairman of several committees, and was nicknamed “Attorney-General of the Senate” by his colleagues.
Osunbor later contested and was named governor of the state in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. He was however sacked from office by the State Election Petition Tribunal on 20 March, 2008, a decision later upheld by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court respectively, on 11 November, 2008.
8. Adams Oshiomhole
Popularly known as Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, this former labour leader was sworn-in as governor of Edo State on 12 November, 2008. He altered the political calendar of the state from that of the country.
Oshiomhole was born on 4 April 1952 at Iyamho, near Auchi in Etsako West Local GovernmentAarea. He was born Muslim but was later converted to Christianity by his late wife Clara. He was baptized as a Catholic in Kaduna by Rev. Father Matthew Kuka. He adopted the name, Eric at his baptism.
He had his primary and secondary education at his village, Iyamho. After his secondary education, he relocated to Kaduna, where he got a job with the Arewa Textiles Company, where he was elected union secretary. He became a full-time trade union organizer in 1975. He then studied at Ruskin College, Oxford in the United Kingdom where he majored in economics and industrial relations. He also attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.
After democracy was restored in 1999, he became president of the Nigerian Labour Congress. Early in the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo he negotiated a 25 per cent wage increase for public sector workers.
In April 2007, Adams Oshiomhole contested for governorship of Edo State on the Action Congress. Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was however declared the winner, a result the AC contested at the State Election Petition Tribunal.
On 20 March 2008, an Edo State Election Tribunal nullified the election of Oserheimen Osunbor and declared Oshiomhole the winner. On 11 November, 2008, a Federal Appeal Court sitting in Benin City upheld the ruling of the state’s elections petitions tribunal, declaring Oshiomole the Governor of Edo State.
In 2012, he was elected to a second term, winning the elections in a massive landslide. He ended his tenure on November 12 2016
9. Godwin Obaseki
Mr. Godwin Obaseki, is the 10th governor of Edo State. He assumed office on 12 November, 2016.
Born in Benin City, on 1 July, 1957, to late Pa. Roland Obaseki and Stella Osarhiere Gbinigie, Obaseki attended Eghosa Grammar School, Benin City, from where he proceeded University of Ibadan, where he studied Classics. He later studied at Columbia University and Pace University.
Obaseki began his career as a stockbroker in 1983 with Capital Trust Brokers Limited, Lagos. He later transferred his services to the International Merchant Bank. He moved to AVC Funds Limited, Lagos, in 1988, where he served as a Project Manager. He later moved back to New York and worked as a Principal of Equatorial Finance Company, a Financial Advisory firm. He focused on Africa and provided Structured Trade Finance for African-related transactions.
In 1995, Godwin Obaseki founded Afrinvest West Africa Limited (formerly Securities Transactions & Trust Company Limited (SecTrust), which has grown to become one of the most reputable investment banking and management firms in Nigeria.
Before becoming the Edo State Governor, Obaseki served as Chairman of the Economic and Strategy Team. He pioneered a number of policy reforms that saw the state restructure its public finance, secure funding for infrastructure and improve the business environment to attract investment in power, agriculture and other critical sectors. Obaseki was also instrumental in attracting the Edo-Azura power project, with support from World Bank to the state.
For seven years in the administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, he served as voluntary Chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team as well as Chairman of Tax Assessment Review Committee for Edo State Internal Revenue Service (TARC) and the Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), respectively.
Pundits tagged him the ‘Wake-and-See Governor’, because he prefers working and delivering infrastructural projects without prior fanfare.
He is currently seeking a re-election on the platform of the PDP after falling out with the APC.