To the honorable members of the Edo State House of Assembly: it does not give me any pleasure to write these lines to you. Sometime ago, I think in the year 2000 or so when I was a rookie stringer and a fledgling journalist, I wrote about you via the Nigerian Observer telling you how much I admired what you were doing and what you stood for as members of an organ of government that should keep the executive on its toes. In that essay, I told you all that I was proud of you, how you changed the name of the Edo State House of Assembly to that of an elder statesman that contributed immensely to the Nigerian nation. I saw you then as the group that God has sent to Edo State to bring about much-needed growth and development especially in the area of the human being. But today, the kind of appalling silence that comes from you as Edo State and particularly Benin City falls into ruins is louder than the booms of hand grenades and the rat-tat-tat staccato sounds of an AK-47. So, what I have to say to you now comes from deep inside my guts and I have no regrets whatsoever if you take my words amiss.
There is one of you now whose vocabulary is known to invoke fire and brimstone and sulphuric acid. If he makes three sentences and the word ‘imbroglio’ was not among them, then it was not him that made the utterance. A long time ago, he came to our house in Benin on bathroom slippers begging us to vote for him. Back then in Uniben, he was known as a radical on the side of the progressives and a Marxist on the side of the rights of man. He told us, swearing by his grandfather’s grave, that he would go right down there and take the bull of stagnation in Benin City by the horns and by the balls. What is it that has happened to him? Has he compromised? And why did such a seeming bright chap allow himself to lie with the strange bedfellows in that house? It is a person of his character and disposition who may want to let you know from Thomas Jefferson that the one man who refuses to be cowed usually makes the majority.
Some houses of Assembly in Nigeria today are the hope of the common man against the tyranny of the executive across the country whether some believe this or not. From the Senate to the House of Representatives; from Bayelsa to Oyo and from Ekiti to Anambra and to Plateau, the battle axe of impeachment has fallen decisively on the tin gods of these states either on account of their insensitivity, their high-handedness or that they were guilty of all of these. In your state, Edo, the governor has not tarred roads; there is no power supply in that whole town, leaving some of us to wonder whether or not there is any iota of government in that state. The only viable industry in that ancient town of yours still is the okada and the Italian Connection. As soon as anyone enters that City of yours from any part of the country, the feeling one immediately gets is that this is an abandoned town. Whatever is it that you people are waiting for to impeach a governor who hardly performed in his first tenure and his father begged that he repeat a class that he failed so woefully? Has the governor given you so much money that you have allowed your very own town to dilapidate and rot? If the governor were not an indigene of Edo State, would you people allow him carry on the way he is doing? Are you aware that in conspiring and aligning with the governor, you abdicate your primary responsibility to the people of Edo state who are supposed to have elected you, even though some of you got there by crook?
By far the most nauseating project that you have almost embarked upon that will establish you as a coterie of semi-jobless people who lack the drive and vision for leadership is that you are considering changing the name, ‘University of Benin’, to ‘Samuel Ogbemudia University’. I do not know where the need to change the name of the only institution that energizes our spinal cord and establishes a nostalgic touch with those of us who are not even from that state came from. There are burning issues; there are urgent needs to be met in Edo State; there are roads begging to be tarred and people hunger for the economic activities that power supply can trigger in Benin City. Are the honorable members saying that with the change in the name of the University of Benin to Samuel Ogbemudia University, that the roads will be automatically tarred; that there will be electricity; that there will be jobs for the virile young men and women who are now armed robbers and prostitutes in Italy? Is that what you are saying? One would have thought that with the change of name from Ogbe Stadium to Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, Edo state should bounce back to her days of glory when she was part of the old Bendel state. But that has not been the case. In the last National sports festival, Edo state was not among the major players. Bendel Insurance FC’s fortunes are at its lowest ebb. Her athletes, sportsmen and women live their lives daily measured out in tiny spoons of bournvita. Take for instance too the BENSU of yore. As soon as the name of that university was changed to Ambrose Ali University, anarchy seemed to have set in. That school’s law faculty that was one of the best in Nigeria began to experience a slide and before anyone knew what was happening, the school became known as a haven of cult activity. Take too the instance of the change in the name of the Edo State House of Assembly. People became more myopic and less universal in their approach to issues as soon as that name came into effect. It seemeth then that change in names of once virile institutions in Edo State is the injection of a virus that cripples the creative potential of those institutions. If this is what the honorable Edo state legislators have in mind then it is most unfortunate. They should remember that the fact that that school is cited in their domain hardly is the reason they should tinker with a school that represents some sort of spiritual umbilical cord to some of us.
The name they have in mind to change the University of Benin to is an auspicious one. The man Osaigbovo Samuel Ogbemudia was the architect of that town even when he was a military man and the kind of stories we used to hear about him gave us a sense of pride and belonging then and now. As recognition for his contributions to that State, there is nothing wrong really, if they name an equally auspicious school after an auspicious person. But that is not what we in Edo state are after now. Naming that school after him will not tar the roads, will not provide electricity and will not stem the tide of poverty in that city. The lawmakers should focus their energies on how to impeach the governor and bring some air of decorum to the business of governance in that state. If you look at it a little deeper than what is on ground, I sense a very parochial and a very mundane reason why they want to engage themselves in such trivia as the changing of the name of Great Uniben! to something as drab as Great SOU!