By Dallas Onyema
Former Military Governor of defunct Bendel State, Lt. Col. Samuel Ogbemudia, passed on Thursday March 9, 2017, at 84; barely three days after another ex-military governor of defunct Western Region, Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo, died in Lagos on the eve of his 89th birthday.
The son of the former military administrator, Samuel Ogbemudia Jr., said that his father died around 11.09pm in a Lagos hospital.
He said that before his death, his father had prepard his grave years back, beside that of his late wife in their family house in Benin, Edo State.
Ogbemudia, who until his death was a chieftain of the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was appointed Military administrator of Mid-West state in September, 1967 following the liberation of state from the secessionist Biafran forces.
After his promotion to Lt. Colonel, Ogbemudia was appointed Military Governor of the state on October 26, 1967.
A populist, dedicated to reconstruction after the war, he initiated improvements in the areas of sports, urban development, education, public transportation, housing and commerce.
In July 1975, when Murtala Mohammed became head of state, he retired the 12 military governors who had served under Yakubu Gowon. The retirement of the governors found guilty of corruption was converted to dismissal; among them was the late elder statesman.
During a brief return to civil rule, Ogbemudia was elected governor of Bendel State in Oct 1983 as candidate for the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), replacing Ambrose Alli of the Unity Party of Nigeria. However, he lost his position in December that year when Muhammadu Buhari became military ruler after a coup d’état that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari.
He built the Ogbe Sports Stadium, now named after him and in August 1973 he commissioned the three-storey National Museum in Benin City.
Other projects included the Agbede Mechanized Farm, Rural Electrification Board, Bendel Steel Structures, Bendel Pharmaceuticals, Bendel Boatyard, the University of Benin and the Bendel Line.
In later years, people looked back on his governorship as a time when much was achieved, followed by stagnation in later administrations.