On Wednesday night at the old banquet Hall of the presidential Villa, state governors held a farewell dinner in honour of outgoing governors of Ondo and Edo States, Olusegun Mimiko and Adams Oshiomiole.
Coincidentally, both men were made governors through the courts where they went to fight for their mandates at the election petitions tribunals.
The event was the first of its kind; this was the first time the governors will be honoring their outgoing colleagues. It was well attended by former governors and had Acting President Yemi Osinbajo as the special guest of honour.
It was a night of fun and glamour as all the governors and former governors that spoke were at their witty best. Those who spoke tried to outsmart each other with rib cracking jokes. You would be forgiven if you had mistaken the gathering for a night of thousand laughs.
Former Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan was the first person to give his remarks. He praised both governors, saying even though his state shares borders with Ondo and Edo, problems associated with boundary did not stop his relationship with the two governors from being cordial and excellent. He also spoke of his admiration for Oshiomiole and that one thing he has more than him was that he was taller, a remark which drew laughter from the audience.
Uduaghan turned to Mimiko whom he said has an impressive CV, having been a minister and governor. The former governor said he would also like to be a minister and since the acting President was listening, he hoped he will make his dream a reality.
On his part, The chairman of APC governors forum and governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, said he will miss Oshiomiole, especially during the National Economic Council (NEC) meetings where the former Edo governor had been a constant thorn in his flesh. He said Oshiomhole had a reputation of troubling all his colleagues.
Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el- Rufai said he was proud to belong to the class of short men like Oshiomiole because they have one of their own as the Acting President. He recalled how he met Oshiomiole when he was serving in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government when the former Edo governor was the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). el-Rufai recalled that Oshiomhole always put the then President on his toes whenever fuel prices increased.
The Kaduna governor recalled an incident when he went for Oshiomhole’s inauguration with former EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Obasanjo berated them for attending an event that had to do with someone who belongs to the opposition party. el- Rufai said he told Obasanjo that he decided to attend the event because he went to support his fellow short man. He added that Ribadu, for his part, said he went because Oshiomiole was simply a good man.
He also eulogised Mimiko who he said they served together in Obasanjo’s government where the Ondo governor was the Minister of Housing and Urban development. He said even though Obasanjo opposed Mimiko’s bid to run for governor of Ondo, it still didn’t deter him as he contested and won.
Former governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Atta who was a former chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum chided the governors for breaking the Nigeria governors forum into the APC and PDP governors forum, saying that was not the idea and dream of the forum. He also called for restructuring and devolution of powers at the centre.
Also, governor of Ekiti, Ayo Fayose made the shortest remarks; those who were expecting him to act true to type were disappointed. He simply advised both governors to prepare for life outside office, noting that he alone had the experience of being a governor, a former governor and now a governor again.
When Oshiomiole was called to give his vote of thanks, he was at his witty best as he held the audience spellbound with his jokes. He said he was now a pensioner and that if the pensions are not paid on time he will not hesitate to mobilise pensioners and take over the ring road in Benin.
He thanked his colleagues and praised the acting president for his fairness in dealing with all the governors in the National Economic Council, a trait which was missing in previous governments.
On his part, Mimiko also thanked the acting president and called for restructuring, which he said was the only way the governors could truly be independent. He said rather jocularly that one cannot have everything, like Oshiomiole who was vertically challenged but blessed with the gift of the garb. He asked the gathering to imagine a vertically endowed Oshiomiole with his boldness and all the mouths he took over from his dead relatives.
In his closing remarks, Osinbajo thanked both men for their service to the nation and also joked that he was proud to part part of the small men like the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige; el- Rufai and Oshiomiole. He recalled one of the Federal Executive Council meetings when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal told President Muhammadu Buhari that the average height of the leadership of the APC was decreasing.
Gifts were presented to both Mimiko and Oshiomiole by the acting president and group photographs were taken with.