It was all round sad emotions for the people of Edo State and Nigeria as the remains of former Military Governor of the defunct Mid-West region, late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, were laid to rest, after an interdenominational service held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, Edo State.
The late governor died last Thursday at the age of 84 in a private hospital, having suffered from diabetes for some years.
He was also a former democratically elected governor of the Old Bendel State.
His body arrived at the stadium in a glass coffin at about 11 a.m. with a military escort.
Among the dignitaries at the event were the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; his deputy, Philip Shaibu; Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; the immediate past Governor of the Edo, Adams Oshiomhole; his former deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu; another former Governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, and a former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Also present were a former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.); the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and a former Federal Commissioner, Chief Edwin Clark.
Others are senior chiefs from the palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, and members of the National Assembly and state House of Assembly.
The venue of the event is also filled to capacity with students and pupils drawn from different schools across the state.
Various groups, including traditional rulers, civil servants and market women from Edo and Delta States were also present to bid the elder statesman farewell.
There was a heavy presence of security, provided by personnel of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police, the Department of State Services, Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Legion, to ensure orderliness as more residents flooded the stadium to participate in the ceremony.
In his tribute, Governor Obaseki said that Ogbemudia led a life of uncommon passion for service dedicated to God and man.
He said that the late icon was a patriot who fought on the side of the federal forces to preserve the unity and security of our country and dedicated himself to the reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation of the state and the country.
Obaseki said, “He undertook landmark improvements in the area of sports, urban development, education, public transportation, housing and commerce.
“He built the Ogbe sports stadium, now named the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, which is one of the very many landmark achievements he will be remembered for.”
The governor also said that the late Ogbemudia’s legacy of patriotism, courage and uncommon administrative acumen had made him (Ogbemudia) “the outstanding individual of our time”.
Okowa, who was represented by his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, noted that the former military administrator’s overriding passion was for peace, progress and development, adding that he worked with like-minded individuals, irrespective of their political affiliation.
“He was truly an officer and gentleman; he leaves behind an endearing legacy of good governance and selfless leadership that continue to inspire the generation after him,” he added.
On his part, Gowon, who appointed the late elder statesman as a military governor in 1967 before the 1975 coup, lamented that the death of Ogbemudia had depleted the rank of “old soldiers”.
While recalling the achievements of the former governor, Gowon described him as a bold soldier who played his part well during the civil war, adding that he (Ogbemudia) “had just moved to a spiritual barracks,” as “old soldiers never die”.
Gowon added, “It is sad that Sam is no longer with us. But, as it is said, to live in the hearts of people is not to die. Sam has played his part and has made his exit.
“I pray God to comfort his family as well as the government and good people of Edo State and, indeed, Nigeria. ”
Oyegun, who spoke on behalf of former governors of the two states, said that the late Ogbemudia’s achievements had a positive impact on him, as a former civil servant.
According to him, the former military administrator was instrumental in the repositioning of Edo as the heartbeat of the nation.
One of the officiating ministers said that the late octogenarian sowed a seed of love, knowledge and wisdom in the hearts of the citizens of the state.
The remains of the deceased governor were later taken to his residence at Iheya Street in a black Mercedes-Benz hearse at about 1:35 p.m. and interred in the grave, which he personally prepared and directed to be buried in.
He was also given a 21-gun salute by soldiers from the 4 Brigade Command in Benin.
( Punch Nigeria)