November 13, 2008

Oshiomhole takes over in Edo

Mr. Adams Oshiomhole formally assumed office as the Edo State governor on Wednesday with an admonition to his associates and supporters to shun vengeance and be at the vanguard of reconciliation in Edo State.

Oshiomhole, who was inaugurated at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, by the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edokpayi, however, said his administration would prevail on the police authorities to probe the death of three youths that were killed while waiting to cast their votes for him on April 14, 2007.

His journey to the Government House was made possible on Tuesday by the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, which upheld the March 20, 2008 verdict of the state Election Petitions Tribunal that he and not Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor won the April poll.

Delivering his inaugural speech at the crowded stadium, Oshiomhole, who wore his trademark Khaki shirt and trouser, said that his administration would not embark on a mission to settle scores even though a good number of his supporters might be thinking in that direction.

He said that the verdict of the tribunal indicated that if he was denied his right, the judiciary had been able to redress the injustice, thereby making vengeance unnecessary.

Oshiomhole, a former Nigeria Labour Congress president, argued that since the battle to retrieve his “stolen mandate” had been fought and won, reconciliation, friendship and the readiness to forgive were imperative.

He said, “I am aware that there are many of our supporters who are angered and pained by what we have had to go through in the past 19 months. Some of them may even be nursing the spirit of vengeance. My friends, there is so much to be done. Hate and vengeance can only suffocate and impede the clarity of thought and purpose.

“The battle has been fought and won. It is now a time for unity and reconciliation. The spirit of forgiveness will open up our minds to the challenges that lie ahead. Let us blaze the moral heights by stretching our hands of forgiveness and friendship.”

Oshiomhole said that his administration would set up a committee to decide on how to immortalise the three youths who were shot dead at the Akenzua Primary School, Benin, while waiting to exercise their civic duty on April 14, 2007.

He said that with his inauguration as governor, Edo was witnessing a new dawn where the votes of the people would be sacred.

Oshiomhole was inaugurated alongside his running mate, Dr. Pius Odubu, by 11.20am amidst fanfare and celebrations.

The turnout at the stadium was unprecedented as the joint team of policemen, soldiers and men of the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps had a tough time controlling the surging and jubilant crowd.

Among prominent AC chieftains that graced the occasion were the National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; the vice-presidential candidate of the party in the April 2007 elections, Senator Ben Obi; a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; his successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); the National Vice-Chairman in the South-South, Chief Tom Ikimi, and a former Edo State Governor, Chief John Oyegun.

A former Chief of General Staff under the regime of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Vice-Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd); the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Zakawanu Garuba, and the representatives of the Oba of Benin, led by Chief Sam Igbe, the Iyase of Benin, and traditional rulers were also present.

Shortly after the inauguration, the governor made his first appointments.

He named Mr. Pally Iriase the secretary to the State Government; Mr. Omorodion Ogie, Chief of Staff; and Mr. Eric Osagie, director of publicity.

Ogie, according to an announcement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Betty Igbeyin, was the secretary of the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said that it will study the lapses in the governorship election in Edo State which led to the removal Osunbor as governor by the Court of Appeal.

The commission also said that it would investigate the source of tabulation error that affected the election in order to determine if there was willful negligence or mischief.

It further said that anyone found to have had a hand in such laxity would not go unpunished.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Legal Services and Clearance Committee, Mr. Victor Chukwuani, told journalists in Abuja that the commission was awaiting a copy of the appeal court judgment.

Chukwuani, who said the judgment was a demonstration of the ideals of democracy, added that the courts and tribunals provided avenues for persons aggrieved by the decisions of the INEC to air their grievances.

On Tuesday, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, reiterated that electronic voting remained the best balloting system for the country.

Iwu, at a workshop in Abuja on balloting method for future elections in Nigeria, said the system reduces the time voters spend at polling centres.

He said, “It holds out tremendous prospects, one of which is the capacity to minimise human influence and therefore enhance confidence in polls.

“With the existence and application of the electronic voters register as well as the capacity for electronic transfer of data and results, the adoption of electronic voting machine will usher in a full use of the electronic voting system.

“There is no doubt that the nation and its electoral system will record a positive leap in advancement of this voting option comes the existence.”

Iwu, who picked holes in the Option A4 and the Open Ballot System, said that both exposed voters to danger.

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