By Kede Aihie
Brig General (Rtd) Samuel Ogbemudia and Kede Aihie
My interaction with Brigadier General (Rtd), Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia who recently passed on, aged 84, over two decades, gives an insight into his leadership skills. .
Field Marshal Montgomery said a leader “must have infectious optimism, and the determination to persevere in the face of difficulties’. In April 2002, in a chance meeting at a Central London store, he mentioned that he will be 70 in September 2002. I offered to host his70th birthday in London. Ogbemudia’s book, Years of Challenge was loaned to me by him, in preparation for his profile for the birthday celebration.
After reading Years of Challenge, the following resonate; he led by example, clear about what he wanted for his people, admired brilliance and excellence, strategic in carrying out his vision. His training at Aldershot England, U.S Army Special Welfare School Fort Braggs; UN peace keeping force in Congo, had a lot of influence on him as an administrator.
He established the following: University of Benin, Auchi Polytechnic; School of Agriculture; Colleges of Education; College of Physical Education; Ogbe stadium; National Museum; Agbede Mechanized Farm; Rural Electrification Board; Bendel Steel Structures; Bendel Pharmaceuticals; Bendel Boatyard, Bendel Line; High Court Complex; State Civil Service Secretariat; Bendel Cement Factory; Bendel Hotels; Bendel Newspapers Corp; Bendel Insurance; Bendel Insurance Football Club, Midwest Television; Bendel Book Depot; Ethiope Publishing; Bendel Library; New Nigerian Bank, Ewu Flour Mills, Okpella Cement factory.
Ogbemudia’s priority was the quality of life of people of Bendel; he introduced Bendel Line buses and cars, with male and female drivers taking people across major cities in Nigeria. In preparation for the 1973 National Sports Festival, he relocated government from Benin to Afuze, directed the Ministry of Works to go to Afuze with attached drawings for indoor sports hall for training, quarters to accommodate the athletes and officials.
The standard for excellence set by Bendel athletes, who won the inaugural edition of the National sports festival in Lagos, prompted late Tai Solarin to write an open letter of commendation to Ogbemudia for his leadership. Just think Your Excellency, the Afuze idea being duplicated a hundred times in this country, Solarin wrote.
Nigeria’s former Head of State, General (Rtd) Yakubu Jack Gowon, who was Ogbemudia boss, said he ‘was a fine and bold administrator, who exhibited good leadership qualities with legacies that still speak for him even in death’.
No man is immortal, a great visionary has passed on, and may his gallant soul rest in peace.