My dear good people of Edo State, I celebrate with us all as our dear State marks its 32nd anniversary, an epochal moment in our collective effort to build on the lofty vision of our forebears, whose vision was to set Edo on the path of assured progress anchored on the ideals of equity, freedom and independent thought.
We have come a long way as a people. Our heritage and diversity have served us well, providing a large canvas on which we trace our past, understand and appreciate the present and shape our future. Edo people are visioners, thinkers, artists, innovators and wordsmiths, who defined time and space to document our history. Today, Edo boast of one of the oldest knowledge systems and cultural heritage on the continent.
In August, 1963, spearheaded by courageous and notably leaders such as Oba Akenzua and Chief Tony Enahoro, among others, Midwest Region was created through a referendum. In 1976, Midwest region became known as Bendel State and in 1991, Bendel State was divided into Edo and Delta States.
Our past leaders laboured hard to lay the foundation on which our state rests today. From the first Premier of Midwestern Region, Chief Dennis Osadebe, to the giants exploits of Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, to Prof. Ambrose Alli to John Odigie-Oyegun, who at various times made landmark contributions to the development of the socio-economic life of the state.
Across education, sports, industry, agriculture, infrastructure, administration and culture, our past leaders gave a good account of themselves, opening up the state to the world, building a solid economic base and showcasing the talent of our youths to the world.
However, the economic lull that greeted Nigeria since this Republic have eroded a lot of the gains made, plunging the state into dire straits and requiring a reset to the institutions and structures that propped the state up in the past.
This is why we undertook radical reforms of our institutions in Edo State in the last six and half years, advancing reforms and innovations in various spheres of the economy that have opened it up for investments.
We have recalibrated the state’s bureaucracy to deliver efficient services to members of the public.
We have transformed the Edo State Public Service and introduced technology to eliminated paper-based processes, even as we have provided world-class work environment at the Secretariat Complex and hubs, which were remodelled and repurposed from the abandoned structures started over 40 years ago, to standard and conducive work spaces.
The state is at the verge of completing full migration to e-governance protocol, ensuring that services are nimble. Our services are now responsive and driven by technology.
The John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Academy has also been set up to ensure year-long in-service capacity building for all cadre of civil servants in the state.
The first of its kind in Nigeria, the Academy provides bespoke services to make our civil servants the best trained and most competitive in the country.
We have developed a viable primary healthcare system to provide affordable and accessible health services for you, our people in the state. Telemedicine has been introduced in the PHCs even as potable water and stable electricity is guaranteed with solar power installed at the facilities.
The Edo State Health Insurance Scheme is operational and provides robust financing mechanism for the healthcare ecosystem to check out-of-pocket spending for health services.
Through the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme, we have one of the most competitive primary school systems in the world today. Our children are now doing better than their peers in the country. They are now competing with the colleagues across the globe.
These were achieved on account of our robust investment in basic education reforms anchored on technology adoption, infrastructure upgrade, community ownership and quality assurance mechanisms.
We have also undertaken landmark land reforms in the state, through the Edo State Geographic Information Service (EdoGIS) and the Private Property Protection Committee. We have also dislodged non-state actors from the business of land-grabbing, bringing transparency and accountability in land transactions.
In agriculture, we are developing over 70,000 hectares of land in partnership with 10 private investors, who are building oil palm estates. We have also attracted two modular refineries to the state and an ethanol processing plant.
We have placed a strong emphasis on developing a digital economy in Edo State and have made immense investments to build the right infrastructure to drive this vision. We invested massively in digital infrastructure by laying almost 2,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables across the 18 local government areas of the state.
This will ensure the availability of high-speed internet across Edo, providing youths with the opportunity to keep with developments in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the Edo Tech Park, we are training youths on software engineering to position Edo as an outsourcing capital on the continent.
Edo is on a steady path of progress. We have reset the course of our development trajectory. This is why we are designing a new area in the capital city as the Benin Cultural District. It will house the Museum of West African Arts (MOWAA) pavilion, research centre, the Benin Mall, and other enter facilities to promote arts and culture.
The Benin Port Project is another key milestone that signposts the need to rebuild our lost glory. The Port, which heralded our contact with Europeans, is to be rebuilt to drive commerce and industry, serving as a key node to connect the nascent industrial revolution in the state to the global economy.
The preferred bidder for the project, Mota Engil, is to commence work very soon, even as we wrap up the dualisation of Ekehuan Road, the feeder road to the port.
To define a path for the future, we are developing the 30-year Edo Regional Masterplan and the Benin City Masterplan. These plans provide a roadmap for sustaining the gains made and building on them to ensure the momentum is maintained for the next 30 years. The ultimate vision is to make Edo the best place to live and work on the continent by the year 2050.
The plan includes the development of new cities, opening of new areas across the state and providing guides for development planning.
Already, we have set the ball rolling with the development of Coral City and the regeneration of different parts of metropolitan Benin and other key cities across the state.
In spite of the current hardships resulting from the removal of fuel subsidies, our future is bright.
We not oblivious of our role as drivers of the vision to make Edo a continental champion in all spheres of life.
As we mark our 32nd year anniversary and the 60th year of the Midwest referendum, I enjoin everyone not to lose track of where we are coming from, but to focus on the ideals of progress, equity and freedom set by our forebears.
We are grateful and appreciate all those who have worked assiduously with us a state all these years to sustain the reforms and legacy of our founding fathers.
It is on this note that I celebrate everyone as we mark this auspicious event and work towards actualising the vision of making our dear state the best state to live and work by the year 2050.
Long live Edo State, Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria