Wednesday, 2 November 2011

When The Edos Remember Ambrose Ali (1929-1989)

The late Prof. Ambrose Ali   
 THE Great Edo People’s Club of Nigeria, last month, harped on the words of the US novelist Mark Twain, which states, ‘let us so live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry’; when it held a memorial Valediction in honour of the late Professor Ambrose Ali, who was the first civilian governor of the defunct Bendel State, now Edo and Delta States, from 1979 to 1983. 
  Made of indigenes of Edo State, the group extolled the leadership virtues and exemplary lifestyle of the visionary leader of the defunct Bendel State.
  Speaking at the occasion, the president of the club, Mr. Ebhodaghe Gabriel Ibhafidon said, “going through the developmental programmes of the governors that have ruled Edo State, from when it was Bendel State to date, the club discovered that none has done up to 50 per cent of what the late don did as governor.”
 “Great Edo People’s Club of Nigeria will honour and celebrate any governor of the state, irrespective of his party or the section of the state he came from, whose government impacts on the people through the provision of the necessary amenities such as available and drinkable pipe-borne water, good roads, sustainable urban and rural health care system, security for lives and property, employment for the youth, quantitative education and the opening up of the rural areas for economic activities to strive.”  
 “The essence of remembering, this leader who died 22 years ago, in I989 to be precise, at the age of 60, is to awaken the consciousness of our present rulers to be responsive to the people, govern well so that they will be remember years after they have left office and to avoid diverting state funds to their personal accounts. Prof. Ali had all the opportunities to convert the wealth of the then Bendel State to enrich himself and his cronies, but chose the path of integrity, aggressively developing the state and left a mark, which none has equaled. Even when he started the university many people criticized him, but today the school is measuring among the best in the world.”
   Eulogising the late sage, Barr. Ben Imoukhuede recalled how the grassroots developmental policies, especially in the education sector, of the late leader enabled the rural dwellers to send their children to school. He informed that Ali’s government established day secondary school and placed students in schools nearest to their homes as a way of making them to help their parents at home and in the farm.
    Dr. Ogizien, the Adaze of Ewohimi Kingdom, who narrated the hassles people faced in the hands of tax collectors, said Ali’s abolition of the flat-rate tax unified families because before the abolition most men in the rural areas were that were unable to pay the said tax ran to their farmsteads, where they spend the whole day, but the removal of the taxing system brought them back to their families.
   Emphasizing on the legacies of the late leader, Ibhafidon stated that Ali’s demise left a big vacuum in the state and the nation as whole and, urged the present governor, Adams Oshiomhole to emulate Ali and even surpass him to make the state the envy of all.
     Born in Idoani, Ondo State on September 22, 1929 and died on his birthday, September 22, 1989, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos, Ambrose Ali was a member of the constituent assembly that drafted the 1978 Nigerian constitution. He joined the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and won the 1979 governorship election under the party’s platform.
   Prior to his election as governor, he was Professor of Morbid Anatomy, University of Benin.
   During his tenure, as governor, he established over 600 new secondary schools, four teachers’ training colleges, three polytechnics, a college of Agriculture and Fishery as well as the Bendel State University, now Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma; with campuses in Ekpoma, Abraka and Asaba.
  However, with the creation of Delta State on August 27, 1991, by the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration, the university’s campus in Abraka took the status of a full-fledged university and became the Delta State University, Abraka.
   Retiring to his family house in 1983 after the military government of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took over power in a coup d etat, Ali was sentenced to a 100-year imprisonment by a military tribunal for allegedly misappropriating N983, 000 funds for a road project. The late governor was later released when the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, paid the said amount as fine to the government and died soon after.

Cross section of members of Edo People's Club

   Other reforms included abolishing charges for services and drugs at state-owned hospitals, introduction of free education, bursary grant for university students from the state and full salaries to serving teachers admitted into any of the colleges to continue their education as well as civil servants on study leaves.
   Furthermore, the payment of flat rate tax, which before the coming of his administration had been the greatest threat and tool of oppression to the rural dwellers, was abolished. He also carried out massive construction of roads to open up the rural areas and as well constructed low cost housing estates in different areas of the state.
   Known for his simple lifestyle, Ali, as governor, wore sandals and simple dress to government functions. He was quoted to have said,” I am so busy working in Government House that I never had time to buy shoes.”
   For his insightful leadership, some group has since established a yearly-distinguished leadership lecture in his honour.

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