The success recorded by Godwin Obaseki in the Edo State governorship election would not have been possible without the steadfastness of his deputy,Philip Shaibu, writes Tobi Soniyi
The Edo State governorship election held on September 19, 2020 which returned Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has come and gone, but pleasant memories around it linger.
By the final score, Obaseki polled a total of 307,955 to defeat his rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC who scored 223,619 out of the 557,443 accredited voters and was accordingly returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
While the feisty battle led to the retirement of a godfather and his followers in Edo State, one individual and key player in the exercise whose position and loyalty to his boss, Governor Obaseki, would reverberate for years to come is the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu.
A longtime ally of Oshiomhole, Shaibu cut his political teeth as student union activist when he became the National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 2000, from where he delved into mainstream politics to become representative of the Etsako West in the Edo State House of Assembly for eight years.
After serving as Majority Leader in the Edo House of Assembly, he was elected into the House of Representatives, as a federal lawmaker representing Federal Constituency in the for 18 months, where he built a political pedigree.
As a state lawmaker, he was nicknamed Mr. Constituency because while he served for eight years, he attracted 49 projects to his constituency. In the 18 months in the House of Representatives, he had nine projects to his credit.
In the run off to the governorship election in Edo State, especially during Obaseki’s faceoff with his godfather and a former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the consequent disqualification, Shaibu remained loyal to Obaseki, expressing readiness to sink with him, where necessary.
In an interview before the elections, Shaibu said: “Oshiomhole wanted me to join him knowing that I was close to the members elect then of the Edo State House of Assembly. This was because I spent eight years as a member of the Edo State House of Assembly and about 18 months in the House of Representatives. I have goodwill among the lawmakers because of my own style.
“He wanted me to use this goodwill that I have to remove the governor and succeed him and I said no, because it is not in my nature to betray anyone. If I did not betray Oshiomhole when I was NANS president and he was NLC president, when I was offered money to get Nigerian students out of the planned strike then, and I did not betray him when I was chased with money and a plot of land in Maitama, Abuja, to support his impeachment when I was in the state assembly, then I cannot betray my own governor.
“And I said ‘I don’t have those tendencies.’ I pleaded with Oshiomhole, I knelt down before him that this government is doing well and we are taking the policies that we adopted during his own time to the next level.
“I begged him that no matter and when I asked what errors Obaseki committed, he gave flimsy excuses and when I could not hold anything against him, I knelt down and pleaded that I’m your son, why not forgive him, no matter what offence he may have committed. But instead of listening to my plea he said my action was an indication that I have taken sides with the governor.
“I stood up and told him that if you want to remove the governor, you will have to remove both of us, but you cannot use me to chase him away. If the governor leaves, I leave. The truth is that I hate oppression. When Oshiomhole was being oppressed we fought on his side. I was brutalised and my family was at risk. Hired assassins came to my house at the Lawmakers Quarters…They shattered the house with guns and the cars there were badly damaged. I threw my family across the fence and that was how they were saved. All of these were in efforts to save Comrade Oshiomhole from impeachment.
“I told him the same energy I used to fight on his side when they wanted to impeach him would be used for Governor Obaseki.
“I became an activist because of my hatred for oppression. If you check my records during the military rule, I was part of the struggle for this democracy and Oshiomhole had the plans for the House of Assembly. All these members of the House were not those who won the APC primaries, but Oshiomhole got up and replaced all of them, Damian Lawani and the rest and put all his stooges,” he said.
On the crises in the Edo State House of Assembly where about six lawmakers have recently defected to the PDP, Shaibu said the lawmakers are acting the script of the former chairman. In his view, the configuration of the State Assembly was planned to control Obaseki and himself.
Speaking on Shaibu’s demonstration of loyalty through the years, Spokesman of PDP in Edo State, Mr. Chris Nehikhare said the leadership of the party did not expect anything short of that from a persona of Shaibu’s pedigree, giving his record over the years.
“His reaction is the minimum expected of someone of his background. He is a former students’ union president, former legislator and when you add all these together, you get a decent individual not propelled by self-interest and ambition but he is ready to serve the interest of the people.
“I’m not surprised at the level of his loyalty and that is the kind of person we need in the polity. The future of Nigeria is in the hands of persons like that, top government officials who are committed to national development and cannot be corrupted by offers of any form.”