As Obaseki Goes for Shaibu’s Jugular in Edo…

Adibe Emenyonu writes that the face-off between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, and Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, worsens at the weekend with the relocation of the deputy governor’s office from the Government House to another area in GRA, Benin City.

To say the war of attrition between Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, is getting complicated by the day is an understatement. Since the deputy governor approached an Abuja high court to prevent his impeachment by the state assembly and the denial by his principal that such move was not even contemplated, there has been a bad blood between the two political actors.

Two weeks back, the disaffection recorded its first casualty as the deputy governor’s sister in-law, a Permanent Secretary in charge of the Sports Commission who apparently assumed that position at the instance of her sister’s husband was forcefully transfered to the Central Administrative section of the Government House, Benin City.

Also, last Sunday, the deputy governor came back from holiday to meet his principal unreceptive attitude towards him. The incident happened during a church service in the State Governmet House to mark the 32nd anniversary of the creation of Edo State.

Drama played out when Shaibu, had made a move to greet the governor who was at the front row in the church, but the governor’s security details fenced him off, refusing to allow him to get close to the governor apparently on instruction.

The deputy governor however, was observed from afar bowing to the governor in form of respect before returning to his seat.

To make matters worse, no seat was reserved for the deputy governor in the front row at the event, as he had to get a chair in front of the other aile of the church hall.

Addressing reporters shortly after the ceremony, the deputy governor reaffirmed his unalloyed loyalty to his boss, Governor Godwin Obaseki, whom he described as his elder brother.

Shaibu said whatever disagreement he may have with his boss was strictly a family affair and he (Shaibu) would never address the governor in the media, maintaining that ambition does not affect loyalty as his loyalty to Obaseki remain absolute.

According to him, ”issues that concern my governor are not what I discuss on camera. He (Obaseki) is my elder brother and boss, if I have any issues with him, I think it is better settled at home not in the media. Family problem are better resolved in a family way.

“I am well brought up and from my Christian background, when you take a vow (with God), you must fulfil it. And the vow I have taken with God is that I will continue to support Godwin Obaseki as the Governor of Edo State from the beginning to the end.

“But that doesn’t stop any other thing that has to do with ambition. Ambition is personal. Ambition does not affect loyalty. My loyalty to the governor remains absolute. 

I am also in solidarity with the governor and declaring my unalloyed loyalty to the governor and nothing more.”

Nevertheless, the governor’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Andrew Okungbowa, defended his principal, saying “whatever happened at the Church service was not at the behest of the governor, neither was he aware what the security aides were doing; in fact the security aides were doing their job. Besides, the governor was not aware that the deputy was coming to greet him.”

Okungbowa posited that the Church is a public event, so the security aides had a duty to protect their principal.

Though well said and articulated, 24 hours after the church incident, Shaibu received another shocking attack. This time, it was at the 60th anniversary of the creation of Midwest region through a referendum in July, 1963 held at the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub in Benin City.

At the event, the media crew of the State Deputy Governor, were all at work when they were allegedly identified by the governor’s media aides before security operatives attached to the governor asked them to leave the venue.

It was gathered that as this was going on, the deputy governor tried to intervene but all his efforts were futile as he was also told by the security men that they were acting on “instruction from above.”

At that point, Shaibu who could not be in an event where his media crew was barred decided to leave the venue, a decision that was described as the height of insubordination knowing fully well that as deputy governor, he and his media team have no role to play at the event with his principal as the centre of focus.

His leaving did not however, calm frayed nerved as on the same day, the media crew attached to his office was disbanded with a directive to henceforth request the Ministry of Communication and Orientation for media coverage of activities of his office.

The directive came in a statement by the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare who claimed the measure was as a result of the ugly and unfortunate incident that happened during the colloquium held to mark the 60th anniversary of Midwest “where some journalists, who claimed to be the media crew of the Deputy Governor, attempted to force their way into the hall where the governor and other invited dignitaries were already seated”.

This act, according to Nehikhare, was contrary to the accreditation protocol that had been established for media coverage of the event, adding that “the orchestrated and stage-managed walkout and disruption was highly regrettable.”

The disagreement between Edo State Governor and the deputy governor may not end with the disbandment of the deputy governor’s media crew as there are indications that the last time Shaibu will step his feet on the soil of Government House, Benin City, is Monday, September 4.

Already, the Deputy Governor’s office has been relocated to a building outside the Government House. The new office is situated at 7, Dennis Osadebey Avenue, GRA, Benin. 

The building houses the State Public Procurement Office inaugurated by a former Governor of the state, Senator Adams Oshiomhole on December 16, 2014. 

It has a plaque indicating the inauguration date etched by the entrance of the building and a sign post with the inscription, Office of the Deputy Governor, already erected at the entrance with workers seen renovating the building and cleaning the compound.

One of the workers handling the renovation of the Deputy Governor’s new office who did not give his name, told THISDAY that their job is expected to be delivered on Monday, adding that he doesn’t know what the building was going to be used for as he also had no idea about how the sign board was placed at the entrance.

According to him, “I work for the company handling this renovation of this building. Our job is to deliver the project on Monday as agreed. I do not know how the sign board got to the entrance of the building and I don’t have any idea of what the building will be used for.”

Reacting to the development, the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare said, “If there is a government sign board saying it is the office of the deputy governor, then it must be so.”

The feud between the two political leaders in the heartbeat of the nation heightened when Shaibu approached the Federal High Court in Abuja  to restrain Governor Obaseki, Edo State House of Assembly, Chief Judge of Edo State and others from impeaching him.

In reaction, Obaseki had accused Shaibu of being desperate to succeed him, saying the deputy governor may contemplate coup against him (Obaseki), an allegation Shaibu had vehemently denied, saying he remains loyal to the Governor as there was no ill feeling against Obaseki.

At this stage, politicians, leaders of thought, and other watchers of political activities in Edo state are at fingers crossed, waiting with uncertainty the outcome of the court ruling fixed for September 7, in a suit by the Edo State deputy governor seeking to stop his impeachment by the state House of Assembly.

Justice Ahmed Mohamed fixed the said date after entertaining final documents from counsel to parties in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2027/2023. 

In the suit, Shaibu accused Obaseki of plotting to, among others, prevent him from performing his official responsibilities and instigating the state assembly to impeachment him in order to frustrate his ambition to contest the 2024 governorship election in the state.

Listed with Obaseki as defendants in the suit are the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Department of State Security (DSS), the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, and the Chief Judge of the state.

In his arguments, counsel to Shaibu, George Ibrahim, stated that the defendants are contending that the deputy governor’s case is hinged solely on impeachment but failed to address the allegation that Obaseki was planning to prevent his client from further carrying out his constitutional duties.

According to him, “They have not denied the fact that the gate between the offices of the deputy governor and the governor has been locked.” Ibrahim said.

Even the Oba of Benin and some prominent persons in the state have sought to intervene but were discouraged by Obaseki’s alleged insistence that Shaibu must publicly renounce his plan to join the All Progressives Congress (APC).

On the other hand, counsel to Obaseki and the state assembly, Ken Mozia, has queried the competence of the court  to hear the case, arguing that the plaintiff deliberately joined the IGP and the DSS as parties with the aim of clothing the Federal High Court in Abuja with jurisdiction.

“The case of impeachment plans is founded on speculation, suspicion and generic statement about an impending impeachment. To come to talk about state security officers not opening the gate for him is absurd”, Mozia contended, stating further that Shaibu failed to provide evidence that the assembly had commenced move to impeach him.

He therefore accused Shaibu of deliberately shunning official meeting with Obaseki and thus, prayed the court to dismiss the suit.

Whichever way the ruling goes, one thing remains obvious, and that is,  Obaseki and Shaibu may remain irreconcilable enemies until their tenure ends on November 12, 2024.

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