Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Despite interventions from different quarters, it seems there is no backing down in the bitter row between Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Mr. Philip Shaibu, as things got messier yesterday, with the deputy governor, reportedly, locked out of Government House, Benin City.
But an unsigned statement, which was also not confirmed, seemed to make a case for the governor. It alleged that Shaibu attempted to force his way into the personal office of the governor, along with his security aides, even when his office had been moved to another property.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), however, condemned what it called “irritating pettiness” by Obaseki and his unnecessary executive antagonism against Shaibu. HURIWA urged the state House of Assembly to step in and investigate the matter.
Yesterday’s incident began when Shaibu got to the gate to his office and the main entrance leading to the storey building was locked with chains and heavy padlocks. The deputy governor and his aides waited for about an hour and left. He was said to have made frantic calls, trying to reach the governor, but to no avail.
Sources revealed that Shaibu later had discussions with the Commissioner of Police and Director of Department of State Services (DSS) to complain about how he was locked out of his office.
Shaibu was said to have summoned the Government House Camp Commandant, Ibrahim Babatunde (SP), to ask why he was locked out of his office, but was told it was a directive from above. Babatunde, reportedly, added that the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Government House, Williams Wabba, would be in a better position to explain.
Moreover, it was gathered that Shaibu contacted Wabba by telephone, and he promised to come, but never did.
An eye witness said, “The gate to the office of the deputy governor and the main entrance leading to the storey building was locked with chains and heavy padlocks. Shaibu and his aides waited for about an hour and left.”
However, a report trending online, believed to have been posted by Obaseki’s aides, claimed that Shaibu tried to force himself into the governor’s office even after he was told that the governor was not around.
The report said all entreaties by the security operatives, who asked him to “kindly go back and call the governor if he wanted to see his principal were rebuffed. Instead, he kept pushing the gate, causing a scene.”
An aide to Obaseki, who did not want his name mentioned, alleged the deputy governor only came to Government House to make trouble.
The source said the issue of the deputy governor being locked out of his office did not arise, as his office had been relocated over two weeks ago.
The governor’s aide stated regarding Shaibu, “He has an office and he relocated there and sent the story out. So he should be asked why he came to Government House today trying to force himself into an office that is not his own.
“His office is there. If he had gone there and he was locked out, then it will be an issue. He came to Government House purposely to cause tension.”
A letter signed by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, dated September 15, 2023, addressed to the Office of the Deputy Governor seemed to suggest that Shaibu had been informed of his relocation to a new office.
The letter, which was received by the deputy governor’s office on September 18, 2023, stated, “I write to inform you that His Excellency, the Governor has approved the relocation of your office accommodation to No. 7, Dennis Osadebe Avenue, GRA, Benin City.
“You are therefore requested to ensure your compliance in line with Mr. Governor’s approval, please.”
Nonetheless, HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said, “We have read series of stories in the media regarding the unacceptable level of pettiness that has become the governance modus operandi of the Edo State Governor, His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, particularly, with regard to his absolute disrespect for the office of the deputy governor of Edo State occupied by virtue of a joint ticket by His Excellency, Comrade Philip Shaibu.
“The two actions that speak to this act of treachery is that of expulsion of the deputy governor out of the premises of the Government House in Benin City to a street flooded by muddied and dirty latrine water.
“And, secondly, the refusal of the security officers attached to the Government House to grant access to the deputy governor and, thus, presenting the high office of the deputy governor as that of an unwanted irritant, when in fact, there can’t be the office of state governor without that of deputy governor.
“We think that the Edo State House of Assembly, if it exists, should investigate if these decisions of the governor against his deputy fall within the jurisdiction of decisions made in an atmosphere of ‘unsound mind’, in which case, if the legislators determine that the quality of such decisions can be so classified to have possibly originated from ‘directives emanating from an unsound mind’, they should impeach the governor.
“There is the need for the assembly to constitute an investigative panel, including clinical psychological experts, to examine if it is possible for such decisions against the deputy governor, who holds a joint mandate with the governor, to have been originated from ‘a sound mind’. But if the contrary is the determination reached by the House, that such decisions are from a sound mind, then the people of Edo State should be told transparently.”