The rumblings in Edo State, by Kazeem Akintunde

When the going was good, they were so close that one can mistake them for Siamese twins. Where one is, the other will be lurking around. Within a radius of 10 meters, you must find both men, more like a snail and its shell. The relationship was so strong that when Godwin Obaseki, the incumbent Governor of Edo State, fell out with the powers-that-be in the All Progressive Congress and was to be denied a second term ticket in 2020, he moved to the Peoples Democratic Party with his main-man, Philip Shaibu. Apart from that, Obaseki “bought” his way into securing the PDP governorship ticket in the state and also insisted on running with his deputy, Shaibu.
He was so cork-sure that once Shaibu was on the ballot alongside him, the governorship election would be as good as won.
Indeed, his prediction came to pass as the Obaseki/Shaibu ticket gave victory to the PDP in the 2020 governorship poll, signaling the height of loyalty and being sure of what you wanted.
However, what united them from 2016 till now is about to split them and is also threatening to tear them into pieces. And that is Man’s insatiable lust for power. It was Winston Churchill who once spoke about ‘men’s insatiable lust for power only being equaled by his incurable impotence in exercising it’. Tacitus, an 18th-century Philosopher, also stated that ‘the lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion’. It is therefore understandable that Shaibu has tasted power and he is not about to let it go easily without a fight, and he is not bothered whether he suffers broken arms or legs in the process. After being a Deputy Governor in Nigeria for eight years, it is mandatory for him to step up the political ladder. After all, he did a lot enthroning his boss to the office twice and under two different political parties.
Obaseki’s background in partisan politics is limited. In fact, he cannot be regarded as your average Nigerian politician. He is more or less a technocrat that found himself in politics. Obaseki was a banker based in Lagos, where he started his early life as a stockbroker in 1983 with Capital Trust Brokers Limited. By 1995, he founded Afrinvest West Africa Limited, and was the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Company till September 2016, before he resigned to contest for the Edo State Governorship ticket. Being a technocrat, the then APC felt the need to pair him with a young and dynamic grassroots politician, who understands the terrain back home. Shaibu became the number one choice, and as they say, the rest is history.
He started partisan politics at the University of Jos, where he was elected the National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, University of Jos Chapter between 2000 and 2001. Two years later, he ventured into full-time politics when he contested for the Edo State House of Assembly seat to represent Etsako West Constituency under the ticket of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, but he lost the election. Four years later, he picked the same ticket, this time, under the Action Congress (AC). He capped it by emerging the Majority Leader of the House. His rise in partisan politics thus began. By 2015, he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives from where he was plucked in 2016 to become the Deputy Governor to Obaseki. Now, the young man has grown, and time is ripe to move a step higher. But his boss seems not to be well disposed to his ambition.
Although Shaibu’s contributions to Obaseki’s winning elections twice were recognized and duly acknowledged by Obaseki, he felt that Shaibu may not be the man to take over from him come November 12 next year. In Obaseki’s wisdom, Shaibu was given too much latitude to do as he wished as a Deputy Governor. He became a very powerful deputy beyond the spare-tyre mantra many Deputy Governors are known for in Nigeria. He was in charge of many of the revenue-generating agencies in the state as well as the supervision of Local Government Councils. Apart from that, he was as popular, if not more popular than his boss. Now, he believes, and rightly so, that he should be the next occupier of Edo State Government House. He knows the enormous power and influence that whoever occupies the office yields. Immediately after winning the 2020 election with his boss, Shaibu started building his own political camp.
One of the first steps he took was to rally traditional rulers in his domain around him and his ambition. In June, when politicians in Edo Central Senatorial Zone visited Obaseki to solicit his support in producing the next Governor of the state next year, traditional rulers in Edo North immediately declared that Philip Shaibu was their preferred candidate for the election. Speaking at the palace of the Ogieneni of Uzairue, Alhaji Kadiri Imhonikhe, Omogbai IV, the Olokpe of Okpe, HRH Oba Idogu III, said that they would throw their weight behind their son (Shaibu) who had informed them that he is also in the race to succeed Obaseki.
The open endorsement by the traditional rulers was the first sign of trouble for Obaseki. He felt slighted that his Deputy, who told him that he is consulting on whether to run or not and would make his decision known, had already made up his mind to join the race. Obaseki felt more slighted with his belief that Edo North Senatorial District, where Shaibu comes from should not be the same zone that should produce the next Governor in the state as former Governor Adams Oshiomhole is from the same zone.
There and then, a decision was taken to crumble Shaibu’s political ambition. Their frosty relationship reached a crescendo when Shaibu visited his erstwhile godfather and kinsman, Oshiomhole, in Abuja, during his inauguration as a Senator representing Edo North Senatorial District. With Shaibu’s visit to Oshiomhole in Abuja, again, without his knowledge, Obaseki became livid that his Deputy was hobnobbing with his political adversaries, hence his resolve to clip his wings.
Now is the time to fight back and Obaseki eventually did so by pulling the rug from under Shaibu’s feet. He removed from the Deputy Governor, the supervision of revenue-generating agencies as well as the supervision of Local Governments among others, that were domiciled in Shaibu’s office. A few days later, Obaseki summoned a private meeting of all PDP members of the State House of Assembly at his house without informing or inviting his deputy. When Shaibu heard about the meeting, he ran to the venue like a wounded lion but the gate was shut against him. Fearing that his job may be on the line, and that his political career might be ruined through impeachment, Shaibu approached an Abuja High Court to forestall any alleged impeachment plan against him by his Principal.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1027/2023, the Inspector General of Police; State Security Service; the Governor of Edo State; the Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, and the Chief Judge of the State are the first, second, third, fourth and fifth defendants respectively. Shaibu is seeking an interlocutory injunction restraining the third, fourth and fifth defendants/respondents or their agents from commencing an impeachment process against him.
Obaseki has told whoever cared to listen that he is not after the impeachment of his deputy, but that it was ill-timed to begin partisan politics for an election that is still over a year away. He described his deputy as a desperate man who is ready to do all within his power to realize his inordinate ambition. He wonders why Shaibu would be bent on becoming the next Governor of the state when he is from the same Senatorial zone with former Governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
Obaseki is said to be looking towards Edo Central for a successor. Asuen Ighodalo, a Lagos-based businessman is said to be the candidate after Obaseki’s heart and it remains to be seen whether his choice will gel with Edo indigenes.
Shaibu has vowed to contest next year’s Governorship election in the State as he has the constitutional right to do so as an indigene of the state. He has also vowed to use the Wike Method in Edo State, possibly by destabilizing the PDP and returning to the APC if he is unable to secure the ticket in PDP. Whether he will survive and remain the Deputy Governor till the end of Obaseki’s tenure is yet to be seen, but what is clear is that Edo politics is about to witness a grand spectacle in the coming weeks.
What the Obaseki/Shaibu power tussle has brought to the fore is that Nigerian politicians are into politics for their personal aggrandisement and not to better the lot of anybody. In Edo State, governance has been put in abeyance, and partisan politics has taken the central stage. Nobody is talking about improving the lot of Edo citizens as two jolly good fellows whose political ambition aligned in the past but are now at cross-purposes are at each other’s jugular. The masses are now left holding the short end of the stick. Most politicians in Nigeria and indeed Africa are after their personal pockets, the welfare of their people is of no concern to many of them. This is what is giving rise to military coups in some West African countries. Although the Khaki Boys are also not a shade better, it has left many opinion moulders divided on the form of government best suited for African countries. If the masses are not enjoying the so-called dividends of democracy, what form of government should we now practice in Africa? I think that democracy, a form of government for the people by the people still remains the best. However, we should ensure that those who fail to deliver are kicked out of power after every four-year circle, as we have in Nigeria. It is hoped that we would eventually get it right soon. Once we solve our leadership problem, half of our problems would have been solved.
See you next week.

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