Sunday, 10th December 2023

Amid rift, Obaseki, Shaibu plot victory in 2024 gubernatorial race

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
13 August 2023   |   4:20 am
Ahead of the countdown to the Edo 2024 governorship election, an epic battle seems to be brewing in the state between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu. And it is all part of the battle to succeed Governor Obaseki.

[FILES] Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu. Photo: Facebook/PhilipShaibuEDSG

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Ahead of the countdown to the Edo 2024 governorship election, an epic battle seems to be brewing in the state between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu. And it is all part of the battle to succeed Governor Obaseki.

While the cloud is gathering and with observers not sure of what would follow next, Shaibu has even taken to the court, to seek protection from possible impeachment and removal from office by his principal. Shaibu had approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop an alleged impeachment plan by his principal, which has been denied by Obaseki.

Until things fell apart, the duo were never seen or heard to disagree in public domain over any issue, let alone embark on litigation against each other. Shaibu’s sour relationship with his principal may not be unconnected with his recent romance with the leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly when a video of Shaibu with Obaseki’s predecessor, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, during the National Assembly inauguration in Abuja went viral.

Shortly after the video went viral, the deputy governor was relieved of taking charge of revenue collection functions in the state, a development that didn’t go down well with many as they described the Governor’s action as a vendetta on the person and office of the deputy governor.

Some analysts who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity said that the action of the Governor to relieve his deputy of the revenue collection functions is a clear indication that all is not well between the duo.

A source disclosed that the relationship between Governor Obaseki and his deputy has reportedly been tense in recent months, adding that Shaibu has faced alleged dehumanization and humiliation by the governor as a result.

The situation is said to have led to a growing division among supporters of the governor and his deputy, who believe the development would be a setback for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state as the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) will be the beneficiary.

The APC screening committee prior to the Edo 2020 gubernatorial contest had disqualified Governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting the party’s primary, which led to Obaseki and his deputy, Shaibu defecting to the PDP in 2020, which provided them the platform for a second term as governor and deputy.

Obaseki’s disqualification in APC at the time was not unconnected with the long battle between him and Oshiomhole, who was then the APC National Chairman. Obaseki’s rift with his predecessor degenerated to a free-for-all political crisis in the state and consumed many politicians.

A PDP chieftain also said: “The fight, if not managed, will give the APC an edge in the coming governorship election. We hope they settle out of court and do damage control, otherwise, we would have again given our opponents the leeway to take over Edo State should the infighting continue.”

Another party chieftain, who prefers anonymity, said the feud is going to be interesting as the party was more divided than ever owing to the governor’s style of politics, which has left both the old PDP members (Legacy PDP) and the new PDP members helpless with the current situation.

He said: “We cannot help the situation, the PDP is factionalized under Governor Obaseki and we have governorship election next year. They have gone out to disagree few months to election. This may affect our chances again should the crisis escalate beyond this time.”

He expressed the view that the governorship election may not be easy but stressed that if the party doesn’t pick the right candidate and zone its ticket to Edo Central, the party may have cleared the way for a Labour Party victory.

While dismissing the support for any Edo South or Edo North candidate, he said Obaseki may not even be able to anoint  any candidate or produce a successor because of the too many infighting under his leadership both while he was in the APC and now PDP.

HOWEVER, a source close to Obaseki, in an interview with The Guardian in Government House, dismissed the deputy governor’s alleged impeachment claims. The top government official accused the deputy governor of boasting some two months ago to use former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s system in Edo. He also said that the hues and cry of Shaibu is a preemptive move to prevent impeachment and keep his position.

Asked what necessitated the suspicion of alleged impeachment plans if no such moves were being made, the source further stated that the state deputy governor was in talks with APC at the national level to decamp. He added that he was also holding talks with members of PDP from the state, who have decamped to APC. The source, who is governor’s loyalist, said the deputy governor put out the story of impeachment because he (Shaibu) was aware of the zoning system in PDP, which he noted will not favour him. He added that Shaibu has been uncharitable to the party.

“He started his surreptitious move immediately after the 2023 presidential election by forming a campaign group in all the wards across the state. He is driven by his inordinate ambition. Comrade Oshiomhole, who handed over to Obaseki, is from Etsako West, same as the deputy governor, and he wants the governor to hand over to him. What then happens to the other local councils in the North and then the Central too which has never tasted power.

“Obaseki has told him that it is not time for politics, so that governance does not suffer. He maintains that at the appropriate time, attention will be given to politics but Shaibu is not ready for that and wants governance to be abandoned for politics. His move is to force Governor Obaseki into the trenches.

“He has insisted on Obaseki supporting him as the next governor. By this move, he is just unnecessarily afraid of his shadow as there are no plans to impeach him. He has shown that he lacks the courage to approach the governor and discuss his ambition with him. Instead, he is going about it in a surreptitious manner. The move is a defensive mechanism,”the top government official said.

In a chat with journalists in Benin, a former speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Kabiru Adjoto, who led leaders of the PDP in Edo North Senatorial District, also spoke in the governor’s defence. He said: “A governor is a governor. The deputy governor office is an office in the governor’s office. The deputy is trying to outshine his master. The PDP Afemai are not with Shaibu. We are solidly behind Obaseki because he has done so much for Afemai people. I don’t know the name of the deputy governor of Delta, Lagos and Akwa-Ibom state. Shaibu’s name rings bell because the governor gave him wide latitude to operate with him.”

MEANWHILE, Shaibu’s disloyalty and face-off with his principal, Governor Obaseki has been described as disloyalty to the state governor, according to Oshiomhole, Senator representing Edo North in the National Assembly. Oshiomhole advised his godson and deputy governor to embrace peace and learn to show loyalty to his bosses.

In what appeared like rejection of Shaibu by both the APC and the PDP in the state, Oshiomhole told the deputy governor of Edo, Shaibu, on Thursday that the APC is not a rehabilitation centre or IDP camp for disgruntled politicians to seek refuge. Shaibu, who had berated Oshiomhole severally, may now be in a dilemma over his political career ahead of his governorship 2024 ambition.

Oshiomhole had made the statement following reports that the embattled deputy governor is considering dumping the PDP for APC.He stressed that the unhealthy political developments in the state, particularly on the rate of decamping and recamping, showed that the only thing that is constant is Nigeria not the political parties.

“I have always advised people whoever you work with, be loyal. I was here, I was unable to support my deputy to succeed me. But my deputy never took me to court and if there are people who profit only from crisis, they cannot have my support,” the former APC chairman said.

On the other hand, while crisis brews in PDP leadership, the Labour Party in the state has said it would continue to keep it doors open for aspirants vying for the governorship election in 2024, including embattled Edo deputy governor, Shaibu.

Labour Party Chairman in Edo, Kelly Ogbaloi who spoke to The Guardian in Benin explained the party has no issues with Shaibu. He said the deputy governor has the option of joining the LP as an aspirant for the forthcoming governorship if interested following his rumoured planned defection and purported impeachment plan by the state governor, Obaseki.

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