Concerns over delayed cabinet appointment in Edo
A year after Governor Godwin Obaseki won the keenly contested Edo State governorship election following his defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he secured a second term in office, the administration is yet to form its cabinet.
The development, The Guardian learnt, is, however, creating credibility challenges, not only for the governor but also for PDP, as major stakeholders, who invested their wherewithal in the victory of the party are anxious to know what fate awaits them under the Obaseki-led government.
It is interesting to note that Edo State is no stranger to this occurrence whereby cabinet formation by the ruling party is delayed, but the current development appears to portend grave consequences considering the circumstances that brought about Obaseki’s victory and how many stakeholders put their political career at risk to support the incumbent.
Recall that Obaseki had an irreconcilable crisis with his political mentor and former boss, Adams Oshiomhole, which led to him being deprived of a return ticket. That crisis forced him to defect to PDP close to the governorship election last year.
While the erstwhile ruling party is yet to recover from the fragmentation, which emanated from the runoff to the 2020 governorship election, it is now a reference point that the state has operated for about four years without a full complement of its lawmakers in the House of Assembly since 2019. And daily, the hope of the remaining House of Assembly members loyal to Oshiomhole gets dimmer.
Since Obaseki’s rancorous re-election on the platform of the PDP, the state is yet to form a cabinet, while the governor is accused of calling the bluff of party leaders who worked assiduously for his election.
Whereas the action puts a question on the party’s democratic disposition and the people in the government, the governor’s failure to constitute his cabinet about a year after his reelection is said to be generating bad blood among party chieftains and other leaders in the state.
The non-constitution of the cabinet contravenes the provisions of section 192 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “there shall be such offices of the Commissioner of Government of a state to be established by the governor of the state.”
This constitutional provision envisaged the vital role of the plurality of expertise, skills and competencies for which every state is richly endowed for the smooth operation and governance in order to spread development to the people in a participatory democracy.
Worse still, government agencies and parastatals in the oil-rich state with a population of over four million adults and children have been dissolved, and exclusion that stakeholders insist has created disaffection within party ranks at the wards, local councils and state levels.
Reacting to the development, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Chris Nehikhare attributed the delay to the government’s current efforts at clearing the rot in the state civil service, and also the need to employ and train the staff in line with the governor’s dreams and aspiration before new commissioners could assume office.
He regretted that the reorganisations have taken so long, but added that posterity will judge the governor for taking a stand that will put the state on the part of success, adding that party members who worked for the election of the governor should understand that their individual interest, important as they are, cannot supersede that of the general interest of the people.
However, some party leaders across the state found it inconceivable that the governor, who enjoyed bipartisan support in winning his second-term bid along with his deputy, Philip Shaibu, could leave them without compensation after the election.
As a result, when it was rumoured that Shaibu could defect from the party on account of some alleged rift with the governor, some party faithful were in jubilation. Shaibu, who is said to be nursing a governorship ambition ahead of the 2024 governorship poll, has however denied allegations of a rift with the governor or a planned defection from the party.
In the run-up to the governorship election in Edo State, especially during Obaseki’s faceoff with his godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the consequent disqualification, Shaibu remained loyal to Obaseki, expressing readiness to sink with him, where necessary.
At every given opportunity, Shaibu asserts his loyalty to the governor and the state. In one of such interviews, he said: “Oshiomhole wanted me to join him, knowing that I was close to the then members-elect 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 that goodwill 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.”
While there are indications that the governor may send the names of his designated appointees to the state Assembly in the coming week, observers have called on political leaders, the governor and PDP leadership to, rather than resort to mudslinging and name-calling, ensure that democratic and constitutional provisions are followed in governance for the benefit of peace-loving people of Edo.