Obaseki, Shaibu in game of unprecedented Loyalty
Their inauguration would climax a tough election marked by political brinkmanship and intrigues that nearly tore Edo State apart but for the resilience of the electorate who stood by the incumbent despite the onslaught of the ruling APC with the advantage of federal might.
But unlike the practice since 1999 where deputies, such as Madam Kofoworola Bucknor was at loggerheads with former Governor Bola Tinubu in Lagos State leading to her replacement with Femi Pedro, the battle between former Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State and his deputy, Eyinnaya Abaribe culminating in the latter’s impeachment among many cases of the frosty relationship between governors and their deputies, Shaibu proved otherwise with loyalty to his principal even when it appeared their ticket was heading for the rock.
After the September 19 election, Obaseki polled a total of 307,955 to defeat his rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC who scored 223,619 out of the 557,443 accredited voters and was accordingly returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The election perhaps has brought to end the era of godfather politics in Edo but one personality whose style of politics would resonate for as long as the issue of loyalty is mentioned in the state is the incumbent deputy.
Shaibu, who is also a long ally of the former National Chairman of APC, Oshiomhole cut his political teeth as student union activist when he became the National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 2000, from where he delved into mainstream politics to become representative of the Etsako West in the Edo State House of Assembly for eight years.
After serving as Majority Leader in the Edo House of Assembly, he was elected into the House of Representatives, as a federal lawmaker representing Federal Constituency for 18 months, where enriched his profile as a grassroots politician.
As a state lawmaker, he has nicknamed Mr. Constituency since he was able to attract not less than 49 projects to his area. Throughout the 18 months he spent in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Shaibu had nine projects to his credit.
In the run-off to the governorship election in Edo State, especially during Obaseki’s faceoff with Oshiomhole, and the consequent orchestrated disqualification of the incumbent, Shaibu remained loyal to Obaseki, expressing readiness to sink with his principal, where necessary.
In an interview before the September 19, 2020 election, Shaibu told Edo people how ‘their’ former boss wanted him to join shift camp knowing that he (Shaibu) was close to the members elect then 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.”
According to him, “Oshiomhole wanted me to use my goodwill to remove Obaseki and succeed him but I refused. It is not in my nature to betray anyone. If I did not betray Oshiomhole when I was NANS president and he was Nigeria Labour Union (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 (Oshiomhole) impeachment when I was in the state assembly, then I cannot betray my own governor.
“And I said ‘I don’t have those tendencies.’ I pleaded with Oshiomhole, I knelt down before him that this government is doing well and we are taking the policies that we adopted during his own time to the next level.
“I begged him that no matter and when I asked what errors Obaseki committed, he gave flimsy excuses and when I could not hold anything against him, I knelt down and pleaded that I’m your son, why not forgive him, no matter what offence he may have committed. But instead of listening to my plea, he said my action was an indication that I have taken sides with the governor.
“I stood up and told him that if you want to remove the governor, you will have to remove both of us, but you cannot use me to chase him away. If the governor leaves, I leave. The truth is that I hate oppression. When Oshiomhole was being oppressed we fought on his side. I was brutalised and my family was at risk. Hired assassins came to my house at the Lawmakers Quarters…They shattered the house with guns and the cars there were badly damaged. I threw my family across the fence and that was how they were saved. All of these were in efforts to save Comrade Oshiomhole from impeachment.
“I told him the same energy I used to fight on his side when they wanted to impeach him would be used for Governor Obaseki.
“I became an activist because of my hatred for oppression. If you check my records during the military rule, I was part of the struggle for this democracy and Oshiomhole had the plans for the House of Assembly. All these members of the House were not those who won the APC primaries, but Oshiomhole got up and replaced all of them, Damian Lawani and the rest and put all his stooges,” he said.
On the crises in the Edo State House of Assembly where about six lawmakers have recently defected to the PDP, Shaibu said the lawmakers are acting the script of the former chairman. In his view, the configuration of the State Assembly was planned to control Obaseki and himself.
Speaking on Shaibu’s demonstration of loyalty through the years, Spokesman of PDP in Edo State, Mr. Chris Nehikhare said the leadership of the party did not expect anything short of that from a persona of Shaibu’s pedigree, giving his record over the years.
“His reaction is the minimum expected of someone of his background. He is a former students’ union president, former legislator and when you add all these together, you get a decent individual not propelled by self-interest and ambition but he is ready to serve the interest of the people.
“I’m not surprised at the level of his loyalty and that is the kind of person we need in the polity. The future of Nigeria is in the hands of persons like that, top government officials who are committed to national development and cannot be corrupted by offers of any form.”
But how long would the duo sustain this loyalty is what observers are pondering over. If Shaibu is said to have exhibited uncommon loyalty to his principal in times of trouble, incumbent Governor of Kano State, Umar Ganduje once showed such disposition to his former boss and immediate predecessor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso. The question to ask is whether Obaseki will be magnanimous enough to repay his deputy come 2024 to succeed him (Obaseki) in office.
Kwankwaso backed Ganduje to emerge governor of Kano State in 2015 before the duo went separate ways, what is likely going to end the relationship between Obaseki and Shaibu as personal interest valued above loyalty among Nigerian politicians is what the people of Edo will witness in the next four years.
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