By Ozioruva Aliu
LAST Friday’s sudden resignation of the Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Taiwo Akerele came as shock to many as he was seen as one of the closest aides to the governor, and a stabilising figure in the political intrigues in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
The first seven months of the administration of Obaseki before he appointed his commissioners were run by a quadruple made up of the governor, his deputy Comrade Philip Shaibu, the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie Esq and Akerele.
Akerele sighted administrative reasons for his resignation but said he remained loyal to Obaseki as his political leader. However, it was learnt that beyond his claim in the letter, political intrigues particularly his position that the crisis in the party in the state which pitted the governor against the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole should be resolved amicably instead of the squabbles earned him fall out with some people.
Tension is mounting in Edo state, ahead of the governorship primary election of the party and it is also becoming obvious that Oshiomhole may not support the candidature of Obaseki for allegedly plotting the failed coup against him, which almost led to his end as party chairman.
Akerele’s letter of resignation read: “My decision to exit the government is based on administrative and governance grounds.
“I am solidly with His Excellency Mr Godwin Obaseki in his quest to transform Edo state. His mission and vision resonate with mine.
“This is all I have to say. I will like to be given opportunity to go private as I part ways administratively with the government based on principles.
“I thank his Excellency for the opportunity given to me to serve in this capacity and also, thank His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II for his immense leadership and support during the period I served in this capacity. May his reign be long and peaceful.”
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the administrative grounds he referred to were alleged usurpation of his responsibilities by some other government officials, a situation the governor was said to have told him he would address. That, we gathered was yet to be done before he left. It was gathered that he complained that several things that ordinarily should pass through his office were now being channeled through other officials and he would only get to know after actions and decisions had been made.
A close source to the former Chief of Staff confided in Saturday Vanguard that “he was bitter that the governor was not protecting him.
By Thursday, Akerele was said to have met with the governor where he highlighted his grievances about the treatment being meted to his office and other issues and thereafter tendered his letter of resignation but it was gathered that the governor was able to persuade him to tear the letter, promising that he would look into the issues he had raised. Few hours later, the news was all over the social media that he had resigned. The governor was said to have sent a message to him to refute the statement but Akerele was said to informed the governor that he was not the architect of what was circulating in the social media and therefore could not refute it.
By Friday, the rumour of his resignation was becoming stronger and Akerele was said to have exited himself from the whatssap group of the Godwin Obaseki Support Group (GOSP), a group he formed in 2016 which he used to promote Obaseki before the primary election where he emerged as the candidate of the APC and the campaign before the election proper.
The governor was said to have sent four of his aides includng three commissioners who are close to Akerele to persuade him to rescind his decision and when the four failed, he was said to have sent another two more senior aides but their efforts also did not work as Akerele was said to have told them that he was done with office of the Chief of Staff. It was then the governor was convinced that Akerele had made up his mind.
His Special Adviser on Media and Communications Strategy, Crusoe Osague Saturday morning issued a statement saying that the governor was yet to receive any letter of resignation from Akerele but that it would be accepted once the governor received it.
Few hours later that same day, Osagie issued another statement where he said Obaseki, has approved the appointment of Osaze Ethan Uzamere as his Chief of Staff.
He said the statement of his appointment was issued by Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq. who said the appointment took immediate effect. Uzamere was an Executive Assistant to Governor Obaseki.
Beyond the reasons given by Akerele for his resignation, Saturday Vanguard can authoritatively report that the former Chief of Staff also lost some his influence at the peak of the quarrel between Obaseki and the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Throughout the conflict, Akerele maintained a peaceful disposition where he was continuously preaching peace to all parties, those of the governor’s side and those supporting Oshiomhole.
Akerele was said to have always maintained that they were all political children of Oshiomhole who he said brought all of them to the government and that they were all members of the same party hence a peaceful approach should be adopted to resolve the crisis.
Unknown to him, his disposition was interpreted to the governor that he was not loyal since he was not confronting Oshiomhole the way many of Obaseki’s close aides were doing.
Last month in an interview to mark his birthday and the public presentation of a book he wrote, Akerele said “It has not been rosy for me as chief of staff, everyday I wake up I always see it as the last day. Up till now when I am going on holidays I remove all my private items from the office because one can be relieved of this position anytime any day by the appointing authority. I told some of my friends in the civil society coalition in January that I am surprised I am still chief of staff for almost four years, yes I am surprised especially when you don’t have a godfather or godmother standing in the gap for you during crisis. I really thank the Governor once again for the opportunity and my people of Akoko-Edo who had been marginalized over the years.
I also appreciate this golden opportunity but as I said this is not an elective position, you can exit or be exited at anytime. One thing I am happy about is that my life remains the same, I am still who I am, I still eat my normal food, I go to ogbelaka for launch, I go to Etete for kpomo sauce, I drive myself as much as possible, I am happy I am still part of the larger society.”
On the crisis between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, Akerele said that “I have expressed my views on several occasions concerning this matter and I will just summarise by saying the governor remains the leader of the party in the state while Comrade continues to be father of all not only as a former governor but also as current national chairman. Adams Oshiomhole is our man anytime any day and he is best of friends with Godwin Obaseki. What happened was a normal political disagreement which can be settled. Every other issue is subsumed under this sub issue. In any case no matter how we war war, dialogue and peaceful settlement remain the ultimate. Obaseki means well and he requires the support of all APC members and general electorates.”