April 13, 2024

Edo Guber: How Shaibu’s impeachment, Omobayo’s appointment may shape poll 

Edo Guber: How Shaibu’s impeachment, Omobayo’s appointment may shape poll 

By Ozioruva Aliu, BENIN CITY

Until April last year, Hon Philip Shaibu was unarguably the most popular deputy governor in Nigeria owing to the latitude Governor Godwin Obaseki gave him to operate.

He called the shots in sports. For a long time, he was in charge of a large chunk of the revenue generation in the state because he chaired the committee that brought reforms in that sector. The politics of appointments and implementation of government policies in Edo North Senatorial district where he comes from were his exclusive preserve and his word was law.

But all that crashed last Monday as in less than two hours, the state House of Assembly met over the report of the seven man panel set up by the Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa headed by retired Justice S.A. Omonuwa over alleged constitutional infractions warranting impeachment.

At the end of deliberations on the matter, the Speaker, Hon Blessing Agbebaku, said more than two-third majority of the House voted and endorsed the impeachment and “I hereby from my seat announce that the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, stands impeached.”

That brought to an end over seven years of Shaibu’s tenure as deputy governor of the state within which time he was acting governor twice with full powers.

Shaibu’s ouster paved the way for the swearing in of 38-year old Godwins Omobayo, from Akoko-Edo, as deputy governor, a move that is expected to affect the September 21, 2024 governorship election.

Even though he has about seven months to serve as deputy governor, Omobayo said Akoko-Edo people have never had this kind of opportunity and promised that they would mobilise and vote for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s candidate at the election. Obaseki is backing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governorship Candidate, Dr Asue Ighodalo.

Already, Shaibu is reported to be on his way to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Although Etsako West APC leaders and members, on Tuesday, protested against his planned return to the APC, Edo State Chairman of the APC, on Wednesday, visited Shaibu in Abuja and assured him that he (Shaibu) would not be abandoned. Shaibu said the September 21 poll was the next project that must be delivered. Will Omobayo deliver for PDP? Will Shaibu’s impeachment hurt PDP and deliver APC’s Senator Monday Okpebholo? These are questions that will be answered with time.

Genesis of Shaibu’s travails

The crisis between Shaibu and Obaseki started from the time it was clear that Shaibu was interested in taking over from his boss as the governor of the state claiming that he was the best man for the job haven worked closely with Obaseki.

He also argued that the PDP has never produced a governorship candidate from Edo North since 1998 when it was created and that this was the best time for him, and power should return to Edo North.

It was gathered that the governor showed that his deputy would not enjoy his support, he was said to have asked Shaibu to contest for the Edo North Senatorial District under the PDP in the last election which he turned down. If he had accepted, it would have pit him against his estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is representing the zone in the Senate.

The governor had also asked all those with governorship ambitions to suspend their declarations so as not to distract his administration. Shaibu was said to have ignored this plea, claiming that he was only consulting quietly to see if he would contest or not.

Shaibu’s albatross

Political observers believe that Shaibu’s albatross was agreeing to discontinue a suit he filed in Abuja wanting the court to stop the governor, his agents and the house of assembly from impeaching him.

The documents he filed included extracts of state exco meetings and other sensitive materials which the lawmakers said were official secrets and constituted an impeachable offence.

The governor and the House of Assembly denied the alleged impeachment plots. The intervention of some Catholic Church leaders made Shaibu withdraw the case from the court.

The House of Assembly eventually used the issues he raised in the court to impeach him, accusing him of revealing official secrets contrary to the oath of secrecy he swore to protect.

Political watchers believe that Shaibu’s decision was a fatal one because “Obaseki is a man that once he makes up his mind on something, he does not retreat or reverse it.”

A PDP leader told Saturday Vanguard: “That was where Shaibu got it wrong, I advised him to go ahead with the case in court but he said his religious leaders had intervened, I warned him about the kind of person Obaseki is but he said he would listen to the advice of his religious leaders”

Shaibu had approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to stop a purported plan to impeach him and also stop security agencies and agents of the governor from harassing him.

In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1027/2023 between Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu who is the Plaintiff/Applicant and the Inspector General of Police, State Security Service, Governor of Edo State, Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly and Chief Judge of Edo State, who are defendants/respondents, Shaibu wanted the court, through an interlocutory injunction, to restrain the governor who is the third defendant/respondent “or his agents or persons acting for and on his behalf from harassing, intimidating, embarrassing and preventing the Plaintiff/Applicant in carrying out the functions of his office as Deputy Governor of Edo State including attending State Executive Council Meetings/Functions and other duties pertaining to his office pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. He also sought to restrain the governor from using the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the House State House of Assembly “whether by themselves or their agents or persons acting for and on their behalf from initiating impeachment proceedings against the plaintiff with a view to removing him from office as the Deputy Governor of Edo State.”

How Shaibu worked against Speaker’s election

Events leading to the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly also pitched Shaibu against Obaseki as it was gathered that while the governor wanted the Speakership to go Edo North Senatorial District haven made up his mind to support an aspirant from Edo Central to succeed him, Shaibu was said to have plotted with some lawmakers from the APC to support a Speaker from Edo Central which would have given him a strong reason to ask for the ticket as he would have used the argument that the Speaker is from Edo Central, the outgoing governor is from Edo South, then Edo North should produce the next governor, in his favour.

But this plot was punctured by an influential APC leader who was said to have urged the APC lawmakers to vote for the governor’s preference as speaker.

Obaseki in a meeting with some leaders of the PDP in Etsako, described this action of Shaibu as a coup against him and said there are consequences for coups.

Consequences of disloyalty

At the peak of the crisis, Obaseki relocated the deputy governor’s office from the Government House and rendered him irrelevant.

He was publicly barred from getting close to the governor by the governor’s security aides. He was removed from the protocol list in many public functions. In gatherings and events where the governor and his deputy were expected, Shaibu’s seat was either not marked as next to the governor or he was taken to a location far from where the governor would seat.

It happened during the last Alaghodaro summit where Shiabu was seated among the audience far from the governor’s table. The same scenario played out when Obaseki presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill. A paltry N300 million was allocated to the Office of the Deputy Governor in the budget. The governor’s supporters and aides claimed that the deputy governor was no longer performing his official functions. The few times he attended state exco meetings, it was through zoom.

Shaibu’s overreach

Supporters of the governor’s action against Shaibu believed that the former deputy governor arrogated powers to himself forgetting that a deputy governor was only as powerful as the governor wanted him to be. They argued that Shaibu was seeing himself as an alternate governor in the state.

A senior member of the PDP, who is close to the corridors of power, told Saturday Vanguard: ”The former deputy governor was carrying on as if he was a governor too. You cannot have two governors in a state. Governor Obaseki gave him free hand to run sports and he took it as his own. He frustrated so many people in that sector for his personal interest.

He ran that place like an empire, he forgot that the successes he made in that area were because of the support the governor and the free hand he gave him to operate. He defied the primary law of politics which is loyalty. If he was loyal to his boss, who he described on several occasions as his elder brother, he would have dropped his ambition when he discovered that the governor was not supporting him. I agree that it is his constitutional right but in politics you watch out for your leaders, in politics you can sleep over your right. I think Shaibu should have slept over his right on his governorship ambition.”

He continued: “Even if the governor had allowed him, does he think the PDP would have given him the ticket? His big brother, Comrade Oshiomhole left government in 2016 and foisted him on the APC as the deputy. When the governor was negotiating his way into the PDP, he insisted that he would come with him as his deputy and he did. Not many had such an opportunity. So, I think he played into the hands of the governor and got his fingers burnt”

Obaseki’s overkill

Supporters of Shaibu said the governor deployed boardroom tactics to handle a political matter and did not leave room for negotiation and adjustment, as he went for the kill which is to tame Shaibu.

One of his supporters, Sunday Zekeri from Etsako, told Saturday Vanguard on phone: “The action of the governor was an overkill. He forgot how Shaibu abandoned his traditional political family for Obaseki when the APC under Oshiomhole wanted to deny him his second term. Till date, the relationship between Shaibu and the Oshiomhole political family remains sour, these are factors Obaseki did not put into consideration.

“For instance, in the build-up to 2016, Oshiomhole’s deputy, Dr Pius Odubu wanted to succeed his boss. Oshiomhole did not stop him but he mobilized support for his preferred person which is Obaseki. I think that is what the governor should have done.”

What new deputy governor brings to table for PDP

Omobayo was sworn in a few hours after Shaibu was impeached and it brought a new leaf to the political life of the 38 years old man and his people of Akoko-Edo Local Government Area who had been crying of marginalization by successive governments since 1999.

Omobayo was the House of Representatives candidate of the Labour Party in the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly election where he came second behind the APC candidate. But he claims he won the election but results in his strongholds were canceled.

Besides his age which is naturally galvanizing the young people to him, he has been a mobilizer, philanthropist and employer of labour in his business outlets in the state. His name was initially mentioned to be the running mate to the LP governorship candidate, Olumide Akpata but that was not to be.

His popularity and influence in his area is so strong that at a time, some top leaders of the APC were also lobbying him to join the party to ensure victory for the APC in Akoko-Edo in the September governorship election.

Observers believe that his becoming the deputy governor of Edo State and joining forces with the young council chairman of the area, Hon Tajudeen Alade, the PDP could be on its way to victory in the LGA. However, there are those who believe that his coming is to dislodge the traditional politicians in Akoko-Edo where former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Kabiru Adjoto was the first to publicly denounce Shaibu when he fell out with Obaseki. It is believed that people like Adjoto may not be happy with the decision as they see the new man as an “outsider who just came from LP to become the deputy governor in a PDP government”

The APC is also cashing in on the split in the PDP as the Acting State Chairman of the party, Jaret Tenebe, visited Shaibu shortly after he was impeached to encourage him to challenge the development in court assuring him of his support, adding that they would work together for the September election.

Shaibu said: “I know the judiciary will do the needful because it is an impeachment that I have not been served. I want to assure you of my cooperation and my loyalty will remain my weapon and I will definitely be there at all times. I think our next target is September 21 and by the grace of God we will get there.”

Vanguard News

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