By Oludare Mayowa
On July 28, 2023, Edo State deputy governor Phillips Shuaibu approached a federal high court in Abuja with a suit to prevent the governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki, from impeaching him, unearthing the boiling point and a squabble between the two executive officers in the state.
Ever since then, the political atmosphere in the state has been tensed, with both parties throwing caution to the wind to expose things hitherto unknown to the public concerning the relationship between the two leaders.
For many political observers, especially those who had followed the politics of the state since Obaseki returned to the state from his duty post in Lagos as an operator in the capital market, the turn of events would not be strange or uncharacteristic of the person of the governor.
For those who have not been following political development in the state, the current crisis in the state is similar to what happened seven years ago, shortly after Obaseki was elected as the governor of the state and began a clandestine move to upstage the immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, and supplanted his political godfather with his own machinery ahead of the next election in the state.
The beginning of the political upheaval in the state was when the governor issued a clandestine letter of proclamation to the state House of Assembly, which tactically excluded the majority of members suspected by him to be loyal to Oshiomhole in his quest to sustain his domination and rip the political space from his hitherto political godfather.
Despite the attempt by the then Federal House of Representatives to intervene in the crisis that almost rendered the state ungovernable because of Obaseki’s loyalists in the assembly refusal to accommodate the 14 members of the state assembly loyal to Oshiomhole, the governor succeeded in having his way.
For his first four years in office, he ran the state without a full complement of the state House of Assembly and eventually went ahead to challenge the political party that brought him to power in a contest to win the race for a second four-year term.
He was able to secure the support of Shuaibu, who was until then also a protégé of Oshiomhole, and further created a crisis that eventually led to the removal of the immediate past governor from office as the chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Obaseki thereafter defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to secure the main opposition party governorship ticket and went ahead to win the election.
Back then, Shuaibu was like Siamese twins to Obaseki, who deferred many things to him and allow the deputy free reign as a result of his belief that Shuaibu have the required political clout in the state to help him neutralize his political opponents.
Obaseki did not stop there; he enlisted the support of the rambling immediate past governor of Rivers and now the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, who threw all his weight behind Obaseki to win a second term and successfully upstage the legendary labor union’s erstwhile leader.
Not long after he won the battle for his second term bid, Obaseki embarked on another mission to take over the structure of the state PDP and root out those he met in the party to further consolidate his political stronghold in the state. Again, Obaseki, like a warrior, succeeded in upstaging the leadership of the party in the state and supplanting them with his stooges.
The Edo governor was emboldened by his string of victories over his political adversaries to turn the heat against his former benefactor, Wike, who had played a major role in ensuring that he was not disgraced by Oshiomhole.
Last year, in March, while still a sitting Governor of Rivers State, Wike said this concerning Governor Obaseki: “If you check the DNA of Obaseki, what you will see in that DNA is betrayal, serial betrayal, and ungratefulness,” he said while addressing a crowd at the commissioning of a secondary school in Omuanwa community, Rivers State.
“Let me stand today to apologize to Adams Oshiomhole, who has been vindicated by telling us that we will see the true color, the insincerity, and the ungratefulness of Governor Obaseki.
“We have voted for PDP since 1999 until now; ask Governor Obaseki if he has done anything for PDP or voted for PDP. The only election he voted in was his own, where we gave him an umbrella.”
The Wike outburst was a fallout of the battle for the soul of the PDP in the state as a result of Obaseki’s move to supplant the leadership of the party with his loyalists.
Many had accused Obaseki of being a power monger who always bit the fingers that fed him since it was acknowledged that it was Oshiomhole that brought him to political reckoning and limelight and yet when it matter most, he fought him and almost ruin his political career.
However, his recent battle with his deputy has revealed more about his personality—his desire to always crush anyone who wants to stand on his path and overshadow his visibility as the numero uno or the political field marshal in the state.
Not a few people were shocked when Shuaibu went to court to preempt his removal through the state house of assembly by his principal; not that they disbelieved the possibility of such move on the part of the governor, but rather they were not expecting a parting of ways between the two people because of the manner in which they fought and defeated Oshiomhole’s rampaging army prior.
Many also had expected that both Shuaibu and Obaseki had a sort of MoU on the next political dispensation in the state that, having supported Obaseki to win a second term, the payback time for Shuaibu would be granting him a smooth passage for a ride to the governorship of the state in the forthcoming election.
Unfortunately, many misread the political situation in the state and perhaps underrated Obaseki’s capacity to move against his ardent loyalists once his grip on power is threatened by whatever means.
While Obaseki had accused Shuaibu of depending on hearsay in his suit to prevent his impeachment by the state house of assembly, the governor had, from his utterances, relied more on beer parlor rumors to come to a conclusion on his deputy’s disloyalty against him.
Hear Obaseki’s word against his deputy: “He (Shaibu) went to Abuja and was boasting that he has connections in Abuja, that he has people in the national assembly, that they are all with the president now, that they will take care of him if he cannot get the ticket in the PDP, he knows what to do.”
He disclosed that as a demonstration of Shaibu’s mindset, he did not attend the proclamation of the state assembly and the election of principal officers but chose to come back the same day from Abuja, and “as the chief security officer of the state, I get any information I need and have the discretion to keep quiet and use the information properly.”
“My deputy called the leader in APC, telling them that he has five members who are loyal to him and that he would like the seven members of APC to work with his five members of PDP to produce the next speaker.
“As far as I am concerned, that was not working in our common interest. Why would the deputy governor seek to have another speakership candidate outside of what the governor wants? Are we working together?
“That was when I knew we had a problem and that the deputy governor had become so desperate to take over and that he would do anything, including carry out a coup, against his governor. How can you say you are loyal and that you will do such a thing?” Obaseki declared.
The above statement by Obaseki further exposes his despotic move as a governor who wants to control the state house assembly for his personal reasons and not for the good of the state. Although, in most of the states in the country, the state house of assemblies are the appendage of the governors. Secondly, it appears the governor listened to street talk camouflaged as a security report as excuses to move against his deputy and truncate his ambition.
As part of a measure to further neutralize Shuaibu, the governor is hinging his mischief on the ambition of his deputy to succeed him as governor of the state by 2024, which is considered by political observers to be a legitimate ambition by Shuaibu but seen by Oabseki as a threat to his political stronghold over the state politics.
Critics have raised concerns over the recent actions of the governor in ranting against his deputy’s disloyalty and attempted coup against him, they suggested that a more measured approach would have been advisable to prevent upheaval within the state’s political landscape.
Observers noted that rather than resorting to tactics that could potentially tarnish the governor’s reputation, a more mature strategy could have been employed to avoid disrupting the state’s governance and triggering a fresh political crisis. These actions, they warned, risk further dividing the political atmosphere within the state.
The governor’s decision to annihilate his deputy on the basis of mere suspicion has drawn criticism from many quarters. However, the governor himself has not escaped censure for his apparent heavy-handedness towards a deputy who once played a pivotal role in ensuring his successful re-election, overcoming the obstacles he faced during his second term bid.
Critics argue that the governor’s actions toward his deputy, juxtaposed with those who previously aided him in his political journey, have painted him as ungrateful.
Obaseki fought Oshiomhole under the guise of the latter and his loyalists, asking him to give them the money meant for the development of the state. This narrative resonated with many, leading to the governor’s victory after his defection to the PDP.
Notably, his victory at the 2020 election was actively backed by his embattled deputy. However, recent events have sparked debate over the governor’s approach to his deputy’s ambitions, raising questions about loyalty and gratitude.
The governor’s actions have ignited speculation about the trajectory of the state’s political dynamics, prompting analysts to closely monitor the developments and their potential implications for the state’s political landscape.
The ongoing battle to annihilate and truncate his deputy’s ambition, without any prejudice, was not out of character for the governor. Shortly after he won his second term as governor on the platform of the PDP, Obaseki also moved against the legacy group in the party that ensured his victory and took over the structure of the party from them.
His fallout with the newly sworn-in Minister of FCT, Wike, was another classic example of Obaseki’s personality to always work against those who help him climb the ladder of progress.
The question on the lips of many analysts is: what will be the end of his present battle to truncate his deputy’s ambition and install a personality whom he can easily control and manipulate after his tenure as his successor?
Would he succeed this time around in winning the political battle in the state, or would those he had hurt in the past rally around to exert their own pound of flesh on him and ensure his political destruction in the state?
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