Edo 2024: Shaibu Dares Obaseki On Governorship Aspiration

By Ehichioya Ezomon

Edo State Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu subtly took Governor Godwin Obaseki to the cleaners on November 19 in Abuja, prompting polity watchers to predict a "battle royale" ahead of the September 21, 2024, governorship poll to replace Obaseki, who completes his eight-year tenure next November.

This comes two months after Shaibu'd cringed and cried - cutting a picture of a forlorn and hapless personality - as he begged and genuflected for Mr Obaseki to forgive him his real or imaginary indiscretions that overrawed the governor.

Shaibu soured relationship with Obaseki over his bid to succeed him. He later recanted, apologised and vouched his loyalty to Obaseki, saying he'd "taken a personal vow with God to support the governor," who ironically doesn't support Shaibu to succeed him.

But with the gloves off in a no-holds-barred, innuendo-filled session with journalists in Abuja, Shaibu's returned to his 2024 governorship ambition, which he says is alive, and consultations ongoing on the way forward.

On suitability for governor, Shaibu claims to possess the requisite experience, knowledge of politics and practical, not experimental governance - a dig at Obaseki, a Lagos-based financier brought by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, and made governor.

Shaibu's words: "With the 2024 Edo governorship election fast approaching, Edo people need practical governance, and you cannot experiment again with somebody who does not understand the politics of a good state and the needs of the people.

"I understand the debt profile of the state, and where I feel I can get funding to put up structure in the state. So, I won’t be coming to learn on the job, but to hit the ground running."

Shaibu says the citizens are asking the government to "stop pushing for projects that are not needed in any environment" - again referring to Obaseki's obsession with grandiose projects, signing of series of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for which critics label him "MoU Governor" for non-execution of the projects, many appearing only on paper.

"So, everything we have to do should be assessed," Shaibu said, adding, "You cannot know the need of the people when you don't live with them" - this time baiting Obaseki's reportedly endorsed Lagos-based businessman for the 2024 governorship.

For 2024, Shaibu canvasses "competence and experience" as the watchwords, querying, "Who is competent? Who is more experienced? Who will hit the ground running from day one?"

"Are we going to experiment with a new person again? And the person will spend the first four years learning on the job and he will spend another four years trying to embezzle, set up his businesses in the name of consolidating on the gains of the first term? Or do we need a governor that from day one will hit the ground running?"

On Obaseki's loggerheads with the APC Federal Government, Shaibu - who, along with Obaseki, dumped All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2020, after Obaseki's disqualified from the ticket for re-election - says to succeed, a state government must collaborate with the central government.

Obaseki had repeatedly publicly criticised the APC government of former President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged neglect of federal roads in Edo State; and accused the administration of printing Naira to run its activities.

On rotation of the governorship among the senatorial districts in Edo State, with Esan-speaking people of Edo Central claiming it's their turn to produce the governor in 2024, Shaibu of the Afemai stock of Edo North, says whereas other zones have had more than a turn at producing a governor, Edo North has had just one turn.

Taking accounts of civilian governors who ruled Bendel State (Delta and Edo), and Edo State till date, Shaibu said: "We have had four governors from (Edo) south (Late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and Mr Obaseki), two from (Edo) central (Late Prof. Ambrose Alli and Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, whose election was voided by the courts, and in the eye of the law, was never a Governor) and only one from (Edo) north (Senator Oshiomhole).

Shaibu added: "Just like my ambition to be deputy governor was not mine, but I made myself available, so also the ambition to be governor is still not mine. I'm only making myself available" - a reference to his endorsement by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of Ward 11 in Etsako West Local Government Area of the state on November 15.

The unanimous call on Shaibu to run was made by PDP supporters during a reception for Shaibu at the ward meeting, chaired by Mr. Igbafe Agbonoga, who declared on behalf of the ward:

"We have agreed that Philip Shaibu must run for 2024 Governorship Election. We know he will make a huge difference, if elected as the next governor of our dear state.

"Our decision is based on the ideology of the deputy governor's practicality in governance during his tenure as a member of Edo State House of Assembly and National Assembly respectively, which focused on paradigm shift in governance.

"The Ward 11 PDP members and leadership, after critically examining the antecedents and capacity of the deputy governor, we have decided to endorse and support him to run and win the Edo 2024 governorship election."

Hailing Shaibu as the most credible and qualified person for Edo 2024, Agbonoga said Edo people needed not just any politician, "but a man with the best interest of the state at heart, in addition to the necessary experience."

"We need the deputy governor to steer the ship of the state from the failed expectations and disappointments that have been our bane," the ward chairman said.

"It is on this note that we are here, to announce that after careful scrutiny of those aspiring to be Governor, we have found that the most suitable man for the job is Rt Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu, and we so endorse him for the number one seat of Edo State."

Due to unpredictability of politics, and politicians, not many would've forecasted Shaibu would turn the tables against Obaseki so soon after his humiliation, and apology to Obaseki for unkown offences he denied committing.

Yet, as a pre-emptive strategy, Shaibu'd sued Obaseki in a couple of courts in Benin City and Abuja, to restrain the governor, Edo State House of Assembly and security agencies from alleged moves to impeach him in the run-up to the 2024 governorship.

Obaseki - who'd dealt with his political godfather, Oshiomhole, leading to his sack as APC's national chairman - took Shaibu as a small fry to handle, to show him that, "I remain the Governor of Edo State."

Accordingly, Obaseki ejected Shaibu from his office at the Osadebey Avenue Government House in Benin City, and kept him floating for weeks, such that Shaibu's seen in a viral video outside the Government House, telling someone on the phone that he'd no communication about the new office he's relocated.

The next day on September 19, Shaibu received a two-paragraph memo captioned, "Relocation of Office Accommodation," dated September 15, from the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie.

It reads: "I write to inform you that His Excellency, the Governor, has approved the relocation of your office accommodation to No 7, Dennis Osadebey Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City.

"You are therefore requested to ensure your compliance in line with Mr Governor's approval, please."

And Shaibu - who told journalists on September 21 in Benin City that, "We have resumed (in the new office)," and that, "there is no problem with it, as the governor has asked us to go there" - tendered apology to Obaseki, who held back further actions against him - save the initial cutting him off from audience and contacts with him (Obaseki), attendance in certain official duties, and turning over Shaibu's office to organisers of the state's yearly 'Alaghodaro Summit.'

A scalded, scorched and seared Shaibu'd enlisted the powerful and influential in the society, to intercede for Obaseki to "forgive him," for the good old days to roll once more.

So, having withdrawn his writs in courts against Obaseki, Edo Assembly and security agencies, Shaibu invited the press on September 21, to assist him to disseminate widely his "Mother-of-all-pleadings" with Obaseki, who Shaibu, in a tone of comic relief, and a touch of religiosity, said he "really missed" his relationship.

Shaibu said: "I will use this medium to appeal to Mr. Governor, if there is anything that I don't know that I have done, please forgive me, so that we can develop our state together.

"Mr Governor, please, if there is anything that you think I have done, I am sorry. I need us to work together to finish well and strong because that is my prayer for you."

Shaibu added: "I'm missing my governor really, and I know God will touch the governor's heart and touch all of us and even those that are trying to be in-between. God will touch them to know that I mean well.

"Like I always tell people, I am a loyal servant, there is nothing that has changed. I took a personal vow to support the Governor, and you can see my Catholic people are here. Everything about me, if I have a vow with God, there is nothing that will change it."

These words, capable of melting a stone - coupled with entreaties from well-meaning interceders - mollified Obaseki to accept a truce on September 28, one week after Shaibu offered his public apology.

In a letter, "Re: Public Apology By The Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu," Obaseki, touting himself as a "person of faith," said he's "under obligation to accept the apology."

He said: "I have noted the public apology made by the Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu. This apology followed an aberrant behaviour that contradicts what the people of Edo State stand for.

"To name a few, the Deputy Governor needlessly filed unfounded petitions in the Nigerian courts restraining me, the State House of Assembly and Security agencies from a non-existent impeachment process, followed by repeated breaches of protocol; unwarranted and unprovoked attacks in the media on my person and the State Government.

"The media frenzy as a result of the above and more, provided an impression of crises that has been precarious and distasteful to Edo people in the State and across the world.

"Although these unwarranted provocations caused me severe personal discomfort, as a person of faith, I am under obligation to accept this apology because as they say, ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine.'

"In good faith, I trust that the public apology as expressed by the Deputy Governor is genuine and followed by contrite steps to improve his conflict resolution skills. I also enjoin the Deputy Governor to guide his proxies to act in accordance with his piety."

Hardly two months later, Shaibu's returned to 2024 governorship, and thrown down the gauntlet. Will Obaseki pick up the duel that's likely to go beyond Election Day in September 2024, and with potential to heat up the polity in Edo State? It's a guessing game with a governor that takes no prisoners!

* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.