The faceoff between Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu recalls to mind a popular meme – “If Men Were God” – adopted by a transport company plying many routes across Nigeria.
The phrase was left hanging without supplying what would happen were men to be God! But trust Nigerians! They filled the void with a stream of alternatives, thus: If men were God, “Humans will have one eye, one nostril, one ear, one hand, one leg, no fingers, no toes, no teeth, no stomach, no private parts. And wait for this: The “men-God” will limit, ration or seize air completely for any infractions!
Welcome to Edo State where Governor Obaseki straddles the “Heart Beat of The Nation” and strikes fears in cowered residents.
Lately in a litany of actions, Obaseki’s cut communications with, and barred Shaibu from accessing him – hiding behind security details’ duty to choose who to allow access to the governor. Fair enough!
On September 18, Shaibu’s left stranded at the outer fencing of the Government House, Benin City. He’s heard, in a viral video, telling someone on the phone that:
“Up till now, I don’t have any official communication (about his new office). It’s the civil servants that have official communication. As I’m speaking to you now, I’m standing by the gate” (of the Government House).
Shaibu’s ordeal stems from his “expulsion” from the Osadebey Avenue seat of Government, for “aspiring to be Governor” in 2024, and daring to take out a writ, to preempt Obaseki using the House of Assembly to “impeach” him and scuttle his ambition.
So, Obaseki decreed that Shaibu relocate, but kept him floating for weeks before accessing the new office via a memo by Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie.
The two-para memo, “Relocation of Office Accommodation,” dated September 15, and received on September 19, 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.”
Obaseki’s derring-dos birthed prior to the 2020 election, which he snatched from the jaws of defeat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He’s denied a second-term ticket by All Progressives Congress (APC), headed by his acclaimed godfather and predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, now Senator for Edo North.
Scaling the poll huddles, Obaseki, backed by Shaibu – a community relative of Oshiomhole – bared his fangs to pay back his “enemies” for risking his re-election and “undermining” his authority as governor.
(Pre-the 2020 poll, in which Oshiomhole backed and campaigned for his challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Obaseki told Oshiomhole that, “I’m still Governor of Edo State.”)
Once again, Obaseki’s showing he remains the governor, by turning the heat on Shaibu who – already scalded, scorched and seared even as the battle has just begun – has surrendered and “begged for forgiveness.”
He told journalists in Benin City on September 21 that, “We have resumed (in the new office). There is no problem with it, the governor has asked us to go there.”
On the nitty-gritty of the parley with newsmen, 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.
“If there is any mistake that I have made as human, is (sic) not an act of maybe wickedness, because I’m not wicked. I have a very clean heart.
“So 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.”
As a comic relief, with a touch of religiosity, Shaibu said: “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.”
And hoping for the best, Shaibu added: “And I can only wish that the relationship that we had, in the next few days and weeks, I know it will come back. We have just less than how many months, just one year to go. We’ve been the envy of the entire country; it is still possible.”
Did Shaibu also covenant with God that he’s going to “enter and leave government together with Obaseki,” without scheming to be Governor immediately thereafter, as revealed by the governor’s handlers?
Shaibu’s words can melt a stone, but will they cut ice with Obaseki, who appears to have crossed his mind about the deputy governor he’s accused of betraying and sabotaging him?
Shaibu’s pleading for forgiveness may even embolden Obaseki to continue to run roughshod over his opponents. As Republican State Rep. Daniel Perez of Florida, United States, says about Governor Ron DeSantis’ highhanded governance of Florida, “the problem of wielding the power of government like a hammer is that the people start looking like nails.”
Governor Obaseki’s wielded, and brought down the hammer too often that the list of victims keeps growing, starting with Tony Kabaka Adun, whose multi-million Naira hotel was bulldozed in February 2020.
And having ignored an order of the court that’s about to give judgment on the hotel, Obaseki turned round to demand N18 million from Mr Adun, as the cost of bringing down his edifice. What an irony!
Barely a year after, the demolition squad uprooted the property of former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr Pius Odubu; a House of Reps member, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere; and Chief Executive Officer of PADMOZI Sports Marketing, Mr Mike Itemuagbor; while the land for Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s farm estate was revoked.
Since 2016, Obaseki’s also prevented inauguration of 14 APC House of Assembly members, and caused removal of the Assembly roof to deny access to the 14 lawmakers, allegedly planning to impeach him; hounded Oshiomhole out of Edo, and directed that he seek his (Obaseki’s) permission to visit the state; and reportedly “sponsored” Oshiomhole’s suspension by his ward executive, leading to his sack by the courts as National Chairman of the APC. Deputy Governor Shaibu is next to taste Governor Obaseki’s fury.
Critics, including Edo APC, accuse Obaseki of vendetta, for “regularly and willfully demolishing property belonging to perceived opponents, and dissenting or critical voices in the state, in the bid to foist a siege mentality on the citizenry.”
Obaseki’s said the structures were “built on government land,” and that, “anybody who contravenes the law, no matter how highly placed you are in Edo State, you will be dealt with.”
“Businesses cannot thrive when there is anarchy and complete disrespect for the law. For us as a government, whatever we need to do to ensure that there is law and order, will be done,” Obaseki warned.
But if Obaseki were acting in the public interest to retrieve “limited” government property at the GRA in Benin City, why not bulldoze other property, starting with his own?
Coming to Shaibu, he’d acted like the house mouse, to sell Oshiomhole out to Obaseki in the name of “loyalty” and with an eye to the 2024 governorship.
That “ambition” appears up in the air, courtesy of Obaseki, who Shaibu helped to salvage his second-term ambition by throwing his “mentor and father,” Oshiomhole, under the bus.
Yet, besides one good turn deserving another, Shaibu’s inalienable right to dream, and aspire to be the Executive Governor of Edo State if his political platform and the electorate sanctioned it.
As Shaibu’s expressed remorse for whatever his indiscretions, and pleads with Obaseki to “find a place in his heart” to forgive him, may I remind the governor about the unkindness of history, as he faces the homestretch of his eight years of governing Edo State?
Earlier in the heady days of his administration, l’d cause to advise him to tread softly for the sake of posterity, channeling the counsel through a March 29, 2021, article captioned, “Edo 2020: Legacy Obaseki wants remembered for.”
In it, I recalled the immortal words of a popular social-political critic in the defunct Bendel (Delta and Edo) State, Air Iyare. He’s the type that lobes dynamites at the authorities, and you only ignore him, and his moral suasion at your own peril.
That’s the lesson Military Governor Husaini Abdullahi learned in Bendel (1976-1978) from Mr Iyare’s crusading, when he wanted to turn a secondary school in Benin City into a hotel. Excerpts from my article:
“Writing in the once-flagship Bendel-owned Nigerian Observer, Iyare held that sustaining the grammar school far outweighed the advantages derivable from turning the complex into a hotel.
“Closing his article, Iyare stated that should Abdullahi seize the school for commercial purposes, he ‘will not be remembered as Abdullahi the Governor, but Abdullahi the hotelier.’ And that did it! Mr Abdullahi, who retired as Vice-Admiral and died in 2019 at 80, let the grammar school be.
“The moral here isn’t Abdullahi’s succumbing to public opinion, but the legacy he would’ve left behind had he turned the secondary school buildings into a commercial venture.
“Coming to the now, what legacy does Godwin Obaseki want to be remembered for after his eight-year tenure in 2024 in Edo State? Is it as Obaseki the Governor or Obaseki the “demolisher”?
“Mr Obaseki should ponder this, as he embarks on a bulldozing spree of property of his real or imagined enemies.”
This piece of advice is as relevant – if not more germane – as it’s in March 2021, as the governor’s extended his blitzkrieg to his deputy, who paired with him to qualify to run as governor.
Obaseki still has 14 months (until late November 2024) in the saddle – time enough to restrategise his style from wanting to show that, “I’m the Governor” (which nobody can drag with him now) to displaying that, “I’m the Father of all Edolites.”