The political landscape of Edo State has been marked by a noticeable chill in the relationship between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Phillip Shaibu.
The unfolding drama on December 5, 2023, during the presentation of the 2024 budget estimate to the Edo State House of Assembly, served as a spotlight, revealing that all is not well between the two key figures.
As the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, and Head of Service, Anthony Okungbowa, assumed their seats in order of protocol, the Deputy Governor entered the chambers, exchanging pleasantries with nearly everyone present.
The vacant seats designated for the Governor and Deputy Governor, though, hinted at a brewing tension. Surprisingly, the deputy Governor’s seat vanished before the Governor’s arrival, leading to speculations that Obaseki might have insisted on keeping distance between them.
Contrary to assumptions, it was later clarified that Shaibu, anticipating potential awkwardness, directed protocol officers to position his seat away from the Governor’s. Sources close to the Deputy Governor’s office confirmed that this incident was just one manifestation of the ongoing strain in their relationship.
On the same day, after the budget presentation, as the Governor descended from the Speaker’s seat, the deputy Governor, seated nearby, rose to exchange greetings. But, Obaseki’s response was notably reserved. The passage of the 2024 appropriation bill underscored that it was far from ‘Uhuru’ (freedom) for the Deputy Governor.
Investigations brought to light budgetary allocations for the offices of the Secretary to the State Government and the Head of Service, while the Deputy Governor’s office was conspicuously left out. This omission substantiated Shaibu’s claim during the commissioning of the Correspondents’ Chapel secretariat that his office had been deprived of funds for the past six months.
Pundits speculate that the deputy Governor might be the architect of his predicament. They point to his decision to take legal action against Governor Obaseki, seeking a restraining order against any attempt to orchestrate his impeachment. It was even suggested that Shaibu lacked evidence of any impeachment threat initially.
The Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Blessing Agbebaku, on December 5, 2023, further fueled speculations by seemingly downplaying the significance of the deputy Governor’s office. His omission of Shaibu during recognitions, even after acknowledging lower-ranking officials, hinted at strained relations arising from the Deputy Governor’s past maneuvers.
Shaibu’s gubernatorial aspirations play a pivotal role in their deteriorating relationship. The Governor perceives Shaibu’s desire to contest the 2024 gubernatorial seat as a direct challenge to his preferred candidate, Asue Ighodaro. Pundits note Shaibu’s public claims that he could defeat Obaseki’s aspirant in an electoral contest.
Shaibu did not shy away from casting aspersions on Asue Ighodalo during an appearance on Channel television Sunrise Daily. His criticisms and confrontational stance against Obaseki’s chosen candidate further deepened the rift.
Governor Obaseki, while asserting that the PDP alone can decide the Deputy Governor’s candidacy, hints at potential obstacles Shaibu may face within the party. The Governor’s aides emphasize that their stance is not rooted in the traditional reluctance of Governors to see their Deputies succeed them but rather in the perceived disloyalty demonstrated by Shaibu.
Crusoe Osagie, the special adviser to the Governor on media, has played a role in spotlighting the alleged insubordination by Deputy Governor Shaibu. Osagie, in a published article, accused Shaibu of frequently arriving late for Executive Council Meetings and likened him to the biblical ‘wicked who runneth when no man pursueth,’ referencing Shaibu’s court actions to avoid impeachment.
The Governor’s patience and tolerance are highlighted by his aide, given the alleged provocations from the Deputy Governor. Former close allies of Shaibu have distanced themselves, exemplified by the absence of the Secretary to the State Government at a journalists’ gathering organized by the Deputy Governor, a stark departure from previous years.
Although Governor Obaseki publicly declared forgiveness for the deputy Governor, ongoing events suggest otherwise. Osagie’s absence from the journalists’ gathering further underscores the strained relationships between key figures in the Edo State government.
Signs indicate that Shaibu might be aware of his slim chances of winning the gubernatorial seat. Speculations suggest that he is being utilized by the PDP’s legacy group faction to disrupt Governor Obaseki’s plans to determine the next Governor of Edo State.
In conclusion, the phrase “Not Yet Uhuru for Shaibu” encapsulates the complex dynamics and strained relations between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Deputy Governor Phillip Shaibu. Their discord, marked by political maneuvers, budgetary allocations, and gubernatorial aspirations, continues to unfold, leaving the political landscape of Edo State in a state of uncertainty. The intricate interplay of power, loyalty, and ambition will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of their relationship in the days to come.