An Open Memo to Governor Obaseki

Governor Godwin Obaseki

By Habib Aruna

Your Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, It has become necessary and imperative to pen you this open memo at this critical juncture in the history of our dear state and I will be gratified if you peruse it with an open mind. Events of the past few days and weeks, have shown that all is not well between you and your deputy, Mr. Philip Shaibu, and this has affected the smooth running of government in Edo State.

What prompted me to make this an open memo was the possible escalation of the crisis occasioned by the purported move of your administration, last weekend, to relocate the office of the deputy governor to a separate building outside the Government House. This will, without a doubt, escalate an already strained relationship between you and your once very close deputy. So, rather than making an effort to douse the tension, in a state that is in dire need of development in all sectors, your actions are geared towards inflaming an already tense situation.

The world indeed, became aware that there was a growing animosity between you and your deputy when Shaibu filed a request to halt his impeachment at the Federal High Court in Abuja. Thank goodness that Shaibu found it expedient to withdraw the suit on Tuesday morning, ostensibly, to give peace a chance. It was this same court action and the attendant comments by you that opened the floodgate of speculations by people of the state and Nigerians at large, that your deputy has been nursing governorship ambition to take over from you next year.

And even though Mr. Blessing Agbebaku, the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, and your office had denied any move to impeach Shaibu, we however know that it is in the character of Nigerian politicians to deny something today and still go ahead to do it tomorrow.

Mr. Governor sir, there are two disturbing instances I want to bring to your notice in which your actions have implicitly diminished your office. The first one was when there was a mild drama when your security aide stopped your deputy, who was trying to greet you from accessing you. This happened at a thanksgiving service to mark the 32nd anniversary of Edo State, held at the New Festival Hall, Government House, Benin-City. In pictures that have now gone viral on social media, the security operative was seen blocking Shaibu’s access to you during the event, while you, the First lady, and others were seen looking at the drama unperturbed.

The second instance was last week when your administration disbanded the media crew attached to the Office of the Deputy Governor. You also, according to the news report, directed Shaibu to henceforth request for media coverage of his activities from the Ministry of Communication and Orientation. The above two instances will no doubt be recorded as untidy and a stain when the history of your stint in government is written. I am also not sure you will receive a pat on the back in the future when our children see the pictures of your deputy being humiliated by your aides simply because he wants to access you.

This is not however to absolve the embattled Shaibu of blame from events of the past few weeks. I can understand that no governor will stand a kimbo while his deputy hobnobs with perceived political enemies; loyalty in politics is more than 100 percent. You must be loyal to your principal, both in actions and words. Disloyal acts have their consequences. But the governor as the father of the state must avoid actions that will overheat the state and other distractions that will affect smooth running of government.

You might want to recollect sir that your deputy stood behind you when you faced the biggest battle of your political career. You could only have imagined what would happen if it were the case in Lagos, when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s deputy, Dr. Ranti Adebule dumped him on the eve of the governorship primary, to support the establishment’s ‘preferred’ candidate. But that was absolutely not the case in Edo, because Shaibu was audacious and pragmatic enough to realize that he had to stick with you on the ticket. He dumped his political mentor and godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and defected with you to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the two of you were able unite the electorate against a ‘common enemy’. The rest as they say is history!

Needless to say that I’m one of those who admire your courage, both as a governor and when you decided to challenge Oshiomhole by taking the risk of dumping the then ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), when they denied you the governorship ticket. Your famous statement that, ‘I am a risk taker and ready to fight’, before the 2020 election still reverberates in my mind. One will not also forget your incessant and valued interventions in crucial national issues which have made you a moral force in the country.

But your Excellency would have to be reminded that how you manage the current crisis would go a long way to define how your legacy will be framed. It is however gratifying to note that your deputy has taken the first step by withdrawing the case in court. The next step is for you to create enough space for issues between the two of you to be settled amicably. The role the elders of your party have been playing is commendable and should be supported. You have the right to support a candidate of your choice and Shaibu should be made to know that. The primary race should however be thrown open for interested aspirants to contest without harassment or intimidation.

I don’t need to remind you sir that it’s only a united house that can win a free and fair election. And the absence of a crisis will enable you to put final touches on what you have been doing in the past seven years before leaving office. I wish you well as you round up your stewardship in our state.