Southsouth Bureau Chief BISI OLANIYI examines the performance of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki since he took the oath of office for the second term.
The governorship election in Edo State took place on September 19 last year. The Justice Yunusa Musa-led three-member election petitions tribunal in Benin is yet to deliver judgments in the remaining four of the five filed petitions by the aggrieved governorship candidates and their political parties.
The uncertainty over the tribunal’s verdict is making Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to be jittery, considering the fact that they defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC), some weeks to the crucial election, after their disqualification by members of the screening committee, put in place by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led then National Working Committee (NWC).
The governor, in the evening of November 11, 2020, dissolved his cabinet, less than 24 hours to his second-term inauguration.
He announced the dissolution at a valedictory executive council session at the Government House, Benin, while expressing appreciation to the former council members for their selfless service to the state.
Obaseki said: “Since I became governor, I did not sack any commissioner, but rather they sacked me by resigning from my cabinet. What is important in government are the core values of truth, justice and fairness.
“When elected to serve the people, let us truly serve the people. As we will give account to God. I cannot claim success alone. What I did was to create the opportunity for you to serve.”
Edo governor also urged the former members of his cabinet to continue to work and support his administration.
He said: “You are all part of this administration and architects of the new design for the growth and development of Edo State.”
Edo deputy governor, in his remarks, hailed Obaseki for his leadership style, stressing that all former members of the cabinet learnt from his political ideology.
Shaibu said: “You (Obaseki) have shown that you are a good leader. I appeal to you to continue with the good works.
“God has put you as the governor to lead Edo to greater heights and we all will continue to support you.”
The Secretary to Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, a lawyer, while also speaking, lauded Obaseki for his leadership style, which he said prompted the cabinet members to be efficient and effective in service delivery.
The former Commissioner for Social Development and Gender Issues, Mrs. Maria Edeko, also expressed appreciation to Obaseki for giving them the opportunity to serve Edo state and its people.
Obaseki and Shaibu were on November 12 last year inaugurated for another four-year term at the Lawn Tennis Court of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin.
The governor, in his inaugural address, assured that he would be committed to deepening reforms and diversifying the state’s economy, in order to consolidate on the progress recorded in his first term in office.
He said: “We are battling a rampaging Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), which has claimed more than one million lives globally. It has shut down the economies of world superpowers, overwhelmed some of the best healthcare systems and has redefined the way we work, live and relate as human beings.
“This is the time to heal. We are kith and kin with a common destiny. Let us now stop dwelling on the past. It is now time to take our collective destinies in our own hands as Edo people and commence the arduous task of Making Edo Great Again (MEGA).
“Together, as a people propelled by a common zeal in pursuit of progress and advancement, there is nothing that we cannot overcome if we have a consensus on how to move our state forward. What we need is what I call a unity template, with which to overcome our challenges.”
Obaseki also stated that it was pertinent to rekindle the social contract between the government and the people, noting that it would require trust and reciprocity between government and the people to solve society’s problems.
He said: “What we guarantee you, my dear people of Edo State, is that we will provide value for your money, by utilising it judiciously, transparently and with accountability.
“In the next four years, government’s policies, programmes and reforms will be to grow our social sector by constantly improving our education, healthcare system, provision of social security and safety nets, caring for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged in our state, and rapidly developing our critical energy, housing, digital and road infrastructure, which provide a framework to drive inclusive growth.
“We will build the economy and drive industrialisation, trade and investment, to solidify our state’s status as the choice investment destination in the country; pursue the clean and green Edo initiative and sustaining our campaigns to plant trees and restore the forest and enshrine peace among Edo people and improve the general security to lives and property within the state, by working closely with all religious, traditional and community stakeholders.”
The governor, on November 14 last year, stated that Ogie’s (SSG’s) would be the only political appointment to be made then, with all other appointments deferred to the first week of February, 2021.
Obaseki, however, could not constitute his executive council in February, as he promised on November 14, last year, in view of the battle between the old and new members of the PDP.
There is also the issue of uncertainty caused by the petitions and suits against him and his deputy at the election petitions tribunal, in Benin and the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
The old members of PDP, who claimed to have made the party attractive to Obaseki and the defecting members of the APC, wanted to produce more members of the new cabinet. Obaseki is not comfortable with.
The then APC members, who joined Obaseki into the PDP, before the September 19 last year’s governorship election, led by the then factional Chairman of APC in Edo, Anslem Ojezua, a lawyer, declared that their defecting to PDP gave the party electoral value and made it more attractive, thereby making them to have upper hand in the number of cabinet members to be produced by the group.
To get the reaction of Obaseki, the only political appointee of Edo governor (Ogie, the SSG), declined to answer his calls, while the text and WhatsApp messages sent to him were also not replied.
Edo Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chris Nehikhare, however, said Obaseki had not broken any law, by not constituting his cabinet in February, as he earlier assured.
He said: “The speculations are uncalled for. No conflict. There is only one PDP in Edo State, under the leadership of Governor Obaseki. When he is ready, he will constitute the cabinet, but he has not broken any law. He is currenrly busy with reforms.
“Obaseki is still the governor of Edo State. The cases against him at the tribunal and Court of Appeal are not serious issues that Obaseki will bother himself about. If the governor loses at the appellate court, he will still proceed to the Supreme Court. The same thing is applicable to the cases at the tribunal, which will get to the Court of Appeal and to terminate at the apex court.”
The Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of APC in Edo state, Col. Dr. David Imuse (rtd.), in his reaction, declared that the unwarranted delay by Obaseki in constituting the Executive Council (exco) since his November 12 last year’s second-term inauguration, was unacceptable.
He stressed that while some of Obaseki’s supporters claimed that he was busy searching for competent hands and bidding his time to avoid making mistakes, he insisted that the flimsy and frivolous excuses were inane, thereby going to portray an elected public servant (Edo governor) with a strong desire to transform into a dictator.
Imuse, in a press statement by Edo APC’s Assistant Publicity Secretary, Ofure Osehobo, reminded Obaseki that when he announced the reappointment of Ogie as the SSG on November 14 last year, he promised to make all other appointments in the first week of February, 2021.
The APC chairman reiterated that by already being in March, Obaseki’s inaction had not only crippled the state government’s businesses, but demonstrated that Edo governor was a man whose word was not his bond.
He said: “Edo state can ill afford further delay by Obaseki to make the vital appointments. Section 192 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Repunlic of Nigeria, as amended, is clear on the issue of state’s commissioners. The permanent secretaries cannot do much, as they look up to the commissioners for direction on policy issues.
“The Section 192 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Repunlic of Nigeria, as amended, gives the governor a public mandate, rather than private, to appoint commissioners to form, not just the state’s executive council, but also the think tank for the development of the state’s economy and well-being of the people.
“Right now in Edo State, the day-to-day operations of the different state’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have come to a halt, while the coordination of important government businesses has become weaker, with the unnecessary overload on the SSG (Ogie), currently the only political appointee of Obaseki.
“Since Edo governor assumed office on November 12 last year for another four-year term, it is already over 100 days, with his disabled state’s House of Assembly, thereby using permanent secretaries as acting heads of ministries, whose capacities are limited. Obaseki has turned himself into a sole administrator.
“Edo people are very disappointed by Obaseki’s attitude that it is over 100 days after his assumption of office for a second term, meaning he is not a first timer. Edo people are tired of the excuses of their inexperienced and confused governor. Obaseki should act fast and in the public interest.”
Edo APC chairman also expressed optimism that the suits at the election petitions tribunal in Benin and at the Court of Appeal, Abuja against Obaseki, his deputy, the PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others, would be favourable to the main opposition party (APC) and its governorship candidate during the September 19 last year’s keenly-contested election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The judgments’ days would also be announced soon by judges of the tribunal in Benin.
The four remaining petitions were filed by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel; Action Peoples Party (APP); the governorship candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Tracy Agol; and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
On December 11 last year, the tribunal dismissed in a unanimous ruling, the petition by Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Ukonga Onaivi, against Obaseki, PDP and INEC, for failing to file pre-hearing notice.
On January 9 this year at the Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja, the University of Ibadan’s (UI’s) forgery and perjury suit against Obaseki by APC and one of its chieftains, Williams Edobor, was dismissed, with the plaintiffs accused of not being able to prove the criminal allegations beyond reasonable doubt, but the judgment is being challenged at the appellate court..
ADP and its governorship candidate, in the petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/01/2020, with INEC, PDP, Obaseki, APC and Ize-Iyamu as respondents, prayed the tribunal to disqualify Edo governor over his UI’s certificate and nullify the votes cast for him, thereby ordering INEC to conduct a fresh election involving all other qualified governorship candidates, excluding PDP and Obaseki.
NNPP’s governorship candidate, in her petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/05/2020, with INEC, PDP and Obaseki as respondents, declared that Edo governor was not qualified to contest the September 19 last year’s election, while praying for an order to compel INEC to conduct fresh election involving all the qualified candidates, excluding PDP and Obaseki..
Agol’s sole ground for filing the petition was that Obaseki, at the time of the poll, was not qualified to contest the election, quoting Section 138 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, while alleging that Edo governor presented forged/false certificate to INEC, contrary to Section 182 (1) (J) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended.
APP, in the petition against Obaseki, PDP and INEC as respondents, with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/02/2020, claimed that it was unlawfully excluded.
APM filed a petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/04/2020, with INEC, PDP, Obaseki and Shaibu as respondents, while alleging irregularities during the September 19 governorship election and that Edo governor and his deputy were not qualified to contest the poll.
Since Obaseki and Shaibu could not celebrate their 100 days in office with people-oriented and capital-intensive projects and programmes, they ought to have fulfilled their November 14 last year’s promise of reconstituting the cabinet in February 2021, as Edo people are watching the PDP’s administration in the state.