Almost a year after the inauguration of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki for a second term, the administration is being run by three musketeers: Obaseki; his deputy, Philip Shaibu, and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, a lawyer.
The governor, in his speech during the inauguration, promised to hit the ground running and continue with his administration’s developmental strides.
Obaseki, on November 14, 2020, reappointed Ogie as SSG, while describing Ogie’s, as the only political appointment to be made “for now.” He said all other appointments would be deferred to the first week of February, 2021, which is yet to be fulfilled.
The governor, on June 19, 2020, defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after he was disqualified by the governorship screening panel in Abuja, while Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the National Chairman of the party (APC).
Leaders of PDP welcomed Obaseki into the party, while they prevailed on the three frontline governorship aspirants, including the billionaire philanthropist, Kenneth Imansuangbon, an Abuja-based lawyer, to step down for the new “bride,” which they voluntarily did, as a mark of respect for leaders of the party, thereby preparing for the 2024 battle.
Obaseki got his re-election ticket in the PDP. He continued with his war against Oshiomhole, who appointed him, a Lagos-based investment banker, as the Chairman of his Economic Team for almost eight years. He instigated some leaders of Oshiomhole’s ward in Etsako West LGA in Edo North Senatorial District to suspend him. Oshiomhole was removed as the national chairman of APC, while his suspension was later quashed by the court.
Governorship candidates of all the political parties cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) immediately moved to the three senatorial districts of Edo for aggressive campaigns, but the September 19, 2020 governorship election was a straight fight between Obaseki and the more-experienced standard bearer of APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a former Edo SSG, who was the 2016 governorship candidate of PDP.
Ize-Iyamu would have floored Obaseki during the bloody governorship election of September 19 last year, but for the intervention of the Presidency, which sent some APC governors and top officials of the Federal Government to powerful monarchs to prevail on Ize-Iyamu and other leaders of the party (APC), to accept the outcome of the poll.
Ize-Iyamu, as a mark of respect for APC leaders, decided not to challenge at the tribunal, while presumably preparing for the 2024 battle, when Obaseki would have completed his constitutionally-approved two terms in office.
Shaibu, who hails from Edo North Senatorial District is determined to succeed the governor in 2024, thereby blocking the chances of indigenes of Edo Central Senatorial District.
The first week of February 2021 passed, without the cabinet being constituted by Obaseki, who gave excuses of his defection from APC to PDP and the need for harmonisation among the critical stakeholders in Edo PDP.
April was again proposed for constituting the cabinet, after members of the harmonisation committee have submitted their report, but the undemocratic suspension of Edo Chairman of PDP, Dr. Tony Aziegbemi, over face-off with Obaseki, who planned to dissolve the party’s executives at the ward, local government and state levels, led to confusion. Aziegbemi was later reinstated.
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Obaseki also asked all the persons who were interested in political appointments, to approach a committee, chaired by a former Vice-Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Prof. Dennis Agbolahor, for screening.
The applicants were asked to get endorsements from political leaders in their domains, as part of the criteria for being considered. Agbolahor’s committee subsequently submitted its report, while another review committee was later put in place by Edo governor.
On April 12, Obaseki pretended to begin the process of forming his cabinet, by forwarding for approval to 10 of the 24 members of Edo House of Assembly, who sit inside Government House, Benin, a list of 15 nominees for appointment as special advisers. It was immediately approved by the Assembly, led by Marcus Onobun.
The Edo Speaker directed the Clerk of the House of Assembly, Yahaya Omogbai, to convey copies of the approval to Obaseki, for “immediate action,” after the lawmakers’ unanimous vote, but Obaseki is yet to appoint any special adviser.
A chieftain of the PDP in Edo, Chief Charles Idahosa gave insight into why Obaseki has not constituted his cabinet.
Idahosa, an ally of Obaseki, and Special Adviser on Political Matters to Oshiomhole, hinted that the governor might be helping the state to save funds for infrastructural development, by not constituting his cabinet.
The PDP chieftain said: “Edo State governor is almost one year in office in his second term and there is no cabinet. It worries me, but the law does not say when the governor must form a cabinet. The law gives the governors and the president the room at their own time. We are not happy, I must make that very clear to you.
“This month is making it a year that the governorship election was held in Edo state (September 19), but you see, Obaseki cannot be like Chief Lucky Igbinedion, a former governor of Edo state. Lucky Igbinedion cannot be like Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Each governor comes with his own style, but the governor will give you reasons.
“As I am speaking with you, there is another committee set up by the party (PDP), but Edo governor has just finished moving round the 18 local government areas of the state. Maybe Obaseki is taking advantage of that to save more funds, because he is more concerned about having funds to turn Edo state to an Eldorado. As far as I am concerned, only one person cannot do that. He has a very big dream. A lot of our people are not happy, but the truth of the matter is that there is no law that any person can use to hold him.”
Idahosa also expressed displeasure over the inability of most people to speak the truth, which he noted, would be bitter.
He said: “The problem we have in Edo State and this country is that we have very weak leadership. People do not tell the truth. A man comes to you on a Monday. Please help me. I want to be the governor, then when he becomes, suddenly the leadership will now become enslaved to him, because of personal gains.
“During the early days of Obaseki, I could see signs that he would be very difficult to manage and I called all the leaders, who are now stranded in Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) of APC. I do not want to embarrass them by mentioning their names. We sat here, in my house. I called three from Edo North Senatorial District, three from Edo South and three from Edo Central, and I said look at the way things are going, we are politicians, and this man (Obaseki) is not a core politician like us. We need to put our heads together. So that we can advise him. Some of them got up to say they wanted to go to the toilet, but they went to adjust their phones to record me and they recorded me beautifully.
“Immediately they left, they went to Government House, Benin City to report that I wanted to fight Obaseki and naturally he reacted and we started having issues, but it became too much, I called the person and asked why did you do this. All of them are now finished politically.
“After a while, myself and the governor made up and we continued. My wants are very limited. If you wait for political patronage, you will be a slave. I have always tried to make my own little money. I am a farmer, I have had my cattle ranch for over twenty years. I have had my poultry for over twenty years, I sell chicken.
“Most of our leaders do not programme their lives. For instance, I have only three kids, all mothers and fathers taking care of themselves and their families. So, when you are a politician and at the age of seventy five, you are still impregnating women, why won’t you lie, in order to survive. If you are not contented, they will take advantage of you.”
The PDP chieftain also expressed displeasure about a situation where overnight, the governor of a state would just come and give an instruction and everybody would be running around, while declaring that it was not how it should be, because on election day, the dictatorial helmsman would only be in his ward, and he would not know how the other results he got to win the crucial governorship election came.
The caretaker Chairman of APC in Edo State, Col. David Imuse (rtd.), however, said that Obaseki was not sincere in his governance style, wondering why it would be difficult for a second-term governor to constitute his cabinet, if he had the interest of Edo residents at heart.
Imuse pleaded with residents to endure Obaseki’s misgovernance till November 12, 2024, when a more-competent, highly-experienced and better-focused member of APC would take over as governor, thereby bringing about the much-desired development and empowerment of the people across the 18 local governments.
A Benin lawyer, Douglas Ogbankwa, insisted that not having commissioners in Edo had denied the state of having a representative from different strata in the running of government, as provided for by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
He said: “The constitution of the State Executive Council (SEC) is a compulsory pre-requisite for the running of a state, as provided for by our ground norm, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“SEC gives the governor of a state the opportunity of benefiting from the intellect, experience and skills of the members, through the weekly council meeting, before making vital policy decisions. This vantage position is currently lacking in Edo State, due to the refusal of Obaseki to constitute the SEC.
“The constitution provides that each local government of the state shall provide at least one member of the council. This brings about inclusive government and gives each of the local governments in the state a sense of belonging in the running of the affairs of the state. Sadly, this situation is currently lacking in Edo State.”
Ogbankwa, who is also a human rights activist, asked 0baseki to do the needful, by constituting his cabinet, without further delay.
The spokesman of APC in Edo, Chris Azebamwan, accused Edo governor of running the Southsouth state as a sole administrator.
Azebamwan said: “There are policies and actions of a state that legally and constitutionally should not be undertaken, without the approval of the State Executive Council.
“As we speak, some of the actions are being taken solely by Obaseki as a sole administrator. He has not displayed the tendencies of a democratically-elected governor.”
Edo PDP spokesman, Chris Nehikhare, however, said that Obaseki had not violated Nigeria’s constitution, by not immediately constituting his cabinet.
Nehikhare said: “Edo State governor is well within his legal rights in forming his cabinet. I can assure you that at the appropriate time, the cabinet will be constituted, with the members to also contribute to moving Edo forward.
“This period that the cabinet has not been constituted, Edo governor decided to set up a high-powered team to look at the reforms, which is one of the cardinal areas he campaigned on, by making Edo great again.”
Spokesman of PDP in Edo also urged the state’s residents, especially members of the opposition political parties, to support and join Obaseki in his commitment to transform the state.
Edo governor should now do the needful, without further delay, by constituting his cabinet.