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Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo State

What Obaseki owes Shaibu By Emeka Obasi


Philip Shuaibu, Deputy Governor of Edo State

Those who follow History know that George Agbazika Innih, the first Afenmai man who occupied Osadebay House following the exit of a governor from today’s Edo South Senatorial Zone, spent less than 12 months in office before he was redeployed.

This should be of interest to the embattled deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, a courageous young man who has done so well for himself right from the university where he was actively involved in Students Union politics.

His boss, governor Godwin Obaseki, is a technocrat who found himself in politics. When many expected him to be playing deeper into the economy,  the road to Government House was smoothly paved for him by Adams Oshiomhole, the Comrade Governor.

The mistake some seasoned Nigerian politicians make is to underate players who join government from the private sector. How Obaseki overcame his predecessor’s obstacles apparently did not tell Shaibu a story. Now the deputy governor is the tale.

Shaibu wants to be governor of Edo State. Obaseki is not cool with that because his deputy’s ambition sounds politically incorrect. There were skirmishes initially. Then full blown battle commenced. Government House became alien to the Number Two. Banished and bruised, he did the unusual. Shaibu asked for forgiveness.

Obaseki is not bound by any law to embrace his deputy. Now the governor appears to hold the knife and the yam. However, even the Biblical prodigal son was welcomed back by his father. Obaseki has God in his name and the Lord preaches forgiveness.

General Murtala Mohammed should not be forgotten as events continue to play out in Benin. In 1967, he appointed Col. Osaigbovo Ogbemudia governor of Mid – West, without the consent of General Yakubu Gowon, who was Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

It was during the Civil War and Murtala was General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2 Division, Nigerian Army. Gowon later confirmed Ogbemudia as Governor after Biafran troops had caused his predecessor, Col. David Ejoor, to escape to Lagos on a miracle bicycle.

Biafra annointed Maj. Albert Okonkwo, a medical doctor, to occupy Ejoor’s desk. Murtala and his soldiers flushed him out. One account says Murtala acted fast to stop Ogbemudia from identifying with Biafra because of his perceived Igbo background.

Some Afenmai folks believe Murtala had an Igbei, Etsako (Edo North) dad who sold kolanuts in Agege,  Lagos before relocating to Kano where he married from a prominent family. When the Army officer toppled Gowon in 1975, this part of him could not be hidden anymore.

Ogbemudia (Edo South), was in the United Kingdom when the July 29 coup happened. Murtala retired him from the Army and appointed Innih, from Agenebode,  in present Edo North Senatorial Zone as the new governor of Mid – Western State.

Murtala was accompanied to Mecca on his first pilgrimage as Head of State, by four traditional rulers. One of them was the Otaru of Auchi, Guruza Momoh (Edo North). The man who replaced him as Head of Army Signals, Col. Abdulrahman Momodu was Afenmai (Edo North). When seven new states were created, none was carved out from the old Mid – West Region.

It appeared Murtala overlooked Benin, the present Edo South, in key appointments. John Obada, an Urhobo, made the 22 – man Supreme Military Council. Paul Omu, of Isoko background, was sent to South – Eastern State (later Cross River) as governor. Another Urhobo, Justice Ayo Irikefe, was appointed Chairman of the Panel on Creation of New States.

Innih was moved to Kwara in March 1976, barely a month after Murtala Mohammed was killed in Lagos. Some of the plotters had met during a hockey game in Benin. Col. Isa Bukar was home in Benin. From that year, no Afenmai man (Edo North) has succeeded a Benin son (Edo South) at Osadebay House.

Pastor Peter Obadan (Edo North) was favoured by God to work with Governor John Odigie Oyegun (Edo South) as deputy in 1992. The duo passed through President Ibrahim Babangida and pseudo Head of State, Ernest Shonekan. Obadan’s prayers did not help him dream of succeeding his boss. Gen. Sani Abacha sacked them in 1993.

Lucky Igbinedion, from Edo South, chose Mike Oghiadomhe, from Etsako (Edo North) as his deputy in 1999. Before their ticket expired in 2007, both men were like Iran and Iraq, always at war but never apart. The deputy governor could not become governor. He got lucky later, in Abuja as Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Shaibu is the son of a pastor. Obadan, a pastor, was deputy governor. He did not become governor. All things being equal, the next governor of Edo State will come from Edo Central, land of the Esan. There is no justice in politics but after Ambrose Alli and Oserhiemen Osunbor, the chant ‘Esangbedo’ (Esan does not hurt Benin) will prick Obaseki’s conscience.

It is unfortunate that no Esan man has governed the state for eight years. Prof. Ali lasted four years and two months before Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the Beret Boys struck in December 1983. Prof. Osunbor had barely settled down when the judiciary swept him away in 2008.

Shaibu plays soccer. FIFA preaches Fair Play. He got the best of Obaseki. Some deputy governors are subservient to their governors. Shaibu had a swell time when the going was good. The good times will return only if he closes his eyes to Government House until 3032.

Obaseki and Shaibu can still reason together. Edo Central is it. They should look for a credible Esan politician, irrespective of party affiliation, to move the state to Level Two. I would not know why the exploits of Chief Tony Anenih cannot be surpassed. The Iyase was Mr. Fix It. Chief Tom Ikimi must grow beyond Igueben. Esan must fix their politics now.

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