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Will Shaibu’s impeachment change direction of Edo gov’ship election?

The impeachment of Edo State deputy governor Philip Shaibu by the State House of Assembly has again put the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic…

The impeachment of Edo State deputy governor Philip Shaibu by the State House of Assembly has again put the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the eye of the storm with the governorship election in the state just five months away.

The party, which has been embroiled with one problem or another since Governor Godwin Obaseki joined with Shaibu in the lead-up to the 2020 governorship election, is yet to recover from the crisis arising most recently from the February 22 governorship primary election, in which Governor Obaseki’s anointed aspirant, Asue Ighodaro, emerged as the winner.

But the aggrieved aspirants, including the impeached deputy governor, are in court, claiming irregularities during the primary.

The relationship between Governor Obaseki and the impeached deputy governor got strained after the latter declared his intention to contest the September 21 governorship election to succeed his principal, leading to further polarisation of the party.

Following the development, Shaibu approached a Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an order to restrain the governor, the State House of Assembly, the Chief Judge of the state, and the Inspector General of Police, among others, from impeaching him.

Following the intervention of religious and other stakeholders in the state, Shaibu withdrew the case from court, apologised, and pledged loyalty to the governor. 

But despite the intervention, Shaibu’s fear finally came through on April 6, when the House of Assembly impeached him after the panel set up to investigate the allegation submitted its report. Before his impeachment, he had kicked off another legal battle to stop the Assembly from going ahead with the impeachment proceedings.

However, the question on the lips of political observers is what next for Shaibu and whether his impeachment will have an impact on the PDP in the September 21 governorship or not, being a grassroots politician and a homeboy.

According to pundits, Shaibu played a significant role in the triumph of Governor Obaseki during his supremacy battle with his erstwhile godfather, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, as well as his reelection under the PDP in 2020, when he was pushed out of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

They believe that Shaibu, having been a two-time state House of Assembly member, a member of the House of Representatives, and deputy governor for a period spanning over 17 years before his impeachment, can’t be wished away.

Though Shaibu has not disclosed his next political move, observers say he is likely to return to the APC, a party he left alongside Obaseki in 2020.

Also, the visit of the acting state chairman of the APC, Jarret Tenabe, to Shaibu’s house is believed to be a pointer to his return to the APC.

Interestingly, Obaseki has picked a new deputy governor, Omobayo Marvellous Godwin, 38, and has since been sworn in immediately after Shaibu’s impeachment. The deputy governor, who hails from Akoko-Edo, the same senatorial district as Shaibu, only came to the limelight last year when he contested the House of Representatives election under the Labour Party but lost to Peter Akpatason of the APC. 

While some analysts believe that the new deputy governor has no political clout like Shaibu in Edo North, as he has not held any political position in the past, others believe the youths will rally around him by virtue of his age.

As it is now, the PDP has three crises to contend with, namely, the crisis between Governor Obaseki and the legacy group, which has been raging since 2020, the crisis arising from the primary election, and the impeachment of Shaibu.

Stakeholders who spoke on the development are, however, divided, as many of them believe that the fallout from the impeachment will definitely have a greater impact on the fortunes of the party as it heads to the September 21 governorship polls. Others believe it will not have much impact and that Governor Obaseki and his supporters would have factored this into their game plan before the Assembly effected the impeachment. 

One of the party stakeholders, Aslem Ojezua, noted that the development was not good for the party, especially as it approaches the governorship election with a divided house.

Ojezua, who was also an aspirant in the party for the governorship ticket, said Shaibu, like every other politician, has people, family members, and admirers, as well as those he patronised in the course of his political career as deputy governor.

“There is no substitute for peace, and you have seen what controversy and intransigence caused us last year. Last year’s national election was the worst election the PDP has had in Edo. PDP could not score 35 percent. Only God knows what we did to have the majority in the House of Assembly,” he said.

On his part, the State PDP former Secretary, Hilary Otsu, said the impeachment will no doubt further deepen the crisis and division in the party in the last three years. According to him, Shaibu has political clout and appeal for the younger generation, from the “student union generation to the comrade generation.”

Otsu said, “Party stakeholders are worried that the governor immediately went ahead to pick a Labour Party member as the deputy governor without consultations or Assembly approval for the deputy governor nominee.

“I don’t know where the governor is going with all this, and it is going to negatively impact the outcome of the September 21 governorship.”

“Shaibu has clout in his own Edo North senatorial zone and Etsako West Local Government, which is the largest in the zone. And as deputy governor for over seven years, you can’t just wish him away in terms of electoral value.”

He said it would be a major blow for the PDP if he decided to leave and team up with Sen. Adams Oshiomhole, adding, “You can only imagine the outcome of that in Edo North and his local government.”

He said, “There are people of electoral value.” In Akoko-Edo, such as Bankole, former Assembly speaker, Kabor Adjoto, and others, the governor decided to go and bring someone from another party to the chagrin of PDP members across the state.”

But for Chris Nehikhare, the state commissioner for communication and orientation, the development would not have any implication for the party during the election. “What we have done now is also bring a deputy from Edo North to the same place as the impeached deputy governor, and he contested the last House of Representatives election under the Labour Party.”

According to him, the new deputy governor is a youth and has large followership, adding that the youths control about 60 percent of the vote in Edo State. “It was done to satisfy a major demographic in our politics, and I believe he would add value to what we are already doing,” he said.

He said the leaders of the party were consulted before he was picked, and they were happy and would work harder for the party. “For the impeached deputy governor, I would have loved him to stay, but he is free to go to any party. We didn’t win the House of Assembly election in his area even while he was deputy governor. So, he should remain in the PDP and make sure that he adds value to our election,” he said.

Also speaking, Dada Ayokhai, an analyst, said Shaibu is from a strong APC zone where Sen. Oshiomhole has a heavy influence in any election; hence, the PDP may not miss his person or his service during the election.

According to him, the decision of the PDP to appoint a deputy governor outside the party will have a positive and negative effect on the party.

“The people of Akoko Edo may, out of appreciation, vote for the PDP being the first time to have a deputy governor, but they may also suffer a setback if the PDP leaders who are not pleased with the decision also play a spoiler role during the election,” he said.

Pundits said the die is now cast on how far the impeachment and the fallout from it would shape the outcome of the September 21governorship election.

 

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