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Edo: The rise and fall of Philip Shaibu

By Bola BOLAWOLE

Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, has kicked the canvass; he was impeached by the Edo State House of Assembly days ago and a replacement was promptly provided by his erstwhile boss, Gov. Godwin Obaseki. Shaibu was in court while his impeachment was being perfected; we await the court’s verdict but time is not on his side. Governorship elections are due in the state on September 21st, a few months from now. It is said that one of the reasons why Shaibu had to be impeached was his insistence on contesting the governorship position in that election; apart from other “irreconcilable differences” between him and Obaseki.

Shaibu’s desire from Day One, and the pact he thought he had with his boss, was that Obaseki would hand over the baton of leadership to him; an “emilokan” kind of arrangement. And while the good times lasted between the two buddies, Shaibu enjoyed it to the hilt. He was loud! He was visible! He was influential! He was powerful! He was feared! He made Obaseki’s enemies his enemies and Obaseki’s friends his friends. He fought battles on behalf of Obaseki and waged wars in defence of a man he held dear. But nothing lasts for ever and spanners often get thrown into the works. Gentlemen’s agreements are often honoured in their breach and what goes around, as they say, comes around! The reasons for this are not far to fetch.

The period between one election and another is damn too long for anyone to gain say what can happen along the line. Just one night – usually referred to as the night of long knives – can change many things. Politicians always lack fidelity; they make agreements, knowing full well that they will break them. That is why our people refer to any agreement with politicians derisively as “adehun alagbada”. Agreements made by politicians wearing flowing robes (agbada or babariga). You trust such agreements to your chagrin. Sometimes the politicians themselves are not to blame: shifting alliances dominate politics; today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies; and political permutations are in a state of constant flux. Hence, the saying that there are only permanent interests and not permanent friends – or enemies. Especially here in Nigeria where our politics lacks principles and ideological underpinnings and political parties are nothing but Special Purpose Vehicles or mere platforms for the purpose of contesting elections.

Few deputy governors serve out their term gracefully; fewer, still, succeed their boss. The reasons for this are also many. To start with, not many governors are agreeable to the running mate chosen for them. All manner of interests play a role here and the principal oftentimes simply stomachs his misgivings so he could achieve his goal before he begins to think of what to do next. Where a deputy governor is stronger politically than his boss, that is a disaster waiting to happen. Once the governor finds his feet, his next project will be how to cut his deputy to size. Where a deputy loves to hug the limelight, it is a matter of time before he falls out of favour with the boss.

There were people who contested the running mate slot and were not happy they lost out. And from Day One of the administration, there are people scheming to replace the sitting deputy. A deputy that has a mind of his own will also not be a good friend of the boss. Leaders here love docile and pliant subordinates and followers. They want someone who will not outshine them if he succeeds them. They want someone who will not probe them after they leave office. They want someone who will cover their tracks for them. They hate anyone with a strong personality or character. They will not stomach anyone who has a mind of his own.

If you think a deputy governor is close to the governor, you will be deceiving yourself; the razzmatazz and public show of effusive affection notwithstanding. They may be Number One and Number Two but that is where the closeness ends; they may be poles apart in their thinking, political philosophy, orientation and way of life. They may belong to different political camps and may harbour divergent opinions on critical issues. Some governors and their deputies are like night and day, light and darkness. Their marriage of convenience is just for them to win an election, after which the competition and trouble begin.

I once was in a meeting where we were discussing with the governor until the Deputy Governor walked in. The conversation stopped abruptly but the JJC that I was, I resumed the conversation after the usual pleasantries but soon noticed that everyone else was quiet. So, I, too, went numb. After Her Excellency had left, His Excellency scolded me severely: “My man, why were you talking so freely before a stranger?” A stranger? The deputy governor in an administration was a stranger, I asked. “Yes! Is she one of us?”

So, you can be Number Two in an administration and yet be a stranger! I also witnessed a governor ditching people who were instrumental to his winning an election only to pitch his tent with a political neophyte with no political base. I took him up! He listened to me patiently and then replied mockingly: “Excuse me, Sir, the politics you learned is that of the classroom; the politics that we are practising here is that of the streets. What benefit will it be to me and you if we support a person to win an election and after that, you and I will no longer have access to this Dining Room (in the Government House)?” I simply gazed at his mouth! Realpolitik!

Very few bosses will support a strong personality to take over from them. Bosses are averse to a deputy who has a mind of his own. These are fundamental truths that anyone aiming to play second fiddle must understand before throwing their hat in the ring. Another useful hint is to take this advice of the elders very seriously: Prepare for the trouble that is certain to come when things are still rosy between you and your boss. Scriptures say in the Book of Habakkuk, it may tarry but it will surely come. And because it will surely come, it will not tarry! What do you make out of that? China’s revolutionary leader, Chairman Tsetung Mao, put it this way: “To have peace, prepare for war!” Does this sound contradictory? Diplomats and theorists of war define this as the principle of detente or of mutual assured destruction (MAD). Mad indeed! Scriptures again say the horse is prepared for the day of battle, not on the day of battle. Shaibu appeared not to have taken the wisdom of the elders to heart.

To survive as a deputy, you must wear loyalty and servility like a badge. This must radiate in you inside-out. Either you have this gift endowed in you from heaven or you learn how to stoop to conquer. How many politicians can stomach what Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu put up with to become Mr. President? I once listened to the head of a Mission, a highly-respected man of God, give the criteria needed before any pastor could be promoted to the topmost echelon of the organization: “Someone who has not, not even once, raised his voice against the authorities”! And I marveled! Lick spittle? That criteria is even stricter than that of Stephen Decatur when he said: “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our Country!” Decatur at least wished that his Country would make an effort to be in the right! It will be much easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a deputy to satisfy some bosses.

This, however, is not to discourage the likes of Shaibu from challenging ungrateful, use-and-dump bosses; whether they succeed or fail does not really matter. One such politician succeeded some years back: his name is Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo State. Mimiko dared the sitting president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to resign as Obasanjo’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development and take on the incumbent governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu. Mimiko built the Labour Party from scratch and, with it, ran a campaign that unhinged the then ruling PDP and unseated the sitting governor, Agagu. The election was blatantly rigged – I was on ground in the state as Media Consultant to Agagu and witnessed it live and direct – but the court eventually restored Mimiko’s stolen mandate.

History often repeats itself, especially with those who fail to learn from history, as George Santayana has posited. There is, therefore, nothing wrong if Shaibu tries his luck in Edo state. Maybe he will be the next giant-killer! Even if he is not, there is no harm in trying because every experience deepens our renascent democracy.

FEEDBACK

Nigeria: between religion economy and knowledge economy

A beautiful piece that aptly captured my feelings and thoughts on how religious activities contributed to the economic woes/crisis and general backwardness of the country. – Oso Victor Gbolahan.

Am blessed and educated by this article. It really opened my eyes to see the foolishness of religion economy taking priority over the knowledge economy. I now have a better understanding why Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world! Indeed, it will continue to be until we move from religion economy to knowledge economy. Pilgrimage should be a personal responsibility. – Aderemi Ajadi Desalu.

We have to expose the rot in all subsidies associated with religion so as to promote an effective knowledge economy that can rebuild the Nation. Nigeria can, and will be, better than it is now if we do away with religion economy. – Palcorub Nig. Ltd.

It is possible that Nigerians flock to churches and mosques because they think that their hope lies there. And the churches themselves may be bearing the weight of Nigeria’s failure because its members face the suffocating atmosphere of Nigeria’s stagnation and its attendant influence and corruption. I think, therefore, that it is not the complete truth that Nigeria is the way it is because Nigerians are religious but, rather, because Nigerians pay lip-service to religious teachings. – Ayodele Iyiola.

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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