In politics, reputation is everything. Political reputation is less what political figures say or do; it is more about what the people see when they see a politician. Conversely, a politician’s character is an incredibly important feature of reputation formation or destruction – as the case may be – in political circumstances. So, it is important to remember that actions will always be louder than words.
Judging by the reputation of Phillip Shaibu, the incumbent deputy governor of Edo State, it is safe to say that his reputation has done more damage to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket in Edo State than the famed incompetence and failure of Governor Godwin Obaseki, the candidate proper.
The question that begs for an answer is: what does Shaibu’s reputation say of him? He comes across as patently unfitting for the office he occupies and which he seeks so desperately to retain, because of his vapidity, irascibility and inability to articulate the achievements of an administration he has been a part of from the outset.
If gravitas and intellection were the lowest common denominator, Shaibu, despite his relative youthfulness – he turned 50 last December – does not appear minimally competent for the office of Deputy Governor.
A deputy governor with questionable intellect and glaring incompetence is a bad combination but the fact that Shaibu never runs anything but his mouth has further worsened the chances of Obaseki, who also appears to have since lost his governance marbles but laughably still seeks re-election.
More so, is his propensity to always resort to violence and violent threats whenever it jostles him that his days in office are numbered, which many have laid squarely at the foot of his background as a student unionist where thuggery and violence undergirded their conduct.
In political reputation, seemingly small things are amplified and they become big. This is why caution is critical and desirable in handling Shaibu, because, for every act of violence that has trailed the state since 2018, his name is copiously mentioned.
Sometime in 2019, mayhem was unleashed on high profile guests like the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, when they attended the convocation ceremony of the Edo University, Iyamho.
At the time, the former governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had fallen out with his successor and political godson, Governor Obaseki. Shaibu, as deputy governor, saw the ceremony as a perfect opportunity to show Oshiomhole that power had changed hands.
He reportedly mobilised over 200 ‘Okada’ riders to the venue and the guests were left scampering to safety under a cloud of violent attacks. Those who were not so lucky escaped with bodily injuries and damaged cars.
A few days to the event, Oshiomhole said, “I had information that the deputy governor asked some people to organise 1,000 people to the university community. You can crosscheck with the Inspector General of Police. The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who delivered the convocation lecture, was also a witness. I conveyed the message to the IGP to prevent thugs from being imported to the place by the deputy governor.
“Some few minutes later the governor himself arrived and Mr. Emefiele went to him and said to him, ‘what are these people doing here?’ Emefiele said to the governor that if those people were there, he wasn’t going to deliver the convocation lecture, because he didn’t come to do politics, he just came to perform a normal intellectual activity, which was the convocation lecture.”
The truth of what truly transpired has not been established and may never be given the dynamics of Nigerian politics, which is why Shaibu’s involvement or otherwise is still up in the air but his name came up again recently, when the acting chairman of the APC in Edo State, Col David Imuse (retd) said there was credible information that Obaseki had a sinister plan involving Shaibu.
Imuse said, “In a shocking revelation, it has been shown that the Edo State government, in connivance with a retired police officer from Kogi State, who has been identified in series of violence plots in Edo State and beyond, is plotting to stage an attack on their own convoy.
“Specifically, an attack on the convoy of the Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu in a bid to draw sympathy; pose as victims and set the stage for a new wave of the violent onslaught on the people of Edo State some of whom have fallen victims to the reckless shootings of the governor’s army of thugs and criminals.”
Shaibu debunked the allegation but the question is: why always him? The story is told of how he practically arm-twisted the leadership of the PDP, when he followed Obaseki to defect from the APC last June.
In a party where there was no such overhanging threat of intimidation, Obaseki, as the sitting governor, would have had to choose a new deputy from among the fold of the PDP, which he just joined to placate extant members and give them a sense of belonging.
Not with Shaibu. He huffed and puffed, and threatened and coerced the PDP into retaining him as Obaseki’s running mate. It was a hard pill to swallow but it was the least the party leaders could do else they stood to regret not supporting him.
In a recent viral video clip, Shaibu was seen talking to a group of young men ostensibly loyal to the PDP wherein he was overheard boasting that he was not a coward and, “I have called the CP (Commissioner of Police) that they should arrest those boys. Failure to arrest them, I cannot guarantee peace.”
In fact, the role of Shaibu in most of the violent activities in the state was well summed up by the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, when during a reconciliation meeting of the gladiators, called out Shaibu as the brain behind many of the crises in the state. More cogently, the monarch said he was reluctant to call him his son, because of his recent disposition to violence ahead of the election. What could have been more pungent?
Interestingly, his wife, Maryam, is cut from the same cloth. If Shaibu had been masking his violent streak with some maturity, she openly revels in it. There is also a viral video of Maryam at a ‘town hall meeting’ where she was heard threatening a cross-section of women that if they attended any other event aside the one organised by her, she would flog them. Some of the women in the audience were much older.
Two interventions are indeed critical and auspicious at this point; that of the National Peace Committee helmed by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd); and the imposition of visa restrictions on individuals found instigating violence in the Edo and Ondo elections slated for September and October respectively by the United States government.
Abdulsalami, as chairman of the committee, said they were intervening in the Edo State governorship election, because of the tension it is generating, stressing that if there is no peace, there could not be any election.
At a meeting with Governor Obaseki, Abdulsalami said, “As you know, the purpose of this committee is to ensure that all those involved in this election get hold of their supporters and party people to ensure that there is peace in the state.” The committee oversaw the signing of a peace pact by the major candidates in the election.
Likewise, the U.S Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Monday, disclosed: “In July 2019, we announced the imposition of visa restrictions on Nigerians, who undermined the February and March 2019 elections.
“Today, the Secretary of State is imposing additional visa restrictions on individuals for their actions surrounding the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa State elections and in the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo State elections,” the statement read.
It is fervently hoped that these would serve as a deterrent to those with a lifelong reputation of violence.
Osunbor lives and works in Benin