There is an uneasy calm within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Edo State. TELL learnt that it is this issue that prompted the rumour about a rift between the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, both candidates of the party in the September 19 governorship election in the state. According to reports which went viral on social media, the disagreement arose at a caucus meeting at Government House Thursday last week over funding of the party’s campaign in which there had been a lull as a result of lack of money to work with. In the rumour, Shaibu was said to have accused the governor of refusing to release funds to activate the campaign.
The claim is that the governor had opened the meeting by tasking everybody to give the election their all, but the deputy governor was reported to have flew into a rage, pointedly accusing his boss of not being serious to win the election. He was said to have complained bitterly that the governor had neglected the committees formed two weeks earlier with no funding for them to operate.
Shaibu was quoted as saying “Mr. Governor, I see you don’t understand what this election is all about. You are not serious about it. Do you think it is the little boys carrying laptops here that will do it? If you don’t want to fund the election, then I have no business being here. I will back out”. In the rumour mill the deputy governor was said to have walked out of the meeting. But if there was any disagreement those who put out reports of a rift between the two men may have exaggerated it.
Spokespersons for the governor and his deputy have refuted the alleged rift. So, where did the report emanate from? The special adviser to the governor on media and communication strategy, Crusoe Osagie fingered the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, as orchestrating the “falsehood” because they “have no substance in their campaign and are only adept at spinning the rumour mill and concocting alternative facts to massage the egos of their paymasters who cannot run an issue-based campaign but rely primarily on tale-telling and propaganda”.
He however stated that “There was indeed a meeting with key stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which ended with everyone in high spirit,” stressing that “There was a spirit of cordiality and everyone shared their ideas and inputs on how to deliver the party in the September 19 governorship election.” According to Crusoe, “The lie that there was a clash between the governor and his deputy should be dismissed in its entirety. Whatever incident they allude to only exists in the imagination of the purveyors.”
Also reacting on behalf of his boss, Atu, in a statement, quoted Shaibu as saying that “Politics has a way of letting you know the inner recess of the human mind. My loyalty to Obaseki is sacrosanct and not debatable. No amount of blackmail or propaganda can stop me from serving the interest of the Governor. I will Support Obaseki and make sure he wins the September 19th Governorship election in Edo State”. Calling on the people of the state to disregard ongoing rumour, Shaibu told them to expect “more of this kind of propaganda from these characters that didn’t wish us well”.
Perhaps what those who put out what Crusoe described as” falsehood” expanded was what inside sources confirmed to the magazine as some frank talk by the deputy governor at a meeting reportedly presided over by the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal. According to an impeccable source, it is not however the way they painted it. “Of course there are some elements of truth in the report but not the way they painted it. The governor of Sokoto State, Tambuwal was here for a meeting with us. But it was supposed to be purely a caucus thing. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike was supposed to also come but there was flight delay; the weather wasn’t good in Port Harcourt so he couldn’t come. So, Tambuwal now went ahead in his capacity as a member of the campaign council and he met with leadership”.
Giving an insider account of what actually transpired at the meeting, the source said “After the formalities, the press was told to leave the hall and the man (Tambuwal) said tell us; what is our position in the state in respect of the forthcoming election. I think Matthew Urhoghide (Senator representing Edo South) spoke first, Clifford Ordia (Senator representing Edo Central) spoke, Paschal Ugbomeh spoke.
“The deputy governor got up and said ‘look, look, look, that is not the direction we are going. We are not doing badly at all; but we are handicapped for funds. Funds have not been released; people are anxious to work.
“Yes, the governor has performed well; yes, the masses want him but there must be votes for people to defend and all of that. He now said up till now, no money had been released and nothing seemed to be moving. People are not supposed to be in Benin now; they are supposed to be in their villages and constituencies but they have not been mobilized to do so”. The magazine gathered one of the party chairmen spoke on behalf of his colleagues, followed by local government council chairmen. The council chairmen were said to have raised the issue of salaries owed workers, some running into several months, which they expected the governor to release money to settle to stem some ongoing demonstrations which had been giving the government a bad image.
“All the speakers spoke along that line. They were happy. Tambuwal now said yes, I like this frank talk and this is why we are here and that he was going to come back on Monday. He appealed to the governor to ensure that before he comes, money must have been released to all the committees and the governor promised that he would start disbursing the money by Monday (August 3)” the source stated. Defending why he had foot-dragged in releasing funds for campaigns, Obaseki reportedly explained that “he was just waiting to get to a point so that we don’t get ourselves exhausted. So, Tambuwal now said now, we must move”. According to our source, ‘somebody now noted that “Pastor is not in government, he has been able to release N500, 000 to each ward to commence campaign and so, there is nothing wrong in government releasing N1 million to each ward which is N192 million. Let people go out and start painting the town red”. Insisting that the deputy governor did not storm out of the meeting, the authoritative source hinted that “He was visibly angry, no doubt”.
Feelers from party faithful however indicated that many of them were in support of Shaibu’s action.
According to one of the members, “As a party, not even one naira. If you gave money to Ogbeide-Ihama, to Rice man (Kenneth Imasuangbon) and to Gideon, that is your own cup of tea. That cannot be considered as money you spent for the party because before you came, people were also spending money; they were keeping the party going. If he gave money to national chairman and all other leaders in Abuja or Port Harcourt, what has that got to do with the party in Edo State? Is that the one we are supposed to use here? Were those people the ones running the party for us all along for the over 12 years we were out of government?”
Not impressed with the governor’s explanation that he was trying to prevent a situation whereby the party would run out of funds too soon if monies were released too early in the campaigns, the source posited that “You have been governor for over three years for God’s sake and you have the intention all along of coming back even if you didn’t show it. Is it that you were not saving towards this election? Since the crisis started between him and Adams, it’s also more than a year now. Is it that he didn’t know he was going to face a battle? The election is on the 19th; like on the 15th or 16th, billions of naira will come in from fellow governors to help you. If they start spending on campaigns now, if you call them by August ending, nobody will answer you”.
The magazine gathered that before the controversial meeting, some party leaders in the state had some weeks ago met with the governor to resolve the issue of funding of the campaigns and welfare of leaders at the grass roots who would serve as foot soldiers to canvass for votes and prosecute the election. It was learnt that the governor’s perceived clay-footedness in releasing funds prompted the recent meeting presided over by Tambuwal following complaints to the National Campaign Council of the development. A source informed the magazine how a meeting with the middle level political leaders had been fixed with the governor but was aborted at the last minute due to the governor’s absence. It was thereafter rescheduled. The governor had been under intense pressure to “settle” this category of leaders following the speculation that he had allegedly dished out billions of naira to the national leadership and the three aspirants who stepped down for him.
At the rescheduled meeting where some state leaders of the party, including Magnus Odion Ugbesia raised the issue of funding, the governor was said to have attempted to browbeat the leaders into working according to his own terms. According to the leader, “When they got there, he brought out the campaign time-table and the organogram for the campaign. Those ones now said you are meeting us for the first time; we have not even discussed. We have not even talked about how we got to where we are; you are giving us this paper. If you don’t like, we will collect this paper and go and sit down in our houses. We don’t know you, you don’t know us. We don’t know Philip, Philip doesn’t know us. So, we should first of all talk.
“He now pleaded that he knew what they were talking about; that he was going to Abuja for the inauguration of the National Campaign Council. He pleaded that as soon as he came back, he would fix another meeting where they would sit down and discuss to iron everything out. That was how they ended it. The meeting didn’t last 30 minutes because our leader insisted that we must first of all talk. The people you are meeting outside there, they are not from Edo State. Now, it is campaign time you now want us. You must talk to us first”.
The magazine learnt that at that meeting, Obaseki was given given suggestions on how the campaign should be conducted. The source said, “in view of the fact that we are not going to do campaigns the normal, conventional way of doing it. It is the people on ground here who will go to their respective villages to go and campaign for you. So, we have told him to go and buy about 200 or 300 projectors to be taken to village market squares because nobody can come to a rally now; It is not even allowed by NCDC. All the things you have done for the past three and a half years, record them; the roads you have tarred, the schools you have built. Whatever you have done, package it so that we’ll be playing it to people which is not our job for the past three years.
“Then, where Adams Oshiomhole was praising you as the engine room of his administration, that you were the brain box of his government; put everything there. Then, where he was insulting Pastor that he’s a liar, he’s a thief, he’s a fake pastor, he bathed somebody with acid, record it and we’ll be playing it out for people to hear and see. Then the electorate will now decide on whom to vote for”. Though the PDP members were hopeful on Monday that the governor would make good his promise, he was however yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.