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All Eyes on Obaseki for a New Cabinet

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The delay by Governor Godwin Obaseki to constitute his cabinet and other political appointments 100 days after his inauguration for a second term of office is creating a lot of anxiety in Edo State, writes Adibe Emenyonu

In his inaugural speech on November 12, 2020 after being sworn-in for a second term of office at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, capital of Edo State, Governor Obaseki stated clearly that he will constitute his cabinet in February, 2021.

Since then, all eyes have been on the governor to know who will make the list of cabinet members including other political appointments. To date, everyone is till waiting to hear his pronouncement on the matter.

However, this may not only have reduced the joy and euphoria of victory at the polls but has further transformed into mixed feelings especially when the governor again, early last week, shifted the cabinet formation to April. The anxiety has reached another level among party men and women who believe Obaseki cannot be trusted any longer among the old Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members who provided the platform for Obaseki to excel after he was dumped by his former political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), as well as the new members of the PDP followed him to the party.

They also reasoned that it is either the governor cannot be trusted or that he must be hiding something by sticking to the present three-man executive council namely: himself, his deputy, Philip Shaibu; and the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie for such a long period of time.

The fears were further heightened when Obaseki Monday, March 1, through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Princess M.E. Jos-Bazuaye directed council chairmen to handover to their respective Head of Local Government Administration on Friday of that week.

In the memo titled, “Handing Over By Local Government Council Chairmen” signed by the Permanent Secretary, Obaseki asked the elected council officials to vacate office on the said date due to the expiration of their tenure.

According to the memo with the reference NO: FMLC.170/vol.111/646, also affected by the directive are councillors and all political appointees in the 18 council areas of the state.

The memo reads, “I am directed to refer to the above subject and to request that all Local Government Council chairmen are to hand over the administration of the 18 Local Government Councils to the respective Head of LGA in their various Local Government latest by Friday the 5th March, 2021.” Concerns mounted pver Obaseki may have up his sleeves when the governor failed to conduct local government elections following the expiration of previous council executives whose three years tenure ended March 5, 2021.

Besides, the thought that the governor will now roll out the drums for another council election, at least, to use the platform to compensate members of the party especially those he met when he jumped ship from the APC after he was denied its governorship. The hope of many old and new PDP members were further dashed with the recent directive on local government council

Based on this, speculations became rife on why Obaseki kept changing the date for the formation of a cabinet to replace the present three-member cabinet running the affairs of the state in the absence of commissioners.

According some school of thought, lack of funds was the major challenge against Obaseki’s desire to appoint commissioners. Some even alleged that the governor may have squandered most of the state resources to win the election and is now faced with the reality between constituting a cabinet that will make him spend more. This may explain why he decided to keep postponing appointment of commissioners to a certain time when he would have saved enough to carter for them when appointed.

The same reason was also given for Obaseki’s tactical refusal to appoint caretaker committees to run the affairs of LGC’s after the expirationut of the already gone LG chairmen in the 18 councils.

The mixed feelings have also not just created disharmony among party members but has also increased the visibility of certain politicians as their homes have become a Mecca of sorts for political office seekers who hope to be favoured whenever the appointment eventually comes.

The PDP in Edo State is now im turmoil as a result of the activities of those eager for recognition and compensation. While those from old the PDP bloc want to have a bite of the victory cake through appointments, those from APC who accompanied Obaseki to PDP are interested in occupying a good number of executive positions, as well as, retain previously held appointment in the yet to be constituted cabinet.

This sturdy disagreement is partially responsible for the inability of Governor Obaseki to appoint cabinet members and conduct local government election. More worrisome is the sharing formula, that will enable it avoid so implosion in the party.

For instance, sensing the Incursion of those of the old PDP and their bravado that “we own the party” that provided the platform for the governor’s victory, some new members of the party are said to have started canvassing for new party congress and the dissolution of the party executive elected in March last year before the coming of Obaseki into PDP in order to accommodate them.

One of Obaseki’s loyalists who followed him from APC told THISDAY, “The state chapter of our party needs urgent and fresh election to inject new blood to run the affairs of the party in order for us to move forward.”

The member who preferred anonymity noted that only genuine integration of the old members and the new ones can bring about the much needed progress in the party.

He also reasoned that for the past 12 years, those who pride themselves as old members of the PDP have being losing elections until the arrival of those from APC to turn around their fortune. He cautioned that they should stop arrogating themselves as owners of the party to the exclusion of those who came in few months before the election to help win the governorship.

On the other hand, the old landlords of the party sensing they may be shortchanged, have proposed to Obaseki to consider a 60:40 ratio-sixty percent for those already in the party before Obaseki joined the party and 40 percent for the new members (those who came in with him).

The old members according to investigation even said, “A look at the ratio will tell you we are very generous because they (new members) have the governor, deputy governor and the SSG.

“Afterall, they begged us to join and form a formidable force to cripple their party (APC). But now after helping them achieve their goal, they not only want to take over the party machinery but want to have the lion share.”

This visible disagreement was alluded to during a press briefing by the Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Tony Aziegbemie to mark the first anniversary of the party executive in Benin City. He cleverly said that the delay in the governor constituting his cabinet was intentional.

He said whatever may be the reason for the delay, it is for the good of everyone in the party, noting that the Transition Committee (TC) was working round the clock to harmonize all positions.

He said, “Let me place on record that anything we do is intentional. Nothing is done by chance and that is how PDP as a party operates. That the cabinet is not in place is intentional. There is a transition committee in place and they are doing everything to ensure quality report for the good of everybody.

“There is no cause for alarm because by the end of this month, the TC will submit its report and after that, a cabinet will be constituted.”

On the local government council election, Aziegbemie simply said election will be conducted when all that the party needed to do is put in place.

Sensing the danger inherent in all the discordant tunes among PDP members whether new or old, a former Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Francis Omo-Osunde Iyasere, advised Obaseki and other captains of the party to harmonize and accommodate all the political interests in the expected appointments to avoid friction and bad blood.

He said the governor should have a round table discussion with party leaders so as to accommodate those that came with him from APC and those he met in the PDP.

“I think harmonization is the best thing for both the ‘old’ PDP and those that came with Governor Godwin Obaseki from the APC. The reason why we need to sit down and talk is because at the time they were joining the party, there was no time to sit down and talk on the sharing of government positions. But now is time to sit down and discuss the terms and conditions of staying together as a family,

“In doing so, it should not be used as an avenue to cause problem in the party. It should not be seen to look like this person is for the governor and the other person is for the party. This will create division in the party. If the governor sees it to be that those that came with him were the people that worked for the success of his second tenure, he will be making a mistake and if he sees it that those in PDP before he came to the party were the ones that worked for his success, that also will be a mistake. There should be a meeting point.

“Looking at the three persons running the government now, two of them came with the governor to join the PDP. Those in the party are saying, why can’t the party be considered for the position of SSG? The three positions are understandable, because before they joined the party, three of them have been the ones running the government.”

Nonetherless, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, said it is not interested in whatever internal differences Obaseki seems to be having with his new party or whatever lame excuses are being given for the governor’s inability to constitute a cabinet but only concerned about the lack of focus on the part of Obaseki and his party to give Edo people good governance.

The APC through its Caretakers Committee Chairman, Colonel David Imuse (Rtd) observed that the unwarranted delay by Governor Obaseki in announcing a cabinet more than three months after assumption of office is unacceptable.

Imuse would not buy the excuse by some of the governor’s supporters that he is busy searching for competent hands and bidding his time to avoid making mistakes, saying such comments only goes to portray an elected public servant with a strong desire to transform into a dictator.

He said Governor Obaseki in November 16 last year shortly after being sworn in for a second term of office, reappointed Osarodion Ogie as Secretary of State (SSG), and promised to make all other appointments including constitution of cabinet by February 2021.

The Edo APC boss in a statement endorsed by the party Assistant Publicity Secretary, Ofure Osehobo, reminded the governor that this is already the last week of March yet no sign of a new cabinet, adding that Obaseki’s inaction has not just crippled government business but demonstrates that the governor is a man whose word is not his bond.

He stated that Edo state can ill-afford further delay by the governor to make these vital appointments, pointing out that Section 192 of the Nigerian Constitution, as amended is clear on the issue of state commissioners.

According him, “Permanent secretaries cannot do much as they look up to commissioners, for direction on policy issues. The section gives the governor a public mandate rather than private, to appoint commissioners to form not just the state’s executive council, but also the think tank for the development of the state’s economy and well being of the people.

“Right now the day-to-day operations of the different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), have come to a halt, while the coordination of important government businesses have become weaker with the unnecessary overload on the Secretary to State Government.”

QUOTE

According some school of thought, lack of funds was the major challenge against Obaseki’s desire to appoint commissioners. Some even alleged that the governor may have squandered most of the state resources to win the election and is now faced with the reality between constituting a cabinet that will make him spend more. This may explain why he decided to keep postponing appointment of commissioners to a certain time when he would have saved enough to carter for them when appointed. The same reason was also given for Obaseki’s tactical refusal to appoint caretaker committees to run the affairs of LGC’s after the expirationut of the already gone LG chairmen in the 18 councils. The mixed feelings have also not just created disharmony among party members but has also increased the visibility of certain politicians as their homes have become a Mecca of sorts for political office seekers who hope to be favoured whenever the appointment eventually comes. The PDP in Edo State is now im turmoil as a result of the activities of those eager for recognition and compensation. While those from old the PDP bloc want to have a bite of the victory cake through appointments, those from APC who accompanied Obaseki to PDP are interested in occupying a good number of executive positions, as well as, retain previously held appointment in the yet to be constituted cabinet

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