Politics

October 12, 2014

Jonathan using extreme measures to destroy Nigeria — Oyegun

Jonathan using extreme measures to destroy Nigeria — Oyegun

Chairman of APC Odigie-Oyegun at APC National Convention in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

By Simon Ebegbulem

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in this interview, says the party’s presidential ticket is not zoned to any particular section of the country.

Newly Elected National  Chairman of APC  Odigie-Oyegun at APC National Convention in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

While reacting to President Goodluck Jonathan’s boast of capturing Rivers and Edo states, he describes it as a huge joke, asserting that the APC will rather snatch more PDP states in the 2015 general elections.

He states that Chief Tom Ikimi attaches so much influence he does not possess to himself, saying that the exit of the former APC leader was good riddance to bad rubbish.

There is this fear among APC members that the issue of the party’s presidential candidate might tear the part apart. Do you also nurse such fear?

People always signal, at every stage of our development, that there will be rancour. There may be disagreement but we will always overcome it. We have survived all the predictions so far, so none that is coming afresh will come to pass.

We have insisted we are going to have a level-playing field, we are going to provide all aspirants with equal opportunity, there is no anointed candidate to the best of my knowledge.

We are issuing a code of conduct that will ensure that the run up to the primaries will be rancour free in terms of personal attacks. People will say why they are the best but they must not say why somebody else should not get it, just tell us what you have for the party and for the nation.

We are trying to have as wide an electorate as possible given the fact that our convention hold in one venue. Even though we would all have preferred direct primaries, it is so cumbersome, so expensive that we thought that, for now, the best thing to do, as our constitution provides and expand the electorate is to have primaries in one single venue and whoever comes out of that process becomes the person behind whom the entire party will unite.

The PDP seems to have zeroed on President Goodluck Jonathan as its consensus candidate. Why can’t the APC have a consensus candidate?

We don’t believe in forced consensus. If tomorrow all our presidential aspirants come to me and say, ‘Mr National Chairman, we have all agreed that, out of four of us, this man is the preferred candidate, we will support him’, we will gladly accept.

As at today, all those who have indicated interest in one form or the other in the presidency of the APC, each and every one of them is capable of beating whoever the PDP presents.

They (PDP) said they have settled on President Jonathan, but all those who have indicated interest on our side can beat Jonathan. So we will have no problem if the candidates themselves decide that one of them can go. But barring that, we are going to proceed and do that democratic thing which is a free and fair primaries.

A former chieftain of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi, accused the APC leadership of imposing you and many other officials, saying it was part of the undemocratic actions by your party. What is your take on that?

The claim really is getting to be such as a bad joke. He has said what he wants to say, I do not know that at any stage, in any party he was of such overriding influence that he cooked the food for everybody else to eat. But again to put it very modest, it is an over exaggeration of his role in the party.

Yes, the ACN then chose him as the leader of their team and the entire group made him the Chairman of the process; after the leaders of the various parties had agreed to come together, they just needed somebody to chairman the negotiation.

So if that means he cooked the food, let him enjoy the accolade he is giving himself. I won’t want to deprive him of that personal crowning of himself.

What concerns us now is the future. No party wants to lose any body, but people who are not ideologically attuned to where the APC stands think it is best for the party that such people go where they are at home. That is where Ikimi belongs.

We won’t miss such people. Just like we lose some, we are gaining some. A few days ago, I was in Lokoja to welcome seven sitting members of the House of Assembly into the APC. That is addition that is immediately relevant, so that is the kind of quality addition that APC is getting all over the place and we are expecting more.

President Jonathan recently boasted that the PDP will capture Rivers and Edo in 2015 and 2016?

What do you expect the President to say, that he is going to lose Edo and Rivers? We are also going to win many places because we have the list of the areas we are going to win, even Bayelsa. But you should know that winning Edo and Rivers is totally out of the question because we have very strong governors in those two states.

Edo of course has been APC, there have been one or two skirmishes here and that is all. APC is solidly on ground with a governor that is doing very well.

For the Rivers governor to have survived the onslaught including major ones by security agencies with full backing of Aso Rock, for him to strived, for him not to have lost control of his Assembly, just tells you that he has something a little bit more than the ordinary.

He is firmly in control of the politics of Rivers State. So anybody using the totality of the federal might and you cannot unseat him, with all the array of special policemen, array of ministers energized, yet he survived and you are saying that you are going to win that state from him when you cannot get more than five members of the House, that is a huge joke.

The PDP will lose more states to the APC in the forthcoming elections.

 

Exit of former governors of Kano and Borno States, Shakarau and Sheriff, respectively.

We lost former Sokoto governor, Bafarawa, we got (incumbent) Wamakko, do you think it is a plus or minus?. We lost Bafarawa who was just a party chieftain; we got a sitting governor with the totality of the House of Assembly with other concomitant benefits; so what are we saying? In Kano, Shakarau, a brilliant man, nice man, but we lost him to PDP, but we gained a fantastic Kwankwaso, a former Minister of Defence, a very energized, hard working leader. Soldier go soldier come. Sheriff did not win his senatorial seat, you remember. There is a governor there who is part of the APC, and as he (Sheriff) is going, then going coincided with the cresting of who is Boko Haram supporter and who is not. And immediately he left, the flood gate opened as to who is actually supporting Boko Haram or not. So God took him away just in time. Imagine the embarrassment which we would have suffered if he was still a member of the APC. What we gained is more superior to what we lost.

 

There is this allegation that the APC intends to frustrate Governor-elect Ayo Fayose’s swearing-in in Ekiti. How true is that?

 

APC has no plans to stop the swearing-in. It is a plan by the APC to get the judicial system to decide whether we are a country of law and order or not, or whether the laws of the country still mean anything of whether impeachment has almost the same force as a criminal offence, whether it is an indictment because the forms you fill when you are running for any office, they will ask you, ‘have you ever been in prison?’ ‘Have you ever been indicted by any constituted judicial court of law?’ So it is for the judiciary to decide. Stopping him or not is a matter of what the law of the nation says and we have gone to court to seek the interpretation of the laws of the nation. Is he a qualified and fit person to rule a state, to have contested to be governor of Ekiti? That is the issue. What I even expected the press to emphasize is the very unprecedented happening, the humiliation of the judiciary, thuggery in the sacred chambers of justice. Has this country ever degenerated to that extent? What does it portend for the nation, that somebody who we thought was going to be governor, will lead and Judges have said he physically led, they saw it eye ball to eye ball, a team that will manhandle judicial officers in those sacred chambers? It has never happened in this country before. That is where I expect the media to stand and help the system rebuild.  I am waiting anxiously to see the outcome of this because the judiciary in this country is on trial. How will they react, who seriously will they react, will they get cowed again by the power structures of the nation or will they stand up for themselves and say ‘we cannot stand this>?’ I was truly traumatized.

 

‘Why I did not appear for my CON Award’

I personally did not go to receive the National Award of CON because, at that stage, I just could not put myself together to say ‘no, this cannot happen in our country’. I could not just go and be receiving an award where the halls of justice of this country are being so terribly desecrated and there has been no forceful reaction from the Federal Government. The shock was a bit too much for me to go and wear agbada, smiling and shaking the hands of the President. No, I could not do that. I really will urge the media to stand firmly, to ensure that what happened is unravelled and exemplary punished meted out. Otherwise I don’t know who else cannot be slapped, may be the President. We have this habit of gliding over issues and moving on to the next; meanwhile the nation is degenerating, the nation is heading towards the precipice.

 

‘PDP using religion to tear nation apart’

What do we have today in Nigeria, we have religious politics, ethnic politics, even at federal level we have religious tourism. We have our leaders now who go to Church and prostrate and pastors stand and put their hands on their heads; there is nothing we seem not to do just to get one extra vote. Some of those photographs have been totally embarrassing when the symbol of a whole nation, the symbol of our independence, the symbol of our pride, is there prostrating. The ethnic thing is very loud and clear; if not, why will anybody in his right senses say that APC is Boko Haram party. The party is led by a Christian, in fact a Catholic, one of the conservative of the Christendom. Why will anybody ever dream of calling the party such name and they kept drumming it in. And of course those of you in the media know that there are a few CDs circulating, which portray the most horrific extremes of these terrible Islamist group, and then they link it with politics in Nigeria and link it to the APC. Why would anybody in his right mind do a thing like that? The video said that the South West has been Islamized by jihadists, meanwhile all the Muslim governors in the South West are married to Christian wives. Their children are Christians and then some people stand up to politicize the whole thing. You see, we are reaching to a stage where you ask whether the people doing this are mentally stable, whether they know the cost of the cleavage they are creating in the society. These are people who want power so badly that it does not matter the bitterness, the enmity that they create within the country between ethnic groups and within religious groups. We are now polarized in a way that we have never been in this country. Even in the North, you see the polarization of Christians and Muslims all in the name of politics. In their desperation, they are using extreme measures and we just pity the PDP and we hope the country will just be wise enough to put us in office in February so that we can start addressing this very dangerous forces that have been unleashed on this nation.

 

‘Jonathan has failed woefully’

You talk of power that has become a cash cow of the PDP, from one leadership of the PDP to the other. We will be stupid to say we are going to continue with a party that has failed us for 16 years now because nothing has changed for the better. Security is down, education is down, health facilities. we are one of the worst places in the face of the earth. More women die here during child birth than in most other places of the world. More children die here than in most other places of the world. Yet it is a country where we have trillionnaires. It is only country where petroleum subsidy has turned another cash cow, it is the only country where a third of our crude oil is being stolen. Peoples pension are being pocketed. People call PDP Pickin Deceive Pickin, to me it is Poverty Developing Party because the only thing they have succeeded in doing all over the nation is bringing misery to the people. Hope is the only thing that keeps all of us alive, nothing else. The suicide rate in this country today would have been hell of a lot more but for the churches that keep promising miracles; so all our wives and children are now members of one funny named church or the other. Because it is the only way to be mentally stable, they are the only people giving people hope, not government. Not hope that they will find jobs tomorrow but that God will intervene. We cannot just continue this way.

It seems the APC has zoned its presidential ticket to the North. Does it mean you don’t have qualified candidates from the South?

I am glad you raised that question. I want to challenge anybody when it was said that our candidate must come from the North. We have interested persons from the southern part of this country, it is even the PDP that has decided where its candidate must come from and barred virtually any other person from anywhere from raising his head to say he wants to be President. But, for us, it is an open field, whoever wants to be President is free to come into the race. In fact, I wish every state can have a presidential aspirant because they help mobilize. The important thing is so long that they all appreciate that, at the end of the day, only one person will be the candidate, they will all unite with that one person that emerges. That is what the APC represents and that is what is going to happen.

 

You are one of the leaders of South-South Peoples Assembly, SSPA, who fought for a South-South President. Why have you abandoned the idea now?

I am a South-southerner. I was President of the SSPA and, for a long time, we struggled to be of help to this Jonathan’s administration. As a matter of fact, during one of our conferences, somebody came up with a beautiful paper which we adopted and it was titled, “Mr President, Just get it done”. And this came from his own people from the South-South. We know what the problems are and we have the resources to address the issues, so why are we not addressing the issues? And the situation has continued to worsen; eventually I had to leave my position as National Chairman of the SSPA. Because you could not get to a point where with all the advice, ideas, where you can sit down with the President to say `we are glad you are the President, you are our son but things are not right please correct them’. We needed to sit down to say, `Look, things are not right, don’t let anybody deceive you’. A situation came when one said, `Well, one is just wasting time. The issue facing our nation today is that we are now saddled with a party and a President who has totally run out of steam, there is no doubt about that, run out of ideas. Vulgarity of campaigns that is going on today, all sorts of things give us that singular impression of a party that has reached the end of the road, knows that it has reached the end of the road, knows that it has nothing else to offer, knows that it has so much to hide and knows that it is only the retention of power that can make that possible; that it is possible to go to any length what so ever just to retain power. Not to bring hope to the people they are governing but to retain power because that is the only protection that they think they have. This country needs salvaging. We cannot survive another four years under the current environment and sometimes some of their goons will misinterpret that to mean that if APC does not win Nigeria will collapse. That is not true. It is clear we are heading towards anarchy, there is no question about that. Thank God the security forces have woken up now. It is a shame that we are talking about the East West Road after we have our own man in office for six solid years. You make promises but there is no single promise that has been kept. You have to behave to your people when you are in office.

 

Why were you unable to settle the crisis that led to the exit of Pastor Ize-Iyamu and others from the party?

At that point, the harm was already done. As a matter of fact, very early in the dispute, I knew the situation was irretrievable  because you cannot give condition for settlement and, while the time you gave to effect settlement had not expired, you already had visited the President ahead of the other camp. The President is not there to be used as a bargaining chip, the minute that you have gone to that extent, then there is no sincerity, the game is over. But the party has recovered from that temporary glitch and we have moved on. I hope they are happy where they are because reconciliation should not be at all cost, there are times you stand on what you believe and move on and that is what the party has done in Edo. We are not bothered at all, the APC in Edo, led by Oshiomhole, is marching in the right direction. God is doing everything for us.

 

There is this rumour about a disagreement between you and Governor Oshiomhole over the choice of candidates in Edo. How true is that?

I have enough trouble in Abuja not to talk of coming here to fight with the governor over nomination. There is nothing like that. I am trying to get my acts together to pick a presidential ticket in Abuja, trying to put the party in fighting shape for the election and it is not to bother myself on who is senatorial candidate here or who is House of Reps candidate. There is absolutely no clash between me and the governor. In any case, I am going to lay down the conditions for primaries and I will urge that every stage the primaries will be free and fair and whosever the people want, that person will become the candidate. The people, the party must be given total freedom to make a choice. Let those interested go round the field, let them stop dropping names, let them go and do their work. And at the end of the day, the party will state its preference. In any case, this is all name-dropping. I am sure the governor has not come out to tell anybody about his preferred candidate because in politics there are no secrets.