•Says no hiding place from anti-corruption war
•Commends Obaseki on moves to make Edo economic hub of Nigeria
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and first civilian governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, in this interview with Saturday Vanguard in Benin City, said the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari has put to shame those who were wishing the President dead. He also disclosed plans by the party to investigate the failure by the senate to confirm the appointment of Mr Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) despite the fact that the party enjoys majority in the senate.
He spoke about the life and times of late Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state and other national issues. Excerpts:
Sir, after several weeks of worries and speculations about the President’s health, he came back and resumed duties, how do you feel about that?
I feel very happy, and a sense of relief that our President is back. Stability has returned to the polity, the deluge of most unfortunate rumours, some of which are totally lacking in decorum has ended. The system is beginning to forge ahead, obviously he was ill but we thank God he is back now. We hope and pray that the system will not put unnecessary pressure on him again so that he can regain his full working strength.
There is this worry in the North that Southerners are in the habit of choosing someone not too healthy for them as Presidential candidate, have you received such complaint?
I cannot have that kind of worry and nobody should try to play God. I don’t go into that area of most dastard speculation at all, it is unacceptable, it brings instability to the nation. When we are ill it is God who permits it and probably it is to teach us a lesson to prepare us for future challenges. We should not go beyond that to politicize ailment, I don’t think that is proper.
The naira is appreciating every day against the dollars, will you say that the economic plans of this administration have started yielding dividends?
First, the dividends have already started to manifest. It may not be very publicly perceptible now, but there is no question at all that the economy has picked up. As against the last two or three years before we came into office, work has started on national infrastructures, money is being pumped into the economy.
Debts are being paid, contracts that have been stalled have started. And we now have additional huge investment in the rail ways and the power sector even though that has not started yielding result until transition system is firmed up and until the threat to the supply of gas to our many generating stations is also minimized.
So, there are economic activities taking place now on a massive scale compared to the last few years and the flow of resources will pass through the various sectors of the economy.
As for the naira appreciation we thank God, at least we have enough dollars to pump in to support the naira but it is clear that we will reach that Eldorado when as a nation we start producing and when we as a nation we start exporting agricultural products and solid minerals. We must earn additional dollars to support our hunger and our craving for dollars and the dollars that we spend to import hopefully and prayerfully will be for the productive sectors of the economy not for consumption.
The Buhari regime is dedicated to moving us from a mono crop economy to a much wider economic base where solid minerals, either by producing agriculturally and exporting or by producing and consuming and cutting down the level of foreign exchange that we spend importing food like rice that we can produce. So the
President is moving on all fronts. Unfortunately these are not things that will just manifest in few months. But there is no question at all that the economy is now taking off on a very solid foundation.
The senate is dominated by your party, the APC, yet the President’s nominee for the EFCC job, Ibrahim Magu was not confirmed, what is your reaction to it?
We have all sorts of forces still at play in the system. All sorts of rivalry and to some extent all sorts of resistance are still within the system. But one thing is basic, as far as the APC government is concerned there is no discrimination in the war against corruption.
I have not gone into the specific reasons behind the Magu case but we will do that now. But what is clear is that the President is operating an anti-corruption war that does not discriminate whether you are in the APC or not. So, there must be reasons for what is happening which I have not gone into but we will do that now.
Are you not worried that those who are decamping to APC from the PDP will give your party a bad image and that what is happening in PDP may also happen to your party?
It does not give me worry. As a matter of fact if you look at the positive side, you will realize that first, people are to some extent penitent about their contribution to the damage that they did to the economic base of this country.
Secondly, we know we have a recession and if in a recession we are still able to win elections in Ondo, Kogi and other states without the need to fake results, that is a good sign. But the positive and the consolation is that there is no discrimination in President Buhari’s pursued anti-corruption crusade whether you are in the APC or not. But don’t forget, a lot of our problems today originated within the APC, the anti corruption war started even within the APC.
So it is not something that discriminates. If you want to join the APC you are most welcomed, but note that it is not something that will give you a cover, it will not give you protection.
If you have skeletons in your cupboard and you are caught that is the end of the matter. It happened recently where some people who joined us were now dragged before the EFCC and they are in court.
So joining APC does not give anybody cover or protection. For instance look at the case of the former NNPC boss Yakubu, we were upset when he was removed, we were on his side but if by tomorrow we find out that you were wrong and the person needs to be pilloried, we will go ahead and do so.
So it shows you the kind of anti-corruption war that is going on. I interpret people joining us is positive, they want to help correct the ills which they also helped in inflicting on this nation. But if they are thinking otherwise then they will be disappointed. If they are thinking that it is going to give them protection then they will be very disappointed because there is no hiding place as long as the anti corruption war is concerned.
You were one of the dignitaries who attended the burial of late Dr Ogbemudia and you visited the family after that, how would you describe him?
It is a beautiful experience, I first encountered him when I was still relatively young and he was one of the inspirational forces that made us very, very proud to be from Midwest, Bendel state and now Edo state. He was an inspiring force,
I know even as a civil servant we contributed to his campaign to be governor of old Bendel state, the administration that lasted for three months. He was a man of great achievement, great knowledge and great influence in the politics of this country. We maintained a close relationship even though we belonged to different political parties.
And of course, technically he was my predecessor in office and he was somebody we tried to emulate, whose achievement we tried to equal, unfortunately one was not there long enough. He was an inspirational achiever who has left indelible foot prints on the Nigerian political space. He has been immortalized in Edo state already and I don’t see why the Federal Government will not do the same.
How would you access the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki so far?
So far so good, a quiet operator. Very quietly you will notice that the potholes have disappeared and some roads are being fully rehabilitated.
From the grapevine I know about his forage into preparing for a major economic take off of Edo state in several facets. Making sure that we have the power that we need, making sure that we contribute significantly to agricultural production in this nation and that we return to the prime place we used to be and of course in industry and the rest of it. He is making major policy and practical preparation for a significant take off, I know that. I wish him the very best and when his programmes hit the economic scene of Edo state we will have a lot to smile about.