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I was not intimidated out of office – Odigie-Oyegun

The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun bows out of office on June 25.  In this interview with select journalists last weekend, the outgoing national chairman spoke on several issues within the party. Excerpts:

By Omeiza Ajayi

Despite the opportunity open to you, why are you not seeking re-election?

Even without declaring my interest, several top stakeholders of our party at all levels began to rally in my support. I believe that these loyal party men and women instinctively chose to support me, not because I am John Oyegun, but because they recognised what was in the best interest of the party at this point in time.

National Chairman APC, Chief Odigie Oyegun briefing State House Correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adesida

I have taken this decision without prejudice to my commitment to the party in helping to solve some of the subsisting and emerging difficult issues and my ability to continue to provide the necessary leadership. However, I believe that the party faces difficult days ahead, and all critical stakeholders in its leadership would be required to bind together for a common purpose. Therefore, the less contentious our national convention is, the better for the party. I have always sought to be part of solving the problem of APC; I do not intend to be a part of the problem for APC to solve. It is for this reason that I hereby declare that I will not be seeking re-election as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Do you feel betrayed by the governors who hitherto rooted for tenure elongation?

Not at all. In a sense, the things that happened happened. It is only natural. I do not want to go into details. For now, I do not feel betrayed. The reality is that I felt very proud that most of the structures of the party had lined up behind me, but when the reality changed, it is only legitimate that people should make fresh assessments of new developments and decide and act accordingly. I am not sure that I if I did not make a fresh assessment of the situation, I probably won’t be here saying what I am saying today. So, in the course of human events, in the course of change, things change. When you are faced with new realities, governors, even myself, as the affected party, had to do a rethink.

Any advice for the nPDP on the way forward?

The process is still ongoing, and until we reach an understanding with them, it won’t be right to comment, but I think we have tended to read too much that is negative into their act. I just have a feeling that like all people who want the best terms for themselves, they will come out at a period which they feel is advantageous to them.

Given the state of the polity, I suppose they chose this time not because they want to leave the APC; not because they were fed up with the APC, not because they want to cause trouble with the APC, but because they want a good deal for themselves given the totality of what is going on in the party. So, we have accepted their protest in good faith, and we are sitting down with them to work out something that will be mutually beneficial to both interests.

Some governors were opposed to tenure elongation and one of them, Rochas Okorocha is now accusing you of  witch- hunt. What is your reaction?

Well, the processes are still on, and it is not good to answer you in details, but the answer lies in one fact; that he is not the only one who opposed the so-called tenure elongation. How come he is the only one who is being witch-hunted? He wasn’t even the strongest force behind the objection to tenure elongation.

So, why is his case different? That is the question you should ask yourselves. Why? And I do not think it is necessary to go into details. When you look at the totality of the events in that state, I think you can get a clearer picture of what is going on because there is a united force calling for a different way of doing things in the state.

What is your take on the adoption of South-East NWC members by the zonal caucus of the party?

The party constitution allows you two terms just like it allows me two terms but I have exercised my option of not offering myself for a second term. So, any other person, not just in the South-East but nationwide, as a matter of fact, when the details come out in the next few days, you will see that most of the states in the north returned their executives because they have only had one term; because that one term has had its issues and because we did not want to create a situation where we will lose too many of our experienced hands who worked for victory in the first term and who are still available to work for victory for the second term and because at the end of the day, you do not throw away a winning team.

Would it be right to say that you were intimidated out of the race? Are you also disturbed that your most virulent opponent is from your state? Has there been any attempt at dialogue?

I wasn’t intimidated out. I took into consideration, and I was influenced by my own consideration of what is in the best interest of the APC. I have relatively been stubborn. I have been through several intense opposition with some saying ‘Oyegun must go’, but I said there was no reason why Oyegun should go and I held to the point of principle and what makes me so happy today is that in all the virility or intensity of the attacks, it was easy to locate it.

And it was easy to see that by and large, the top leadership of the party was on my side. That is something that gives me intense satisfaction. So, I was not intimidated out of the race, I only just thought of Oyegun being in the front or back pages of newspapers every day and being the famous whipping boy of the social media, maybe we should let somebody else bring some different air into the system, and that was all. It was in the interest of the party that I do not become the problem or the major part of the problem.

As for anybody else coming in, the contest is open. The man you mentioned has indicated his interest, and it is for the delegates to decide. There is nothing to dialogue. You offer yourself for service because you think you have fresh ideas or a new sense of direction or whatever. That is legitimate.

It does not matter where you come from. But again, if you go back to the decision of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party, it said to the greatest extent possible, existing zoning should be maintained; which means since the chairmanship is located in Edo State, there is a very high possibility that they will also be looking for somebody to replace him from Edo State.

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