By Omeiza Ajayi, Dirisu Kadiri & Ezra Ukanwa
ABUJA— Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called on leaders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to make a decision to join the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, at least before they die.
Speaking at an elaborate dinner to round off activities commemorating the 80th birthday celebration of the pioneer National Chairman of APC, Chief John Oyegun, the vice president also paid glowing tributes to the former party leader.
He said: “Let me tell the story of a politician who was a long time, life Republican politician in the US. He was lying down on his sick bed and was about to die and he said ‘I want to change my party, I want to become a Democrat so that tomorrow it will be announced that a Democrat died not a Republican’.
“You can see that we politicians are very faithful and very loyal, indeed. I can only ask our friends in the PDP to also ensure that they cross over before they die. It is time for them to cross over.”
Turning to Chief Oyegun, the vice president said: “You always find him on the right side of history, as a founding member of Alliance for Democracy AD, member of NADECO and secretary of those abroad, founding member of APC and the first chairman, the one who led our party to that historic victory to unseat the ruling party.
“The second reason for my admiration is that somehow, he manages to be so deep in the Nigerian politics and yet he doesn’t even look like a politician or sound like one. He always sounds like a fine, well-read, well-spoken gentleman dragged into politics by some rascals but he is an unassuming politician and an astute strategist.
“There is this particular attribute of being in politics without being a politician. I would like to be like Professor (Ibrahim) Gambari when I grow up. I would like to be like that. You know aside from lawyers, I think there is no group of people who are maligned like politicians.
‘’Every time that you come across the Nigerian politician, there is always one way or the other that we are maligned but people like Chief Oyegun have shown that politicians can be loyal, faithful, dusting men and women.”
It’s wishful invitation, PDP replies
But reacting to Osinbajo’s tirade, yesterday, PDP in a statement by National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “Professor Osinbajo cannot comprehend the drumbeats playing across the nation. Only that can account for his wishful invitation to our party members to decamp to the failed APC.
“Nigerians are looking toward the judiciary to return our party’s stolen presidential mandate for the nation to come out of the woods, which the APC and Buhari’s Presidency have plunged her.”
God has been kind to me—Oyegun
Addressing the gathering, Oyegun said: “At 80, I feel totally satisfied, totally happy that God has been kind to me. In fact, God has been partial towards me, I don’t know what I did right. Because in my total 80 years, there is nothing I truly set my eyes upon that I did not accomplish.
‘’I have enjoyed length of days. I have enjoyed absolutely good health. I have worked and interacted with some of the nicest people in this country.
“I was privileged to be part of forming APC. The fight for the coming together of Nigeria’s opposition parties has been long jettisoned before the advent of the APC. I have every reason to be thankful to God. I have every reason to be thankful to all of you who played one role or the other in making my life such a pleasant one.”
…calls for merit-based appointments
Chief Oyegun on his part, expressed hope in the new crop of ministers assembled by President Muhammadu Buhari, describing them as the foundation for Nigeria’s greatness.
He, however, called on the Federal Government to make merit a priority in appointing people to positions of authority.
He said: “I want to emphasize merit. Up till now, we have practised the doctrine of balancing and all of that, which is very good at the time it was put in place. Fortunately today, I doubt that there is any corner of this country that does not have highly qualified Nigerians and the time has come for merit to become the sole determinant of positioning and placing people.
“Second, we embarked on the war against corruption. That is good and it has to be permanently featured. It is something that has to perforate thorough the state level to local government level. It should not be left for President Buhari alone as if it is one unusual man there who wants to fight everybody.”