The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has recounted how he survived several attempts to remove him from office as National Chairman of the governing Party.
According to Odigie-Oyegun who was the first executive governor of Edo state, his several political trials stemmed from his unflinching loyalty to constituted authority at all times, a posture that severally frustrated contending interests within the Party.
Odigie-Oyegun spoke when he received the 9th Benin National Award from the Bini National Congress (BNC) in the Edo State Capital, Benin-City on Thursday evening.
“The timing of the investiture was significant given that I had just survived another attempted coup which died with a whimper. For a Bini group, my own people to say ‘oga we want to honour you’, I thought finally yes I deserved this honour. I thank you for doing this to me. This is one of my proudest moments.“ The APC National Chairman stated at the well-attended award reception.
“I grew up in an environment of strong family ties, where bringing disgrace, dishonour to the family is the worst thing you can possibly do, because your own family will be the first to disown you. So all my life, this is the circumstance that has conditioned me. One, I do nothing that will not make me sleep soundly at night. I do nothing that I will be afraid to see as a headline in any of the national dailies. Yes, I have been through several trials, and I have overcome them all. Why have I done so? Because at the end of the day, however detailed, however forensic, your examination, you will not find that John Odigie-Oyegun has done anything dishonourable. And so with all the hue and cry, at the end of the day when we sit down, yes you want John Odigie-Oyegun out, fine. Tell us what he has done? The whole situation fizzles out, because the only thing you can punish him for is loyalty. And we Edo people are loyal. If we believe in something, we make sacrifices to ensure that those ends are upheld and met.” Odigie-Oyegun said.
The APC National Chairman compared President Muhammadu Buhari to some eminent Nigerians such as late INEC Chairs, Justice Ephraim Akpata, Abel Goubadia; lawyer/activist, Gani Fayehinmi; Afrobeat pioneer and activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti who according to him were not popular for simply throwing money around but for their inspiration to others.
“The example of these men is noticed, it inspires other people. So by their conduct, they are probably doing a lot more good than those who just handover cash. There are so many ways to the top. People like Justice Ephraim Akpata, Abel Goubadia, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti were popular, but they controlled nothing. The same attribute is what our president has. He controls nothing. He does not have mansions, but the whole nation has accepted him because of integrity.” He said.
President Buhari elected by Ordinary Nigerians, Not elites
He continued: “Let me make one thing clear, President Buhari was not elected by the elites, I hope you know that. If he depended on the elite, Buhari may not be president today. And if he depended on the elite, with the way they tried to do over foreign exchange and the rest of it, Buhari will not be president tomorrow. But the ordinary people of this country look up to him as the symbol of the kind of persons, leadership and the kind of country that they want Nigeria to become. He is a symbol, a lighthouse, a guide. He doesn’t have to be good at everything, but he has that attribute which the ordinary Nigerian is telling us is what they need. Yes, I accept there is hunger in the land, yes, I accept that the economy is in relatively bad shape. If I tell you now that what we inherited were far worse and you hear some of the details. I won’t be surprised if people go out and ask for stricter measures on those who have brought this country to its knees.
“As at the time we took over, there wasn’t a single kobo anywhere. As if that was not enough, the price of crude collapsed. But the good news is that for the first time in its history, this country is finally building an economic base that is based on the sweat of Nigerians. Which means, we will never again suffer from the kind of humiliation we have had resulting from the collapse of the one item that sustained this nation which is crude oil. Today agriculture is blossoming, young people are taking up farming as a business. Today we are almost independent in the production of rice. Today we are almost self-sufficient in a lot of the grains that we depend on in this nation. Today we are opening up solid mineral mines all over the country.
“Things have started to solidify. The economy has started to grow. It is not a switch, it is something that will take time. But once we are there, this nation will never experience the type of recession that we had in the past… Change is not bridges. Change is not electricity. Change is not roads. Change is my perception as to what is right or what is wrong or what needs to be done and being faithful in getting it done. For as long as we Nigerians have the wrong type of morality, ethics, not all the roads in this world will get us out of the economic morass we find ourselves. So change also means a change of attitude, morality, ethics, knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. A system that rewards competence, productivity rather than a system that adulates wealth for the sake of the fact that somebody has money. We must change this aspect of our lives.
“Change takes time. Changing how we perceive things, how we think and respond to issues takes time and consistency of application, meaning that we cannot go back to the bad old days. When I joined the service as an economic planner, the World Bank put Nigeria ahead of Brazil, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan. Today we are importing second-hand Brazilian planes. So what went wrong with us? Finally we have a President who is insisting painfully on bringing Nigeria back to the path of rectitude, progress and enable Nigeria attain its destiny. It is not by accident that we are the largest black nation in the world. Until President Buhari we were a laughing stock. Today we are gaining respectability. So it is important that we don’t lose momentum.
Commenting on the multi-partisan nature of the reception and indeed the invitees, Odigie-Oyegun said: “I insisted that some of our brothers from the other parties should be here because it is important that we realise the enormity of the challenges that face this nation. It is important that we put crude politics aside and work together constructively to build a new Nigeria. Otherwise, we are still living in the past. And it is my hope that we will get together and separate policy from petty politics. And assist the President in creating a new nation that we all will be proud about.”
At the reception were the Senate President represented by Senator Francis Alimikhena; the Edo state governor, represented by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Osaro Idah; the Minister of Communications, Abdul-raheem Adebayo Shittu; former Edo state deputy governors; retired Justice of the Supreme Couurt, Justice Samson Uwaifo; current and former members of the Edo State House of Assembly; members of the APC National and State Working Committees; lawyer/activist, Festus Keyamo SAN; the academia; music icon, Sir Victor Uwaifo; former Minister of women affairs, Josephene Anenih; former Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Parry Osayande and several prominent sons and daughters of Bini extraction.