Despite hardship, Nigerians will not reject APC in 2019 – Oyegun

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, believes that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has done well so far and that complaints about hardship in the country should not be mistaken as a rejection of the party.

He also speaks, in this interview with Johnchuks Onuanyim, on his tenure as the APC national chairman.

The President recently held a meeting with the two major political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP0. Was the meeting about the 2019 elections?

Nothing like that! It was a very simple thing. It was just two parties that went to see him and welcome him back. The President was glad, he has recovered and he was in good condition and we went to wish him well. There was no discussion on national issues or anything like that and it was on the basis of request.

But, other opposition parties have been kicking against how they were left out of the visit to the President.

Well, l don’t know who it was that arranged it. But if they had requested and they were refused, then they have a reason to complain. However, schedule of visit to the President is not my terrain at all. That is the function of those who manage the daily activities of the President.

It seems that the 2019 general elections campaigns have started with the PDP saying that it would take power from your party, while you insist that it is not possible. What would be the selling points of APC in 2019?

Well, we are only in mid-term and we still have another two years or one year plus for the effect of APC’s policies to fully manifest and as they manifest, we have no doubt at all that our stock with the public will continue to grow and improve. The beauty of what is happening is that the public recognises that we had a difficult challenge; the public recognises that the economy and the nation were virtually run aground. The public know this but they would still complain because there is a bit of hardship in the land. So, people are mistaking that complaint of the present hardship to a rejection of the party in office. They are two different things.
They are groaning because they are hungry and it is our duty to fix that, but they also know that it cannot be fixed over night. So, we are missing so many things. They know that the APC is working on over drive to rebuild the ruins of the economy; to create an economy that is dependent on what we produce; to create an economy that can even export some of what we produce; an economy that would be making impact on the people of the country. They know it and it has started to manifest. If you just take one, agriculture, this year, we are becoming self sufficient in the crop which everybody wants to eat – rice. By next year, we would be talking about the same in other grains and tubers. So, agriculture is going to be our major selling point because by the time the elections come, the situation in the country would have been eased or changed and the same goes for infrastructure.

By the time we come for elections in 2019, everybody would see the progress being made by APC government. Some projects may not have been completed, but the Lagos-Ibadan railway project would be a major network of the nation. The impact will also manifest. Some of the lines may not be running, but most would be running. People will see the works that are being done and the expenditure would of course go round the economy of the nation. We have everything to be hopeful. We will campaign on our achievements and remind the people of the mess that this country was in before our coming. That is why we are confident that we will win the 2019 elections.

Some APC members have alleged that the party has been hijacked by the President and his people to the extent that the party cannot hold meetings as provided for in its constitution. What is your response on that?

I am sorry that they have no just reason to complain. The party put the President in office; the party put 24 governors in office and it is our duty to sustain them. Where any level of government needs to be addressed or advised, we do so quietly. The President has not hijacked the party; it is our duty to sustain him in office because we put him there. What nobody can do is to hijack the party for the sake of attacking either the President or any other level of the structures that we have put in place. The party is not available for that purpose. So, if those people complain, l can understand, but it is our duty to sustain the government that we have in place.

What is holding the party from conducting its Caucus and NEC meetings as well as National Conventions as provided for in the constitution?

There are political considerations and they are good. In a situation where our President was ill, that should be the major concern and thank God he has recovered. So, major decisions that needed to be taken have to wait and it is fair and it is natural given also the political consideration that some people within the party are already canvassing to contest the 2019 presidential election. All these factors were taken into consideration and we did not think it was necessary to do some major things in the absence of our President.

Why the President was away, there was this allegation that some cabals were trying to hinder the Acting President from doing his job. Did the party investigate this and what were the findings of the party?

We are in the middle of it. Don’t forget that the polity was awash with stories about people, who didn’t wish the nation well; people who were hoping to benefit from the indisposition of the President; people who were actively hoping that Mr. President would not pull through. We had all these factors to contain with. So, you can understand why things have to be the way they were.

Another serious issue of corruption is confronting the administration as an APC senator has alleged that the Inspector General of Police collects about N120 billion annually from oil companies, banks and individuals for policemen posted to them. What would be the advice of the party on this issue?

He has made specific allegations and the security agencies are there. This is something they should look at but it is a pity that we are now in a polity where all manner of allegations are made against all kinds of people. I hope the senator would be in a position to provide evidence on what he has said, so that the system can deal with it.

What is the rating of the party concerning its governorship primaries in Anambra State?
I am sure you watched it. It was absolutely transparent and above board to my mind. But we are waiting for those who might have objections to raise them and they would be dealt with appropriately. We organised it, so we are waiting for those who participated and watched it to tell us if anything was wrong. We will leave it at that. We will speak definitively after the Appeal must have been concluded and submitted its report. Then we will know whether to give ourselves a pat on the back.

The tenure of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) will elapse next year. Would like to pilot the party’s affairs again for the next four years?
The reality is that l am so challenged that l have not put my mind to that. l am busy and the thought of what might happen in June next year has not crossed my mind. So, we just take everyday as they come and when June is approaching, we would start thinking of that.

How would you appraise of the NWC that you have led in the last three years?

I will say that there have been turbulence, difficulties and challenges, but l will say that our performance given the environment has been outstanding. Given our resources challenges, appointment challenges and others, our performance has been outstanding. We have been able to keep the party together and that is no mean achievement, when you think of a party that was an amalgamation of several parties and went straight to fight an election and post election and the process of establishing a government and the rest of other things, but the party has by and large held strongly together. I will say that in terms of performance, l will put it at A.

Some persons believe that crises management in the party has been very poor given the array of problems in the party. For instance, Kogi, Enugu, Bayelsa and so many other states. What is your take on that?

You mentioned Kogi State, it is a very special case; it is an emotive case, but we are dealing with Kogi with a big of sensitivity and sympathy but all that is gone now. We have sent a team to the state and they have identified the problems. We think that the passion and emotion should be subsiding for now and it is time for people to sit down and talk. Enugu is not a crisis. Yes, some people wanted to steer things up and profit on it and unfortunately the minister got caught up in the web not of his making, but of course, emanating from his inexperience in the kind of things that go on in politics. In Bauchi, there is also not a crisis. To my mind what exists in Bauchi is more of a personality and projection into the future than any other thing and that we are also handling. We have sent a team to the place and the team has reported. There are no major issues or crisis. It is in the nature of politics to have frictions. APC is not experiencing any major crisis, there are all sorts of maneuverings going on and we are aware of them and all sorts of meeting taking place and people eyeing 2019 and we think that is normal so long that nobody gets out of it and become outrightly disloyal.

The party recently constituted a committee on true federalism, but the question some persons have asked is whether the party alone can bring about true federalism without recourse to other Nigerians…

The issue has been addressed; we are not seeking to rediscover the wheel. We have held several conferences in this country; the APC has discussed this issue extensively at its formation and when it was drawing up its manifesto. And it canvassed for votes extensively on the issue of true federalism and development. So, there is nothing to be rediscovered. Our concern is the real meaning being obfuscated by the word ‘restructuring.’ There are no two people who are to make a speech today saying that we must restructure, who can give you the same definition of restructuring. Our reaction is to say look, we are the custodian of true federalism in this country. It has been all the concept of this party all this time. So, we want to now take charge of this thing, we want to now define to the public what we have always meant by restructuring or true federalism and we will place that before the nation.

It is unfortunate that we took over a totally battered economy; we took over when oil prices dropped dramatically to the point where the cost of producing a barrel of oil was almost higher than the cost the market was prepared to pay for it. So, the challenges of managing this country, the challenges of rebuilding the economy have been so great and people are hungry. Let us first put food on their tables before we start talking politics of true federalism or restructuring. But now that it is being used as a means by some persons trying to destabilize the nation, it becomes necessary to constitute the committee to really understand what the people really want rather than the people who grandstanding and trying to destabilise the economy on the issue of restructuring.

The processes to the non-elective convention of the party have been completed and the President is back, when is the party going to conduct its convention?

We are virtually set. We are set and the people would soon be official notified. Everything is ready.

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