Following the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), the former chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has said the quest for 2023 presidency and temper, ruined the ousted chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.
The former Governor of Edo State who spoke exclusively with Saturday Sun in Abuja yesterday, however said the party should beam its searchlight for a person with the necessary charisma, level-headedness, and ability to arbitrate between differing interests within a party as its new leader. Amongst other issues, Oyegun said the issue of zoning should be foreclosed in order to get the right presidential candidate to pilot the country out of its current economic realities. He spoke with AIDOGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja.
How would you describe the latest development in your party, the APC.
Fantastic in what sense?
You know the APC had become a spectacle to the entire nation, a joke. But in one fell swoop, the minute the president decided to act, I think everything is now back on course. The whole argument has set us back quite a bit because we wasted precious time and until we have our convention now, we really have only an interim body. So, energising the party is still something that will come in future. But thank God at least, we have sorted that. We had a cancer and a major operation has been performed and the patient, meaning the APC, is recovering very well.
The APC NEC dissolved the NWC. Specifically, what is your view?
That is what I expected. In fact, that was what I also advised. If you remember, a few days before that, I issued a statement that advised what specifically happened. That was the only way because the NWC was already fractured. Everybody was claiming to be chairman and what was very annoying was that one of the factions was using the name of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of blessed memory. And they knew the man’s condition and they were pushing him forward to say Ajimobi’s faction and the other faction, whereas the poor man was in the hospital, fighting for his life. I thought that was really, really base, very mean.
Is this move like a vindication that you were pushed out of office?
Let us get this clear: I was not pushed out of office. I have read about these things so many times and I just said why bother about it. But since you are here physically, I completed four years. Point number one! Point number two: I did not ask for a second term. But the party in its wisdom thought that it was unhealthy for any party to hold party leadership elections and also primaries in the same year, just a few months from each other. They say this election process always breed some degree of discord. And then, there was a national election a few months later. The party thought I should continue until after the national elections. So, that was why they went into all that thing about extension. They never said second term, but extension. So, it is good to make that very clear. I served four complete years. That was a proper convention where my successor was elected and I handed over formally to my successor. I was not pushed out of office.
Is this development like the law of karma catching up?
No. I don’t look at things that way. I think it is just different personalities and one didn’t go well with the people. That is all.
Did you ever see the president stepping in this way as he has done?
Naturally! There are two leaders we have. The president is the leader of an APC government. The national chairman is the leader of an APC governing party. So, there is only one. The only man whose status is highest in the whole hierarchy is Mr President. And the constitution recognises Mr President as the leader of the party. So, there was no other. When the national chairman becomes part of the dispute, the only way, the only person who can intervene, who is beyond him, is the president.
But the pro-Oshiomhole group said there were some infractions and that they are heading to court. What is your take on this?
I don’t really like talking about a bad past because if you want to talk of all the nearly criminal things that they did, first using poor Ajimobi’s name. Ajimobi, of course, couldn’t be there physically. So, they appointed a stand-in person for Ajimobi. And where is all of that in the constitution of the party when there are other people such as the Deputy Secretary who was mandated by court or even the Deputy National Chairman, North, who was also there to lead the party? So, let’s forget all that. If they want, they can go to court. That will be for lawyers and the judicial system to sort out.
Do you agree with the thinking of many out there that the struggle to control the party by some leaders ahead of 2023 led it to this point?
Yes, partially, that is so. Partially that and partially, the temperament and nature of both the former chairman and even the NWC.
In the whole circumstance, what do you advise Oshiomhole to do?
Go and ask him. I don’t advise him to do anything.
You are an elder statesman; you are his elder brother…
Well, all I will say if he was my brother, let wisdom and a cool head finally prevail.
What kind of leadership should the party have now to be in good standing for the 2023 elections?
We have a little bit of time now to put out the searchlight for the person with the necessary charisma, necessary level-headedness, and necessary ability to arbitrate between differing interests within a party. We will hunt for somebody like that and by the time we have our convention, I am sure we will be ready for a beautiful slate of leaders.
How would you want the gubernatorial contest in Edo resolved now?
It has been resolved. APC has a candidate, PDP has a candidate. End of story!
Would this crisis be resolved in favour of a southern or northern presidency in 2023?
Given the way we were proceeding, it is the turn of the south to produce a candidate. Given the way the country has been, it would naturally have been the turn of the southeast to produce a candidate. But the southeast haven’t been strong supporters of the APC. So, as far as I am concerned, we are in such dire straits today economically, plus COVID-19 and a world that is upside down, that we should head-hunt for the best possible candidate within the APC wherever we can find him. The country needs the best possible head wherever he comes from. We should think more of the country and its survival than any other interest.