BY LEKE BAIYEWU
Third Republic governor of Edo State and leader of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun, in this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU, highlight what the newly-registered party has in stock to win the hearts of the electorate
Now that the Independent National Electoral Commission has finally registered the All Progressives Congress as a party, what is the next step?
First, I’m not a member of the APC interim executive. I’ll be speaking from the backdrop of what we’ve been saying and my personal perspective of what the future holds. For me, we have completed phase one; the critical phase. It is like building a vehicle with which to undertake a journey. We have completed the vehicle; we have tested it and it is roadworthy. Now, we are going to move into the phase two, which include building the structure and institution that will support this vehicle. This means that we are going to set up the structure of the party in all the states. We are going to design our message and move to the state, local government and ward congresses to set up the structures of this new, progressive party. And of course, we are going to organise a convention that will elect national officers.
Some people keep on talking about ideology. It is very simplistic to be shouting for ideology. The days of communism, capitalism and socialism have all gone. What is important today is who best serves the interests of the people; who best heeds to the yearnings of the people; who is best placed to restore hope to the people; by what mix of policies can we return smiles to the faces of our people? These are the issues. It is not whether it is communism or capitalism. This means that we are taking very seriously the burden of meeting the yearnings of the Nigerian people. We are going to come out at the proper time with a mission statement and it will address all the questions of the ordinary Nigerians. Things they have been crying over for many years; thing we all have been agitating for; things that have seem insoluble for many years; these are the things this party will address. And we are going to act within a time frame; we are not just going to make promises. We are going to say ‘hold us responsible, if by this time we have not addressed your issues.’ We are going to be that specific.
Phase three is to plan for elections. Fortunately, we are going to drive the vehicle soon in Anambra State and in Delta State before then, because there’s a senatorial vacancy there. What is important is that we are going to tell the people of this country what we have in stock for them.
Has APC’s registration changed your perception of the Independent National Electoral Commission?
On matters like this, I have a conservative state of mind. We are very sentimental in this country. For example, when we get a judgment from a court that favours us, we blow trumpets, praising the judiciary to high heavens. But when we get contrary judgments, we also condemn judges to high heavens. I don’t want to fall into that kind of situation. Yes, INEC has done well. It has shown that it has some backbone; it has shown that it can resist pressure. But let me make a point clear, it was because we too made it easy for INEC because we dotted all i’s and across all t’s. As we were negotiating, we had in front of us the constitution of the Federal Republic and the Electoral Act. Whatever was prescribed by these two documents, we made sure we over-fulfilled. It is also good to say that INEC did well by admitting that we fulfilled all the conditions. Obviously, we were not going to bend to any pressure. After all, there are cases in court over the acronym ‘APC.’ If INEC was very weak, they could have used that as an excuse. But they were bold and forthright. My prayer is that they should carry these courage and forthrightness into the future electoral processes.
It is going to be a very stressful undertaking, giving the kind of drums that are being beating in the polity now, but I’m confident, with what they have done, that they are going to do much better in the future.
Leaders of the APC have always described the party as a better alternative to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. What are the qualities the APC has that the PDP lacks?
We are not really an alternative because we are espousing different philosophies and different ways of doing things. We don’t want to see ourselves as an alternative; all we are doing is that we are presenting the Nigerian public with a real, credible choice. And we are going to tell them why they should prefer us to the PDP, based on records. These things are clear; the performance of the PDP in office and the performance of our governors in office. If we just pick a state like Lagos and the achievements recorded there, and translate it into the Federal Government, you can imagine the dramatic change this nation will go through. There’s a choice now. Yes, if you want to call it an alternative, let’s not argue over it. But the Nigerian public now has credible choice. Without choice, there’s no democracy.
What precisely is the credibility you’re talking about? Can you identify the difference between the two parties?
I singled out Lagos State, let me broaden it. I’m from Benin in Edo State. What has happened in almost five years in Edo State was inconceivable in the last 10 years. We had 10 years of PDP non-stop governance. Under the APC – it’s no more ACN – administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, we have been able to achieve in four years what we were not able to achieve in 10 years of PDP administration. There’s no comparison. What we want to say is that welfare of the people is going to be the core of governance under the APC. That is a significant, major difference. Our slogan says ‘change.’ We cannot continue business as usual; we are offering the people a change for the better. We are offering a new way of doing things. We are offering governance that will produce results in line with what is the aspiration of the people. That is the difference.
Some people are of the opinion that the APC may not be better after all because some ex-members of the PDP, which the APC often condemn, are in the new party and more of them are still coming to eventually make the two parties look alike. Do you agree?
It a bit of a puerile argument; it is a very simplistic one. What matters is not where the individual is coming from, it is the atmosphere of where he is going; guiding principles, strength and commitment of where he is going. We can only come in when he agrees to be governed by the standards of the new institution. We don’t want people at all cost, no. It is not about the individuals in the PDP, it is the political atmosphere of governance in the party that has enthroned impunity and corruption. And that has become the core of governance. That is not what will operate in the APC. The chance is clear. The atmosphere in the PDP is already corrupted with impunity and cannot change. Any PDP man, who wants to join us in efforts to reposition this nation, must be ready to live by the standards of the APC. If you cannot, then of course, you shouldn’t even bother to come. The atmosphere, standards and principles in political parties are different. If you’re coming into our party, you must be ready to live and abide by the standards for good governance that the APC is meant to establish.
Analysts have also said selfish interests of APC leaders and regional interests would not allow APC last long. Have you ever envisaged this?
All I can say is that it is laughable. Those issues will always be there; conflict of interests will always be there. But, we are bound together by one iron-cast objective, and that is the welfare of our people. The greatness of this nation is what binds us together. The conflicts you’re talking about came up during the process of negotiating the merger and they were all addressed. It was one of the greatest happenings in my life to see Nigerians making sacrifices that you never thought they were capable of making. That is historic of the APC. There’ll always be clash of interests, no doubt about that. The key issue will always be ‘what is in the best interest of Nigerians; what is the best interest of the nation; what is the right thing to do.’ We cannot be divided by clashes of interests, no, we can’t. We have already established a benchmark for resolving all these conflicts because everybody has accepted that this nation has suffered enough and that it is the time for change. That is the driving force of the new movement called the APC.