Chief Odigie Oyegun is the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, a party which was has now made history as the first opposition to defeat a ruling party in the country. The Edo born politician who once govern the state, last year led the APC to clench power from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has been in power since the countrys returned to democracy in 1999. Oyegun was in Benin City, the capital of Edo State, where he spoke with newsmen. He spoke on the allegation that he was on his way out of the party leadership position, President Muhammadu Buhari constant foreign trips, and a host of other issues, where nationalTRAIL was represented by its Benin correspondent, Monday EBALU. Excerpts:
Nigerians are complaining that President Mohammadu Buhari continuous traveling abroad is nothing, but a waste of resources, especially that they are suffering, as the national chairman of the ruling party, what is your view concerning this?
Well, for the journey embarked upon by Mr. President since assuming office last year, I will say what makes me sad, is that, if there is anybody who does not recognise the fact that Nigeria had almost become a paralyzed state by all standard, the fact that we have no respect all over the world, and the reality is that because the APC won the election based on the personal credibility of the president. Based on the respect he commands, not only in our country Nigeria, but the world over.
So It seems to me like most people in Nigeria do not recognise the very sorry state of the Nigeria economy. They say we should stop blaming anybody, yes I am not going to say I blame anybody, but the facts remains that the Nigerian economy was ruined, and ran to the ground. Fact number three, as if these two were not bad enough, is the reality that in a few months after we came into office, the price of oil crashed, from about 120 per barrel to a sad and low level of about between 30 to 40 dollars per barrel, these are all big problems in a state that you are almost broke, and when the president made such comments, and then people starts to complain.
Because I always use this example, and let me say, I will not be tried of using it. If a family income falls from N120 to N40, the family will feel the pressure, it will not be able to meet its basic needs , there will be the need for him, I mean head of such a family to take emergency measures to shore up the economic situation of his family, and the president is doing exactly the same thing with the travels, they are not for leisure. Take note that a rapid revival depends on the understanding of the rest of the world, so he had to go and meet the world.
The president has taken his prestige and time around the whole world to shop and polish our image, which has been badly damaged to make it possible for world leaders to want to deal with a new Nigeria, and to get the type of resources and the expenditure that we so need badly at the moment, because the kind of problems we have, are not the types that can wait for one or three years. We do not have the resources to take down and put to reviving the economy, so hat the president is doing is a great inconvenience to his person. He is a well trained military officer, he trained abroad and he has been to most parts of the world, so it is not as if he enjoys going and spending sleepless nights in one capital to another.
The capitals he has visited are those that are critical to peace in Nigeria, or critical to our economy, and its speedy revival. Think of countries like, China and the United States of America, USA, they are very critical to our economy right now. The long and short of it is that Mr. President is getting the world to respect and know the new Nigeria and to be ready to put money into the country with conventional rate, to help to revive the Nigerian economy, and get it back on track for the good of its people, which am sure you agree with me.
Recently Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti, was said to have written a letter to the Chinese government, asking it not to honour president Buhari s request for a loan, do you think that was the right thing for him to have done?
I just hope that Ayodele Fayose did not really do what we are told he did, I don’t even think he is capable of descending into this low depth by do that, but if he did, I can only say that I feel deeply sorry for him and the people of Ekiti State, I think that is all I can say about that and Governor Ayodele Fayose.
It is almost one year since the APC which you lead as chairman took over power and formed the government at the national level, yet the economy still remains the same, if not even worst, what is wrong?
Well, the budget is around the corner, succor will soon come the way of Nigerians, succor must come, because of the president personal commitment to Nigerians, he believes in the well being of the ordinary Nigerian. Everything he has done including the foreign tours since he came to power is to gather and mobilise all the support that is necessary to make a dramatic impact on the condition of Nigeria as quickly as possible, so that has been his main preoccupation, so people should be a little patient, soon things will get better for them.
A lot of these things we did not create, yet the president have pleaded with the people to be patient with him, and he is working on all fronts, whether it is electricity, or even the lingering fuel crisis. What is happening now, is that arrangement is been made to ensure that we are seeing the last of it, that is what the president is working on.
The major problem Nigeria has is that we depended on just one product, the oil, for ninety percent of her foreign exchange. Both the fall in oil and the foreign reserves drop, it means we cannot survival the consumer habit that we have. We don’t produce, even the oil we have is like cocoa beans. You can imagine a Nation like Nigeria, in 2016 is still exporting cocoa beans instead of processing it for additional value.
We don’t process because of interest of people who don’t wish this nation well, our refineries have never worked, because it is better for them to import finished products. For the past 16 years, our refineries did not work because their agents were busy importing fuel, making huge profits at the expense of the Nigerian people.
They did not think of making petro chemical plant for producing things like, plastics or other industries that could have added value and help shore up the economy of this country, as well as create employment for our unemployed youth.
So we have remained a raw material exporting country. Once this budget, which the agents of retrogression have tried hard to mess up, a few individuals out of pure selfish and personal interest have tried to put their constituency projects, and trickily remove projects like the Lagos/ Calabar rail line, once is signed, you would see the difference. It means that there are still people in our country who do not want change from the way things have all these years been.
The simple message is that change is not going to come easy, that the forces of retrogression, the forces of business as usual, are still there and well with us in this country, and still playing their games.
But we in APC, we are sure that the principle of change must prevail. Change is our percussion, change in the way we think. Our assurance to the country is that nothing is going to divert us from the total change which we have started already, and has remained key, and they should just key into it, join us, as well as give us the opportunity to make things work in the country.
Did your party initially underrate the enormity of the problems facing Nigeria as a country?
No! we didn’t underrate the problem, but you see, you cannot come into government and stop the clock. Yes we have done a few little things at the top, but after 16 years, the rot is virtually in all the institutions in this country, there is corruption, so it takes time to put people in these major institutions to drive the system. Meanwhile we are doing the best we can to make sure everything moves on well, because this is the right thing to do.
There were rumours that you where to be removed from office as chairman of the party ?
You know there was nothing like that, nothing like that ever happened. What I can tell you that if you are a leader and you don’t offend people, it then means that something must be wrong, with your leadership style
you cannot agree with everybody every time, and you also cannot do what everybody wants.
Some people are hiding behind you the media, something that was generated from outside the party, it did not happened in APC. I needed a rest and so I called the media and said, I am going away for ten days to rest, the gentle man standing by me will act till I return, and that is the gentle man they said moved to my office, but there was nothing like that at all, it was externally created, nothing like that happened.
Saraki is presently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, is your party envisaging a safe landing for the President of the Senate?
What is safe landing, it is only when the judicial processes are completed, after that, we will then know what to do next. Talking about Safe landing at this moment means we are going to interfere with the process, we go and say Mr. Judge give this kind of judgment. If we do that what is the change we are preaching? So we will allow the judicial process to be concluded, that is the message of change we have been talking about.
But it has been alleged that the whole case is political, and that your party definitely has a hand in it, how true is this allegation
But starting from where you started, the party doesn’t have anything to do with the court case involving the senate president, as a party, we do not know how it originated, we also got to know of it just as you also did, so the party has nothing to do with the case of Saraki, so how can we have a hand in it.
I can tell you that It is a judicial process. And as you know, this is a regime of change with due process in place. It is a regime of following the law as it is, and as such, we will not at any point interfere in a matter that is legal in nature.
What will you say about PDP threat to produce the next President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, should Saraki vacant the seat
I don’t know about the PDP producing the Senate President, that is all I can tell you, I don’t know about that.