Chief Odigie-Oyegun was one of Nigeria’s most accomplished civil
servants having retired as a permanent secretary in the eighties. His
first political advent was in the early nineties when he beat the odds
to emerge governor of the newly created Edo State in January, 1992
on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
As governor he was one of those in the frontline for the actualisation
of the presidential mandate of Chief Moshood Abiola after the June
12, 1993 elections. On the return of military rule, Odigie-Oyegun
relocated abroad where he joined forces with other advocates of
democracy under the aegis of the National Democratic Coalition,
At the advent of the Fourth Republic, Odigie-Oyegun joined with
some other NADECO chieftains in the All Peoples Party, APP and
ran unsuccessfully as the presidential running mate in the 2011
elections. Following the formation of the All Progressives Congress,
APC in 2013, Odigie-Oyegun was in 2014 elected the first national
chairman of the party and eventually led the party to success in the
2015 presidential elections.
Oyegun in this interview, insists that no single individual assisted
him to emerge as the party’s national chairman.
He also gives reasons why the party is having difficulties in paying
salaries of its staff and states why it is imperative for President
Muhammadu Buhari to seek a second term in 2019 among other
burning national issues. Excerpts:
What major challenges have you faced since assuming office as
the national chairman of the party?
There are challenges everyday so it is difficult to pick on one as
the most challenging but the main issue I can say is the
arbitration between the different major interest groups in the
party. It is an ongoing thing but in spite of that, the party is
coalescing into one strong force despite the occasional
outbursts of dissatisfaction of leaders and the problems that we
have in the National Assembly which we are now getting on top
of in order to ensure that there is civility and amicable
relationship. That does not mean that everybody must agree
with one another but it means that in our disagreement, we
must be civil and principled.
Some members of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC)
members recently protested against what they called alleged
marginalization by President Buhari. How do you respond to
I don’t know about that because we no longer have CPC, ANPP
and ACN members anymore. I wonder why anybody, for
purposes of forming a pressure group will still go back and
exhume names that have long since been buried. We have no
such members in our midst. We only have APC members and if
anybody within that family has an interest he wants to push,
they have the liberty to do that but not to go back into history
that is long forgotten. So, I don’t know of any CPC members in
Some are alleging that you have not been fair to those who
assisted you to emerge National Chairman of the party,
especially, Bola Tinubu. Is this true?
Everybody assisted me to this position and I am grateful to all of
them. The only thing is my personality and integrity; I don’t joke
with these two things because they are the only currency that I
have and I will defend them at any time. I don’t believe one
particular person solely assisted me to this position, everybody
assisted me and someday, the story of how I became chairman
of APC will be told. You will then see that everybody did assist
me to become National Chairman. This means that I am there
for everybody. I don’t belong to any camp in the APC. I belong to
all members of APC high and below.
A former Minister of Information and chieftain of the party,
Prince Tony Momoh said though you are doing well in running
the affairs of the party, the party is in dire need of funds
because Governors are not funding the party. What do you think
is responsible for this?
I am not quite clear what he meant by Governors donating or
funding the party. What the governor or any major supporter
does is to bring his friends together, solicit for funds and then
move those funds to the party. A governor can donate from his
own personal resources but this is the Buhari administration
and we have just come out from a disastrous PDP
administration where government became an Automated Teller
Machine (ATM), a situation whereby government funds are
diverted into politics. That will not and cannot happen under this
administration and that is what is going on today. So, the party
therefore has to be innovative in raising its own funds. We have
concluded all the arrangements, put the machineries in motion.
We now get regular contributions in the executive arm of
government, meaning government or political appointees. We
get from the Senate, we also get from the House of
Representatives and we have concluded online arrangements to
get from the generality of membership all over the country.
Every member will now have to pay the sum of N100 only per
month as a member. And if at the end of one year there are
members who do not pay at all, then they are automatically
delisted. For any member of the party to be qualified to vote or
be voted for, you must have valid membership credentials,
which includes paid up membership. So, the party is set and
running. It has taken time to fine-tune, particularly the
membership drive nationwide and we have to take the general
educational level in the rural areas into consideration and of
course, since it is a low level of cash but cumulatively
amounting into a lot of money, we have to design a system that
is as fool proof as possible. That is being rolled out in another
month and then the party will be relatively better off but of
course, this does not obviate the need for well-off members to
also help the party when major events are coming up.
Are you now in support of the process that brought the
leadership of the National Assembly into office?
Once they have emerged, there is nothing anybody can do. The
president said let the National Assembly elect its people. We had
our views as a party and we tried to guide as to what ought to
be done which was not largely complied with.
The House of Representatives did a lot better, they did comply
largely with the advice that was given by the party. It wasn’t
quite so in the Senate. But since then remedial actions have
been taken by the Senate. The officers there are a reality and we
have to work with that reality. That is not what I want or
The impression many Nigerians have is that they are trying to
hold the president to ransom. Do you also share this view?
Yes, I have heard that. Quite a few of people have that
impression but look at it, in most cases where there had been
disagreements, take for example like the EFCC chairman’s
confirmation case but the most critical bills of the president
have sailed through the National Assembly.
So, disagreements have to come once in a while; it is natural. If
you look at the United States today, you will see the
disagreement that is going on between the Senate and the
president over their critical Health Bill. The Senate in fact,
virtually turned it down and it is a Senate controlled by the same
party that produced President Donald Trump.
So, these are checks and balances that are built by our
constitution drafters into the system. What I am insisting is that
even when there are disagreements, it must be contained within
civil and civilised limits.
But the reports everywhere right now are that the party is in
huge financial crisis; salaries are being owed and you are
unable to meet other financial obligations. How true is this?
The reality is that yes, we have had difficulties on paying
salaries once or twice. That is normal in the situation we are in.
People are missing the point. The Buhari administration will not
touch one kobo of government funds for political purposes. So,
the party, like any other institution will have to raise funds.
Occasionally, we don’t get all the funds that we require to meet
all our commitments but things are improving on a daily basis
and very soon, all these will be things of the past.
Recently, some members of your party threatened to petition
the EFCC over alleged financial mismanagement. They said the
party leadership cannot account for the billions of naira it made
during the 2015 general elections through sale of nomination
forms. They claimed that you shouldn’t be talking of inability to
pay salaries two years after if the money was judiciously spent.
What do you make of this?
That shows they are not real party men. The party had a mini-
convention which costs a lot of money. The party contributed to
the presidential election. The party also funded the presidential
primaries in Lagos held at the Teslim Balogun stadium which
cost a lot of money. The party organised the primaries that
produced candidates for all our governorship and senatorial
seats all over this nation.
All of that cost money. Not only that, we have rendered audited
accounts, both to the structures of the party, that is the NEC and
also to INEC. So, there is no problem about how the party’s
funds are being spent. Anybody who is in doubt can come and
pick up a copy of our audited accounts.
Some Nigerians have criticised you for saying you will beg
President Buhari to seek re-election in the 2019 general
election. Given his state of health, don’t you think it is best to
advise the president to rest so as to attend to his health?
This is a free country. I have my views and I have expressed
them. Why do I say so? I said so because the main gift
President Buhari is giving to this country is what he represents
and that is his absolute integrity. What Nigerians should aspire
to be, the kind of country that we want Nigeria to be, a country
where a man’s yes is his yes. A country with leadership that
treats with respect public resources, a nation that is disciplined;
a nation that is not wallowing in indecent corruption that we
have today that is making one ashamed, that is what Buhari
represents. He is like a General leading a charge against the
major ills of this country.
The job is so enormous that one term cannot do it. The job is so
enormous that two terms cannot do it. Even after President
Buhari’s tenure, we still need people like him to continue in
office. So, my prayer is that God gives him robust good health
and once he enjoys that, of course as an individual, I will work
that he comes back for another term. But those things are in the
hands of God because we are not God and we cannot play God.
I am only saying that because of the enormity of the task that
we are facing. When we talk of change, a lot of people talk
about physical change. The main one is the change in the
mentality and ethics of Nigerians, especially the attitude of
Nigerians to right and wrong. So, the task is enormous and we
need continuity in principled leadership which President Buhari
You once opposed the emergence of Senate President, Bukola
Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara in
June 2015. Have you softened your stance now?
I never opposed their emergence.
What is your perspective on the whistle blowing policy of the
It is very effective. It is obviously working and I commend the
federal government for coming up with that policy.
There has been controversy surrounding N13 billion discovered
by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in a
luxury apartment at Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Are you not
worried over the way the issue is being handled?
That is not part of my job. The EFCC is handling that and I have
no doubt that very soon, they will come to the bottom of the
issue at the end of the day.––