The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, John Odigie-Oyegun in an interactive session with journalists at the APC headquarters in Abuja on Monday spoke on several issues in the polity including the fight against corruption, the economy, Kogi state deputy governorship, mass defections to the APC, the party’s Anambra Central Senatorial candidacy and party funding. Excerpts:
On the economy
Our party is very aware of the hardships that the mis-governance of the last 16 years has plunge this country. We are very aware of the hard and tough times that a lot of Nigerians are going through. Apart from the party, let me also say that it is the main concern of Mr. President. He is fully aware of the tough times that people are going through. And I want to give the assurance that everything is being done to better the economy and ameliorate the deprivation that people are going through.
I think that many Nigerians understand why things are the way they are and that the Buhari administration has inherited a prostrate economy. Not just that, nobody envisaged that there will be a near total collapse of the price of crude and when you juxtapose that with our consumption habit, when we tend import everything in quantity from toothpicks to the choicest champagne, all these products do put pressure on the foreign exchange stock of the nation and all of this has given rise to all the issues that are being dealt with by the president’s team.
But one needs to emphasize that as a nation, we got used to excessive consumption. We are not a producing nation. Virtually everything we have is imported, there is even a joke that some of our elites order pizza and such other things all the way from London. So, all these things come from the same stock of foreign exchange that we have and they are quickly depleting given the collapse of crude oil.
We have to turn from a consuming nation to a producing nation. We consume because oil was there at a hundred plus naira per barrel so money was all over the place but that is no longer the situation and so we must have to adjust to the new reality as a people and as a nation.
The president inherited a collapsed economy. You cannot start rebuilding a collapsed economy without clearing the debris and what we are doing today, is clearing the debris and at the same time; because when we listen to the radio, they say that all that is being done is war against corruption, but at the same time, the work of rebuilding and reconstruction of the Nigerian economy is rapidly in progress and I want to assure you that there will be plenty of successes in the next few months. But I keep underscoring this that there is no quick fix, there is no automatic solution but the project are being concluded and things will get better in the next few months. The party is aware and very conscious and sympathetic but it is a situation we did not create, it is a situation the government is managing but the good news is that there will be smiles tomorrow but we must be able to put up with current deprivation which has become inevitable.
On the party’s Anambra Central Senatorial candidacy
It has long ceased to be an issue because the party after due process of our constitutional requirements had been followed, the process threw up Barr Sharon Ikeazor as the candidate for the party in that election and that is an issue that has since been decided.
I don’t understand this rather excessive concern of respected Senator Uche Ekwenife she is a loyal party member, she went through the processes, it is in the constitution of the party to have procedures, screening processes, primary committees all of these are there.
It happened that there were two ladies of stature vying for that position, she has just come into the party straight into the process of nomination. Whether it was in the party’s constitution to disqualify her? Of course it is there otherwise, we won’t have procedures, screening and appeal committees, it just happened that she was just coming into the party and those who processed the nomination had their score chart and we have a cutoff mark of 51 percent and she happens to score less than that is it.
On Kogi state deputy governorship
All I can say also is as a party, we are prepared for every contingencies in the Kogi situation. So, whatever happens in the next few hours, we are ready for it there is no question and doubt about that. I am not to pre-empt what may happen, that is for the legal authorities.
I don’t want to go into the details of what is likely going to happen, that is still between INEC and legal authorities.
On party funding
There has been this talk in the media but that goes to tell you that just like the economy, the party too is suffering from the stresses and strains of funding just like every institution in our polity. That also goes to tell you that we are not a party that withdraws money from security votes or from any government agency. We are working on plans to raise money from within the memberships. That plan has matured and will soon put it into operation. I saw reports that we have written to the president to rescue the party. That is not part of his national duties and he has no intention because there are no funds from which he can draw from.
The party has to come up with fresh and innovative ways as to how to raise resources for its operations and that, we have done. The plan is ready and will go into operation in the next one month or two.
On the alleged “missing” budget
I will want to say here that the issue about the budget was totally overplayed, the budget was never missing , the main document was totally intact and when the President presented the budget given the nature of the load of work they have to do and in the circumstances at which they were done they were likely to be a few corrections to be made in this process and all Mr President effected were the necessary corrections at this point in time and there may still be more corrections as the process continues in the House of Assembly. I just see the criticisms surrounding the budget as one by the opposition to take a bash at the government, what happened is nothing more than suggested corrections to the addendum to the budget that had earlier been presented.
On mass defections to the APC
It is freedom of association and I think everybody is free to join. The essential fabric of APC is strong enough to withstand any attempt by anyone to undermine it from within. In any case, you cannot join the APC without subscribing to its goals and objectives and when you join the party today, you do not expect to take over reign of power because there are people there already, you still have to prove yourself that you’re loyal and reliable member of the party, you cannot just come and become a leader of the party in one day, you have to earn your way to become trusted with leadership and control, you cannot transfer you status in the party you were coming from into APC because when you come, you are meeting people who are occupying the leadership positions.
On constitution of party’s BOT
There is no issue surrounding that, it’s just that there has been so much to do and the president wants to personally participate in it, a date has been scheduled for all organs of the party to meet.
On alleged ‘selective’ anti-corruption fight
I don’t know where to start, but I feel it’s a judicial matter and the party absolutely has no role on the matter. People give this impression that this government does nothing other than probe of corrupt officials but as I said earlier, a lot is happening that will bring cheers to Nigerians in the next few months. People say it is only PDP that this government is probing but for sixteen years, PDP was in control, are you going to come and arrest me in Benin over contract issues when I was not in any way near government? Let me say this clearly, if we want to clean this country, then we must be serious about it, wherever the train goes, we must be ready to go there, all these attempt to divert attention from the reality will not just work. The mere fact that the current leader is investigating what happened before his time is a clear indication that he is unlikely to repeat the same mistake as the next government will investigate the current administration too. We must be ready to put up with the inconveniences and moral decadence this administration is trying to get the country out of. When people start to make diversionary statements, I just laugh because this is not the time for this, we are investigating yesterday, let tomorrow investigate us, that is how this country will get out of this rots.
On whether ex-president Goodluck Jonathan should be called for questioning
It is not my job, it is the job of EFCC, wherever the train leads to, so be it.