The exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the All Progressive Congress will not trigger an exodus from the ruling party, its National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, has said.
According to a press statement on Tuesday by the party’s Assistant Director of Publicity, Edegbe Odemwingie, Mr. Oyegun said instead of fearing desertion, the party is growing in strength on a daily basis.
Since Mr. Abubakar announced his defection last week, there had been speculations that some members of the the APC will follow him to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Prior to the elections, five state governors and several federal and state lawmakers left the PDP for the then newly registered APC.
Prominent among those who jumped out of the ship of the then ruling party were former governors Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Bukola Saraki, who was then a senator and the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who is now governor of Sokoto.
But Mr. Oyegun has dismissed the speculations that the APC is doomed to a similar experience.
“Let nobody fear that the defection of the former vice president is going to lead to any deluge,” the statement on Tuesday quoted him as saying.
“If anybody wants to defect, the day you are defecting is the day you bring out your heavy guns, not later like the papers are speculating.
“When you stand and they look at your right and left, they say ‘Ah this man has done something great’. So don’t ever be afraid that there is going to be any massive defection. As a matter of fact, the contrary is the case. The APC is growing in strength on a daily basis,” Mr. Oyegun said.
According to the statement, the APC National Chairman spoke during his investiture as the National Life Grand Patron of the Association of Former Chairmen, Councillors and Ward Leaders in Nigeria at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja on Monday evening.
At the investiture were the party’s Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, Deputy National Chairman (South), Segun Oni, and National Auditor, George Moghalu.
Mr. Oyegun charged the group not to be deceived by the ‘screaming’ headlines and opposition rhetorics.
“Anybody who is anybody is virtually with the APC today. The reality is, outside the APC there is no other party that is truly settled, not even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is.
“They are still fighting about how to get a chairman and the rest of it. Today, they say money has come to buy the chairmanship position. So it is something you should take pride in…
“It is just that the remnants of the PDP have found their voice so they are screaming very loud and we think that the whole country is upside down. It is not. The country is making steady progress and your party is growing on a daily basis,” Mr. Oyegun said.
Thanking the association for the investiture, he said the group’s association with the APC came at the right time as the party has begun preparations for the 2019 elections.
“Normally, I am not given to receiving awards because we know what has happened to that in this country. But I read the presentation you made to me and the significance of your background became very important to me.
“First, you are former chairmen, councillors and ward leaders in Nigeria. Once you have held office, your influence can never return to zero. So each and every one of you still has some constituency.
“We are already taking the initial steps in preparing for 2019. I thought that was fortuitous, it was perhaps inspired by God himself. You represent a group that will be easily available at that level, 774 local governments and, of course, all the wards in the country, which is a major outreach for the APC.”
The Chairman urged the group to position themselves as key drivers of positive change in the country and shun unwholesome practices and conducts which he said had bedevilled many similar groups.
“I do not deal with groups that are not principled, that do not have integrity that do not have beliefs as to where the nation is, where you want it to go. That is not ready to work and push this great big ship called Nigeria in that direction.
“We for a long-time travelled on the wrong road, so today with all the difficulties that beset us, the kind of people we need are people who have a long-term view, who understand, accept that things are hard today, but are ready to work to bring to fruition that vision of a great nation. It isn’t a long trek. I want to give you the assurance that light is already there at the end of the tunnel.
“I use every opportunity to bring home the point. Change is still in its early stages. Don’t let anybody tell you that change is a matter of brick and mortar, how many roads you have built, how many vehicles you have put on the road. The visible things are important, I am not trying to downplay the importance.
“But we are where we are today, not because we haven’t built roads, not because we haven’t built airports, not because we haven’t awarded contracts for electricity generation, transmission and distribution, but because our values are totally wrong and it is this wrong values that affect every other things that we do. It is at the bedrock of corruption.
“If we get our values right, that is the real fundamental change. Meaning you accept now that certain things are wrong and you will not be part of it and we are able to get most of our citizenry to see that point, then real change has started.
“The run-up to 2019 has started and you have come at the right time fortuitously. I want to believe that your mission here, your predicating yourself to grassroots mobilisation for the APC is an act that has been inspired by the Almighty himself and that you will be faithful not just to that inspiration that brought you but also be faithful to this party, dedicated to ensuring that this nation experiences the greatness for which the Almighty himself has destined it”.
Speaking during the investiture, the Association’s National Coordinator, Mike Omohimua, described Mr. Oyegun as a man of high intellect and political pedigree who used his political doggedness and experience to rescue Nigeria from collapse in the hands of the immediate-past PDP administration.
“The choice of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the National Chairman of our great party as the National Life Grand Patron and Chairman Board of Trustees of our association is for us to tap from his wealth of experience towards having viable and strong grassroots network ahead of 2019 continuity agenda”.
Mr. Omohimua said the association has a database of registered members across the 774 local government areas and 8810 electoral wards in the country.
He also said the association is proposing a national project tagged: “Operation Recover Nigeria” in line with APC’s ongoing effort to rebuild the country.