John Odigie Oyegun, a former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Monday, gave reasons why his party lost in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission having polled 307,955 to defeat his main rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, who had 223,619.
The former national chairman of the APC attributed the loss in the contest to democracy at play, saying the people voted in line with their conscience as against impunity and imposition of a candidate at the primaries.
Though still a member of the APC, Mr Odigie-Oyegun is believed to have supported Mr Obaseki in the election.
Mr Odigie-Oyegun, who gave his views while addressing journalists in Benin City, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for not interfering in the electoral process.
He also lauded the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, for his timely intervention in brokering peace between the major actors and stakeholders of the APC and the PDP. He also commended the efforts of the National Peace Committee, headed by Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former head of state.
According to Mr Odigie-Oyegun, “They threatened visa ban, threatened seizing and seizures and the rest of them. The elite among those who were fanning problems had to sit back and reconsider so we have a beautiful, peaceful (election).
“It is democracy within the parties and impunity within the parties, attempts at imposition within the parties; these are the issues, just let things flow. I was a former national chairman, and in most cases, we didn’t have court cases after any election because things were done to the letter.
“If ten people come and say they want to contest for an office, why not. Normally, people come to me, so, they are too many, they will cause divisions within the party, they will cause this within the party, so let us talk to them, so that some will withdraw and I said why? If ten people feel each of them is capable of discharging the duties of that office, let them contest.
“It is when you start talking to them that problem comes because the ego becomes massive and you start owing them because you persuaded them, you have to find some carrots to drop on the table. Allowing to contest is the greatest peacemaker but if you start persuading them, problems start, you then start creating permanent issues within the party system and that was my stand.”
Mr Odigie-Oyegun said the Edo governorship election could be compared with the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which produced Moshood Abiola as the winner, in terms of peaceful conduct .
“I think this is the most peaceful election in this nation since the June 12 Abiola election and one will have to say that this is a precursor of the future, that in future, all concerned be allowed to have their say. The greatest problem we have in this country has been lack of due process, impunity, lack of respect for our constitution, whether the various parties or outside that,” he said.
The former governor of Edo State said it was imperative to continue to build on the successes recorded, so as not to derail from the path of development.
“To my mind, we have regressed as far as party politics is concerned because we have departed from due process, allowing free and fair selection processes within parties. And if parties don’t practice democracy, I don’t see how they can preach democracy to the people of this nation.”
“Fortunately Edo State is the Heart Beat of the Nigerian nation, so this election has proved one more time that we are truly the Heart Beat of the Nigerian nation and we hope it is something that is copied for future elections in this nation.
“You will find that when that happens, court cases will be much less because there will be much fewer grounds for such. However aggrieved a candidate, inside him he will know these elections have been done well, whether within the party or national or state levels. He will know that these elections have been relatively free and relatively fair, to the extent that he is ready to go trying his luck in the legal system will be much less. We hope that all of us, the practitioners, politicians in government, utside government, party officials have learnt a very serious lesson; impunity does not pay, let us let the people speak at all times,” Mr Odigie-Oyegun added.
On issues of election petitions tribunal and allegation of compromises due to violence, activities of security agencies, and INEC officials, Mr Odigie-Oyegun said, “It is the constitutional right of anybody, candidate or no candidate to approach the judicial system for redress if they feel aggrieved. So, anybody who wants to go to court is only exercising his constitutional right and he is to provide evidence to show that things happened which could have altered the ultimate results.”
Speaking on Nigeria at 60, Mr Odigie-Oyegun said, “Things have been tough, things have been rough, what I can say confidently is that the basic foundation of future growth has been laid but the administration hasn’t been lucky at all. The administration has had a period of dwindling resources right from the beginning and I think but for careful management, we probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have gone today, but there is no question at all that we are moving.
“Yes there is hunger in the land, the economy is not growing as it should, employment is very high, terrorism has raised its ugly head again after initial success at controlling it, the cost of crude oil is almost equating the cost of production, so the resources are not just there. I just say that I am sad that things have gotten to this kind of situation totally outside the control of the government.
“The only missing link I will think is that we are not sufficiently giving the people hope or explaining things to the people and giving the people hope that tomorrow will be better so there is despondency in the land. That critical ingredient to tell the people that okay, things are bad today but it will be better tomorrow, that is missing, so in addition to economic difficulties, economic deprivations, we have not successfully conveyed to them the picture of a better tomorrow.
“There is COVID-19 that has created a lot of economic problems, massive diversion of resources to protecting the lives of the people. It has been tough (for) Nigeria being 60 years but if we contain the difficulties that are confronting us, particularly insecurity, this country still has a bright future.”