By Tony Erha
“An elderly man, who blames the younger ones of leading others by bad examples, says so not simply because he desires correction of the mistakes, but regrets that he himself is no longer in a position to cause more of the bad examples.”
Evidently, a discerning mind could adduce this to the deliberate falsehoods and half-truths recently told to a bewildered Nigerian public by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the immediate past National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his penchant for oddity and making partisan statements that divide rather than unite, Chief Odigie-Oyegun threw a rattlesnake in an open sack as a gift at his APC and to a puzzled, but suspicious Nigerian public.
By his latest engagement, he again moved to stoke the ebbing fire of a prolonged factional crisis that had engulfed the APC chapter of in his home state of Edo and that of the adjoining Ondo State.
Through a widely-reported news statement, which also surfaced as pages of expensive paid advertorials in key newspapers, at the expense of the unfortunate Edo taxpayers, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, obviously bankrolled by Mr Godwin Obaseki, the incumbent state governor, tried to stop all efforts to douse palpable tension, particularly in Edo APC and the state.
Left for the sugar-coated tongue of the 82-year-old former governor of the state, the Edo APC governorship primary election must result in anarchy that would spill over to the election, holding on September 19.
In the press statement, Odigie-Oyegun tended to demean the APC National Working Committee (NWC) and the entire party hierarchy, which he headed until a few years back. But, the guiles of his campaign of calumny against the APC had always been directed at Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, his successor and current APC National Chairman, without whose support Odigie-Oyegun, himself, would not have been made APC boss.
In the raging factional fight, Governor Obaseki, a protégé of Odigie-Oyegun, had frittered the state’s resources to spearhead an irreconcilable side against the supporters of Oshiomhole, the very man who, single-handed, brought him (Obaseki) to power. Odigie-Oyegun plays the spoiler by energizing Obaseki to fight Oshiomhole and most of his benefactor party members, to a standstill.
While President Muhammadu Buhari, the undisputed leader of the APC, in his National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings publicly admonished the party’s national hierarchy to always adhere to the APC’s constitution in addressing issues of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun had again set a bad example to denounce a practical decision of President Buhari and the same NWC, that the party’s process of choosing governorship flag bearers for the Edo and Ondo states’ elections, would be by direct primary election; a method where the general party members are made to vote their choices for elective positions.
Defiantly and, in what could be termed anti-establishment, Odigie-Oyegun is insistent on the reversal of the NWC’s resolution of the direct primary election as the right way to go, to call for a vague endorsement of Governor Obaseki and Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, his Ondo counterpart, in line with a term of the agreement, which he (Odigie-Oyegun) claimed President Buhari once brokered between the APC national leadership and the two incumbent governors of Edo and Ondo states.
But, President Buhari didn’t call for his own endorsement and went through the same primary election in the build-up to the 2019 presidential election, more so that he believed in democracy ethics and the supremacy of the party’s constitution. How would he turn round to call for the “right of first refusal” for governors Obaseki and Akeredolu?
Unbelievably, Odigie-Oyegun hinged his insistence on APC’s adoption of both governors for a second term in office, on a disputable notion of good public performances by the duo. Is it not misplaced for a governor who had delivered the democracy dividends to the public to be so thus handpicked by fewer party delegates, instead of testing his popularity among the general party members, who would vote through a direct primary election?
How could Odigie-Oyegun double-speak, thus justifying selection by a few against and above the freest process of mass voting?
Chief Odigie-Oyegun couldn’t be truthful in his unfortunate comments that the Obaseki’s tenure had brought peace to Edo State. Odigie-Oyegun also ran against the truth with his claims that Governor Obaseki had not, in any way, contravened the APC’s constitution nor had he brought the party to disrepute.
Evidently, Odigie-Oyegun’s peculiarity tends to be the reversal of truths as a way of solving problems or effecting a damage-control! As he subscribes to unwholesome endorsement; whereas direct primaries is best to resolve the present difficulty in choosing a governorship candidate for APC, and giving all the members a sense of belonging; whereupon Governor Obaseki had sidelined them in the affairs of the party, it, therefore, translates that the crisis of leadership, which Obaseki foisted on Edo and the national APC, alongside the public disorder, is normal to Odigie-Oyegun?
He, having been a long-time politician cannot feign ignorance that Obaseki does not enjoy the seed of peace and good conduct, with his long and weary fights against most Edo APC members, a majority of elected Edo assemblymen, Oshiomhole and local governments’ executives etc., which led to factional street brawls, arsons, bombings, court cases and disturbance of the public peace. Why did he also feign ignorance of Obaseki’s constant disobedience to the APC’s NWC and its national leadership, the Senate and House of Reps?
What about the head-on collisions the governor also caused between and among some of his fellow governors and APC and the opposition parties, who Obaseki drafted in to gain upper hand against his factional opponents, in the ensuing brawls and melees?
Odigie-Oyegun may as well be pretentious of Obaseki’s war of attrition in the state, like a truly absentee APC member, nay a top notcher, in his Edo constituency, where he is only given to making inflammatory and divisive statements?
Certainly, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, like another APC national executive, Mr Lawal Shaibu, had given Obaseki the impetus to further disobey APC and to tear it apart, with Obaseki’s newest song of sticking by indirect primary election..
Come to think of it, a national chairman of a ruling party, who is truly in charge of his home base, wouldn’t lose his voting unit, ward and local government area in all the elections to a PDP opposition, as Odigie-Oyegun did throughout his stay as APC’s national boss!
“It is rather better summoning he who is not present than holding onto he who does not heed to calls, even though he is around’.
This is perhaps the reason the national APC brought Oshiomhole from aside to replace Chief Odigie-Oyegun, and to clear the immobility and mess he was said to have caused as APC’s head. Perhaps, also, he was absent-minded, as a pioneer elected governor of Edo State, which experienced misrule at his instance, as he is until this moment, regarded to have started the governance of the Heartbeat state on a wrong footing.
* Tony Erha, a journalist and pro-democracy activist, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.
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