John Odigie Oyegun and The APC, By Femi Kusa

I met with Chief Oyegun when he came to work at THE GUARDIAN newpapper of the 1980s or 1990s as a visiting member of the EDITORIAL BOARD.
I was at first Editor and, later, Editor- in – Chief of the newspaper. He was a find, serious minded gentleman whose presence and contribution to debates many of us always look forward to. He was balanced in his judgement and nationalistic as well. One of the subjects which irritated him most was the question of AFRICAN SIT TIGHT political leaders. He also hated corrupt people .That was Probably because corruption at that time was sinking or had damaged his fishing trawler business.The government was trying to save money on fish imports and forbade foreign fishing ships to fish in Nigeria’s teritoral waters. The slot was reserved for Nigerian entrepreneurs like him. But many Nigerian were encouraging foreign fish smuggling, even as they encourage foreign rice and poultry smuggling today. Rather than exert themselves (labour, cost etc), they would sail into high seas to “download” foreign fish from foreign ships who were dumping fish to earn foreign exchange. They could also turn over to these ships their little catches for paultry forein currency, pocket the money and report “no catches” to their Nigerians employers .I believe Chief Oyegun’s personnel damaged his investment in this latter way. So, he had no respect for corruption and corrupt people .
So,when Chief oyegun became APC Chairman, some of us who had worked with him expected him to preside over a vigorous administration. This was especially so as he always supported the idea of a strong political party.
A political party is the aggregate of the wills of its members. So a political party is expected to be supreme over its members. That was what we witnessed in the First Republic. The crisis in the Action Group of western Nigeria, which balooned into the Nigerian Civil war (1967-1970) occuered when the Premier, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the equivalent of today’s Executive Governor, tried to superimpost himself on the Action Group. The crisis which followed led to a one-sided militry coup in favour of Eastern Nigeria. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, who overcame the coupists and, assuming the crisis would stabilze if he abolished the regions, did so by promulgating the Unification Decree of 1966 which made Nigeria a unitary State administratively. Because this system favoured the East, the North struck back militarily in July 1966 and till, today, enjoys the fruits of a unitary Nigeria which it inherieted from a Nigerian leader from the East. The Biafran war (1967- 1970) followed to either reverse this lopsidedness or metain it. The status-quo one. NOW, the East and the West are callling for RESTRUCTURING to get Nigeria back to true Fedral system. Under Nigeria’s Unitary Federalism (if there is such a concept), the center keeps more than half of the national income and grubgingly conceeds the crumbs to 36 state govenments, the government of the Federal capital territory (treated as a state), and 774 local governments. That is why a Northern led Federal government would have no patience for IPOD and has arrigned about 20 gun boats against insugency in the Niger Delta. .
As a member of THE GUARDIAN’S EDITORIAL BOARD, chief oyegun always was on the side of TRUE FEDERALISM debate. I expected from him party practices such as obtain in South Africa were the president is not above the party, where the President has to attend party caucus meetings in the party office headquarters, where the party outside parliament could ask the President to step down and send him for trial for corruption. We expected an Oyegun led APC to formulate policies for the President to pursue .The party could have announced long ago its position on herdsmen’smen killings, corruption within the APC and outside it. The party should have vetted, before submission to the National Assembly, the list of Security chiefs, to prevent regional lopsidediness . Similarly, the party would have prevented nepotism in other appointments. The governor sought autonomy from the party, and it would appear Oyegun gave it to them to keep his job. He also let the President have his way. Even now, the party is stilll dragging its feet on restructuring, which would become a serious campaign issue next year. Meanwhile, Gideon Okar’s coup speech which excised some states from Nigeria, is being sent around on social media to prepare the grounds for that campaign.
Regarding restructuring, Oyegun’s APC could have masterminded the type of constitutional conferences we had before the FIRST REPUBLIC. Nigeria was organised as PROVINCES. Many of these provinces ( except a few such as Ijebu-Ode province and Egba/ Egbado province) have become states today. From the villiages, delegates were sent to provincial conference debates. The provincial general will would have harmonised at Regional meetings of the provinces. Then, the regions, with agregated provincial will, met in Nigeria and London to produce the various constitutions. Oyegun may have been a victim of the forces within the party which hijacked him to fight their own battles against other forces. These other forces included those President Mohammed Buharia and Chief oyegun himself may have considered corrupt and corrutible and wished to isolate. If chief oyegun was a balancer and did not have vanties anchorages within himself for the whime and caprices of any particular group, nor would have captured him for it gain and his detriment. He accused the PDP of sitting tight in government, damaging the country, and, characteristically , He would have oppposed former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term bid. Now, he wishes to sit tight and his desperately seeking tenure elongation when all is not well within the party. How men change in Time.

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