In a vain attempt to obscure the indelible fingerprints of his wanton mishandling and maladroit leadership of the APC, former National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has spoken prolifically regarding the situation in Edo State. Listening to him now, one could be forgiven for thinking this John Oyegun is a vastly different man to the one who tried to shirk the party constitution whenever possible and who made a mockery of the party’s quest for internal democracy and fair primaries.
When in power, he abused that power. Now out of power, the devious man feigns a saintly innocence. When he speaks, the man speaks as if a saint. But when he in position to turn words into deeds, he demurs, in favour of running heel to jowl with sinners. His words occupy a different universe than his actions. At the centre of that universe is an orb called mendacity that rotates around a larger one known as hypocrisy.
Chief Oyegun has no political standing independent of that which was not given him. He did not earn the APC National Chairmanship; it was bestowed on him by those who formed the party. He was a late comer whose contributions to the party’s genesis were nil and nothing. Instead of seeing the position as a chance to make an enduring contribution to the growth of our nation’s democracy, the man took a venal detour. He set about undermining the institutions of the party so that he and his masters might exploit the party for their own gain and self-aggrandizement. Fortunately, Oyegun’s power play did not work. Just as other misfits left the party to return to the PDP, Oyegun’s days were also sorely numbered. This was for the good of the party and of democracy. The party has been better off without him as he has been worse off after revealing the depths of his mercenary and undemocratic character.
Remember he was the father of the meretricious doctrine of the right of first refusal. Attempting to hold his seat at any costs, he offered the outlandish proposal that as an incumbent he should have the right to decide whether to continue in his position or not. This showed his utter contempt for democracy. First refusal pertains to commercial transactions. It has no relevance to elective office. Oyegun was advocating a doctrine that would kill democracy. He was postulating that incumbency gives an office holder a personal right in that office.
This is an insane thought that cannot coexist in the same space as the democratic principle that all elective offices are owned by the people. In the case of the nation, the offices are owned by the electorate. In the case of the APC, party officials occupy their positions on behalf of the party’s members who are the true owners of its institutions. Office holders are fiduciary agents not owners. That Oyegun so blatantly misinterpreted this fundamental aspect of democratic governance is telling. Oyegun’s claim of a personal property right in the chairmanship was so antithetical to democracy that merely advocating such a regressive and unabashed notion revealed his unfitness for the high responsibility he held.
Fortunately, both the office and its sober responsibilities were taken from his custody.
It is no surprise, given his antics as National Chairman, that Oyegun has tried to exacerbate intra-party tensions in Edo state. But it is a strange moment when the thief seeks vengeance because the rightful owners thwarted his escape with their goods. The man claimed to be a party elder but it is wisdom more than age that tenders such status. Without wisdom, a man of advanced years is simply a man of advanced years. He has done nothing to broker peace. Oyegun has done precisely the opposite by carefully using words that he hoped would stoke intramural war.
He has pitched himself as the blind admirer of Governor Obaseki not because he believes in the Governor. Oyegun did this because he simply has no other place to go. He desperately walked through the only door opened to him. He attaches himself to Obaseki not because of a shared vision of democratic governance but as a marriage of convenience. As is his right, Governor Obaseki sought support from wherever available in his quest for the party nomination. As is his wrong, Oyegun joined the effort not to support Obaseki but to vainly try to regain a modicum of political relevance. Toward this objective, Oyegun is willing to do and say anything. Falsifying the words of the President is not beyond him.
Oyegun’s only loyalty is to feeding of his personal ambitions; it comes as no surprise that he would make incorrect claims about the President. Oyegun had the temerity to write and publish a claim that the President wanted Obaseki re-nominated without recourse to a primary. Oyegun knew this was false because he knew that the president had insisted on subjecting himself to a primary to obtain the party’s re-nomination in 2019. When his deceit was revealed, the unregenerate Oyegun did not apologize. He merely shifted his focus toward besmirching his successor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Oyegun would do well to remember that Oshiomhole replaced him but did not remove him. If Oyegun wants to find the person most responsibility for his ouster, he should rush to the nearest mirror. He ruined himself and almost the party. He weakened the party’s internal organs and sidestepped vital checks and balances. He made an incoherent mash of the primary process. He willingly hired himself out to PDP fifth column that temporarily infiltrated the party. After his naked attempt to defy the party’s constitution by elongating his tenure, Oyegun was escorted to the exit by the popular will of the party. Most party members and officials had tired of Oyegun’s lethargic leadership. His eventual defeat in the 2018 National Caucus was more than a relief; it was a rescue.
Let’s return for a moment to Oyegun’s attempt at awarding himself an extra year in office. This episode clearly demonstrated Oyegun’s disdain for the party’s constitution. The APC Constitution contains express provisions regarding the election of party officials and their tenures. The constitution contains not a single word that would suggest the unilateral extension of any term in office, including that of the National Chairman. In fact, the idea of tenure elongation is abhorrent to the spirit and every word of the document. For Oyegun to espouse such a doctrine means he never read the constitution or that he read it both upside down and backwards.
After his cardinal indiscretions, it stretches credulity to think he would deem himself fit to proffer comment on the present situation. Before lecturing others on the flaws of their ways, Oyegun’s time would be better spent exorcising the demons that guide his heart and peck at his mind.
The crises within the party resulting from Oyegun’s machinations should not easily be forgotten. His determination to remain the National Chairman was so great that he was willing to sacrifice the party’s entire governance structure at the altar of his ambition. His mismanagement of the party’s ward and state congresses led to violence, rancour and litigation across the country. Knowing that confusion and a weakened party structure would abet his schemes, he was only too happy to let the party organs crumble so that he might arrogate power that did not properly reside with him. Even the re-election of the President and consolidation of the party’s 2015 electoral gains were of minor importance to positioning himself as perpetual regent and potentate of the APC.
Present chairman Oshiomhole has his flaws like any other man. He has made mistakes at the helm. However, he distinguishes himself from Oyegun in his attitude to leadership. Oshiomhole stands ever ready to work for others. He campaigned tirelessly the president’s re-election and that of our governors. If Oyegun had remained at the helm, the results of the 2019 elections may have been much less of a resounding victory for the party.
While National Chairman, Chief Oyegun led the party toward his private needs. He thus misled the party and has clearly learned nothing new since then. Rather than foment trouble and fake headlines, he should try to make amends for his misdeeds. The first step would be to find the nearest dictionary and look up the word “democracy,” then memorize its definition. By this simple act, he would have made himself wiser and he would have done more for the party and nation than any anything he did during his term as party chairman.
Osasuwa is a political analyst based in Benin-City, Edo State.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary