MEMBERS of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got an invitation on Sunday from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo – they should consider joining the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) before the main opposition party dies.
Speaking at a dinner to mark the 80th birthday celebration of former APC National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun, the vice president jokingly said: “It was time for my friends in the PDP to cross over to the APC.”
The dinner was attended by APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, who led members of the National Working Committee (NWC); governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano).
Also there were former governors Chris Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu, Rotimi Amaechi, Chukwuemeka Eziefe, Segun Osoba and the Catholic Bishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, among others.
Osinbajo recounted a story of an American Republican senator who told his bewildered family on his dying bed that he wanted to cross over to the Democrat before dying.
He said: “Let me tell a story of politician who was a long time life Republican politician in the United States (U.S.). He was lying down on a sick bed and was about to die, he said, ‘I want to change my party, I want to become a Democrat so that tomorrow it will be announced that a Democrat died not a Republican’.
“You can see that we politicians very faithful and very loyal indeed. I can only ask our friends in PDP also to ensure that they cross over before they die! It is time for them to cross over.”
He described Chief Odigie-Oyegun as a loyal party man, an excellent role model and leader who has always been his own man, charting his own course, sometimes, making some real troubles.
The vice president said: “I have always admired Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for two reasons. First reason is that somehow, he has always been his own man, charting his own course, sometimes, making some real troubles.
“For example, when as a permanent secretary, he raised contempt proceedings when he refused to testify in principle.
As a young man, I watch with bathed breadth when they were going to carry him to jail. But he ended up on the right side. It is not always that you find one on the right side of history. As a founding member of AD, a founding member of NADECO and later its secretary of those abroad; founding member of the APC and the first chairman, he is the one who led our party to that historic victory to unseat the ruling party.
“The second reason is that somehow, he manages to be so deep in Nigerian politics even though he doesn’t look like a politician or sound like one. He always sound like a fine, well-read and well-spoken gentleman driven into politics by some rascals.
“But indeed, he is a consummate politician and an astute strategist. It is this particular attribute of being in politics without being a politician that I will like to be when I grow up. Aside from lawyers, I do not know a group of people who are more maligned than politicians.
“People like Chief Oyegun have shown that politicians can be loyal and distinguished men and women and it makes us proud to belong to this company of credible human beings. Despite what people say, we are often more loyal than some other people.”
The celebrator said his wish is to see a Nigeria where merit would be used in the placement of individuals in positions, stressing that there was no part of the country where there are no qualified persons to be saddled with various jobs.
Odigie-Oyegun also called for a reward system for those who distinguished themselves in the service of the nation, stressing that while punishing those who threatened the nation either through corruption or others means, those who served meritoriously should be rewarded.
He told the audience: “God has been good to me and making my life such a pleasant one. I stand here today, not having spent in 80 years a single night on hospital bed. I really don’t know how to thank God. That was why I made it my first duty in Benin to go church and say Lord, thank you.
“I have only one prayer and hope. I have met, in the course of my journey a lot of people who gave me intense hope that this nation will yet be great and it is my belief that the Next level which we are now embarking with the new crop of ministers will indeed be the foundation for the greatness of this nation.”
He said that war against corruption embarked upon should be a permanent feature that would percolate through the state to the local government areas.
The former APC chair said: “It should not be left for a President Buhari as if he is one unusual man there who wants to fight everybody. It is something that we must totally internalise.
“We should use the carrot and stick. While we are punishing those who are threatening our nation whether by corruption or any other means, we must also at every turn or every stage reward service to the nation.”
The Guest Speaker and former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, gave Nigerians a wake-up call to take the country back from looters and promoters of ethnic sentiments as well as all those things that tend to divide the Nigerian people.
“We, as a people must take our country back from the enemies of the country, the looters, the destroyers of our natural resource, from the professional defenders of ethnic interest or whatever name and all those who thrive on what divide us.
“Nations are built by exemplary men and women and sustained by institutions that promote good governance. Oyegun is a shining example of one such person. He has served meritoriously.
“Governance is not for the sake of governance alone or for those who are governing, but for the welfare of all the people that make up our country. That is why we have to grow the economy and have means of livelihood. According to a UN estimate, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world by 2050.
“We might think it is a long time from now, but it is not. So, what are we doing now to ensure that there will be means of livelihood for these enormous numbers of people, their welfare, their security and their school. What kind of educational system that we should have to address this population.
b“Many of our people often think that the solution to our country’s problems is with the leader alone. We have tried that before and it did not work. Now, we have problems of corruption, insecurity and we are saying let Buhari solve it. President Buhari cannot solve alone.”