Former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has called on the ruling party and, by extension, all political parties to get rid of godfathers and entrench internal democracy in political parties in Nigeria.
Oyegun, who spoke in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, lamented that the phenomenon called godfatherism had done so much damage to political parties and democracy in the country. His call is coming barely three weeks after another chieftain of the APC and Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai made a similar demand and provided a recipe for dethroning political godfathers in the system.
Oyegun, who conducted the first general primaries of APC in 2014, said the lack of internal democracy in political parties had increased the number of cases in court. He urged the APC and other political parties to shun godfatherism and allow internal democracy thrive as the consequences of lack of it were too grave.
His words: “I think the basic problem we have all over is the godfather thing. Internal democracy simply means that if 10 people want to vie for an office, so be it. Let the electorate decide.
“But when party leaders are the ones deciding who is fit or who is not fit, that becomes a problem.
That is the decision of the electorate. And when they start displacing persons with their friends and other undesirable inducement, that is totally unacceptable. The damage it does is that you are destroying the belief of the electorate in due process. So, it becomes more difficult to accept the result of an election.
“The moment people start believing that they cannot get a fair share, that the system cannot be fair to them, whereas if you painstakingly pursue the process of letting the electorate decide, eventually you will find out that this going to court will begin to go down. But once you do otherwise, people would have at the back of their minds that they are not fairly treated and would look for every manner of excuse to go to court.
That alone opens up the judicial system and the entire political system to another level and different levels of corruption. “So, the damage is intense and I pray that our politicians will see the need for a proper internal democracy and allow due process and allow the people to thoroughly decide.”
The former APC national chairman, whose comments came while assessing political developments in Nigeria in the last two decades, expressed concern at the rising insecurity in the land and admonished President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the challenge of insecurity. According to him, it would be hypocritical for anybody to pretend that the issue of insecurity in the country is a fluke as the various incidents of kidnapping, banditry and insurgency were too glaring to be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
On the recent controversy triggered by the comments of the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on alleged Islamisation and Fulanisation plots, Oyegun commended the former leader for playing the role of a statesman by speaking out when he considered that things were going wrong. According to him, Obasanjo would remain the desire of all nations given his high level of patriotism, doggedness and uncommon courage while telling truth to power. “Well, I respect him. Every nation needs a man like that just like the people’s SAN, Chief Gani Fawhemi and a lot of activists. What is happening is that because of his status, his experience, his background, what he says becomes infinitely weighty and cannot be ignored. It may be dramatized, but he is addressing an issue that is with us.
I just told you that this issue of socalled Fulani herdsmen and the copy cats that have followed it has to be addressed. “So, the issue has to be addressed. I wouldn’t give it the kind of Islamization tag that is given to it, but there is no question at all that it calls for worry because these people exist virtually in every state of the federation and, very soon, it would lead to unpleasantness in all over the country. “So, the issue has to be addressed and, as I told you that as far as I am concerned, it would be one of the first priority of the next level administration,” Oyegun said. On the calibre of persons expected to serve in President Buhari’s next cabinet, the former APC national chairman charged the President to appoint men and women of integrity into the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to assist him in driving his vision for Nigeria.
“First, they must be people who believe in his vision. Considering the man we have as President, we need thoroughly honest people who share his vision, aspirations for this country and are ready to go all out honestly and diligently to work and bring about the kind of change we are asking for.
“We have adopted the next level, so it must be clear that we are going to move to the next level. The kind of faces that we would be looking forward to see are faces that when their names are mentioned, the public will say thank God because they see hope, they see competence, they see honesty, they see passion, they see people who believe in a greater Nigeria, people who believe that we don’t have to be where we are. That things can be much, much better and things will be much, much better in this second term,” he said.