All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, is challenging those accusing him of receiving gratification over the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives elections to prove their claim.
“It is my integrity they are trying to smear”, Oyegun fired back yesterday.
The party leader had been accused of being bribed to conduct mock election that produced Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as the APC candidates for the Senate President and House Speaker respectively.
But some APC senators not only defied the party’s choice, but also collaborated with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers to elect Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as House Speaker.
The opposition PDP Senator Ike Ekweremadu equally emerged as Deputy Senate President.
One of those who accused Oyegun of being compromised on the mock election issue and asked for his resignation was the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Timi Frank.
By virtue of his office, many see him as having taken sides, especially with the northern power bloc in the party seemingly being controlled by President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubukar.
Some quarters have also aligned him with the camp of Saraki, accusing him of ditching the camp of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which worked assiduously for his enthronement as National Chairman.
But the allegations, according to Oyegun are unfounded.
He maintained his neutrality in the emerging power blocs, saying that his interest was to bring the party back together to deliver on its campaign promises to Nigerians.
The APC leader spoke with Sunday Vanguard, yesterday. Excerpts:
His feelings on the crisis
•Oyegun and Buhari
“It is an unfortunate thing and I think it has arisen because of the clash within major interest groups within the party and that has given rise to gross disloyalty and an unacceptable level of indiscipline and disrespect to the party. But that notwithstanding, we are doing everything we can to stop this civil war and bring the party back again so that we can focus on our essential agenda of delivering service to the people of this nation. What is happening now is very unacceptable and painting us in a very bad light. But thank God we have this period of recess in the National Assembly to bring things back together again. We are doing everything we can to ensure that by the time the national assembly reconvenes, all of these things would have been squarely behind us.
“Well, the issue is simple. Gratification to do what and for whom? And what have I done to justify that gratification except to stand as neutral as possible in the circumstance and emphasize adherence to the supremacy of the party. So that is it. Gratification for what? Let anybody who says he brought come out and say that. It is a public thing. It is my integrity they are trying to smear. That comes only through blackmail from some forces that feel that I am standing in the way for whatever their intentions are. But that is neither here nor there. What’s important is that we must put our party back together again and focus on the promises we have made to the Nigerian people.”
Punitive measures for indiscipline
“Well, at this stage, that is something we are still considering. When there is indiscipline, there are penalties. But first, in the process. When you restore peace, there has to be a make for the indiscipline. There is no question about that. One way or the other. But what is important now is putting the party back together.
Buhari’s intervention to end rift
The reality is that we will welcome all hands, all assistance to put things back together again. The president was right. The House has the freedom in consultation with the party which is exactly what has happened. But other interests have prevailed in the matter. The process has derailed but must be put back on the rails.
Smear campaign, call for resignation and reputation
That is going on all the time. People are trying to push me in one direction or the other but one thing I have to my credit is my neutrality. I don’t belong to any of the contending power blocs in the party. And of course, that has its price. And that is why you have heard a lot of it directed personally to smear me. I have built a reputation that has lasted for over 70 years. I don’t have to go and be taking peanuts from some political gladiators. So, whatever they try to do, they cannot smear my character. If anybody has given me gratification to do anything, let him come out and say so, where and when and how much.
The visit of eight governors
“Well, the Governors came to consult with me which is beautiful, legitimate and I valued the views and the ideas that they came with and that was all there was to it. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“There is a situation in the party and people have views to express and they came to express their views. It was very good and I value those views. We voted for change and we cannot start messing around now.”