Former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, in this interview insists that the merger of opposition parties to give the electorate a better alternative will sail through. He also says Northern leaders must check the activities of Boko Haram or be held responsible if Nigeria disintegrates. Excerpts:
On former Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav’s allegation that Southern leaders were trumpeting the breakup of the country because a southerner is at the helm of affairs of the country.
I am not aware of any Southern leader trumpeting the breaking up of the country. But as a matter of fact, the truth I must say, is the opposite. With the kind of civil strife going on today in the North, there cannot be any other objective except to break up the country. What is going on in the North is unacceptable. The concept of suicide bombing is unacceptable to me as a Southerner and I insist that it is just crazy, I don’t know where it is coming from, I cannot understand what will make anybody bomb innocent people in churches and also in the market place. I don’t understand that.
So, if they cannot put their house in order, and as a result there is a threat to the corporate existence of the nation, they should look inward for the causes of the strife that is going on. But it is clear that this is not in our culture and founding of the Nigerian nation, why, this suicide bombing, killing people who are worshipping their God. Why? It is just insanity. So, they should look inward and not point accusing fingers at the South. When we had conflict in the Niger Delta, the purpose was clear.
It was to send a message to say, look, we are being marginalized; resources are being taken from our environment and the environment is being decremented, please we need attention, we need help. And finally it was even a northern president who saw the injustice of what was going on and constructed what we now call the amnesty programme. The purpose of that was very clear, what is the purpose of the civil strife and the murderous attitude among the so-called Boko- Haram in the North. It is difficult to understand, so, they should look inward, they should not look for solutions where they do not exist.
The year 2014 will mark 100 years of the amalgamation of the South with the North by Lord Fredrick Lugard. Is there a basis for sustaining the union today?
Well, I think there is. There is nothing like a large nation, there is nothing like the population we have, there is this reality that close to 100 years, have worked relatively smoothly together and of course, the struggle for power is always there and it is when there is struggle for power that we remember where we come from and the rest of it. I pray that we can stay as a nation because our impact in the international arena will be much better the way we are and I don’t think there are traces here that will call to question the fundamentals of the amalgamation which took place long ago, which again was for economic reasons and those economic reasons still exist up to today.
I hope we stay as one, but if we can’t at the end of the day after all in the whole world now, we have begun to have nation states all over the place; Belgium; Slovakia, Czech, all in peaceful separation. I hope and sincerely pray that it does not come to that.
ON the formation of mega political party by opposition parties
The formation of the mega party is not for the sole aim of contesting the 2015 presidential election because that will be interpreted to mean that our sole purpose is to remove the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
We pray that will happen but the core of our coming together is to present the Nigerian electorate with an alternative. An alternative with a credible message; an alternative that identifies with their pains, an alternative that identifies with their aspiraions.
As at today, however much we abuse the PDP, however how much we are all aware that they are mjis-governing the country, Nigerians gave no credible alternative to the PDP.
So, we are trying to construct for the benefit of the Nigerian people an alternative that will also have a national image and a national spread. But to re-emphasize what I said earlier, we want a party that identifies with the people, with the hope and aspirations of the Nigerian people. And we will make that very clear in the message we have when the right time comes.
On fears that alleged incompatability of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and sharing of offices may hurt the merger
That is why we are very cautious in what we are doing today. We are very cautious to cross bridges only when we get there. As at today, the talk of presidential candidate, vice- presidential candidates, governors, senatorial seats, or whatever, is taboo within the ranks of the parties that are interested in coming together.
What we are going to do is to ensure that we devise constitutional processes that are democratric and will be an expression of the will of the party members in the process of selecting candidates for any office whatsover, whether it is a party office or executive office. But that issue as at today is not on the table and mentioning of it too is virtually forbidden as far as meetings are concerned.