Former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni is the Deputy National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this encounter with Niyi Bello (Political Editor), he said the extension of the tenure of the National Working Committee (NWC) would not mar Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s presidential mandate to reconcile aggrieved factions of the party.
With the feeling among Nigerians that the APC has failed on its pledges, is the party still electable?
What we campaigned for in 2015 is still fresh in our memory. Boko Haram was then holding some territories in Nigeria’s Northeast. We said priority one would be security, to ensure that Boko Haram is dealt with, and Boko Haram has been dealt with. The situation is not perfect yet, and no country in the world has been able to deal with terrorism in a way that is perfect. We are all struggling with it, even the big ones, including the United States, are still struggling with terrorism. So, Boko Haram has now been reduced to occasional outbursts, and I’m sure the military would take care of that.
We promised to fight a war against corruption that was riding on golden horses all over the place, taunting us with its proceeds. Today, we have created a situation where even if somebody is corrupt, he would be trying to hide the proceeds and hide himself. The war is not over yet. So much has been recovered from people. You can imagine some of the mind-boggling figures that we are hearing that have been confiscated from people. You will know that Nigeria has really almost gone under with the level of stealing that occurred in the regime of President Jonathan. So, after such a regime, we had two options. It is either to allow Nigeria to take a plunge and sink completely or to keep it afloat by checkmating and ensuring that a total war would be fought against not just that but also the tendency that produced it. I am happy to say that Nigeria has been raised afloat.
On the economy, no country in the world has stayed alive with the kind of stealing that went on under the Jonathan regime. They were not just stealing the budget, which was the maximum that anybody was doing before. But this was so mindless, and I don’t think it has happened in any country of the world that I know, that after stealing the budget, they were not satisfied and started stealing the revenue and competing with Nigeria for market share for oil. They were exporting and what they were exporting was from a zero cost base. The economy is now stable. It is stabilized, it can no longer go down, it can only come up.
But the people are not really feeling the positive effects of these achievements
If a drowning man was rescued from a pond, will he begin to show the capability to run immediately? If the people who threw him into the pond are now saying because he has not been running instantly, that nothing has been done, I am sure the person who was thrown to the pond would know that there is a difference between what it was and what it is now. The economy is beginning to move up. Let me make rice as an example. In December before the last, out of every hundred bags of rice that people gave out as Christmas and New Year presents, I am sure that at least ninety came from outside the shores of Nigeria. And most of this was expired rice that was just being dumped. But this last December, out of every hundred bags, at least ninety were produced locally. The effect of this is that those who are productive in that terrain already know that their life is better. Of course, it is going to take a longer time for somebody who does not work. That is why we have to let our people know that it is better to have something doing than to start complaining all the time. There are a lot of opportunities. They should try and grab these to be productive.
Let me tell you, the people who are complaining the most are from states that are not doing much to complement what the Federal Government is doing. States that are doing much, that seized the opportunity to do as much as they can so that their people can benefit, their people are into farming, they are into other ventures, the complaints are less. But in states where all they do is gallivant and infect people with the complaining mentality, those are the places where the pangs are more severe.
The fault lines in the formation of the APC are getting widened as the PDP; ACN and CPC arms are still fighting one another. When will the APC become a united party?
This is a matter of blending. You may not provide a perfect blend in one term of four years. In four years, we may not produce a kind of blend that we would say this is perfect. This is work in progress, we will continue to work on it. The only thing we need from everybody, high and low, is sincerity of purpose. If we are all sincere that, as family, we must work together, we don’t have any option, we must accommodate one another, we must listen to one another, we will do it, and it will be well. My own is to say, let us try and encourage everybody, work conscientiously and see ourselves as one family. Because this is the family to which we belong now, not the older associations that we used to belong, no. We are now members of this family. We should make this family work, and it must work well, not only for the interests of that party but also for the interests of Nigeria.
But the extension of APC NWC tenure is believed to have jeopardized the Tinubu presidential reconciliation process.
No, I don’t think it has jeopardized the reconciliation process. It is not something that can be marred by anything; we need it. That is going to be the saving grace for our party. It is a very, very solid platform on which the party would stand for the future. So, I don’t think anything would touch it, I don’t think anything would mar it, I don’t think anything would affect it.
The strains of division are really felt in Ekiti where some old ACN members think that those from other platforms are joiners.
You see, politics is also business that everybody comes into with personal objectives, and they don’t want anything that can obliterate the personal objectives. If they think it is to make allegations that they will get there, or to even do outright lying and so on, people would resort to it. But these are individuals’ actions to be able to achieve what they want to achieve. It does not mean that this is the trend everywhere. If we continue to work conscientiously and with sincerity of purpose, these differences will be reducing as we are going on. It will not disappear overnight but it will continue to reduce.
With just a few weeks to the Ekiti APC governorship primaries, what are your chances?
My chances are bright. As we are talking, I don’t know anybody whose chances are brighter. I would say that first; a lot of people believe that it is something that I can do. And there was some pressure. The Number One priority of our party is to be in government, and we do not want to take chances. The PDP is there, and to drive them away, we have to have the kind of force that will be solid enough to dislodge them. And I think they believe that if I am championing this game, that it would be much easier to muster that kind of force, because I left the PDP, and I left a lot of people who can attest to my capability and who are still willing to stake their everything to say that, yes, we have met with this guy, we’ve worked with him, we think he is good, he is worthy. So, it will be easier for me to break the ranks of the PDP than anyone else. I think that is the reason why the people who came around to say, look, it is you that we want to delegate this job to.
Ekiti PDP under Fayose in Ekiti is seen as a formidable force. How do you hope to defeat such a force?
Even within the PDP, they are expecting an implosion the moment I secure the ticket, because many of them can compare the leadership I gave to the leadership that they are experiencing. Don’t forget politics and governance is a people experience, perception loaded, and human development oriented activity. I was there, they saw me, and after me, they saw others. And in their own view, most of them believe they would rather have my type of leadership.