John Odigie-Oyegun, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says President Muhammadu Buhari was not brought to power by the elite but by ordinary Nigerians.
Odigie-Oyegun made the comment when he received the 9th Benin National Award from the Bini National Congress in Benin, the Edo State Capital.
Though Odigie-Oyegun acknowledged that “there is hunger in the land” and “that the economy is in relatively bad shape”, he insisted that things would have been worse were it not for the effectiveness of the Buhari-led administration, stressing that “there was no kobo” left in Nigeria’s treasury when APC took over power in 2015.
“Yes, I accept there is hunger in the land, yes, I accept that the economy is in relatively bad shape,” he said.
“If I tell you now that what we inherited were far worse and you hear some of the details, I won’t be surprised if people go out and ask for stricter measures on those who have brought this country to its knees.
“As at the time we took over, there wasn’t a single kobo anywhere. As if that was not enough, the price of crude collapsed.
“But the good news is that for the first time in its history, this country is finally building an economic base that is based on the sweat of Nigerians, which means we will never again suffer from the kind of humiliation we have had resulting from the collapse of the one item that sustained this nation, which is crude oil.
“Today, agriculture is blossoming; young people are taking up farming as a business. Today we are almost independent in the production of rice.
“Today, we are almost self-sufficient in a lot of the grains that we depend on in this nation. Today we are opening up solid mineral mines all over the country.
“Things have started to solidify. The economy has started to grow. It is not a switch, it is something that will take time. But once we are there, this nation will never experience the type of recession that we had in the past.”
According to Odigie-Oyegun, “change is not bridges. Change is not electricity. Change is not roads. Change is my perception as to what is right or what is wrong or what needs to be done and being faithful in getting it done”.
“For as long as we Nigerians have the wrong type of morality, ethics, not all the roads in this world will get us out of the economic morass we find ourselves,” he continued.
“So change also means a change of attitude, morality, ethics, knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.
“A system that rewards competence, productivity rather than a system that adulates wealth for the sake of the fact that somebody has money.
“When I joined the service as an economic planner, the World Bank put Nigeria ahead of Brazil, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan. Today, we are importing second-hand Brazilian planes. So what went wrong with us?
“Finally we have a President who is insisting painfully on bringing Nigeria back to the path of rectitude, progress and enable Nigeria attain its destiny.
“Until President Buhari, we were a laughing stock. Today, we are gaining respectability. So it is important that we don’t lose momentum.”
Odigie-Oyegun said he had no worries about Buhari winning another election, as the ordinary Nigerians are solidly behind him.
“Let me make one thing clear, President Buhari was not elected by the elite, I hope you know that. If he depended on the elite, Buhari may not be president today. And if he depended on the elite … Buhari will not be President tomorrow,” he said.
“But the ordinary people of this country look up to him as the symbol of the kind of persons, leadership and the kind of country that they want Nigeria to become.
“He is a symbol, a lighthouse, a guide. He doesn’t have to be good at everything, but he has that attribute which the ordinary Nigerian is telling us is what they need.”