Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should consider joining the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) before they die.
Osinbajo, who spoke Saturday night in Abuja at a dinner to mark the 80th birthday celebration of the immediate past national chairman of APC , Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, jokingly said “it’s time for my friends in the PDP to cross over to the APC.”
The vice president, who told a story of an American republican senator who told his bewildered family on his dying bed he wanted to cross over to the Democrat said: “Let me tell a story of politician who was a long time life republican politician in the US.
“He was lying down on a sick bed and was about to die, he said, ‘I want to change my party, I want to become a democrat so that tomorrow it will be announced that a democrat died not a republican’.
“You can see that we politicians are very faithful and very loyal indeed. I can only ask our friends in PDP also to ensure that they cross over before they die! It is time for them to cross over.”
Turning to the octogenarian, the vice president described Oyegun “as a loyal party man, an excellent role model and leader who has always been his own man, charting his own course, sometimes, making some real troubles.”
He said: “I have always admired Chief John Odigie Oyegun for two reasons. First reason is that somehow, he has always been his own man, charting his own course, sometimes, making some real troubles.
“For example, when as a permanent secretary, he raised contempt proceedings when he refused to testify in principle, as a young man, I watched with bathed breadth when they were going to carry him to jail.
“But he ended up on the right side. It is not always that you find one on the right side of history – as a founding member of AD, a founding member of NADECO and later its secretary of those abroad, founding member of the APC and the first chairman, the one who led our party to tat historic victory to unseat the ruling party.
“The second reason for my admiration is that somehow, he manages to be so deep in Nigerian politics even though he doesn’t look like a politician or sound like one.
“He always sounds like a fine, well-read and well-spoken gentleman driven into politics by some rascals. But indeed, he is a consummate politician and an astute strategist.
“It is this particular attribute of being in politics without being a politician that I will like to be when I grow up. Aside from lawyers, I do not know a group of people who are more maligned than politicians.
“People like Chief Oyegun have shown that politicians can be loyal and distinguished men and women and it makes us proud to belong to this company of credible human beings. Despite what people say, we are often more loyal than some other people.”
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Governors forum (NGF), the chairman and governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi described Odigie-Oyegun as a father, mentor and a quintessential gentleman whose counsel would remain useful to the country.
Governor Atiku Bagudu who led members of the progressive governors forum to the occasion, also eulogised the role played by Odigie -Oyegun in the victory of the APC during the 2015 poll.
He said: “I want to congratulate on behalf of all of us, Chief John Oyegun, who is celebrating his 80th birthday. I speak the mind of APC governors, we are very proud of you, we are very proud of your achievements. You have played your role in the evolution of our democracy.
“You have played a leading role in bringing the APC to government and everyone has acknowledged that, we acknowledged what you have done to our party and what you have done to Nigeria. All these you did quietly, unassumingly and gracefully. So, may God continue to keep you in good health. Congratulations sir.”
Responding, the celebrator, Chief Odigie-Oyegun said in his 80 years on earth, he was never admitted to any hospital for even a night.
The Benin born chief, who said God had been so partial to him, told the gathering that in his 80 years, there was nothing he truly set his eyes upon that he never achieved.
“At 80, I feel totally satisfied, totally happy that God has been kind to me. In fact, God has been partial towards me. I don’t know what I did right. Because in my total 80 years, there is nothing I truly set my eyes upon that I did not accomplish. I have enjoyed length of days. I have enjoyed absolutely good health. I have worked and interacted with some of the nicest people in this country.
“I was privileged to be part of forming APC. The fighting for the coming together of Nigeria’s opposition parties has been long and jettisoned before the advent of the APC. I have every reason to be thankful to God.
“I have every reason to be thankful to all of you who played one role or the other in making my life such a pleasant one. I stand here today not haven spent in 80 years, a single night on a hospital bed and I don’t know how to really thank God.”
Oyegun, however, called on the federal government to make merit a priority in appointing people to positions of authority.PDP counters
In its reaction, PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the ruling APC can only offer doom.
Ologbondiyan, who spoke to Blueprint Sunday on the telephone said, the PDP was very much alive and looking toward the judiciary to return its stolen presidential mandate.
He said: “Professor Osinbajo cannot understand the drumbeats playing across the nation. Its only that, that can account for his wishful invitation to our party members to decamp to the failed APC.
“Nigerians are looking towards the judiciary to return our party’s stolen presidential mandate in order for the nation to come out of the woods which the APC and Buhari Presidency has plunged her. We are not surprised because he is acting true to what the APC can offer – doom.”