APC, Oyegun and the Search for a Reputable Chairman
By Osareti Joseph
One great secret of success in life? Constancy of purpose. That is the word of wisdom from Benjamin Disraeli. Also, according to the thinker, Ron Karenga anyone who wants to achieve enduring landmarks along the chequered lanes of life, should not tread the well-worn paths that others have passed through. To make your mark, you have to be different, you have to be you! You have to move away from the madding crowd
Interestingly, one great Nigerian who typifies this definition is none other than Chief Odigie-Oyegun who, incidentally became the first Executive Governor of Edo State in January 1992. To the average Nigerian, the word 'politician' connotes that of a questionable character. Especially one who is dubious, avaricious, chameleonic and ready to make promise at the drop of a hat. Mind you, such promises he knows he is not inclined or obliged to keep. Or, even if he does that would be for himself, members of his family, friends, acolytes and anyone ready to praise him to the highest heaven.
Put simply, he is more propelled by his selfish inclinations, whims and caprices; to satisfy his greed for gains than meeting the needs of the people he claims to serve. He therefore, says one thing but does another. Again, our subject here makes a different paradigm. He is the exception rather than the rule.
Please, meet Chief Odigie-Oyegun, who at various times, served the Boards of several public, private and international entities. Some of these include the now defunct Nigeria Airways; Nigerian National Shipping Line; Nigerian Ports Authority, Regency Paints Ltd; Editorial Board of Guardian Newspapers amongst others. He was also a member of the Governing Council of the Federal University of Technology, Akure and also represented Nigeria on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The question then arises as to why Chief Oyegun was always considered as the square peg to fill any square hole, be it in the public and private sector. The answer is not far fetched. Even amidst the institutional rot that the Nigerian nation had witnessed over the decades, there was always the innate search for a moral compass to chart the way forward from the stormy waters. And Oyegun it was who often came to mind by top technocrats and seasoned administrators looking for that singular individual to make the desired change.
The salient reason for this is hinged on moral uprightness; for one to muster that rare courage to do what is right, sacrificing one's wild inclinations for the good of others. The other factor of course, has to do with his wealth of planning and management experience.
His friends and associates wanting the brightest and the best for his state and Nigeria were happy by his decision to make a foray into politics. And did he succeed? Yes, he did. First was in 1991 when he contested and won the gubernatorial contest on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SPD and became the first Executive Governor of Edo State in January 1992. As the state governor, Oyegun with a welfarist agenda, as a true progressive proclaimed right from his day of inauguration free education at all levels, free health services for children and maternal cases.
Subsequently, he inaugurated a modern and subsidized urban mass transit system in the three main cities of Benin City, Auchi and the University town of Ekpoma. The reason was clearly based on the welfare of the people and so every home in the state became immediate beneficiaries from the resources that belong to them.
With him at the helm of state affairs citizens of the Heartbeat of the Nation had several reasons to smile. In spite of the meager resources at his disposal a number of critical projects were implemented through prudent management of resources. He started with the completion of long-abandoned projects, which represented public resources tied down and unproductive. The initial efforts were concentrated on completing such projects that were of significant value to the welfare of the people. Amongst these were Oba Market, the Cultural Centre, State Water Board Headquarters on Sapele Road.
During the same period a major Federal Institution NABTEB was relocated to Edo State and the Federal Government was also successfully lobbied to take over the Polytechnic in Auchi.
To his legion of admirers, these laudable achievements did not come as a surprise. He is a true democrat, who walks the talk. Indeed, as man of steadfast principles, courage and conviction, Chief Oyegun sacrificed all to play a key role in the crisis that followed the aborted and now historic June 12 elections of 1992 and the crisis that followed. He was one of the staunch members of NADECO, who paid a steep price when he was forced into exile where he emerged the Executive Secretary to the NADECO-Abroad.
Along with the likes of progressive and passionate patriots such as Chief Anthony Enahoro(now late), Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof. Wole Soyinka he waged a relentless struggle for a permanent end to military rule and the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. He has since remained a principled yet prime actor on the Nigerian political stage.
Chief Odigie-Oyegun was the Deputy Chairman, ANPP Board of Trustees and before his nomination as Vice Presidential Candidate and until recently, was Deputy National Chairman (S) of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. He is also the National Chairman of the South-South Peoples Assembly.
With his proud pedigree in business and politics, history beckons on him to move on to conquer new territories as 2015 inches closer by the day. For those still yearning to know more about this distinguished Nigerian, here is a peep into his beginnings.
Chief John Evboyomwan Kenneth Odigie-Oyegun was born on the 12th August 1939 into the family of Pa Daniel Osagiede Odigie-Oyegun, a member of the British Empire (MBE) and distinguished citizen of Ikoha, in Ovia South West L.G.A. of Edo State, and Madam Shaka Elizabeth Odigie-Oyegun, nee Amurun.
He ended his elementary education at Holy Cross Catholic School, Benin City, and gained early admission, from class five instead of six, into the prestigious St. Patrick's College, Asaba in 1953, passing West African School Certificate Examination in Division 1 in 1957. He did his 'A' Levels at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Ibadan, between 1958 and 1960. By the year 1963, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had bagged a Bachelor of Science, (Hons.) Lond. in Economics at the nation's premier University, the University College, Ibadan.
Postgraduate institutions attended by this distinguished Nigerian include:
United Nations Economic Development and Planning Institute, Dakar, Senegal, between 1966 and 1967, where he was the only participant that earned his post-graduate Diploma at Merit (Distinction) Level, and the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank in Washington DC, U.S.A. in 1970 where he trained in Transportation and Utilities Planning. In 1978 he attended a top Management, Leadership and Decision making Programme organized by the University of Pittsburgh and the famous Brookings Institute of Washington DC.
He joined the Federal Civil Service in 1963, worked in various capacities and at different levels and was appointed a Federal Permanent Secretary in 1975 at age 36 a record for those days. In this capacity he served Cabinet Office, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Ministry of Communications, 1978-82; Ministry of Science and Technology, 1982-83; Ministry of Internal Affairs, February to September 1984; Ministry of Commerce and Industry, September 1984 to December 1985.
By the time he retired in December 1985, he had put in a total of twenty-two years in the Federal Public Service, nine of which he served as Permanent Secretary in several Ministries.
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is married to Victoria Nkosenyem Oyegun (nee Ugbode) of Ogbe-olu quarters in Illah in Delta State and they are blessed with children. His hobbies include Music, Reading and Table Tennis.