The Challenge Of Change Is Upon Us, APC Chair Oyegun Tells Reps-Elect
It gives me immense pleasure to address you today as victorious All Progressives Congress (APC) members-elect of the House of Representatives of the 8th National Assembly. Your victory at the polls came with a lot of sacrifice in the face of very strong opposition from the outgoing ruling party. I am therefore very delighted to welcome you to this retreat, organised by your party, to provide an interactive forum to chart a path of understanding and collaboration between yourselves, the executive and the party in order to work harmoniously to achieve our legislative agenda.
This being the first meeting with all of you together since our emphatic victory at the polls , let me use this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of you on your individual success and your contributions to the overall triumph of our party at the general elections.
While I congratulate all of you on your elections, I must caution that your task is not easy. This is because you are being called to service at one of the most challenging periods in the history of our nation. You must dig deep into your inner reserves of wisdom, unshakeable faith in country and a fearless commitment to service of fatherland in order to surmount the daunting legislative challenge that will swiftly face you in the days and weeks to come.
I have no doubt in my mind that the coming days will be rough and tough choices will have to be made. This is not intended to scare but rather to frame the magnitude of the challenge that confronts us. This is because to reposition our country for growth and development hard choices concerning the way we managed our business in the past and our attitude to public assets have to be undertaken.
Upon assumption of office, our government will be expected to raise about 4.1 trillion Naira to pay accumulated arrears of salaries at Federal and State levels, oil subsidy debts, costs of debt servicing and other sundry indebtedness incurred by the outgoing administration. When this is weighed against the massive depletion of national savings like the excess crude account (ECA), additional huge debt of about 60 billion United States dollars and the sharp fall in crude oil prices in the international market, one can begin to contextualise the magnitude of problems that confront the incoming administration. This has not taken into account huge amount of funds lost to crude oil theft on an ongoing basis through negligence and in some cases officially sanctioned corruption. Yet our people expect massive investment in infrastructure, public works to create jobs and cash transfer reliefs to ameliorate the harsh economic environment.
For many of our fellow citizens, by May 30th, a day after the swearing of our President-elect, all fuel queues will vanish, corruption will disappear and all arrears of salaries paid and all our roads paved, while electricity will become stable.
Challenging as our economic problems are the more unnerving task ahead of us – the near or total collapse of our value system. This is at the core of endemic corruption, insecurity and the unbelievable disregard for good conduct in our society. It can therefore not be business as usual, if we must reposition our country. As I said in a similar forum to our Governors-elect, we must begin to demonstrate in the little things that we do, that ‘Change’ has come. Our populace will begin to notice that ‘Change’ is upon us when they notice from our personal life style and conduct a strong dislike for ostentation, an abhorrence of waste and zero tolerance for corruption. There is therefore an urgent and pressing need for fundamental reorientation of our attitudes and value system.
This is the soft side of the national change agenda that will be pursued with relentless vigour when the fight against corruption and indiscipline by your incoming administration commences. Legislative action and the moral force of your personal example will be needed to underscore the seriousness and urgency of the moral reform agenda.
You, our Representatives-elect acting with your colleagues in the Senate, will be called upon to take unusual actions to address the extraordinary challenges that confront our nation. Our new administration will need the support and cooperation of the 8th National Assembly to fulfil its campaign promise to Nigerians.
You may be required to pass important bills at very short notices. There will be unprecedented demands on you, but as members of the same party with the President and having campaigned on a common manifesto, your buy-in to the programmes of the President and the Party is assumed. There is therefore an assured willingness to work with him and the party for the benefit of all Nigerians. The demands on you will be tasking, but you are up to the task!
You must feel encouraged that in this worthy endeavour of stabilising and rebuilding our country, your task is made easier because we have the majority, though we would prefer a bi-partisan approach. More than the legislative majority is the abundant good will of our teeming population who are ready for change and will support us if they can discern that we are working for their best interest.
So history beckons on you to stand up for our nation, as in the words of our national anthem, ‘Arise O Compatriots Nigeria’s call obey, to serve our fatherland, with love and strength and faith’.
Honourable Members-elect, I am confident that because all of us , the executive, legislature and the party share in the common vision of ‘ Change’, the synergy of our common effort will make the burden of performance lighter. Let each one of us do its bit to the best of our ability in our shared endeavour of delivering the handsome dividend of ‘change’ to our long suffering citizens.
May I remind you, that in a few days, in fact in less than 72 hours we would have transformed from opposition to the governing party, and all eyes will focus on us. Are we going to practice what we preach? Is our government going to be lean and effective or bogus and ostentatious? Is our oversight function over the executive going to be vindictive to the point of hounding or will it be focused on directing efforts towards goals achievement? We will soon be on the stage and our performance will determine the trajectory of our nation, which also will determine if we can win the next elections on the record of our performance.
The problems confronting our country are not only economic but there are also social and value issues like corruption and insecurity that require legislative and executive action to confront.
Against the realities on the ground, some of which I listed earlier, reviving our economy and dealing with corruption and insecurity will be a long and tortuous process. Bold decisions will need to be taken, and this can only be possible if there is a synergy among our party, the National Assembly and the President. We know you will not fail us, and you will not fail Nigerians. History beckons and you must stand up to be numbered amongst those who made the sacrifice and put in the hard work in the battle to rescue our nation.
Your Party appreciates the need for a regular forum between the legislature, the executive and the party to provide for the flow and mutual exchange of ideas, as basis for promoting harmonious relationship and achievement of the common goal. After consultation with your leadership and the executive, such a forum will we be institutionalised. Our experience with the organisation of a retreat for the governors-elect and another for the senators-elect was very instructive and beneficial. We shall build upon the experience.
Finally let me end on a note of cheer, our country lies prostrate today not because of a lack of resource endowment, but mainly because of poor choices by a leadership that was utterly disconnected from the people. Ours will be different and our valiant efforts can only lead to quick recovery which can readily be noticed by our people.
So the call comes ringing over our land to you our Members–Elect to join the charge to reclaim our land, restore hope to our people and heal our land. Just be the best legislator that you can be in the service of Nigeria and work tirelessly and sacrificially with our champion of change, His Excellency, President –Elect, Muhammadu Buhari. Working together we shall overcome.
* Being the text of an address by the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun CON, at a two-day retreat for all APC Members of the House of Representatives-elect at the Rockview Hotel in Abuja on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015.