National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) Dr. Frederick Fasehun, has reaffirmed his leadership of the political group, just as he also denied reports making the rounds that he had quit politics.
Fasehun made this clarification when anxious members and officers of UPN stormed his Century Hotel office in Lagos, following reports by a section of the media that their National Chairman announced he had ended active politicking.
In a statement yesterday, Fasehun described as wrong and misleading insinuations that he announced his resignation from politics and UPN during a speech he made Saturday at an event marking his 80th birthday at the Yard 158 Events Centre, Oregun, Lagos.
“I am a Democrat to the core. And I cannot just on my own say ‘bye-bye’ to politics. No! It will be a collective decision by my party and my associates,” Dr. Fasehun said in a statement circulated in Lagos today. “Although I turned 80 last week, I have been especially blessed with a virile constitution, great health and sound mind. And it would be a disservice to God, humanity and the nation for me to be quitting active politics at this time.”
“What I actually said was that with the good age and health that God has blessed me with, I am counted as one of Nigeria’s elder statesmen and I would be available henceforth to provide non-partisan and cross-partisan direction for the benefit of nation-building,” he reiterated.
According to Fasehun, who is also Founder/President of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), some reporters present at the event apparently misinterpreted his speech.
Fasehun said: “Of course, I have no intention of heading UPN for life. In time, we shall work out a succession plan, but it will be in consonance with the authentic leaders of UPN.
“I count it an honour to walk in the footsteps of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and lead this legacy party. But I will not leave the party in crisis. We shall resolve all issues and settle the party into its historical role within the Nigerian political milieu. Thereafter, the bonafide leaders and stakeholders in UPN will work out a succession plan. The particular time and place no one can say for now.
“What I said on Saturday is what I have always said. I only reiterated the fact that at my age, Nigeria owes me no public office. I can neither accept nor serve in any public appointment.”
UPN’s National Deputy Publicity Secretary, Honourable Adeoye Jolaosho, said: “Everyone knows that the Nigerian Constitution stipulates an entry point for bonafide citizens to participate in politics, but the writers of the Constitution in their wisdom made no provision for an exit age.”
Moreover, Adeoye said, Fasehun at 80 years old was neither physically nor mentally infirm (a constitutional barrier for exempting a citizen from politics) to warrant him leaving the political stage.
“Nigeria needs men of character, integrity, vision and experience like Fasehun. And we in UPN are not ready to forego his leadership just yet,” the UPN officer said.
Fasehun revealed that he had been offered public offices that he turned down in the past.
“In the days of General Sani Abacha, General Oladipo Diya offered me the chairmanship of the National Economic Strategic Group, and I turned it down. General Diya is alive, anyone can confirm from him,” Fasehun said. “And a couple of years ago, during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, I was offered a health board chairmanship. I turned it down, and I passed over the appointment to someone younger.”
However, the UPN Chairman said that political participation was another kettle of fish and he had no intention of quitting politics.
Adeoye said that man was a political animal at any age, and recalled that Nigerian political leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, Adekunle Ajasin and Nnamdi Azikiwe never quit politics until their death.
“Even Mandela, until he breathed his last, and although he voluntarily relinquished the office of President, never retired from his party, the African National Congress (ANC),” Adeoye said.