Why PDP should give it to Bode George
In my column, The burden of victory of July 21, 2017, published shortly after the Supreme Court settled the leadership tussle in the PDP in favour of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party, I urged the party leaders to bury the hatchet or whatever and get on with the complex challenges of rebuilding their party.
I am returning to the same theme, more or less, because the PDP leaders seem to treat their challenges with levity. I do not think they fully understand that elections are not won with prayers or the spirited construction of castles in the air. Their grandstanding will not shake the opposition party, APC. They need to do more and to show the rest of us that they are serious about making their party strong again. Not because of the 2019 general elections but more importantly to sustain our party democracy through political pluralism. It is important for me to quote part of that column lest I be accused of being a closet PDP man engaged in the unproductive labour of promoting the party. Here is part of what I wrote:
“I have no particular love for the party. Whether it dies or survives would not make much difference to me as a person. But as a citizen of a black nation that has managed all these years to squander its riches and opportunities and abdicate its divine right to lead black nations and be the pride of black people everywhere, I do worry about our democracy, the nature of our party politics and what it portends for the present and the future of Nigeria.
“I have repeatedly argued here and elsewhere that we would be doing our country, our democracy and our party politics enormous damage if we let the leaders of the PDP kill it. Killing it would make all the difference to how we are governed or misgoverned even. I have a passionate feeling about political pluralism. It is what makes the huge difference between democracy and other forms of government. The absence of political pluralism leads to a one-party state, an anachronism in the 21st century; and that leads inevitably to the worst form of government known to man: dictatorship, the nasty and absolute rule of one power drunk man.
“So, let us encourage the PDP leaders to save their party. Its survival in a robust form strengthens the pillars of our democracy; its demise or weakened state weakens them.”
The same sentiments compelled me to return to the PDP affair this week for two reasons. One, I had thought that the party leaders had learnt their lessons and would have settled the basic arguments as to the zoning of their national offices. They are still bickering like market women. No insult intended, ladies. Their inability to do so is doing much more than fraying the nerves; it is deepening the frustration of the party followers.
Two, they seem arrogantly insouciant to the simple fact that given the breadth and the depth of the challenges facing them at this time, they need a national chairman who is a) politically savvy with a glaring touch of political street wisdom b) had been in the trenches where inter and intra-party warfare was fought and won and is thus armed with the experience of wheeling and dealing within and across party lines and c) has the courage to enforce party discipline.
I have seen the names the party leaders are throwing up for that position at this critical time in the life of their party. I can find only one man who fits that bill. Chief Bode George. No, he has not engaged me as his campaign manager. I am doing my duty as a journalist and as a patriot who appreciates this: parties are the pillars of democratic pluralism. If a nation cannot get its party politics right, its ability to get its politics right is, without consulting the prayer warriors, a long shot.
I can find no one in the party who comes close to George in the qualities I listed above. George is a retired navy commodore. He was deputy national chairman, South-West, of PDP. He entered politics when his former colleagues in the armed forces decided to let in the democratic sunshine into the musty attic of our national politics.
I have watched his deft political steps over the years. I know he loves PDP and is passionate about party discipline. He is a political team player. What I find fascinating about him is the fact that he has parlayed his military background into the street wisdom of party politics. George was the principal strategist in the Operation Capture the South-West, launched by the PDP in 2003. That operation dislodged AD from five out of the six states in the zone and rescued President Obasanjo from his political orphanage.
George met his match only in his home state of Lagos where Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, an equally street wise, astute politician, stood against the PDP tsunami. George was fiercely loyal to Obasanjo. They are more or less politically estranged now but that takes nothing away from his loyalty to the party and his ambition to rebuild it and re-position it as a credible player in our bread and butter politics.
I believe George learnt his political lessons and honed his political skills at the feet of two former top military brass who, in my view, are the great masters of the game: former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former two-term governor of Adamawa State, Vice-Admiral Murtala Nyako. Those who under-rated those men live to gnaw their finger nails. If the PDP underrates George, it too, will feed on its nails.
Nyako’s strategising skills forced the sun to suddenly set at noon for the PDP. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s great mistake was that he believed Nyako, being a military man, was a political neophyte, untutored in the wily ways of politicians and in the complexities of party politics. It must have been one of the greatest regrets of his political career because Nyako tore the umbrella into pieces, exposed the PDP and its leaders to the harsh elements. The desertion from PDP into APC and the former’s massive loss at the polls in 2015, were the consequences of Jonathan ignoring him in the affairs of the party.
It is possible too for some of the PDP leaders to think that George is less than a fully baked politician. But none of them is. All of them came into this game at the same time – 1998-1999. It would be a bad mistake for the PDP to deny George the chance to lead the party and guide it in the long trek through the dense rain forest back to reckoning in our national politics. George can rally the troops again and rescue the party from the murk of its arrogance and stanch the continuing haemorrhage.
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