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By withholding assent to electoral bill, Buhari missed out on liberating us democratically – Bode George

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor), Seye Olumide (Lagos)
27 December 2021   |   3:29 am
As a true believer in God, everything assigned by the Almighty will become a reality. The ray of hope is getting brighter because the party now has new managers at the national level.

Chief Olabode Geroge

…PDP ready to win Lagos 2023
Former Deputy National Leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George speaks on how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has disappointed Nigerians, and reasons it should be voted out of power in 2023. He spoke with MUYIWA ADEYEMI (Politics Editor) and SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) on PDP’s plan to take over Lagos State by 2023. 

Would you say that PDP is at present on the winning path?
As a true believer in God, everything assigned by the Almighty will become a reality. The ray of hope is getting brighter because the party now has new managers at the national level. The managers that just left did not respect the culture, norm and the process that were imbibed by the founding fathers of the party. And the reason was simple; most of the culture, norm and the process were not written, it is like oral history. As you go from one generation to the other, they will be changing, people would be misinterpreting it and it wouldn’t be original. That had been a major mistake from our party. I have seen people every four years, trying to interpret the norms to suit themselves. So, I am very positive those people (immediate past excos) interpreted the culture of the party in a direction that almost sent this party to the canvass. Now, I know Iyorchia Ayu very well, he is a God fearing fellow. I believe that his leadership would rescue the party. He is committed to it because, like me, he had never left PDP. The best time and the worst time, he remained in the party. That is loyalty and commitment.

What are the values you are referring to?
Loyalty; that is, the trust that you have in the concept of the party. I will explain them. What happened to the governance of this nation? In 1963, when the First Republic collapsed, we have the three regions. In the North, we had NPC in power but there were minority parties. Minorities were to be seen and not heard; nobody listened to them. That’s why when former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) came into power he re-divided the country. Yet, that didn’t solve the problem. The minority and majority issue continued.

When the founding fathers of PDP sat down, they thought what could be done to ease the cluster problems of Nigeria and they decided to divide the country into six geopolitical zones. You know that’s not in the constitution. This is the misinterpretation that I am talking about now. They divided the country and later came up with six top positions in the land so that every zone, whether you are minority or majority, will go home with one of these top positions. After eight years, whatever has been there will be a rotation. Everything in the North will come to south, and likewise everything in the South will go to north. 
 
So, if you take your time, even the presidency will take time and rotate and come back to the minority, which we displayed. Those are the issues I am talking about and strongly believe that they are the solutions to the problems we are having politically. But because it was not put in black and white to explain the reason for the decision, generation to generation now tend to misinterpret it to suit their whims and caprices. The only political position that is not micro zoned is the presidency. Once it is in the North, anybody from the region can contest and if in the South, everybody there can contest. But every other position in the party is micro-zoned, including the national chairmanship of the party.

There was a time when it came and they said anybody in the South could contest, I said ‘look at what these boys are doing.’ They were thwarting the concept of the party. The NWC of the party, chairman, deputy chairman, secretary, national publicity secretary and treasurer are all micro zoned except the Presidency. But people started misinterpreting the agreement and that almost landed us in a position of non-existence. If the PDP had followed the proper concept as defined by the founding fathers, that position of national chairman is also micro zoned.

Have those issues been corrected and can Nigerians trust PDP with power in 2023 again?
Let us look at the records and compare with the present situation of the country. When PDP left power in 2015, what was Nigeria’s debt portfolio? Look at our debt now, is there anyway it has impacted us positively in terms of good governance. How much of our problems as a nation has the current leadership solved? We have high rate of unemployment, insecurity is ravaging the country, and there is tribal division and so on. The number one responsibility of any government is to guarantee safety of life and property; otherwise, why are you in government. It is only when people feel safe that you can go out and work, make money and do other things.

So, how can Nigerians say they cannot trust PDP with power? Did anybody experience these bad aspects of life when PDP was in power? PDP and the ruling party are not the same. Can Nigerians say they are better off today than before? Are we safer now than before?
APC has argued that PDP laid foundation for challenges facing the nation, and claims that the ruling party is on a rescue mission…

APC can say that to the marines. PDP created it but the ruling party made a promise. They had their manifesto and President Muhammadu Buhari kept on saying he would fight corruption. Has he done that? How can anybody in government think that distributing cash to the poor is the best form of alleviating and easing their problems? When we were in government, we started a scheme called ‘The Skill Acquisition Programme.’ Money was specially allocated through the CBN. At the end of your training, they will put the trainees into cooperatives and give you some amount of money to start your business.

How would you want PDP to choose its presidential candidate and what kind of personality do you want in the preferred candidate?
He must be a man who believes, not in just a country called Nigeria, but in the nationhood called Nigeria. He must have been exhibiting the qualities of a nationalist. He must be humble, knowledgeable, tested and must see himself as a Yoruba, Ibo, Ijaw, Fulani, Hausa and the likes, all rolled up into one. He must be anybody that would distribute his managers to reflect these ethnic groups that I have told highlighted. Like the founding fathers did, Presidency to the North, vice presidency to the South, Senate President to the North, Speaker to the South, Secretary to the government to the North, national chairman to the South – all vice versa, so that when you see his cabinet, some strategic ministries will also be distributed to reflect this rainbow nation called Nigeria.

Which process can bring out such a personality?
For instance, the day I heard the Senate talk about direct primaries for election, it was the happiest day of my life.

Can you shed light on that?
Direct primary gives power to the party members. This is the man we want… they would have looked at him very well. Their decision would not be influenced by money.

But how do feel with President Buhari rejecting direct primary mode?
He has not helped his tenure. He has not helped himself. He has been in the system and he is going away having blown the chance to be a beacon of democratic practice.

But can the National Assembly exercise the power to veto the president?
They can override him if they actually believe that this country must turn around and get out of pariah status. Why am I saying this? Let the power be returned to the people. The rest of the world is watching. They may not change it for us, but they are watching. When we do it right, they will be ready to come and invest because they know that people that emerged as your leaders were genuinely elected by the masses. That’s the beauty of democracy. This indirect rubbish has negatively impacted this country. It is like we take one step ahead and we move another 100 backward. President Buhari has just failed to etch his name in gold as the man who liberated us from this mess democratically.

Some say PDP is trying to use Lagos4Lagos Movement to make inroads and win Lagos State, What is your take on this?
I am seeing the 2023 election in Lagos as the last Battle of Berlin. If you see the reactions of the people of Lagos, both indigenes and non-indigenes, they are completely fed up with the Emperor in Bourdillon and his antics. You could feel it in their attitude. The most concerned are the younger generations who know a lot about social media because the suffering is unimaginable. They went to schools and graduated but there is no hope, no job or skill acquisition…nothing. They are roaming the streets while one individual sits on our treasury and corners 15 percent of the collectables every month. Even if it is one percent, is that allowed in a sane country?

Is that company not offering services to the state?
Alpa Beta is the most unfortunate thing to have ever happened to Nigeria. Go anywhere in the developed world and find out the responsibility of IRS. How can you say a company owned by an individual is giving service to a state? That’s the most insulting and most criminally minded statement that I have heard in my life.

You are livid about Alpha Beta, can’t you challenge this whole issue in court?
You said they should go to court and challenge but is the judiciary independent of the state here? Who gives them their salaries? Are they really independent? I have felt that they see them as an appendage of the government. In Nigeria, we have three equal branches of government but not three independent branches. So, if the judiciary is not independent, what are we saying? Former Managing Director of Alpha Beta wrote a serious petition against that company but what has become of it? The boy had to run away. Go and check the books of Lagos. The filth inside all these mess is unimaginable. On the day of the last election, two bullion vehicles drove into his house. What were the vehicles carrying?

Indirectly, are you saying the resources of Lagos are not well managed?
Yes. If the money that goes to Alpha Beta, N9 billion in 30 days, is properly invested, it would take care of the skill acquisition programme and part of it would be spent on the quality of our schools and the health sector. All the road networks will be taken care of.

Have you gone past internal crisis in Lagos PDP?
Have you seen any political party in the world where there is 100 per cent agreement? Even in America, if you watch CNN and listen to the American president, in his Democratic Party, there is internal disagreement. When you are in that kind of situation, we all cannot sleep and face the same direction, like we say in our local parlance. But the beauty of democracy is that we would all meet, discuss and debate. Once a decision has been taken, woe betides you if you fall out.

The argument in some quarters has been that the Lagos PDP has been the enemy of itself?
If you are talking about the enemy of PDP, we know those who are not with us. You remember you asked me what are the values and I talked about commitment, dedication and selflessness. It is not everybody that has these. Some are even agents of the other side. When you are on your tactical table strategizing, some people still play the opposition and they will be pretending. We are at that point now of sniffing out those who are PDP in the day time and are APC in the night. This is because the enemies within are more vicious than those we are contending power with.

How did you escape Chief Bisi Akande’s onslaught in his autobiography, titled: ‘My Participations’?
Baba Akande was not very straightforward. It’s a pity. You remember the Ife/Modakeke crisis, which was a major crisis in Osun State that almost set the entire state ablaze. He (Akande) went to Obasanjo, who was the President then, to seek help. Obasanjo then asked me to go and intervene. I went to Osogbo, the capital of Osun State and reported to Obasanjo. Akande was governor on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) but we are PDP. 
 
I listened to the full story and after I did that, I went back and thought like a General in the military about how I will approach the problem. After arriving at an idea on how to resolve the crisis, I briefed the governor. We started; on the first day I met with leaders of Ife and Modakeke in Osogbo. The second day, I met the Ife people alone and on the third day, I met the Modakeke people. On the fourth day, I arranged for all the parties to visit both Modakeke and Ife, something very unusual. When I told Baba Akande, he said he doesn’t have hands there. The people knew themselves and I sat in the middle of the bus that took us round. I put both leaders of Ife/Modakeke in front of the bus. I sat in the middle of the bus listening to their discussion about their days of fun. I did not tell them where we were going. When we went past Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), there was a junction that led to Modakeke and Ife, but immediately we turned into Modakeke, there was a pin drop silence. We moved further and saw pools of Modakake people. They came around the bus and saw their leaders seated beside Ife leaders in the same bus. They looked into the bus and were surprised. After seeing that, Modakeke people started singing, “let the crisis end, let this crisis end.”
 


We drove all the way, seeing the carnage in Modakeke and turned and headed to Ife, the Modakeke people were still following us but as we moved to approach Ife, the bus stopped and couldn’t move. The Ife people were coming to receive us while Modakeke people were at the back, singing, “let the crisis end.” 
 
I jumped down and asked the police to start firing to scare the crowd back. I managed to move all the leaders out of the broken down bus and put them in another vehicle. That was how we drove into Ife to also see the carnage, and from there we headed back to Osogbo. On getting to the capital, I just said goodbye to everybody. 
 
But what was the issue, Modakeke people wanted their own local government, they didn’t want to be under Ife. We cannot create a new local government because it is a constitutional matter. But we came up with the idea of a local council development area and that’s what brought about peace between Ife/Modakeke till today. We all later went to Abuja where Obasanjo finally resolved the issues. That’s what earned me the Atona Oodua title.
 
So, when you said why didn’t Akande direct attacks at me in the book, he knew how we helped him out even if he didn’t write it. My appeal is to our elders to take things easy. Those who have been insulted or maligned have the right to respond but I want to beg our people that such public pronouncements would be detrimental to the stability of our land. What Baba Akande did was despicable, absolutely bad; only person he praised was Tinubu. But as Osun State governor, would he have allowed a company to be collecting 15 percent of Osun IGR? He should continue to ponder over that. But all those mess will soon come to an end.
  
 

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