‘South-South shouldn’t clamour for PDP national chair now’
Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, an aspirant for the chairmanship post of the political grouping in the forthcoming convention, told NIYI BELLO and SEYE OLUMIDE that there was still an opportunity for the Southwest and South-South zones to reach a consensus before the exercise.
Would there still be a consensus before the convention?
Ideally that is what it should be. I have been around so many of the zones. Most of the people where we visited are saying to me, why can’t the Southwest have a consensus so that it can make it easy? But I think the Southwest people want to compete and want to be seen, but in the political circle, it doesn’t help us at all. What this portrays is that there is no leadership who can be a rallying point in the region. In politics, you need to have a rallying father figure; a kind of highly respectable and responsible person who will be able to point out those with abilities for a particular position but that must be done after consultation not just like an emperor.
I must admit that there have been moves by the only governor we have in the Southwest for the zone to close ranks and do something that won’t make us look like a bunch of discreditable people at the convention. That affected us when we were to have the position of Speaker in the House in 2011. There was Muraina and Mulika. Some were pulling Muraina to one side and others were pulling Mulika to another side. With the division, the former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, who was in the opposition party then saw an opening and he headed into it and members of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were called and the remaining part of PDP voted for Tambuwal.
For four years, we didn’t have anybody of Yoruba extraction in the top six positions in Nigeria. Do you know what it cost us; we lost all the governorship elections in the Southwest. The founding fathers of the PDP believed that this zoning issue would bring about the zeal, nationalism and dynamism in us. They said you are a Nigerian because you can participate unlike in the First Republic, where the minorities are seen but not heard. That was why they got together and decided to bring every part of this country into the fold.
Was that arrangement able to bring about a sense of belonging?
I used to call that arrangement turn-by-turn Nigeria Limited because it even allows the minority to have a shot. We have incredible human resources in Nigeria and it doesn’t matter whether you are minority or majority, let us tap into all the resources. That was the concept why they decided to zone North and South. And whatever positions are even zoned to the North and South, are further micro-zoned to bring about peace and tranquility. If you look at the constitution of our party, the National Working Committee (NWC) of our party, there are 12 positions there. If you divide 12 by six, you get two positions per zone. That brings about oneness. So, no zone will go home feeling excluded.
Every zone will have two positions each in the NWC of our party. This was intentionally designed by the founding fathers. For the elective positions, which are subject to national elections, namely, the Presidency, Vice-Presidency, Senate President, Speaker, SGF and the National Chairman of the party; six positions, six geo-political zones. So, every zone will go home with something and after every eight years, it rotates; the positions that have been in the North come to the South and vice versa. Somehow, within that system, whether you are minority or majority, it would become your turn someday. So, it is a working tool, which has made our party very cohesive and very national in its outlook, but it is not novel because that is what is in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, they have three major tribes, the Germans headquartered in Zurich, the Italians headquartered in Lugano and the French headquartered in Geneva. The headship of that nation is rotated among those three tribes. Even during the Second World War, Switzerland wasn’t even in war. There has never been a question or friction on who is to manage this or that in Switzerland, everybody has a sense of belonging. That is the essence of this zoning and micro-zoning which is germane to our concept. The National Caretaker of the party has said that because it is not written, they don’t want to run foul of the party’s constitution before somebody takes them to court. But the unwritten constitution of our party- the culture, the norm, attitude; these are the ingredients embedded in the system by the founding fathers. Although it is not written, when you have been involved in the management of the party, you will know it. The respect for the constitution both written and unwritten must be sacrosanct.
Are you worried about the aspiration of the South-South zone for the chairmanship?
There is the need to appeal to our people in the South-South. The party is bigger than anyone of us. Last year, before the convention in Port Harcourt, there was a meeting of all PDP Southern leaders where it was formally accepted that the Southwest should produce the next National Chairman, it was unanimously agreed. But what has happened within a year that the South-South is now coming up to contest for the same position is baffling.
The two other positions given to the Southeast, the National Organising Secretary of the party and the National Youth Leader were zoned there and they are still sticking to it. The Deputy National Chairman South and the National Legal Adviser were zoned to the South-South and they are still contesting it. But here we are in Southwest, the converse is not what I want to imagine.
If you emerge as national chairman, what strategy will you adopt to defeat the ruling party in 2019?
With my background, you don’t throw open your strategies. I was National Vice-Chairman, South West from December 1999, by the time we had the next election in 2003, we won five states. That feat was as a result of the divine guidance but we also worked very hard. We had 137 local governments in the Southwest and we visited all of them at a minimum of five times. We were interacting with people, campaigning to them, winning their hearts and minds and telling them the failures of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) government and what we will do better than them.
By the 2003 election, they listened to us that we are all Baba Awolowo’s children and that there is nothing special about those wearing round caps and round glasses, we all could wear the same. The people listen to us, they bought into our policy and we won. I became the Deputy National Chairman (South), we won almost all the states except one. Then I became the Deputy National Chairman of the whole country and we won 29 states. That formula that we used in winning cannot be divulged, but the blessings of God will direct our minds and lead us right once again to victory.
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