Former national vice chairman (South) of the erstwhile ruling PDP, Chief Olabode George, in this interview expressed reluctance to appraise governance under the ruling APC, but opens up on the failed attempts to reconcile warring factions within his party. He also dissects the ongoing efforts of some politicians to form a mega party. He spoke with MUYIWA OYINLOLA.
the present administration in the last two year?
You know, I made it a deliberate policy not to appraise this government.
We want your appraisal, not as a politician, but as a statesman?
You see, no matter what, once my name rings anywhere, people will not see me as a private person, but a politician, PDP chieftain. What I will say as a politician, and the way it is done anywhere, once a government is elected, the first three years you allow them to do their programme and policies. The last year, is the time for serious x-ray of their government, as against what they promised they would do. They still have one more year but the beauty of this last year is that people, I am told, want to have presidential elections about six months before handing over so that all legal turbulence would be settled before May 29. So, when you look at it we will have presidential election in November 2018, which means, from this November, full blown politics will start. That’s when I believe we will be able to open up because whatever they have done in three years must have had some kind of impact, negative or positive and that’s why I made up my mind that I wouldn’t make any serious comment, unless I see a move that looks too dangerous for the existence of the country. I wouldn’t comment about their policies.
Yes, things aren’t working out; there are a lot of problems. They are telling us they would fix this, fix the dollar, put a lot of things right. I want to reserve my comments.
What is your assessment of the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration?
You know there is a saying that those who come to equity must come with clean hands. I am yet to see anybody, in their party, and I stand to be corrected, who has been arraigned despite all the allegations that are flying all over the place. I don’t want to mention their names.
So, holistically, there is need to spread the dragnet. Listening to Senator Shehu Sani on the floor of the Senate, he said it all. He was talking about deodorant for those who are in the APC and then insecticide for those accused of corruption, but are outside the party. Do I need to say more? That’s a member of the party who made that kind of comment. I know Mr. President to be a no nonsense person, but let him spread
it. Charity begins at home, that would be more convincing. The job that Ibrahim Magu is doing is fine, but let them spread it. Let us go the whole hog. You don’t need to be a rocket scientists to know that this is totally one sided. Don’t let me mention names, because most of them too are in our party before they ended there. But like you said, holistically, all those that have been hounded are PDP, all
the other people in APC are saints. So, how that has gone to convince the hearts and minds of Nigerians will be tested when we start preparing for 2019.
My appeal now as a Christian, in Romans chapter 13, Saint Paul the Apostle said, pray for your leaders because nobody gets to the throne without the anointment of God Almighty. Pray for them, so that decisions they will make will not destroy the kingdom. But what is God, we give to God. That’s my modus operandi; we pray for them.
Now the political analysis, pre -2019 will start from the last quarter of this year. That’s when we will be able to x-ray, we’ll go into details, we’ll go into analysis of what is happening.
Still on the anti-corruption. The argument of spokesperson of the ruling party and presidential spokesperson has always been that it isn’t as if PDP members are being hounded, but the fact remains that it was the immediate past ruling party. That Nigerians should expect its members to be the ones to be summoned to answer questions?
Do we have governors in 36 states of the federation? Most of those governors, take my zone, Lagos is the next richest to the federal government. In terms of revenue generation, it is the nerve-centre for the whole of West Africa, it can survive on its own and why? Because Lagos is the melting pot of this country; there is no tribe in Nigeriathat doesn’t reside in Lagos, that’s the grace and they are there making money, it is the largest trading point in West Africa. So, that’s the grace which Lagos government has. It isn’t a poor state and to add it now, we are now an oil producing state; 13 per cent derivation must start to come from there. We have 6.5 million voters in Lagos state alone; that’s a substantial electoral number although
Professor Jega cheated us in the last election, he gave us only three million Permanent Voter Cards, (PVC) instead of 6.5m. So, when you look at it, it is a matter of governors, governors, what about the others who weren’t members of PDP? None has been arraigned.
Talking about 2019, your party is still enmeshed in leadership tussle. What’s the way forward?
There is no leadership tussle.
So, who is the chairman of the party?
As far as I am concerned, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the caretaker committee chairman is in charge. I am not a lawyer, but we the elders of the party elected him as caretaker committee chairman and we followed all the due processes. You see, Senator Sheriff was to complete Adamu Muazu terms, so we held a final meeting of NEC, preparatory to the convention. At that
time, we were preparing for an elective convention. If he said he was going to contest, he has ceased to be national chairman. Because you cannot be the judge in your own case.
So as far as the party’s constitution, the norms and culture of the party, he has ceased to be chairman. He appointed the convention committee members. Remember we had two conventions: the first one was aborted in May, it was at that convention that a decision was taken. If you recall, he walked out because people said you cannot say you want to contest and still parade yourself as chairman of the convention! That’s alien, because he just came into the party. He hasn’t internalized the culture and norms of the PDP. Would they have accepted that in his own ANPP or APC? Having done that, that convention ended up in chaos. It was at that point and whatever is decided at the convention is like a Supreme
Court judgment. So, because of the chaotic thing we realized that he was about to create confusion, because if we had accepted that the presidential candidate must now come from the North, automatically there is need to do re-zoning, to bring the chairman of the party back to south. So, we now said, in the meantime, who will manage the party. That’s how Makarfi was endorsed.
Sheriff is also my friend but whatever is just is what I will follow. He has ceased to be chairman, because it was the convention that now approved the caretaker to go there and manage for the short run from that time of the first convention. Makarfi now came to prepare for another convention in August and that was how Sheriff now came, went to court and was pulling weight all over the place and we now went there, the zoning has been done and Makarfi wasn’t contesting and we landed in Port Harcourt . Justice Abang gave judgment and another judge in Port Harcourt gave his own and the convention was aborted. But to me, it was divine intervention because some people had hijacked the party, thinking that they can do and undo and the rest said no; that it is a collective responsibility, that PDP isn’t a private company. It was at that convention again, that we decided that Makarfi team must continue for another one year to go and settle all the frayed nerves. From that point, the convention mandated Makarfi to continue. Sheriff now proclaimed himself as authentic chairman. How are you the authentic chairman?
But Sheriff also has court judgments which accorded him recognition just like Makarfi and the argument has always been why is it difficult to have a political solution? For how long must you continue with court litigations?
An attempt was made. If everybody came there with the same mindset: that this is our party and we want it to survive and not such subterranean maneuvers, some covert activities, why can’t we sit down?
The elders met, from board of trustees, set up committee to meet Sheriff’s group and Makarfi to settle whatever differences in the interest of PDP. We agreed that each faction should nominate members for the peace
committee, but the Sheriff team never showed up! Is that a sign of somebody who is interested in the party? If they didn’t come, we cannot force them. Then they went to get their judgment from Abang. Things that weren’t even placed before Justice Abang, he granted. He granted some of the prayers from his mind. That was when some of us started saying, wait a minute: what is going on? We shouted to the judiciary, save democracy. The prayers that weren’t before Justice Abang, he granted. He is still in the judiciary today. But now we made an appeal and there is another appeal in Port Harcourt on Sheriff and they said they have adjourned sine die. I don’t want to guess, I will just say that some people are pulling the strings, somewhere.
Are you insinuating that external forces are stoking the fire in PDP?
Are you alleging that the ruling party is behind all these?
I don’t want to mention names. In my own part of the world, you explain issues in parables and everybody will go home with a special understanding.
But there are members of the party who insist that the problem is self-inflicted, that the governors created it?
Yes, governors Fayose and Wike brought him and they have seen the extent of their mistakes. They have been saying the young people should own the party and the old people like us should get away. But if you say, throw all the elders away you are saying, there is no history of the party.
So, do you start building a house from the roof? If you don’t know the past, how can you predict the future? And I pray that we will be extremely careful not to make that grave mistake. Nobody in the world will forget their history and believe that they can still exist. They will exist in a smoke, in lunacy. That’s the state in which we are and everybody thought PDP is finished, let us start another party.
There is talk of mega party all over the place. Are you involved?
They came to me but the question I asked them is, is the new party not going to be formed by Nigerians. The same politicians, those who have been here and there and I said look, if your house is leaking, do you abandon it to go and build another one? Where is the confirmation that the new one is dead perfect? Even your brand new house can leak. So, what is it that you want to do with mega party?
America has had its democratic practice for over 200 years. The British too for a long time. Those who think we are finished are planning a mega party. Of course, they will make constitution, do they even know we already have a deep-rooted, thick and strong tap root, we have weathered a lot of storms and we had been in government for 16 years.
Now, we are learning the other side of the divide which is part of political development. What does it take to be in opposition? That’s why you can now see the hands of everybody: the voice of Jacob and the hands of Esau. In Yoruba land, it takes a woman who has been married twice to make an informed judgment. We thought we are still in government, but we have ourselves and the hearts and minds of the electorate and the God Almighty. That’s all we have now. We must come out to be fair, to be just and be equitable if we want this party to succeed and Nigeria to succeed because PDP is the only political party that’s national in outlook. I have been all over the country, the nooks and crannies and there is no village you will not find PDP.
Remember, 1952 was the first election and all we had were tribal parties: Action Group for the Yoruba, National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, (NCNC) for the Igbo and the Northern Peoples Congress, (NPC) for the Hausa-Fulani. It was in 1998, because of the old politicians who said no, General Sani Abacha wouldn’t succeed himself. They fought him and somehow, by divine intervention and he passed on. Can you imagine Chief Bola Ige of the old Action Group talking with Alex Ekwueme of the NCNC or Adamu Ciroma of the NPC, talking with the Talakawa Party- Peoples Redemption Party, (PRP)- of Abubakar Rimi in Kano or Solomon Lar of the United Middle Belt Congress, (UMBC) How? But they came together in the interest of this massive country called Nigeria, and resolved their differences. In the North and South, we have the majority and minorities. They came up with this concept of six geo-political zones: north-east, north-west, north-central; south-east, south-west, south-south. No winner takes anything now. No zone goes home without taking anything from the top bracket and that’s how we have been able to remove military intervention from this country. No agitation, once you take your own, I take mine and I termed it, turn -by -turn Nigeria limited.
That sustained us. Even those who came in now, the APC is a congregation of strange bedfellows. They came together hurriedly, nobody was able to defer to anybody. It is just a party with so many subsets with their culture, norms and behavior but PDP started from zero, building up a culture, building up an attitude.