In this interview, a former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, spoke on various issues, including the unfolding crises in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and his party. He also spoke on the 2023 presidential election.
The APC and PDP have been in crises recently; as a party man, what do you think is responsible for this situation? How can they overcome the crises?
Many people join politics as a way of getting employment. So, whatever they would do to keep them going, whether it is in the interest of this country or not, they don’t care. That is the problem. If you have a second address where your income comes from, you won’t see politics as a matter of life and death. Politics is a process of managing the resources of the people for their benefits.
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If you are given a position you are not to manage it as a private enterprise because you have a constitution where you have the dos and don’ts. What I have seen is mindboggling.
What exactly are we running after? On the day you go you will leave everything on earth. It is bothering me. People bring in their personal ambitions to override the interest of the country. How then can it work?
First of all, we know what the interest of this country is. Let us move it on because if you keep stealing all their money and undermining the system, everybody will suffer.
This country is blessed because I have been to every nook and cranny of Nigeria and I can say that there is no part of this country that God has not endowed with one resource or another. Go and make use of that for the benefit of your people. You are fighting over pettiness, tribalism, ethno-religious disagreement.
The Fulani are suddenly fighting the people, Boko Haram is still raging, and I keep wondering; for what benefit? Is this the first time the Fulani are bringing cows to the South? I am 76 years old this year and I can remember that when I was a little boy, they would bring their cows, sell them and the urine, which was ammonia used for convulsion. In those days, public health was not as defined as it is now. They sold the ammonia and people would hang it in the kitchen. If any child was convulsing they would put it in his or her nose and the child would be well. So we knew the Fulani and there was no harassment. When they came from the North with their cows they knew the routes because they travelled with their wives and children. They did their business without disturbing anybody on their farms. Why are they now creating problems? You come into my area and tell me that I cannot be at peace, then there would be crisis.
The national government must get themselves involved and stop it because no matter what the resources are, the day you pack up, it will be the end of the story.
I believe that the lack of national economic wellbeing is also causing this trouble. Children go to school, and even those who didn’t go are all walking around jobless, no drive. It is not a difficult thing to do, the government can set aside a certain amount of money for those kids who didn’t go to school, even for those who went to the university but decided to go into business.
When Jonathan was president, he started it. There was a little project in Oshodi, where people went for training, either for hairdressing, tailoring, bricklaying and the rest. When the training was over, they gave them a little financial support to start. That can be done now with the support of state and national governments. There is no future for those who are graduates roaming around, no jobs, so how do they survive?
Now, Canada is drawing all our professionals, the same with Australia. Medical doctors are needed in England and our people are shipping themselves out of the country. Is this not a concern? When I graduated about 53 years ago, before I wrote my final exam, we had an interview. We were about eight in my graduating class and we went for the interview. We had a job before we wrote our final exam. The country is growing, with different universities springing up, are we just going to sit and not bother about the people?
Governance is a process of ensuring that the lives and property of the people are secured. It is also about making sure that there is gainful employment for citizens. What then is happening?
The danger of this is that our people in the South believe it is hell here. I want to tell them to take a visit to the North and see the mayhem. I have friends all over this country and I can tell you that the economic situation in the North is heart-wrenching. Most of those young people call me to seek jobs. So, it is all over.
What is driving those ones who didn’t go to higher colleges to do Yahoo Yahoo (internet fraud)? Look at the boy (Hushpuppi) arrested while living like an emperor. We need to educate and engage them.
Nigeria, the giant of Africa, made sure that apartheid was abolished. We killed apartheid, same in Angola and other countries. Nigeria played a very positive role, even in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia. Now where are we?
Three governors have left the PDP. How did you allow the crisis to fester to the extent that people started defecting?
I will say that August 10 will remain a special day for the PDP because that was the day the party resurrected. When you appoint or elect people to manage your party, of course once you have more than two people in a group you will disagree. However, when you disagree you must discuss and come out with a solution. But some people allow their positions to overwhelm them. Once you start dancing away from the content of that party’s constitution, you are misbehaving.
It started like a joke, then I started to wonder what was going on. A court even took a decision that what the party did was wrong, but they still defied the court order. I was confused. A typical example is when the chairman of the PDP in Lagos left and there was an opening. The constitution states that when a member of the executive at any level leaves the position, the executives at that level will meet and consider somebody from the zone in which that fellow retired or resigned and elect somebody to run out the period remaining for the man who left. It is very clear.
They arrogantly came and stated that they were going to have a congress. I said for you to have a congress, you must have the permission of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party. So which congresses are you holding? This is not a general group where you give them the details and procedures of how to run a congress. It is a very simple thing. Now, you disbanded it and were arrogantly playing God.
We wrote a letter, thinking it was an omission on their part, stating that what they said ran contrary to the constitution and what they were suggesting shouldn’t even hold. They didn’t even bother to listen, so they brought Deji Doherty, who is their own person. They were manoeuvring and holding congresses in hidden hotels. Of course, we went to court, which gave us what I will call a classical judgement. The judge read the constitution and all the memos presented to her and came up that they were wrong, but they completely disregarded that judgement.
Many people believe the PDP in Lagos is technically dead; what is your take on this?
With their mismanagement style, they created problems in Lagos. Now, we have two chairmen and the party is divided because of the lack of respect for the constitution. They were arrogantly placing themselves as if it was a private enterprise, and that was what created the problem; which we are yet to resolve. However, with the decision of yesterday, there is hope. The PDP is here and strong.
I was elected in 1999 as national vice chairman, South. I later became the deputy national chairman, South, before becoming the overall deputy national chairman. I spent 10 years there and would never forget my experience.
But the party lost woefully in the last local government election in the state?
It was another joke in this country. Who controls the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) that conducted the election? Who nominated members of the commission? The person who nominated them was in charge of an election that was not electronically or technologically made. Now, if your boss who employed and is paying you asks you to do something, won’t you play his game if you want to remain in that job?
What you should have looked at in the election is the apathy. People didn’t go out because they were tired of lies. Our people knew that the election was just a farce. They were going to do whatever they liked because it was still papers that would be carried by hand from your polling unit to the collation centre. So many people in Lagos didn’t bother to vote, which is a sign that they want a change.
For the general elections, what we did on August 10 is going to reignite our party to the level where we can fight with everything that God gave us. That is all I am waiting for now. With that decision, they must go and set up a national convention committee to take over the management of all the congresses, from the ward level to national. It happened before, so it is not new. They cannot get involved in the management of the national convention committee. Whoever they must appoint must be of proven character. In the last convention conducted by the Governor of Delta State, he did not allow any rubbish. He played it according to the rules and we came out of it higher.
What is the update on Lagos PDP? We learnt the national body said they would appeal that judgement.
They said they were going to appeal, but they haven’t. We went back to court, insisting that they defied its order, and the judge has given us an appointment this Friday.
Lagos is very strategic. Why is it that whenever there is going to be an election, there is always crisis within the PDP?
It is not that we can’t put the party right, but we are dealing with a man who has stolen a humongous amount of money from the coffers of Lagos State. What is the company known as Alpha Beta doing in our treasury in Lagos State? The man who was the managing director of the company filed a petition and they fired him. I know the story and we have been saying it, but they said it was just political. I know the owner of Alpha Beta. That company collects all the revenues of Lagos State on behalf of Lagos State, which internally generated revenue is averagely N60 billion in 30 days; and 15 per cent of it, which he collects as his own, is N9bn every 30 days. Now, calculate that amount of money in just two or three months.
We have reported, we have spoken, but it is still going on. You want to fight that kind of man? He has sent a lot of jokers to come into the PDP because he can afford it. I call them jokers.
We also made a mistake when we chose one fellow as a governorship candidate. I believed very strongly that with his background, we made the right choice, but later on, we found that there was a relationship with Tinubu. We thought we got a good material, not knowing that it was deception.
Our party is very organised in Lagos. Unfortunately, we lost our secretary, who was the revolving door in the party. He worked so hard to place the party where we are today.
Many people are waiting for the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as presidential candidate from the South-West, are you in support of that?
How can I be in support of that? I believe the people working for him must have some kind of lunacy in their heads. First of all, look at his character. In the form he filled the first time he wanted to be governor, he said his primary school was a popular one, which he did not attend. He said his secondary education was Government College, Ibadan. What year? Who were his classmates? Then he had a certificate in Accountancy from a Chicago university. Where are the papers? Let him present those documents.
He is also above 60 years; how old is his daughter? Is he saying he had a child when he was still a baby? Tinubu is over 80 years old. He wants to be the president of this country at this age and bring Alpha Beta to the national level.
Let him show his birth certificate and age will disqualify him. You think he is a young man? No. I went to his village where he was born in Osun State. Members of our party took me there.
You see why I tell you that the people rooting for Tinubu must have something wrong upstairs. What were his achievements when he was the governor of Lagos State?
Who built properties on Kuramo. Who bought Eko Hotel? They have been sand- filling the lagoon and narrowing it, which is now making the water to rise. From what I saw on the CNN, by 2030 Lagos will be under water. What are we projecting?
You remember the arrogance he showed when he visited the traditional ruler (oba). He told him that he had more money than the entire state. We are dealing with a human being who is richer than Nigeria. Where did he get the money from? Why haven’t they taken action on all the petitions they have sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC? That is a major problem in Lagos.
I feel very angry at some of the elders in Lagos State who are shameless. They know it, see it and still follow him. What are they looking for? They can’t tell the truth. Are we going to continue like this? The debt portfolio of Lagos State is next to that of the federal government. All these young boys he keeps there as governors, can they work or do anything without telling the emperor? This is because he singlehandedly appointed them. Do they do any primaries in their party? The last one they tried in Lagos, you saw the outcome. Many people were murdered. The list later came out from the emperor’s house. There would be an end sometime.
As 2023 approaches, where do you think your party should zone the presidential ticket?
Looking at what is happening in the country under President Muhammadu Buhari, how can anybody convince our people to vote for another northerner? That will be a lot of work to do because the situations and experiences are there. They know what they want.
I believe that since governance has been from the North for eight years, it should automatically come back to the South, which can look for a competent, qualified, morally respectable and responsible gentleman or woman.
I will tell you what my solution is. The current system we are running is not working. We are deceiving ourselves, and that is why we are retrogressing instead of moving forward. Devolution of power is the solution. If we don’t do that, Nigeria will be a huge joke in the comity of nations.
There is nothing wrong if we revisit models of governance. What we have presently is not working because we aggregated all the resources to one central point. There are 19 states in the North and 17 in the South; why? The total number of local governments in the North versus the ones in the South also links to the constituencies in the National Assembly. That has to be revisited if we really love this country. There must be devolution of power.
Forget about zoning to the North or South, it is not working, and I am ready to debate it anywhere. We had a constitutional conference under a civilian administration for the first time in the history of this country. We started and ended it peacefully. The military prepared the constitution for Nigeria and this hierarchical system we have is not working.
For me, rotating or zoning is not the solution. The solution is that we must revisit the constitution. When you see something that is going wrong and you don’t talk about it, it is hellish. Let them take that paper to the National Assembly, revisit it and allow the states to function. In that case, you either survive or die. Whatever resources you have in your states, you will see employment. People will be forced to think of how their people would survive. You will now bring the government closer to the people instead of looking up to Abuja. Yes, we will have Abuja to take care of foreign policies and interests, as well as taking care of the borders and security.
The present system where we have the police service centered in Abuja is not appropriate. I have travelled all over this country, so I know that the population of the police to provide peace to every community is a joke. Why can’t we have state police, who would understand their various environments and know their people’s cultures and traditions? Police job is community-related, but how much can they do? What is the present population of the police? Nigeria is a massive country. Look at Maiduguri to Lagos, Sokoto to Calabar, Jigawa to Delta.
The president has two more years, let those years be the most fruitful of his administration because the record of his performance will be on the pages of history. Let it be positive. I am appealing to him not to leave something sour in the mouths of Nigerians.
Right now, we detest ourselves and there is fear everywhere. The trust of one ethnic group to another is fading. Where are we going? Where is security?
Could it be that the president has not made devolution of power possible because we don’t seem to agree on what we want? Some say devolution, some say restructuring.
There is no difference between restructuring and devolution. I use the word devolution, but both are the same. Giving more powers to the states is what we are saying. Let them survive, and any state that cannot survive will merge. You will see states coming up with survival tactics because there is no state in the country that is not blessed with one resource or another, but they are there dying. Did you know that Zamfara had that much gold? Would they not look for more minerals to survive? But now, free money comes from Abuja every 30 days. This is archaic; it is annoying and absolutely destroying this country.
With crisis in the APC, do you see the ruling party surviving after President Buhari leaves in 2023?
The APC is a congregation of strange bedfellows who came together quickly because they wanted to fight Jonathan. When Jonathan saw how it was, he said he didn’t want the blood of any Nigerian spilled. Does the blood flowing now belong to Togolese or Cameroonians? Massive killings are taking place.
Jonathan was quick to hand over power to the APC. You can see the comments from the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega. There will be a day that the truth will be up.
Some people are advocating a third force. Do you see this yielding results?
I see that as another joke. Those who are mooting that idea are not serious. Who are the people who will go to the new party? Are they not the same actors in the APC and PDP? Will they not carry their attitudes there? I said earlier that the management style of their party is damaging. I have nothing personal against Secondus; he is my chap, but his method of running the party is killing it and we need to save the place. I am happy that they have listened to voices.
What is your assessment of the APC government in the last six years?
We are all suffering from it. Whether you are rich or poor, are you safe? How much are you spending to feed your family, compared to the income you are being paid.
Economic activities of the people are going down. Security is also going down. Whenever it is getting late, you have to quickly beat traffic and avoid hoodlums. These hoodlums are also doing it because they want to survive. That is a very terrible route to take. You saw one of the yahoo boys throwing money into a swimming pool; has anybody invited him? If they had state police they would have called him for questioning. We didn’t see you go out to work in the morning, so where is the money coming from? The FBI will do that in America, the neighbours would have called the sheriff to say they saw something strange in the neighbourhood which they want to be investigated. In no time, the police will be there. But here, they videotaped and the video was trending everywhere, yet nothing was done.
From: Abiodun Alade, Abdullateef Aliyu & Yvonne Ugwuezuoha, Lagos