A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, in this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, advises former President Goodluck Jonathan not to yield to the pressures on him to contest the Presidency in 2019. While wishing President Muhammadu Buhari quick recovery ahead of 2019, the former military governor of old Ondo State also dissects the crises bedeviling the opposition PDP. Excerpts:
Efforts to put in place new leadership for the Peoples Democratic Party have failed, despite promises by its chieftains that it will bounce back ahead of 2019. What specific plans are on ground to ensure the PDP returns to winning ways ahead of the 2019 elections?
We have learnt our lessons. To err is human. For me, the cancellation of the last convention was a divine intervention. If it held, the party would have broken up beyond repair. We are like a porcelain vase that was cracked but not broken. We cannot throw it away. Now we have a second chance, because God is a God of second chance.
The last PDP convention was allegedly sabotaged by internal and external forces. What are your fears for the next convention?
Before that (next convention), we must remember the fundamental principles of the party. This zoning concept is a sine qua non for stability and growth of the party. Let every zone go and do the assignment given to them. No zone must come and supervise what the other zone is doing. Zone B does not have the right to say it does not want this or that in Zone A, it destroys the party. We are extremely vulnerable now. If the platform is not stable, how do we go to war?
Every zone should meet and decide for their zone and then we go for the convention. This was how we built this party since 1998. The way these people are manipulating it now will destroy the party. In the PDP now, those who should be at the entrance sorting out plates are now claiming to be the master of the house. They have no root back home. These people are bloody traitors.
Are you referring to the gale of defections from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress recently?
These defectors are impatient and that is why they hop from ship to ship. I wish them the best of luck. A rolling stone gathers no moss. They were part and parcel of us. We gave them the tickets to achieve their political ambitions. They benefitted tremendously from the party, but I don’t know why they are just jumping ship like we say in the navy. When your house is leaking, you stay there and repair it. Is the APC also stable?
That is what they should think. One of the recent defectors, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, is my friend. We all can’t get angry and start moving to another party. Wherever you go, you would still have to deal with the same set of human beings.
They should have stayed back to correct the problem in the PDP, not rolling and frolicking with any government in power. In our party, we are trying to correct so many things. You do not throw a porcelain vase away until it is broken beyond repair. We must do the needful. I joined this party since 1998. We saw it grew in the South-West. With these interlopers, hopping in and out, they are being opportunistic and bloody traitors.
The founding fathers have certain principles, which we must uphold. I have determined that I will remain in the party. All these interlopers that are jumping from here to there, must be told the truth.
Are these defectors part of the problems facing the PDP?
The senator that defected from the PDP in Akwa Ibom State made a mistake. Akwa Ibom is a PDP state. I don’t know what got into him that made him think he could just hop from one party to the other. Nnamani was in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, he came to the PDP, on whose platform he became the Senate President. To have reached that level, he needed to have stayed. People who reach those levels should not jump ship.
Do you think Ayodele Fayose will add value to the party ahead of 2019?
He will contribute his quota. They have given him a responsibility. He has to manage the office in a responsible way that will be acceptable to the leadership of the party. The office is not a private appropriation. This is a platform established by our founding fathers. Let us not throw those principles into the dustbin. For example, people come to join the party.
Of course, new members are welcome. But you don’t handpick one little trash and say such should jump from zero level to prominence. It cannot happen. We knew even the young man in Lagos here who just joined the party. He is jumping all over the whole place. He has no base here. And some people are over promoting him in Abuja.
Do you still share the view that Ali Modu Sheriff is a mole in the PDP?
If the party is well organised, how can somebody come to your house to come and disrupt the party? Like the Yoruba say, if the wall does not open, the lizard won’t be able to gain entrance. It is because we have created a lot of cracks. So, all kinds of imbeciles, nonentities, junkies are creeping in. We can’t over-promote somebody who has no root back home. The house is not built from the roof.
Will you contest the PDP national chairman seat in the next convention?
It is not a do-or-die affair. At the meeting held for the South-West zone the last time, they said Bode George should be their nominee for the national chairmanship and then a ragamuffin went over to some other zone, trying to over promote himself. The fellow has yet to cut his political teeth, even in this state. It is shameless and irresponsible. If the caucus insists they want me, why not?
This is the time the party requires a steady hand, a solid, responsible, experienced hand to manage the party. We are the opposition. You don’t bring a bambino to come and head the party. Do they know who we are confronting as a party? John Odigie-Oyegun is the APC National Chairman, President Muhammadu Buhari is a retired general, how do we defeat them? Then you bring one boy to come and do what? If we don’t do what is just and fair, we will go under.
In your opinion, what do you think can be done to reconcile aggrieved persons in the party?
I can only talk of my zone. Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. He did his best, but he was undermined and so we lost the Ondo State gubernatorial election. If we had Olusola Oke’s result figures added to ours (PDP), we would have beaten Rotimi Akeredolu.
Now Fayose has succeeded Mimiko, which makes him very important in the South-West. But we don’t serve the moment; he must ensure that he gets everybody back together without antagonising any of the leaders and elders in the party.
There are some of us, who are permanent members of the PDP Board of Trustees, which means that we have attained certain status. We are making moves to close ranks. Lagos State alone has 6.5 million registered voters. That is the largest voter base in this country. We can’t toy around with that kind of number. We will have a zonal conference, where we will put out our demands as a zone. I am sure sanity will reign.
Do you see former President Obasanjo returning to the PDP?
I have no idea. That is personal to him. The way we say it in Yoruba land, you don’t advise an elder. I can only say this. Wherever you are, stay there, fight for it and correct the mistake and not exacerbate the problem. Don’t go and say you want to build another house, because you will fail. I worked closely with Baba (Obasanjo). We have not met in recent years. He has his views and ways. He is an old man and we are just entering the club of the elders. Who am I to know his thought process? The important thing to know is that Nigerians are not happy with the situation in the country.
Are you saying President Buhari has failed?
People are hungry, angry and disenchanted. You don’t need super economics. All these theories from the Ministry of Finance are not working. Where will they get the money to finance the budget? Can you imagine Bayelsa, Delta owing salaries? Let’s face governance and forget about politics. I have been away from the country.
That book of Amos which speaks on justice is what we need. Nigeria didn’t start today. Herdsmen killings call for concern. Why is this issue taking the front burner in our national affairs? What were we doing before? Is it because Buhari is a Fulani man? There are serious issues more demanding such as education, employment, heath. These are the basic things we need to focus on. Is this the first time we had herdsmen in this country? Go around this country from Sokoto to Calabar, from Borno to Lagos and to Jigawa, who is happy about this government? We have very compelling issues. We were allocated 2.2 million barrel a day, but we were producing less than 800 barrels a day. So, this means money is coming into the treasury that can be redistributed. Government must dialogue with the South-South so that we can end the problem of bombing in the region, which has affected our oil production. If there is no money, it will be difficult to manage the country. We don’t need to be rocket scientists to know that is the greatest problem confronting this country today. All other industries are affected because there is no money.
With the current situation in the country, do you think the President deserves a second term in office?
His government is ‘kadan kadan’ (little by little) government. It is a take-it-easy government. Personally, I want the PDP to win. We will meet on the field. Amos chapter five verses 22 to 24 says, “Let justice flow like a stream and righteousness like rivers that can never go down.” This is the wisdom that will stabilise this country. We will stabilise ourselves for the battle in 2019.
Are you saying the PDP has the solution?
We do have a super-solution. By 2018, we will start campaigning. We must address our problems and remedy our problems for the battle ahead. This is not the time for politics yet. By the last quarter of this year, politics would begin.
What is your relationship with Ahmed Makarfi and Sheriff ?
Makarfi was duly elected as the caretaker committee chairman. Sheriff became the national chairman of the party after his predecessor, Adamu Mu’azu, and acted in that capacity and the moment he convened a convention, he ceased to be the chairman.
At that convention, it was agreed that the presidential candidate should come from the North while the chairmanship of the party must come from the South. There was a zoning committee that settled that. So, Sheriff has ceased to be the chairman by virtue of that arrangement. This is the problem. I told him privately and publicly to step down.
What is your advice to Buhari?
The most critical thing for him to do is to get funding. Now, the income has declined, because of agitations and bombing of oil facilities in the South-South. We must come to a roundtable and dialogue. I am also a retired military man. Let us dialogue to discuss with the people who are dissatisfied and ask what they really want. Buhari has avoided that now for over one and a half years, and this is affecting the country.
Crude oil is above $50 per barrel, imagine the result of multiplying 2.2 million barrels of crude oil by, say $53 on a 24-hour basis? That would be what is coming to the coffers. We will have money. That should be his utmost priority. Call these boys (militants) for a dialogue. All those whose scholarships were stopped should be given back their opportunities. I am advising him because there is poverty in the land.
During the last convention, Governor Nyesom Wike and some SouthSouth PDP leaders were accused of trying to foist their candidate on the South-West, how true is this?
Let us respect ourselves. They decided in the South-South what they wanted; no one went to question them. Nobody has ever conquered the Yoruba race. Wike and others cannot come and dictate to us in Yoruba land what we should do. We regarded it as an insult. I don’t want to stop what is due for Mr. Lagbaja. But Mr. Lagbaja cannot come to my zone and tell me what I should do. Who the hell were they? If that is part of betrayal they want to thread, they will bury this party.
Do you agree with those urging Jonathan to contest the next election as president?
No. The party is supreme. It has zoned the presidency to the North and some positions to others. When it rotates back to the South-South, if he is still a young man, and if he wants to come back, he can decide on his own. But now, contesting in 2019 is putting petrol in a small fire. I would advise him not to allow them break coconut on his head. He should go and sit down and relax. He has run the race and his best is on the pages of history. In the Yoruba parlance, they say that if a woman has not lived with two husbands, she won’t know which is better. We have seen the APC government and what Jonathan did while in power. Comparison will start next year. I will continue to pray for Buhari, that God grants him good health.