By Chukwudi Nweje

Chief Olabode George is a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview monitored on national television, he speaks on the crisis rocking the party in Lagos State, President Bola Tinubu’s appeal to Nigerians not to dishonour the country and the race for the National Chairmanship of the party, among others.

You have been accused of directing members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State to vote against the party during the 2023 general election, how do you react to the allegations?

Let me tell you, I’m almost 80 years old and I have been in the PDP since its inception. What that young man was saying is a load of crap and it is an insult on my person to respond to the insanity he was talking about. He was talking absolute nonsense. Who went to Abuja to do what in Abuja? He contested and I even assisted him when they were doing the primaries. The young man who wanted to compete against him is from the Badagry division and I appealed to that young man for us to have less fight during the primaries so that the election can be smooth. The young man accepted and this guy got the ticket. He is talking about elders; I don’t want to curse him but I regard it as nonsense because you meet all kinds of characters in politics. If it was when I was in the military, I know what I would do to him. He is talking arrant rubbish and this is why we have said that we must get the party back to what the founding fathers established it to achieve. This kind of person cannot be part of the real owners and managers of the party. When did he join us and what has he done? There was a time he ran from Lagos to his state in Ekiti and wanted to contest the governorship election, he came and told me that he was going there and I wished him the best of luck. In the end, when he was beaten silly, he rushed back to Lagos. So, these are not issues that the party has experienced.

He is not the only one who is aggrieved in Lagos PDP, the governorship candidate of the party is also aggrieved and he is also speaking…?

That young man whom you called the gubernatorial candidate, I heard what he said, drawing me to talk at their level is an insult. What does he know about PDP? I am a life Board of Trustee member and you know what a trustee is in any organisation. Legally, we own and manage the assets of the party on behalf of the people. So, what he is talking about is that he got the ticket and went to Abuja but you see there was a major mistake made during the procedure of planning for the national election. But I will not sit down in the public and open crisis they brought during the election. I remembered the last time when I listened to the way they were doing these things. I walked out of the meeting because I knew it was going to take us into more crises. Look at the founding fathers of our party, having realised that there is this issue of major tribes and minority tribes that had plagued this country since 1959, they then came up with a brilliant procedure. Now they divided Nigeria into six geopolitical zones and had the six top positions in the country, the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the National Chairman of the party.

Section 7 (3) (c) of our constitution stated very emphatically and clearly that there must be rotation and zoning of all these positions. What happened the last time, President Muhammadu Buhari spent eight years, is he from Lagos State or Calabar, he is from Kastina State, so he has finished his term and a northern has done it. The more sensible thing for the party was to ensure that this position was rezoned to the south and that there was this break in communication. That is why we would have sat down rather than somebody thinking I have it all and if you don’t like it get out. I don’t want to talk about the person you are talking about, because he is an ingrate and the party has a procedure and we will go through that procedure because we are sure in our minds that they are here like a mole and we will sort them out. It is an insult for you to be telling the landlord to leave his house.

What do you make of the race for the National Chairmanship of PDP and how do you think the party can handle that?

The man who was the chairman left in some circumstances and so somebody must replace him. Temporarily, the Deputy National Chairman North took that position and he has been trying to reorganise and make sure to resort to normalcy. He is trying with his team but then the North Central zone is saying that was the position given to us, so if one goes the replacement must also come from that same zone. That can be handled but it shouldn’t be handled in a manner that will further divide the party. I get really angry when I see people struggling dangerously for positions. The Benue people must meet and nominate one person and from there we can take it up. Apart from revisiting the constitution of the nation, we come down and manage the resources of this country for the betterment of our people.

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President Bola Tinubu has charged Nigerians to speak well of their country, what is your reaction?

We must be honest with ourselves and clear in our minds. There is an adage in my part of the world that ‘If heavens will fall, who will escape it.’ there is also a saying that prayers are essential to the life of any nation or individual home. If he is now talking to the people, yes we must all be very prayerful. We need to be prayerful. The people who have been elected to manage the resources of the land for the benefit of the people must reflect the goodness of the Almighty God. I hope that is rooted in his mind in appealing to our people to be prayerful, not to dishonour our nation and not to bring disgrace to our nation, that is all appeal. What will follow is let there be some methodology, economically and physically to ensure they give the people, especially young people who have no jobs future and hope because that is more killing.

The absence of hope is what drives people in the opposite direction to create mayhem everywhere. And once there is poverty in the country, people will remain angry. I feel for our people and I want him to translate what he has said, which is heart-warming, into giving the people hope. If there is no hope when you wake up in the morning, you don’t even know where you are going or where you will get a meal for the day, it is going to be hell and people will resort to different directions. So, I accept what he has done and I’m going to advise that he should translate his words to meet the needs of Nigerians.

We have suddenly found ourselves in this mess and like one of my old school teachers used to say, you can hardly find a man with a single hand in economics. I will plead because he has told us to remain calm, that he is fixing it, we are all watching and we will continue to pray for him to reduce the tension in the land. This insecurity is a major issue that this nation must face.

I want to plead that there is no way this system of governance and the constitution we are running can resolve the problems of this nation. It can’t. Take the security part of it, what is the population of the federal police? How can they effectively manage communities, it is impossible. So, we need to revisit the constitutional approach to the seriousness of establishing a State Police that will complement the national police. We are not asking for too much because the local police would be able to manage every community. They will speak their language, they know their culture, they know norms, they know who lives in every house and you can effectively guarantee the safety of the lives and properties of these people. It is not just talk because that constitution is also a major drawback.

Imagine Lagos State, the largest populated state in this country, electorally, it is the largest electoral state in this country; we have only 20 local governments. Ogun State which is next door, they are not comparable with the population, they also have 20 local governments. Is that justifiable? And Kano State, which is the next largest state in Nigeria, has 44 local governments. Then Jigawa State which was created from Kano State also has 24 or 26 local governments. Every month they all head to Abuja because local governments draw money from the Federation Account. So, where is justice and fairness?

Do you think that the President is making some policies that are leading Nigeria in the right direction like some economists say?

Economics is not an exact science, unlike engineering. When you make a design in engineering, you can say within a certain limit certain things that will happen. They cannot be affirmative on the issue of the economy; it will take time before we will feel the impact of all these policies they are talking about. It is not something you can do in a day but as long as we have examined the methodology in the past that led us into the hell we are in, and they are now revisiting them, looking at the various indices and seeing how much they can do, I will plead that we wait and see what they are doing. If I’m rounding up in short sentences what the President said, he is asking people to trust him, we get it. Some of those people in the economic team belong to the old past. they are part of those who drove us in the wrong direction. So, I pray that God Almighty will hear our prayers and let them go straight into the hearts of those who are managing us and that there is a need to be honest with Nigerians.

There is a need to make sure that they are putting a very positive approach to problem-solving. I wish us the best of luck because it is still theoretical, they are doing this today and they are doing another thing tomorrow and other external forces will still affect the issues that were not mentioned. I’m also asking other Nigerians to let us be calm, let’s see the direction this thing will go and let the government be honest and truthful to Nigerians. We need to address the issues surrounding our oil sector and why we are importing crude oil to service Dangote Refinery. There are still issues that I don’t understand but whatever it is, they have agreed to resolve the issues. So, let’s give them time because very soon this government will mark one year in office.