BY DAPO AKINREFON
CHIEF Olabode George, former deputy national chairman, of the Peoples Democratic, PDP, in this interview in Lagos, opens up on the intrigues he claims that led to his imprisonment and on his relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo among other issues.
How did your trial and imprisonment affect you?
Looking back, it was a trial that strengthened me. It exposed me to the awesomeness of the Almighty God. God told us in his word, the Holy Bible that He didn’t say we will not have trouble, but if you trust Him, He will be with you. I remember the first few days when we were convicted, I was shell-shocked.
The initial reaction was being cheated as a soldier, and once someone does that to you, your adrenalin rises. Thank God I couldn’t get an AK 47 (there) and we eventually settled down, and my wife brought my usual prayer book
What were the circumstances that led to your imprisonment?
It was like a joke. It was like a huge joke. First of all, the management team (NPA) had some disagreement among themselves.
They were fighting. They came to report to me what was going on and I tried to intervene but the friction was getting bigger and I tried to report to the president (Obasanjo). I said ‘sir the management in NPA are having problem among themselves, I don’t know what to do’. He said I should tell the minister.
Thank God that minister is still alive today. So I reported to the minster that you need to intervene in this management friction. Eventually they set up a committee which found nothing with the board or me. We were told that baba said they should do a forensic examination. And they did forensic investigation.
If you would remember, Ribadu when he was asked, said there was nothing. ‘That if you have any political problem with Bode George, you go and solve it with him, if you have any information you can come with it. It is systemic failure.’ Those were his words, ‘systemic failure.’ Nobody ever invited me for any question until, there was change in government.
I was the director general of the campaign that brought Yar’Adua and Jonathan before the struggle for positions started.
There were manoeuvrings, the usual petty fighting, and innuendos. That wasn’t my stuff. So I went abroad to have a break. I thought the chairmanship of the party was going to be zoned to the South-West but somehow it was taken to the South east, which was an abnormality.
So, I went away to cool off and by the time I returned, we had a meeting at the party secretariat where they said they were going to hold another national convention. I told them, we have just finished one convention, why another one? Particularly, they were going to look at the issue of the BoT.
They felt that the power given to the BoT chairman was an aberration. They wanted to expunge that from the constitution. I was pleading:let’s wait for another few months for the party to settle down.
I remember that day as I left, somebody told me that something was brewing in EFCC about NPA and said I should go and find out. I went to the office of minister of justice and attorney general, that was Aondoaka.
That night, there were some people from EFCC in my house. You would think it was a war, knocking and shouting. I came out and asked what do you want? They said Mrs Farida wants to see me. See me at this time? That was the beginning of the convoluted conspiracy.
Looking back now, people intentionally wanted Bode out of any consideration. Because I remember that Yar’Adua after we finished the meeting on zoning, told me that he and I will work together in the villa. That was what he told me. I said ‘as your lord pleases.’
Now looking back, looking at what happened after the zoning meeting, after the late president told me himself and myself would work together, the invitation that Farida wanted to see me and for what? Now I can now look back and tell the world the conspirators. Farida might have played a very key role because she was in charge.
I met her once at the stairway to the office of the president with Aondoaka. Aondoaka was already the Attorney General. The two of them were coming out of the president’s office, I was going in. The lady came back and was greeting me.
I didn’t know her; so I asked, ‘are you a member of staff in the presidency. Are you one of the new ministers?’ She said sir, I know you very well. I know your wife. It was then she said she is Farida Waziri. Then I said it is your husband, I know very well. And we exchanged pleasantries on that stairway. Then she said this case that her predecessors did that there is nothing in it. I said which case? She said the NPA case.
I then went to see the president and we discussed totally unrelated things and I left. I didn’t know Aondoaka and Farida were from the same local government.
Looking back, I can now see that some people didn’t want me in the villa. Why? They wanted an empire for themselves to control. I probably thought it was a joke.
But you know the awesomeness of the Almighty God, everybody that was involved, was kicked out with disgrace. I am saying this publicly for young persons who are coming to learn a lesson. If you continue to plan evil for people, be ready for tons and tons of evil.
Would you say internal party issues contributed to your travails and what is your relationship with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo presently?
As deputy national chairman, I had good working relationship with the national chairman at that time, Dr. Ahmadu Ali.
But some people have their own idea and the only way was to punish this one. Of course, Farida was brought by them. So it was easy to rope Bode George. It was just to remove me from consideration. Not knowing that the master planner was at work. Where are they now? Some of them who were the hunters then are being hunted.
Once you have an opportunity to do anything for the country remember, there would be a day after.
My relationship with baba? Baba will remain baba. It cannot be like before. I was baba’s man Friday in the party and I have no regret about that.
Because like I always tell people, it is turn by turn Nigeria limited. You need your trusted people in certain areas in this country. Even in America.
For me and baba, no love lost. Baba is no longer president, I am no longer deputy national chairman. But as an African, you must give respect to elders.
I am not bitter. You remember the day we came out, at the church service, the President sent a representative. At the reception here, the first lady came. What other encouragement do you need?
Do you want compensation?
God has already compensated me. I don’t need compensation. The fact that I went there, came out, I didn’t suffer any disease and my faculty is still razor sharp, what other compensation? The only compensation that I need is to be able to tell other Nigerians to learn from this and to tell those in authority never to use their positions to oppress others.