• ‘Defectors to PDP were strangers in APC’
By Dapo Akinrefon and Gabriel Olawale
CHIEF Olabode George is a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, the Atona Oodua explains why he reconciled with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also speaks on the defection of some notable members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the PDP. Excerpts:
What is your take on the return of some notable APC members to the PDP?
They were landlords here in PDP but went to APC as tenants. I was surprised when they left because, as landlords with good mindset, if your house is leaking, you don’t abandon it and go to another house to be tenants. What you need to do is to fix the leakage and remain landlords. I remember that I said it publicly then that the APC is a contraption, a congregation of strange bedfellows. What has it has turned out to be now? They are divided and the reason is that there are no ideological differences between the two major parties, people can easily move from one to the other. Now that they have tried another party, they were stopped from having the control of the executive at the ward, local government and state levels; they now realized that the situation was dangerous for their future. I first heard that they said that they wanted to manage the situation, and I was like, ‘What are you managing? You are strangers there. Come back home to where you are landlords and where justice, fairness and equity are the tripod of the foundation’. It is now our responsibility, as leaders of the PDP, to manage their return into the party in such a way that those in the party before their return will not feel threatened and want to opt out. What we want to do now is to convince Nigerians that we will provide good education, housing and make sure that infrastructure development is strengthened, agriculture is enhanced, security of lives and property is guaranteed.
How do you see Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s emergence as the National Chairman of the APC?
The Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is shooting in the wrong direction. He appears to be somebody in panic and, once you panic, you will misfire. My advice is that he should take a deep breath because words are like arrows, once you fire, you cannot take it back. A leader is assessed based on how he manages the affairs of his organisation. When I learned that Oshiomhole threatened to remove a Minister, I was surprised. This was a Minister who was appointed and the parliament approved his nomination and you want to single-handedly remove him.
What informed your visit to former President Olusegun Obasanjo? We know that you were estranged.
Our culture in Yorubaland emphasizes respect for elders. Obasanjo is like my Baba. Yes, I got a bit angry because when they accused me (of corruption as the Chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority Board) and took me to a Lagos court, I thought it was a joke, but looking back, I am not angry, because the experience I acquired, the lesson I learned in prison, there is no university that can provide that. There is no human being that is perfect; we are prone to making mistakes, and when you know that, there is no need to keep harboring grudges. Baba and I were extremely close. I had been in his bedroom taking notes and we were planning together, but I later found myself on the other side; but that made me determined that, in my lifetime, whatever is just and right, I will pursue. Whatever it is, Baba is still a bundle of knowledge, people may misunderstand his passion for this country but history will remember him for good. But for me, I am happy that we are now back together for good. I saw human hand in our separation.
Lately, the former President has been romancing Yoruba leaders. What is your take?
I see it as a most welcome thing, that we are making peace. This is not the time for division. We need to get everybody to work for this country in a positive manner.
Is it true you have reconciled with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
Bola and I reconciled at (Alhaji Azeez) Arisekola’s burial in Ibadan. Bola is human and I was so angry with him because of certain things that happened. We have our differences on political issues, but my teacher used to tell me that you can disagree without being disagreeable, but he didn’t realize that. I went to the burial of Arisekola, my late friend. I was still annoyed with Tinubu as of that time and, as I was preparing to come back to Lagos, I stood up and greeted everyone but, when I got to him, I didn’t greet him. Ajimobi (Governor of Oyo State), who is my good, younger one, gripped my hand and said “you didn’t greet Tinubu” and I told him that “once God shows you your enemy, he can do you no harm”. Oba Otudeko, who is also a close friend of Arisekola, was also at the occasion. He (Otudeko) now told Ajimobi to go and call Bola Tinubu. When he (Tinubu) came, he said, “Elder, I am sorry”, and that was the end of my annoyance. We still belong to different political parties. But all of us cannot sleep and face one direction, we have different ideas but let’s have robust discussion, and it will help the system, let the better man run.
How do you see the manner the police is handling the killing of the PDP Chairman in Apapa, Lagos?
What happened in Lagos was as a result of lack of respect for constituted authority. The killing of the Apapa LG Chairman of the PDP, Borishade Adeniyi, was unnecessary. But the most painful thing is that those who went to report the incident at the police station were detained and charged to court and presently in prison.
In the wisdom of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, he said those people that voluntarily reported the incident to the police are now prime suspects. They were colleagues, they left home together and, when one of them was killed, they went to the police station to report and were detained, arraigned and now in prison without any investigation by the police. They are in prison until they appear in court again.
If that is the attitude of a senior police officer, he needs to have the fear of God in him because you didn’t arrest them, they voluntarily came to explain what happened and you have not started an investigation; you said it was a conspiracy to murder. Is that an officer? Is he a human being? What do you gain by doing that to your fellow human beings?
Those guys are now in prison for telling the truth. Among those arrested, we have a lawyer, a medical doctor, and engineers; in fact, the doctor among them is now helping the prison medical department. You think because you are there today, you cannot be there forever; you turn logic upside down. I have met with the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, to explain what happened and he promised to do what is just and fair and that the boy will not die in vain.