Chief Bode George was a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he speaks on the decision by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to dump the PDP among other burning national issues. Excerpts:
By Dapo Akinrefon
How do you see the decision of former President Olusgun Obasanjo to dump the PDP?
It is very sad. After he came out of incarceration, when most of his businesses were down, the party invited him and put a new beginning into baba. He has benefitted from the party.
I don’t think that I have heard of this that a man, who has been to the pinnacle to tear the party’s card publicly. There are things you should not expect an old man to do. It is unfair. Very unfair. This leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those who were part of his rebuilding. It is a very bad decision.
But Obasanjo says President Goodluck Jonathan plans to perpetuate himself in government like former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo?
He (Obasanjo) says he is a Christian and as a Christian, it is emphasised in the New Testament of the Bible where Christ said judge not so that you will not be judged. But his judgement is no longer about the policies of Jonathan. He has gone down to the extent of saying Gen. Muhammadu Buhari will jail you that is why you are afraid.
Talking to elders with respect
I am holding my breath because in an African setting, you talk to elders with respect and that is why I am trying to get the right words to describe my feelings. Baba (Obasanjo) is not a young man.
He was head of state at 39. So averagely, he should be about 84 or 85 and I am requesting that he should graciously fade away into the midnight.
I want to plead with Baba. God has been kind to him and he has served his own time. I don’t want to conclude that his life will be like King Saul in the Bible. I pray it will not be so. Baba has played his role. No generation can finish any job. Nation building is a continuous exercise.
You come, do your own and go back into history. The young will read to know about their past so that they will not repeat the same mistakes. That is why no man can finish the job. It is becoming unnecessarily contentious and the attack on the President who is much younger calls for caution and I will plead and beg some of our obas that there is a need to talk to baba to remain at that pinnacle of respectability. It is becoming too personal.
Apart from the issue of insecurity which Jega gave as the reason for the postponement of the election do you think INEC was ready to conduct the election on February 14?
Ask Jega that as a professor, will it be fair to conduct an examination whereby you have covered 80 per cent syllabus and another class where you have covered only 30 per cent syllabus. Is it fair?
The other question is this issue of card reader. Has it been tested? I am talking as an electronic engineer of 48 years in practice.
Are you suggesting that the PVC should be used along with the Temporary Voter Cards?
That is why I am asking him to answer my question. I am still asking him. If we had held the election on February 14, he would have conflagrated this country.
Swiping cards in frustration
This country would have been up in arms because people would get there and be swiping their cards in frustration. Even the ATM sometimes fail so what story is he telling us? So he should explain to us what will happen if the card readers don’t work.
When he was blaming the postponement on security I thought to myself that is the man a jester because we are not children.
Why did the military surround former Governor Bola Tinubu’s house?
If Bola Tinubu finds his way into national government, I will be on exile. He hasn’t the temerity, the calmness of mind. They don’t even know what to do in power. Because the Vice President is his boy, he will just order that Bode George should be picked up. He said soldiers came to him but he must have been dreaming. When he said soldiers had surrounded his house, I drove down there because my house is not too far from there.
I know the hierarchy of the military and its behaviour. That they surrounded his house is lie number one because on either side of his house are two buildings.
There is also one at the back so I wondered where the soldiers were hiding. Why would you lie for public consumption? So when I got down there, I knew that his spin doctors were working.
The general perception in Lagos is that the governorship race is between yourself and Tinubu
Absolutely not! In the PDP, no individual owns the party. I happen to have been first national vice chairman South-West and then became deputy national chairman South and then deputy national chairman for the whole country and having done that, they have honoured me that as long as I remain in the party, I remain a member of the Board of Trustees and I am the only one representing the South-West in the national caucus forever.
That is a great honour in our party but I don’t decide who becomes a candidate. Primaries are conducted and in this particular case, the voice of the people became louder than anybody’s.
I am not like Bola Tinubu, I don’t have the papers of the party in my pocket. I don’t even have a veto power. But the other side doesn’t practice democracy. We have friends that are members there. There he dictates while here, the people dictate. Jimi Agbaje has no godfather but will not behave like an authoritarian governor.
In the other side, the emperor thinks for the people and he decides who should go to the House, who should go to the toilet, who should speak, he decides who the delegates are. One of the governorship candidates was my in-law.
When he entered the venue of the APC governorship primary and looked round to identify the delegates, it was only the emperor that had the list and that was why Akinwunmi Ambode emerged and others walked out. In our own case, you had to convince the delegates to vote for you. And I didn’t influence anybody by cohesion.
But Senator Musiliu Obanikoro said you were the one that imposed Agbaje
That is absolute garbage, he knew he was lying. You know he came from their party and that is why he was saying it was me. He has now retracted the statement. We are now one indivisible party and we are ready for election. All the vagaries and all that happened during the primary was a test of the ability and the strengths of our party and we listened to the voice of the people.
Voice of the people
The voice of the people is the voice of God.
Jonathan’s perception in the South-West is not as favourable as it was in 2011. There has been blame on you and other PDP Yoruba leaders for allowing Buhari to increase in popularity in the South-West
If you had said this about two or three weeks ago, I would have agreed. I got these feelers straight to my face. People came to me and said they would vote for Agbaje but they would not vote for Jonathan because he had done nothing for us here. And I explained that there is a general misunderstanding of the concept of operation in this country. The long periods of military rule presupposed that the head of state was responsible for everything and it is that same thinking that is responsible for this situation. We are all hands on deck explaining the differences between military governance and democratic governance.
Highly educated people, my age groups, were asking me this question but I explained to them that 60 per cent of the impact the President will have on you is through the federal allocation to your state. Does he give every state and every local government allocation? Yes. They collect it religiously every 30 days.
In the area of security, he guarantees it. It is only three states in the North-East battling insecurity. There is peace and he guarantees that. What of infrastructure? All federal roads in Lagos from Alfred Rewane in Ikoyi all the way to Third Mainland Bridge and Ebute Meta are federal roads. Are they like the roads in Somolu and Akowonjo?
Article first published: February 16, 2015 [4:55pm]