Monday, April 30, 2012
Regional integration my foot says Deputy National Chairman-Bode George
Erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George has seen the best and worst of times in his political odyssey -from the pinnacle of political mastership to the loneliness of confinement. In all, Bode George as he is well known is unchanged in his passions, pursuits and politics as he recently demonstrated in this encounter with Vanguard in his Ikoyi, Lagos office.
In the extensive interview he discusses, albeit with reluctance the wave of crises in the Lagos chapter of the PDP, the permutations on the chairmanship of the BoT of the PDP and dismisses with ignominy the plans for regional integration by the Southwest Governors of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Excerpts:
You have been accused of allegedly installing the state executive of the PDP in Lagos State. How true is this?
You know some people talk a lot of trash, jobless people who have no commitment, who have no loyalty to this party. How could I single handedly install the whole executive of the party in Lagos state? Is it a personal party? How many of those members do I even know? Even the ones in my local government, do I know them? I have passed that level of idiocy, where you put yourself on Monday movies.
I think they are confused because you see, in politics, like my grand mother and my grand father will say, politics is about people. So, if you think you are a leader, it means people are with you. If you say you are a leader when there are no followers, then who are you leading? There are 245 wards in Lagos State, what is my ambition? Am I contesting for something that I have to be campaigning there?
First among equals
This leadership thing, when we started the fight, Chief Dapo Sarumi was the first among equals, but he left the party, and so naturally I was there. Way back in 1999, 1998, I became vice chairman of the party in year 2000. In fact, 1999 December. Where were these people? We were there trying to bring people in, woo them to come and join the party.
Leadership is not something you just pluck from the tree; why say that Chief Bode George is a leader because he controls this and controls that; he is seen as first among the rest and that’s all.
If you examine those people, I don’t want to start mentioning their names, because you now make them important, a person who cannot be accepted of his own worth and then comes to the centre and says they are this and they are that.
By the grace of God Almighty and the power of the people, I went on as the vice chairman for four years, served as deputy national chairman of the party in the south; then became deputy national chairman for the whole country. So we have been all over, I ran national conventions more than four times, became the Director-General of the campaign that brought Yar’Adua into office.
I am talking about those people who have not even left their villages and are talking about installing someone. There is fairness in the party, I believe so much in them, justice and fairness are the key words, and once you have the basics, that’s the foundation of building the party structure.
I think they must be making me bigger than I am, but they are a bunch of laughing stock. The people who are committed to the party, are committed, those who are loyal to the party are loyal. But you have these jokers here, they don’t think about that, they want to be this, they want to be that; they want to be chairman. Why waste energy on unnecessary issues, when my major concern is on how to reclaim the Southwest from the ACN.
But we gathered that the Vice chairman of the party in South West, Engineer Segun Oni, was in Lagos to settle disputes between you and… (Cuts in)
What are we fighting about? Am I the chairman of the party? Because of the position I have held, I remain a member of the National Caucus, I remain a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP for life, and I remain a member of the National Executive for life, as long as I remain in PDP.
Because I am alive, I am a member of those bodies. So who is fighting who? What are we fighting for? We brought them to join the PDP, I accepted them; they came with their roughness, and we are trying to shape them into the real culture of the PDP.
You know, some of these people are so formed in their own dirty ways, which is not acceptable in the party. The laws of the party are there. So Segun Oni didn’t come to say who is fighting who? Like I told you, the fight should be against the opposition.
Segun Oni also came over to see what was on ground, and he was assertive that this kind of behaviour, which has been exhibited by these clowns, is not acceptable by the culture of the party, and this is what we’ve been singing all along. But you know, somebody was there encouraging them, and that is why they have lasted this long.
I didn’t make the constitution of the party, they have flaunted every page of that constitution. If you have an organization without laws, but if you have laws and they don’t obey the laws, and you don’t discipline, that’s what you will find, we are all getting ready to fight the enemy, but I tell you, there are two different categories of these jokers.
You have some who are traitors; they fly by night and pretend to be with you in the day time, they are not members of this party they pretend. All their tentacles, all their kith and kin are in the other parties; one whose son is a Personal Assistant to Governor Fashola, and he is pretending that he is in the party, he wants to be chairman of the party, isn’t that a joke?
God Almighty will descend on these characters, because of the sweat and the blood of those people who are committed and loyal to this party. God will show them up and deal ruthlessly with them, that’s my prayer. Now that is the category of pretenders. Now the other category are some who rushed, all they want is national government, even to go to their wards and mange the people in their wards, they can’t do, they are acting big men, they carry Agbada around, on the day of election they are sleeping. These are not politicians, but they are politricians.
Intelligence and brain
Everybody is expected to go to their wards, practice what you know there, support the people with what God has given you; if you have money, help the party, if you have the intelligence and brain, help the party; if you have the physical strength, help the party, it doesn’t have to be money alone. So, these are the two categories of jokers.
So for me, for Southwest, we need a complete x-ray of what happened to us. Where were we in 1998, 1999 up to 2003? What did we do to win the hearts and mind of the Yoruba people, and they willingly voted for us; what did we do till 2007 and this last election. There is no action without a reaction, something happened, we are all intelligent people, educated, we are not going to be like idiots who will not know how to conceptualize.
Yoruba politics is very sophisticated, definitely, something went wrong, what went wrong? Let’s find out, we have the grace of one year for us to seriously examine ourselves, honestly, truthfully call a spade a spade and tell ourselves some home truth. I told Oni, if he is ready, we are ready. Let us take it stage by stage. Do an analysis, were we sleeping on watch? Why did the people not vote for us? Was it a combination of rigging, or a combination of judicial rascality?
Now adding and subtracting when you are not INEC. They where adding and subtracting to give judgment! Why do we go to the polls then? It is for INEC to add and subtract, not the Court of Appeal. So if we look at what went wrong. Was it the attitude of the man who was the representative of the Yorubas? What happened?
The resignation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as chairman Board of Trustees of the PDP took the party by surprise especially the South west. Will the region still retain the seat or will it be rezoned?
The BoT is the club of the elders; the club of people with gray hair, people with experience, political juggernauts who are fair minded. There are two major functions of the Board of Trustees: the first major function is that they hold in trust all the assets of the party for legal purposes.
The second function is that: they are mediators in terms of crisis. Because of their wealth of experience, they are elders of the party and that is why you cannot be a member until you are 50 years old. The older you are, the more acceptable. Another major function is for them to moderate between the legislative and the executive arms.
They are supposed to intervene and bring moderation so that things do not run out of control; outside that, there are no other jobs for the BoT. Somebody tried to start re-writing the constitution and giving them more power; thank God that has been expunged, there is only one president and leader.
The office of chairman and secretary of the BOT, are not zoned, they are not part of zoning scheme at all. In fact, because it is a special club of elders who are experienced, you have rotational members, and you have people who are permanent members.
Then you have those who have been chairmen of the party, deputy chairmen of the party (National), National Chairmen, vice national chairmen, then National Secretary, Deputy National Chairmen and also those who have been Senate presidents, and Speakers of the House of Representatives.
These are all permanent members for life as long as they remain in PDP. I told you it is not zoned; when we meet, we conduct election to elect who the chairman will be, and I said thank God this particular portion that they said only former presidents can be has been expunged. There is no restriction. On getting there, the club of elders look at you and see if you can lead they will vote.
They will also elect the secretary, but because of the nature of this country, zoning issues have become part of our own democratic practices and that is why democracy has been sustained without a break since 1999 because every zone will have a representation at the top level. These are my own personal views about it. It is a club of elders that have achieved so much in their life time. I have been lucky having been deputy vice chairman, I am a member for the rest of my life, as long as I remain a member of PDP.
How does the party intend to reconcile aggrieved members in the region?
We have suggested that there are members of the BoT in each state, he can call them to assist in resolving all those problems. When I look right across the South West, what I see is ambitious people struggling, they want to become governor. Let’s stabilize the platform on which you want to be launched before you start jumping, I want to be this I want to be that. Join hands with us let’s build the platform, and I think that is what we are going to do.
What is your position on the planned effort by governors of the South west to introduce regional integration for the development of the zone?
Maybe they don’t understand the definition of integration. You know they are not at par in terms of development, education, infrastructure, human development, agriculture, they are at different levels. What do you want to integrate? You easily integrate people of like minds and equal level, otherwise what they would have is what they call osmosis. Those with higher level of development will be brought down to come and join all the loafers, and then everybody will collapse. Let every state have a measure of standard under which you can develop at your own pace.
I will take the measurement of Baba Awolowo. Baba Awo provided virtually everything, there was scholarship programme there was education, he was the best. So what happened was that we allowed these loafers, they have had this high sounding syllabus (regional integration), regional integration my foot. Do they even know what it is? Look at it, from Delta to Edo, back to Ondo, one man managed it and with good people he had as members of his cabinet too.
Are you saying that the planned regional integration is a hoax?
These jokers who are talking about regional integration want to pull away. I believe in this same entity called Nigeria and it will remain so. Of course, it was an artificial creation; the concept at that time is different from the concept now. At that time, regional premiers were very powerful, they took care of your bill, they developed education, agriculture, infrastructure, everything, it was your premier. In 1966 when the military came, all that regional thing disappeared.
Change in concept
Now, what should an educated man do? Once there is a change in concept, you must go back to your drawing board, and reconfigure yourself to meet issues at a time. Now that was what PDP provided in 2003 to the Western zone.
The race for 2015 has begun and the north has warned President Jonathan not to run for office. How would you respond to this?
I believe president Jonathan’s major concern now, is how he could reach the 10,000 mega watts of power utilization in Nigeria. How would these millions of youthful graduates get jobs so that you don’t have an idle hand as the devil’s workshop.
How would he improve on the infrastructure of this county? How would he encourage investors to come back to Nigeria, how will there be political stability in this country. I believe those are very vital issues burning in his mind. For me, you know he would have to show that, to say this is what I have done, all those promises during his campaign, that he said he would do, those are really serious issues.
I saw his statement where he said that the budget for next year will be done by June or July, because there is no time. I don’t want to join the bank for that kind of discussion. I believe that we will be tuned up, when all these things are done.
I believe those are the issues on his front burner. I was the director of Yar’ Adua’s campaign. If anybody told us that he won’t last the first year, who would have believed it?