Chief Bode George is one of the frontline aspirants for the office of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) national chairman, an office zoned to the South. In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, the former deputy national chairman of the PDP says he is the most qualified and experienced to lead the party.
Why did you join the race for the PDP National Chairmanship?
PDP National Chairmanship? I am in the race because our party has gone through a storm worse than the devastating one that wreaked havoc in America recently.
We went through a very vicious time, and fortunately for us, we are lucky that the Supreme Court gave us back our life.
Now as a party, we have a Caretaker Committee.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari, when he met leaders of other political parties said it openly and clearly and I want to quote him: “Th is government and this nation need a vibrant opposition.
” Isn’t that enough challenge that we should put our house in order for the benefi t of Nigerians who are not even card carrying members of our party? So, I consulted widely and decided that I need to submit myself to the party and serve the party in the position of the national chairman at the next elective convention of the party to be held this December.
I have served this great party at one level or the other since its inception.
I have been National Vice Chairman in the terrain when the party had zero representatives in the South- West, and I had served meritoriously, every national chairman, except when I left as deputy national chairman.
I had the privilege of serving under astute party administrators like Baba Solomon Lar, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbe and under Ahmadu Ali, who were national chairmen of the PDP.
When it comes to knowing this party, and knowing the network, I think without any contradiction, I have enough knowledge of this party.
Th is is the time for someone with adequate knowledge and leadership skills to come on board and pilot the aff airs of the party.
I have decided to off er myself to do what will make the party the toast of Nigerians voters who desire good leadership again.
We need to do what it takes to make this party exceedingly great again in the interest of democracy at large.
Th at’s why I said, as a tested Captain, I will be too happy to off er myself if those members of our party will believe in the need to restore the glory days back.
But we have a very short run.
What I mean by that is that we have a very short window between the end of our National Convention and the next general elections.
It’s just about a year.
Can we therefore aff ord to get an untested hand, somebody who has never served as one of the managers of the party to now lead us at this critical time? I believe the answer will be a resounding no.
!!! This is definitely not the time for experimentation, the time is x and so from day one, we know what the party should be looking forward to.
Th is is what has been prompting me on, with a lot of support from our party members, I decided I will take a shot at it.
Mind you, it’s never a matter of life and death; it’s a service to the people.
I know what to do if given the opportunity
The office of national chairman has been zoned to the Southern part of the country.
How will you justify the desire of the South-west to clinch this seat?
First of all, when something is zoned to a large house, you look at those who have served in that capacity before.
Th e South-east had served as chairman of the party, I don’t want to be quoting dates, but they cannot be considered for the seat now, and that’s why you won’t fi nd anyone from the zone mentioning anything about vying for the seat.
South-south itself has acted for two years as Chairman.
Th e South west had neither acted nor occupied that position in substantive form and I believe what is good for the goose is good for the sauce.
Fairness, justice and equity are the major tripod on which this party was established.
Th at is just the political analysis to justify that it is the turn of the South-west.
Secondly, there was a meeting last year of all the Southern leaders in Port Harcourt where the decision was taken that the South west should present the next candidate for the PDP Chairmanship position.
Now, to me, our zoning is a guideline, it’s not a Berlin Wall and this is not the time anyone should rock the boat.
Th is is the time for those who are loyal to the party and committed to come on board, stabilize the platform so that we can have a very formidable campaign and election.
Th e zoning is key, but it does not necessarily exclude anybody.
Recall our the fi rst convention we had in Jos, when President Obasanjo competed for the PDP ticket, they didn’t say they zoned it in particular to one zone.
But this one has been zoned.
At the Jos convention, Papa Ekwueme contested, General Obasanjo contested, and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi contested too.
But the result is obvious.
When something is zoned somewhere, the party faithful who love the party will gravitate towards that because that’s the decision that was generally taken by the party.
More so, now that we are not in government and we have just passed through series of crises, this is not the time to start another crisis which may be devastating to the party.
So, I will appeal to our brothers elsewhere, we have just one window, one year opportunity to quickly stabilise the party and prepare for national election.
Th e founding fathers of this party created the six geopolitical zones, for a reason.
Th e six geopolitical zones was not known to our national constitution, but for their experiences in the fi rst republic where minorities from both the north and south were completely neglected and they shouted out, they came up with a solution that the political parties they are going to establish must be able to take care of all the zones so that every Nigerian, no matter where you come from must have a sense of belonging.
Th at assisted the party for the last 16 years.
Th ere was a time the South west was to have the Speakership of the House of Representatives, but they said we were fi ghting amongst ourselves and Bola Tinubu the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria then teamed up with some of the rebelling PDP members and they supported the candidature of my young brother, Aminu Tambuwal, and he became the Speaker.
Th roughout that period, the South-west had none of the top six positions in the country at that time.
I expected that the party would have taken a step at that time to prevent a calamity, but we didn’t.
Th e eff ect of that was the loss suff ered by the party in the South-west as a repercussion.
Do you see such in APC?
Now, again in their own government now, they said they don’t believe in zoning.
Th e South east doesn’t have anyone in the top six positions in the country.
What is causing agitations in the South-east? We must learn from that and prevent any such occurrence in the PDP.
I believe that our party should follow the dictates of our founding fathers, and get to win the hearts and minds of all Nigerians.
Th ose of us who are card carrying members of this party, how many are we? Th e electorate will decide.
We must be seen to be fair, to be just, and to be equitable.
Th ose are the things we will exhibit to win the hearts of everybody.
So, this issue of the clamour that the chairmanship is zoned to the South generally, we must be very careful.
In the past, the Villa used to intervene by saying, ‘ok, let’s do it this way’ and people listened.
If we allow this to heat up, and it comes out into the open and we cannot manage it, then, how can we convince the larger electorate that we can manage Nigeria fairly and equitably? It is a turning point, and we can’t aff ord to miss the right turn.
It was a decision taken and I remember that it was former governor, Peter Odili, who made that passionate appeal at the meeting and the conclusion was drawn that the South west should have the chairman seat.
It’s about a year ago before we went into the spin, we haven’t forgotten that.
If anybody is pontifi cating and saying that no decision was taken on the matter, he or she is lying
Has there been any attempt at rezoning?
We just came out of quagmire.
What are we rezoning? Th e convention is just about eight weeks from now, if we start, then we are looking for trouble.
If we heat up the party all over again, and we cannot resolve it, then, we will go into confusion and I can assure you that the government in power will wade into it and ensure we don’t survive it.
Th e God of second chance has been good to us, having taking a warning from the Supreme Court, and we won, and have been given a second chance, the best for us is to put our house in order.
Even if it comes to the South-west, it’s not tea party yet.
We don’t need to start what we cannot fi nish.
I’m appealing to our people, because if we do that, how do we convince other electorate in the South west that whichever government emerges from the congregation will be fair to the South west?
Even in the South -west, there are some other aspirants.
What is your unique selling point? What do you think gives you the edge over others?
Th e point is very simple: experience, pure experience and guts.
I became the National Vice Chairman of the party in the South- west in December 1999.
Th e position I occupied and worked so hard even at that time to be able to break the clutches of the so-called Awoists—those who merely used Papa Awolowo’s name to deceive electorate.
But God gave us victory, because we remained honest, we remained faithful, and we convinced the minds and hearts of the people, and we won elections in 2003 and we won fi ve states out of the six states.
I’m happy to present my credentials that I was the National Vice Chairman at that time.
We achieved what people thought was impossible.
It wasn’t my power, God gave us knowledge, the wisdom and the people believed in us.
I then became the Deputy National Chairman South.
We won almost all the states in the South in that election.
Later, I became the Deputy National Chairman for the entire party, Deputy to Baba Ahmadu Ali.
I have served the party, I know this party, it’s like a second home to me.
I know the length and breadth of people in this party, from every corner.
That itself is an asset.
If there is any sort of crisis anywhere, whether state or zone, when you pick your phone even at midnight, you know who to call.
This is the scenario now.
That knowledge is there.
I had also been Director-General of a Presidential Campaign Organization for this party at an election we won handsomely.
I had been several times the Chairman of National Convention of the party.
I had also managed crisis all over this country in terms of conflict resolution.
I remember the time when the then Governor of Anambra, Chris Ngige was abducted, I was the one that went there to resolve it.
When there was so much agitation in the North-west, at that time All Nigerian Peoples Party, (ANPP) was fi ghting us so viciously that a committee was set up which I headed, to go all the states there to calm all the frayed nerves.
I think, I’ve served well enough.
We are not reinventing the wheels, but unfortunately also, we don’t have the time for any new learner, anybody who has not managed a part of the party to that level, to come and manage the party as a whole at this critical time, we can’t afford to take that risk.
I didn’t invent these, but these are the tracks of my own experience in this party.
When Wadata was in crisis, and people said it was all over, where were these people? Th ey didn’t believe that PDP will resurrect, they didn’t believe it.
Some of them were already setting up other political parties, they even told their people that they should not worry, that the judgment of July 12 was not going to favour the party, that Ali Modu-Sheriff will be given favourable judgment! Th ey are like rolling stone that gathers nothing, because let’s face it, you have been in a small hamlet and now you just want to jump out to be the manager of a big palace, it won’t work because it is not an experimental thing to manage a palace.
Our case does not give room for experimentation now.
To say it doesn’t matter, he will learn on the job, no it does matter, we have just one year to deliver, and win elections.
Can we afford to play truancy as party, can we? I say no, we can’t.
Th ere are some of these individuals who said no single word during the crisis, for or against, they perfectly sat on the fence so that their words won’t be used against them, but we stood up and spoke, fought on the side of the party and we are happy today that all is well for the pain terms of the favourable judgment in the Supreme Court.
I remember that delegations came to me in Lagos, saying, ‘’ Oga, PDP is dead, let’s move out, but I said no, PDP won’t die.
’’ Today, those who tried to woo me out of the party then, are alive today and they are happy that the PDP is kicking and alive.
I remember telling a former particular presidential aide then that what our leaders the founding fathers of this party planted cannot die, it is engraved on a marble and today I’ve been proved right.
The tap root of this party is solid.
This is not the time for experimentation; I’m singing it on the high roof.
So, my appeal to our people is that it’s not a matter of pride, but a clear fact that we need a tested captain to take the ship to harbour.
If we hit the storm at sea, especially, a bad storm, we don’t need a jay-jay green Captain.
You seem to have a strong belief that the PDP has the capacity to bounce back, can you justify this?
We have to convince Nigerians.
You as a marketer, you have taken a product that was in the market before to the people and they waived you away, saying we don’t want it because it’s not eff ective, you know what you sold before, you had done a post mortem analysis on where the product went wrong, what is the thing that the people don’t like, what are those things that aff ected the product that our people used to love so much, that it was the beauty of every home, then you will get it right.
Th e post-mortem of the PDP shows that impunity was a big problem: substitute names of winners at the party’s congress because of some interest, how do you retain members loyalty in such a circumstance? You disobey so many lawful rules and you think it’s going to be rosy? No.
Those of us who started with the original concept, who knew what we sold to the people, the good product we produced and the people bought, we know what to do about it again.
We know where we have erred, we are poised to convince Nigerians, but not only convince them, they must see us as being genuinely repentant.
We must begin to let people see our congresses open, fair and our pronouncement, our utterances, our actions must convince Nigerians.
That is the beauty of democracy.
When Baba Buhari said he needs to have a vibrant opposition, he knows what he’s saying.
We knew what they promised Nigerians and now two years into the government, I know that it will be stock taking in the next eight months when they would have been three years in offi ce.
Then, we can take their score cards and show Nigerians what they have done or didn’t do, then we will tell them what they had done and what we shall do more.
That’s civilised democracy.
We didn’t say we didn’t make any mistakes in the past, to err is human to forgive is divine.
We had done an in-house analysis on why we lost that election, and we will do the right things to put the party back on the right track.
If you didn’t participate in the modelling, how can you eff ectively participate in remodelling? It is not by mistake or chance, and I am not being proud now, I served 10 unbroken years meritoriously under leaders who understood party management, learnt very well under their leadership and contributed my humble quota as well.
Ten unbroken years, from 1999 to 2009, I served at this party secretariat and I know the experience garnered is invaluable.