Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George, is a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP). A retired Navy Commodore. He believes that in 2023, power should return to the South of the country, he challenge the EFCC to be brave enough to investigate former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinbu, while also arguing that the unity of the country must be paramount to all politicians. In this interview, he spoke on a range of issues affecting the polity
Your party will be going for the National Convention next week. It appears that the North has taken a step ahead by picking one of the founding fathers of the party, Senator Iyochia Ayu, as the incoming national chairman. How do you look at that choice and the future of the PDP?
Senator Iyochia Ayu is not new to the party. He is an old hand, an experienced hand. All the responsibilities he has been given, he has performed well. He is very a committed hand with character. He is a man of unimpeachable character, who will live above board, who will be able to imbibe the norms of the party on the membership of the party. The party should be looking forward to a seasoned, responsible and highly respectable hand. These qualities of such personality were lacking during the last dispensation.
You mean under Secondus?
Secondus’ era was a disaster.
In what way?
Management style! Look at the problem he created in Lagos. When Moshood Salvador left the party for the APC, the process of replacing a man, who leaves the exco at any level of the organ is well stated in the constitution. We went through that but he insisted he was going through another route. We showed them what the constitution says, and the simpliciter of what the constitution says- if any member of the exco leaves the exco at any level of the organ, the full exco at that level will meet, deliberate, debate and elect another member from the same zone of which the person left and the newly elected person will serve out the term of the person that left. One does not need a rocket scientist to interpret that. But he didn’t follow that. Firstly, he said there must be special congress. To hold a congress in this country, the power doesn’t reside with the National Working Committee of the party.
Which he was heading?
It resides in the National Executive Committee(NEC). We will draw up guidelines and all the details. I was heavily disappointed. He sent Senator Ben Obi to me. I told him to read the party’s constitution and urged him not to be allowed to throw this party under the bus. They conducted the congress. We went to court and the court gave a judgement against Deji Doherty and his plans. Absolute rubbish! It was so painful! And he has been in the party for so long…
You mean Secondus has been in the party for so long to understand the constitution?
He was chairman in Rivers PDP. He was also National Organising Secretary of the party.
Do you also blame him for the defection of some governors to the APC, under this administration?
I don’t know why they are defecting. Do you want to compare our party with APC?
APC is the ruling party…
It could be ruling party. I still say APC is a congregation of strange bird fellows. Let’s take a measure of their performance and the impact on the minds and hearts of Nigerians; whether in the private or public sector, employed and unemployed, how many are happy with what is happening now? Economic sector of the nation is almost dead. The security of lives and properties also dead and the agricultural sector is the same. We will be deceiving ourselves if we say all is well. We must tell truth to power, so that they can go back to their drawing board. That is the beauty of democracy. No freedom of speech any longer. We are the people feeling the heat. Look at the prices of normal commodities, foodstuffs, flour for making bread, cost of materials and we have one funny attitude in this country! When the rate of exchange between the naira and dollar changes, we go whacko! Ask anybody. Are we okay? Are Nigerians happy?
In essence, you don’t see a reason a PDP governor should go to the APC?
We ask ourselves, could it be the devil? Why would one run into fire, when the gate is wide open on the other route that leads to beautiful beach sight and sunshine.
The North arrived at Ayu by Consensus. I know there are other positions zoned to them. What of the South? Have you zoned the positions to the three zones in the South? Are you also thinking of arriving at the Consensus as well?
Once the time comes for the changing of the guards and managers of the party, all the positions that have been in the North, will come to the South and vice versa. The Southern governors have met and have concluded and have also micro-zoned the position into various zones. In the South West, we have the deputy national chairman(South), deputy national secretary and the publicity secretary and the other zones know what they have too; what each zone should look at now is what they had in the last dispensation for it to be considered for.
In line with the zoning of party positions, the issue of elective positions like the presidency and others, the tradition of the PDP has been the chairman comes from the South, the president comes from the North, but now the PDP is trying to play games by saying the ticket is open whereas the chairman is going to the North?
I want to appeal to our people because this is not a rocket science. It is a very noble and simple, extremely accommodating gesture by the founding fathers. One of the major problems that plagued this country and sent us to crisis in the First Republic was the lack of respect for the minorities. That led to the cacophony of voices, fighting, persistence, until in the end, we got together after a long gestation of military rule, counter coups, among others. When General Abdulsalam was leaving, he told Alex Ekwueme, the convener of the GAT that in this situation, if we make promise to our nation, we must establish the system, that will make every Nigerian, no matter the tribe to have that sense of belonging. That commitment of being part a country and when a booty is shared nationally, no tribe should be left behind.
So, our founding fathers got together and were able to pull all those people that were so politically different not in terms of ideology; no political party in Nigeria has ever had any political ideology. Have you emerged a situation where an Alex Ekweme, Jim Nwobodo, Solomon Lar, Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi, were in the same political room with Bamanga Tukur? But with this concept, designed and discussed, it appeared that Nigeria was finding a solution to the problems that have plagued us, and so they came up with a concept of dividing this country into six geopolitical zones. We also have six top positions which are President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, Secretary to Government and National Chairman. If the President is to the North, Vice-President will be to the South, Senate President to the North, Speaker to the South, SSG to the North and National Chairman to the South. After eight years, all positions in the South will go to the North and North will go to South. That is very noble. That is how we were able to find a minority becoming a president.
If we now look at it that way, we realise that with that game plan now, we have zoned chairmanship to the North, and all the other positions in the National Working Committee, in other words, the daily managers of the party, the positions have been zoned. These are managers, managing the political platforms. Now to the practitioners, who will go further to demand support from the electorate, promising them on our behalf. This is democracy. Our plans and concept for Nigerians is that our party must elect people who will utilize the resources of the land for the benefit of the people. If one doesn’t come from a scenario where one can effectively guarantee that everybody will go home with something, we are not doing nothing. That means we are surreptitiously trying to get back to the old concept.
Sometimes, when I hear some proposition like we have the number, remember we have the number, we can do what we want, that is not being politically correct. If someone is now trying to redesign the whole concept, how do you convince Nigerians of the concept? I don’t know. Maybe, there are some certain mathematical calculations that will make one plus one not to be equal to two. Their abracadabra is still in the air, poisoning the minds of political pundits. The chairman of the party must remain in the opposite zone of the President. All hands are on deck and all eyes are on 2023 to see the magic on everybody can compete, contest.
Your party seems to have keyed into the conspiracy that the North doesn’t want to hand over power in 2023…
You call it a conspiracy?
I think that is just whistling in the dark. How can you say they will not be able to hand over power? That will be a serious crisis.
If power stays in the North?
How? When our founding fathers came up with this brilliant idea which I call Turn-by-Turn Nigerian Limited, designed the six geopolitical zones, we saw the immediate effect of this, which improved that sense of belonging of the people of Nigeria. If someone is now trying to turn it by saying anybody can contest, and I felt what could this be, let me look at this scenario where we have the president from one zone, and we have the national chairman of the party from the same zone. Simpliciter , it means daily manager of the party is from this zone and daily manager of the nation is also from this zone.
But there have been some arguments that if the presidential candidate of the party emerges from the North, Iyorchia Ayu will resign and hand it over to somebody in the South…
Do you understand the dynamics? Let’s come to the dynamics of Academia. Anything you do to a system that is not well defined will end up in the doldrums of hell. They now know he will resign and hand it over to the South. That will be another way of saying one plus one is equal to zero. Firstly, it is not expedient politically. They may say the man who was running this party on a daily basis manipulated the results and resources of the party to make sure that his man came up. How do you convince the other Nigerians, you are seriously looking at it in that direction? He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Are there desperation in one corner to perpetually control power in this country?
That is why I said it is a conspiracy…
That is the new language. Where has it led anybody? Once any issue is defined as a conspiracy, it does not go well for stability. It does not go well for development. It doesn’t go well for peace. This nation is blessed with human, agricultural and mineral resources and someone will say it is okay to do that; the end justifies the means. Not in this country!
But it seems to have served the North well since 2015?
If it has served them. Where is the state of the nation today?
Because the nepotism we have seen since 2015, we have not seen it before?
Like I said, take the aggregate of the whole country, where is the state of the nation today? Are you proud of it? Are we achieving anything? Are the people happy? Are the South, East and North happy? Anywhere, you are in these so-called defined borders of country called Nigeria, where are we today?
We are now an unhappy nation…
If you see the kind of debased manner in which our people are treated internationally, it is mind-blogging. I feel insulted, I feel angry. We were number one in terms of economy, human and material resources in Africa. Out of every 10 Africans, seven are Nigerians. Today, there is nothing like that.
There doesn’t seem to be a discussion about Nigeria again…
What do you want to discuss? What is giving one that underlying happiness? It is when one has got something that will make someone happy and the person will be willing to share that.
Do you see PDP winning 2023 at the presidential level?
If we put our hearts together, we will win.
You are convinced about it?
Sure! Our 16 years of governance were better years than what we found now and I also happy that the National Assembly are now ensuring the process of elections should be done electronically, and move away from the shackles of primitive activities. If we do that, it will definitely impact on the qualities of people who will go and manage the resources of our country, not a pool of jokers handpicked by some godfathers, that they will blindly be playing his role. To me, if we get our hearts together and we don’t start to think one plus one will be zero.
You are one of those that strongly believe that power should return to the South. Raymond Dokpesi said a few days ago that no southerner can win the election for the PDP, which looked like a costly joke?
I want to believe he was misquoted because he is a highly cerebral person. He has a natural gift of those types of firmaments of civility. When I heard that, I chuckled. I called him to confirm if he actually said that. How can you say there are no people here that can win? He is also from Edo State. Maybe, it’s a slip of tongue. I know Raymond very well. Nigerians know better. These young generations are disgusted about how Nigeria is being managed. They are disgusted about the lack of commitment by our leaders. Some of our brothers talk about having the numbers for election. The last Census in the country was in 2006. With the available and modern technology now, our data collection and utilization of subdata is not static. With the press of a button on ipad or computer, it is instant. Why are we still in this stoneage, carrying elections materials manually to Abuja?
Would you expect both PDP and APC to bring their presidency to the South? Bola Tinubu is one of the people being projected in APC. They say he has a very bright chance…
Sometimes, when I hear things like this, it transports me to a level as if I am in a dreamland. How? It is humongous. It is an open secret. The Alpha Beta Company? we have kept asking every governor in Lagos State, who owns the Alpha Beta Company? The former Managing Director of that institution wrote a petition to the EFCC. There have been quite damning revelations and it still goes around. The young man who is now the chairman of the EFCC, Bala, must investigate him to prevent the total collapse of the future of this country for his own generation. They must investigate him. They must come out with reports. If they cannot, they can hire the FBI that has much deeper, clearer eyes. In the darkest of darkest, they will see all the figures, loops and manipulations of the financial mess of our state. It is a big shame. Where is the factory, what has he produced for people that he has that high return to buy two expensive private jets that can fly from Lagos directly to New York. What jobs or factories did he create? I cry for my beloved state. This disgusts me and he wants to aspire to the highest level? That is why some of us are shouting that Nigerians should repel it.
Are you saying it is not possible?
People are not fools. With the direct primaries and e-transmission, it is not possible. That is when he will see the anger of the people. Look at the state the occupant of the seat has left Nigeria. People are angry and they are viciously hungry. Able-bodied man would wake up in the morning and there is no way he can access food? What is responsible for these arson, kidnappings, killings, armed robberies and their vices?
After President Muhammadu Buhari, what kind of a person do you think can replace him either from North or South to rebuild what has been lost in the past eight years?
Let me define the kind of personality that can fix this; the kind of man with an unimpeachable character, a committed, dedicated, highly-educated Nigerian, a selfless Nigerian, a Nigerian who will look at the prisms of life and see the squalor that he feel this is a direct slap on me and will battle it.
A Nigerian, irrespective of his tribe would see any other Nigerians suffering and say no. The issue of this tribal mistrust must be thrown away to the doldrums of hell. Human beings are human beings, irrespective of where they were born. Each time I think about the problems of this country, the day we were born, just that few minutes before we popped out, nobody selected the tribe one wished to be born into. Nobody selected the area one wanted to be born. We just popped.
The only thing God Almighty has guaranteed is that we are human beings, made in the same image as Him. Who is any human being to underrate another, to push one down, to be telling another that they are a subhuman? I will not take that. Love your neighbours as yourself. That is one of the teachings we are taught. Do unto others what you wish to be done to you. Look at the grudge between tribe A and B; look at the mindlessness of the socialites. They don’t give a damn. Is it that life? Sometimes, I say to myself, maybe, if we have continued teaching history in our school, for people to look at certain period in history, those things that have mitigated against development, we would have made sure that we avoid the mistakes of the past.
If you don’t learn about history, you are consigned to the dustbin of hell. I chuckle. When I was growing up, nobody thought of going abroad, because everything were readily available, top-rated minds, teachers, professors. In fact, when you hear what goes on now in Nigerian institutions, one wonders the quality of their output.
Culled: Sunday Telegraph