What PDP must do as main opposition party –Bode George

Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George in this interview, speaks on the Supreme Court ruling on the 2023 presidential election, the crisis in the PDP and borrowings by President Bola Tinubu’s administration, among other issues.

The general election is over, where and what is the future of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), considering the leadership crisis in the party?

The only thing that can sustain our country is telling truth to power. Mahatma Gandhi of India made a comment that I would like to predicate. He said freedom is not worth having if that freedom does not make room for mistakes. So, it is human, we are not perfect to make mistakes and when it happens like this that we get an uppercut in the battle for Nigeria, yes, the most sensible thing to do is to go back and do an in-depth analysis of what we did wrong and what we did right and then clean the table and reposition the party for the future.

We should not sweep anything under the carpet because it is a foolish way. We must set up a committee that will go all over the country and state by state to find out their experiences, what happened, finances, the political aspect, how we conducted the primaries in each state, who did what and who did otherwise. What I’m saying is that the party must call a meeting and we must set up a committee of very knowledgeable, loyal, dedicated, committed leaders to visit every state of the federation for their input, their experiences. Where they did well, we will know, where they didn’t do well, we will also know, so that they can bring the report and we will discuss it because that is the essence of being in an organisation that is politically biased.

I think we will benefit a lot if we do that but to just come up to say Iyorchia Ayu is not there and someone wants to be acting chairman, to me, it won’t be long before the ship of state will go down. We have to be very careful, and we have to be honest to ourselves, so that we can prepare for another four years ahead of us. And those people with their personal ambitions should keep their ambitions in their pockets for now. Thank God we were shot at but the Iroko tree is still standing because our taproot is still solid.

So, we will bounce back, and we will revisit and correct the mistakes of the past. Thank God some of us who were managers from the beginning of the party are still alive and still strong enough, whatever meeting they call, we will be there to tell them. This is my personal observation and opinion because having spent 10 years working at the national secretariat, to me, the mistakes could have been corrected before the election, but nobody listened.

Everybody thought he had the solution and then we have now got to the battle, you have seen what it is. Yes, I agree with the comments made but I disagree with the judgement of the Supreme Court when I read them in two major areas. The definition Justice Inyang Okoro gave on the status of Abuja because the statement is that you must have the majority of the votes and you must score 25 per cent of the votes in two-thirds of 36 states of the federation, which means 24 states and Abuja. Abuja is not a state.

Maybe we may need to ask the English people to translate that statement for us. It is in addition to the 24 states, you must have 25 per cent in Abuja but you see the way he twisted it. The pages of history will take charge of all that. The other one that was very shocking was the issue of data transmission, why did President Muhammadu Buhari spend so much money buying new equipment, so that we could be like a civilised nation?

And of course, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was quick to tell us that there was a glitch on the D-Day and the late hour. What kind of system is that? I’m an electronic engineer; you cannot design a system that would depend only on one tract. That is the mess Yakubu made to this country and he needs to go back to his inner chamber and ask God for forgiveness.

Okay, results have been declared, of course, there will be winners and there will be losers, it is now governance time, where are we as a nation? For our party, I want to answer that one and what we will do to suggest to the managers for them to set up a high-powered committee of elders, youths and women to go out and find out where we didn’t do well and make recommendations on how we can proceed. They will bring that to the party, the party will settle down.

It is not an issue of I want to be this or that. If we are not careful, this ship of state will go down like the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) although PDP is a very solid Iroko tree, well planted, well nurtured. Yes, occasionally we have setbacks because it is normal in every organisation but let the leaders of the party be with the elders in the room when we discuss moving forward.

Recently, the Commissioner for Budget in Zamfara State accused the former governor of the state, Bello Matawalle, of diverting state funds and today this same former governor is the Minister of State for Defence, what is your view on that?

In any organisation, you will have these ups and downs but I want to congratulate the young man, the commissioner in Zamfara State for being bold and committed in telling the truth to power. At that young age, it means all is not lost and that there is still hope for Nigeria. He was bold enough, I saw it, he was competent, committed, and knowledgeable and he spoke his mind. It is the responsibility of the managers of this country to take a look at that, investigate and take appropriate action.

You cannot sweep such things under the carpet because these are monumental crises that Matawalle created in Zamfara. The commissioner even mentioned that they are number 35 in the position of school certificate exams in the country. How do you develop the people and what is the essence of being in government; to utilize the resources of the land for the benefit of the people.

If Matawalle bought SUVs for bandits, you can investigate it because he is still there, and he is now the Minister of State for Defence. Now, this issue borders on security in Zamfara, so I congratulate that young man, the commissioner for his disclosures. He will go places in this country because he was bold, and he said it without mincing words. Has anybody investigated the matter as stated or is it the next question? Is that the way we want to handle it?

I feel hurt because everyone heard what that young man said and there is no reaction from the Minister of State for Defence. He must clear himself because if they just leave it to be floating, I hope Nigerians are listening and that someday, he will pay a price for it.

President Tinubu has said that he planned to form a unity government for the progress of Nigeria, what is your thought on such a move?

I agree that the elections are over. Yes, I didn’t accept the judgement of the judicial officials but that is personal. As far as the electoral process is concerned, it is the end of the road. But that doesn’t mean we cannot do a post-mortem analysis of what happened, so that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. It is time for governance now. Well, if he says he wants to have a unity government, it cannot be from me as an individual. Each party will sit down, look at the situation, and open it to people to contribute for and against before you start jumping.

There is no individualism in political organisation and it is not the property of any individual, collectively you decide. If you are a real party man, you don’t work outside your party. The party will look for and against you and make an appropriate decision. So, it depends because these are the kind of things, we will look at internally in our inner chamber and tell ourselves some serious home truth if we want to come back to power.

It is not a matter of just coming and signing up as an individual because it doesn’t make sense. We have been in government before and the first time, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo won that election, he opened the gate for all the parties to nominate people, but it is not done individually; the party must give the support. But like I said, this is the end of the electoral process, we are now starting governance.

What is the state of this nation in terms of the economy, the fiscal and monetary policies, and the cost of basic needs for the people. You hear people trying to commit suicide, you see able-bodied women scavenging the dustbins in public and the greatest joke was the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs set up by General Muhammadu Buhari. They had to bring that woman to come and explain how she distributed cash every month.

They have appointed another woman now to head the same ministry. What is humanitarian affairs? Where is the data to show for all the money the woman collected monthly directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and how did she distribute it? And now we have a new one there. That ministry is the fastest track to jail because how do you account for the money and who are the people that got the money? There are other ways in which you could alleviate the pains people are going through not distributing cash. Where are the goods, too much money chasing few goods leads to hyperinflation. We are now over 20 per cent, what are we doing?

So, my challenge to the government is to let us see something concrete that will positively impact the lives of our people. The poverty level we are now has never been like this in this country. There are lots of jobs for the President and his team. It is unreasonable to give people that kind of money every 30 days like the other lady did for those years. I don’t know who collected money and how. Has she made her report because when you take government money, you must account for it?

My take is that it is not a good method of reaching the people because there are millions of people. So, let them sit down because they have a cabinet now, and the other day, I heard the President saying that his son should not be allowed to come to the Federal Executive Council meeting. Is it a joke; is he a minister or what guarantees him or gives him the authority to sit in the Federal Executive Council? I pray for them; that is what I owe him now.

Forget about all the differences, this nation must go on and I’m in opposition, so we must keep them on their toes for the good of our nation. That is the responsibility that I foresee as an opposition party. If there is no strong opposition, they will take this country on a journey ride but when they do things, they will consider all options because of the opposition. When I heard about the supplementary budget recently, I said is this a joke, N1.5 billion to buy cars for the First Lady, then N4 billion to renovate some houses, is that the most important? It is our job to say you can’t waste money because if you do that, the public will be watching.

There is something that has been bothering me; if you turn on your Cable News Network (CNN), Nigeria is the majority of the advertisers. You will see our banks and telecom companies advertising themselves. The quality of telecom services is very bad but they can pay that kind of money to advertise on CNN. Who wants to buy Nigerian goods on CNN? It has been on my mind, and it is a dangerous waste of our resources because the payment is in dollars. And for every minute you advertise on CNN, BBC or Sky News, you must pay the special fund called education funds in those countries.

What do you make of the rising debt profile of Nigeria and the present administration’s plan to borrow more?

I don’t know who the voodoo economist in the Villa is because the amount of money we owe now is N88 trillion. Are we joking? This is the time for governance and managing of the resources of this country for the betterment of the people but is that what they are doing? I want to appeal to the President, it is not a matter of joining his party, we must have a solid opposition to put them on their toes and as long as I live, in the next four years that will be the role that we are going to play.

And it is good for them because if everybody is telling them that they are doing well, they will be the first to condemn them once they get out. Tinubu is not a young man, he has been there, so he knows whether people are polishing him and pretending that he is the best fellow.

The PDP has always set up a reconciliation committee after every election circle yet the same issue of imposition of candidates persists. What gives you the confidence that this time, it is going to be different?

Having worked at the national secretariat for 10 years, the problem that resurfaces every electoral period is very simple. It started during the period of Uche Secondus and I wouldn’t like to undress my party publicly. It is a monumental crisis but very simple to handle. The way the founding fathers designed the handling of primaries and congresses, they altered it. I won’t say more than that but that is the major issue plaguing the party.

You know that our party is not owned by an individual but play and pretend that they are working for the party. Those are the issues that we will get back in the inner chambers of our party and we must address them. That was the methodology used when I was there and there was no crisis. A typical example is the primaries in Lagos State, either the governorship or the elected state executive council. They will send people who don’t live here and who have no business here to come and conduct primaries.

How can somebody from outside know your house more than you do. And rather than them allowing people to vote, they will be looking for the aspirants and they become their ATM. And once they finish, they run back to the national organising department to affirm the person they supported. But I won’t expand more than that but that is the major crisis which you see because, if you go to the bottom and do your primaries at the wards and local government levels and create division at such levels, how can you fight the outsiders?

By the time they came up with all that nonsense, the decision will now be made by people, who don’t even reside here and have no business here. What we used to do in those days was that a maximum of two people will come from the national and the organising people within the state. The state exco and ward exco would have suggested 10 names per local government and the party managers will now post people from Badgary to handle Epe, the same thing across all the state and woe betides you if you now go there to manipulate the exercise because they know you very well.

So, you are bound to do the right thing. But the fellow they send from outside, once he does all his manipulation, he disappears. Do you even know where he comes from? In the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is the godfather that appoints everyone, which is different from our party. So, you create mayhem at the base of the party and a divided house will always remain a defeated house.

That is the crisis, and we must get back to the ways those founding fathers established. We have lost eight years already and they are starting another four years, what is happening to us? The truth must be told. We are aging but we must correct it. We deviated from the norm, and we must get it back the way those founding fathers established it, so that we can come back to government. If we don’t do it, forget it.

As a way forward for the party some stakeholders have said that people like Peter Obi, Rabiu Kwankwaso and other chieftains, who left the party should be approached to return. What is your take on that?

What drove Obi and Kwankwaso out of PDP? These are the issues that are meant to be resolved in the inner chamber of our party. Some people thought they had the numbers and that it was their turn, but nobody owned the party. It is collectively owned by every member, so grandstanding and doing things that are not acceptable should be avoided. I said to some people; if you get Kwankwaso and Obi’s votes and add them to Atiku’s votes, who will be in the Villa? So, a divided house will always remain a defeated house.

One of the things we are going to discuss is to let the people know that if you are elected a member of the National Working Committee of the party that doesn’t give you the ownership of the party. How many elections have they done with this methodology that landed us on the deck with a full uppercut? Did we learn from that and correct the nonsense? I bet you we will now but if we don’t, then many of us will end up at home.

I don’t want this party to end up like the ANPP. We will talk to ourselves. They created all kinds of things and they will send people from outside, they will come here to talk to various aspirants for monetary gains. Look at what Governor Douye Diri did at our congress in Lagos. He came to the place and there was an agreement and we had already settled down but he got down there and said there is going to be congress because he has changed his mind even when you have announced much earlier that it was going to be a family affair.

You decided on your own from nowhere and three-quarters of the delegates had already gone home and you insisted that you are going to do it. You don’t do things that will come back to haunt you. That should have been condemned by the national by saying go back and fix it. We must intentionally get back to the ways of the past. People wanted to create themselves as emperors in our party but collectively we all own the party. Now, what is Labour Party? It is just a movement.

Go to any local government and ask for Labour Party members in a particular ward, you won’t find anybody. It was a movement that really swept across this country. My own children came and said daddy, we are tired of your PDP and APC and we are going to vote for the new man. And you saw what happened in Lagos during the governorship, where they started beating people, saying they are Igbo. That is a misadventure and absolute nonsense.

Peter Obi said the country should restructure to have a single term of five years for the president and governors, what do you make of his suggestion?

You can’t do it without taking the constitution to shreds. I have said severally and I will repeat it again; this rubbish constitution we are running is the greatest threat to good governance in this country. It is like a military constitution, where you have only one man at the apex and when he dishes orders, it circulates to the bottom. That is not democracy. See what we have done now, rather than having a government of the people for the people by the people as defined by Abraham Lincoln, you know what we have now in Nigeria, government of the judiciary for the judiciary by the judiciary.

How can just seven men decide the president of a massive nation like Nigeria? Why do you ask us to go and stay outside and queue up and then only seven people will sit down to decide the president? You can see that nine people already nominated to go and be commissioners in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are APC card-carrying members. What it means is that the man is looking ahead.

Why should Tinubu do that? It is a direct question that I’m throwing at him. Don’t we have other people who are not card-carrying members of any party? He wants to perpetuate himself on the seat but what can perpetuate anybody is good governance.

Do you think that PDP is well-positioned to play the kind of opposition role you are talking about?

I worked at the national secretariat for 10 years and we didn’t debase the party. I want us to get back to the methodologies that we inherited from the founding fathers; you will see this party grow again. Given this division among combatants, we need some elders in the room to bring some sensible decisions to everybody. We need to tell them to calm down. Look at what happened in Rivers State, I expected the vice chairman (South) to have been there and I expected to have called the national chairman to fly to Port Harcourt and say what is going on but the next thing I heard was that they headed to the Villa.

Is APC now going to solve our problem? Do you think they don’t have their own problems? So, it is a joke, but I want to appeal at all levels in the interest of this country and in the interest of those founding fathers, who selflessly came together in the interest of the country and completely removed any personal ambition to set up this massive party with a solid taproot and that is why we are still standing, and we will not allow people to destroy it.





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