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PDP Will Continue To Fail If Manipulation Of Party’s Constitution Doesn’t Stop – Bode George

Chief Bode George is a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with selected journalists, he speaks on the first anniversary of President Bola Tinubu’s administration, Atiku Abubakar’s desire to fly the flag of the party in the 2027 presidential election, the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway and the crisis in Lagos PDP, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU brings the excerpt:

What is your assessment of President Bola Tinubu’s in his first year in office and do you think it is too early to assess the administration?

I want to be fair to my nation and we are watching whatever the President is doing in the economic sector, agricultural sector, general procedure and management style. But so far, people are getting worse, they are hungry and angry. So, let’s send that there and that should hasten him to start getting back to the depth of his management style of his government.

There are two major issues for any government; number one is the security of lives and property. Have they been able to provide security of lives for the people? The second most important question is the economic indices, the inflation rate today and the value of our currency in the world.

I knew the time when the naira was stronger than the dollar. So, what happened to us? You hear all kinds of stories and all these bankers are still there ventilating and still running around with their exotic cars, while those of us who are not in the banking industry are sitting and looking. tired from the Villa and when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was as there as president, we were always there, holding meetings.

And I made a suggestion that you only see the president when he comes out but all the information and advisers, nobody sees them when they come in the night. The economic team aside from the ones he appointed for public knowledge, there are brilliant academics in this country from all the nooks and crannies of this country, he can please ask them to come and help him.

I’m saying this because when I became a military governor, I asked: How do we manage the state? As a soldier, what is your business in managing people, you only manage your men and they know what to do and what not to do. And if anyone falls out of line, you know exactly the instant punishment to give. Somebody said Chief Obafemi Awolowo wrote a lot of books and I read his books and till tomorrow, Nigerians are still saying Baba Awolowo was a super administrator.

They thought he had it all but no. You know his methodology; he had three levels of management style. Number one, he had the academia and professors from different sectors. He goes into serious meetings with them and he presents to them the challenges they are having and asks for their solutions.

Baba will now take all things decided at that meeting before the politicians. That is the second level. The politicians will now look at all these and whether the policy will benefit their constituency because what helps you in your constituency may be a disaster on my own.

So, they will meet and look at that policy and they will now reflect on it and remodel it, so that when they get it out to the public, what is good for you will be good for you. What is not good for the other constituency, they will choose part of those that will be good for them. Then they will send it back to the real operators and the ministers to go and execute that decision. That is why we say Awolowo was a gift to this nation.

That methodology was what I adopted when they sent me to Ondo State because you know that in a military government, there is no legislative arm, you roll everything into the executive. Of course, you have commissioners but they are not as broad as the legislators, who will know in depth the feelings of their people of their respective constituencies.

So, it is a warning shot and so far, things are getting worse but it didn’t start with his administration. You can see some of our people have started to fire attacks just in one year. Let us see whether their mindset and the methodology of his government will ease the tension I went to Lagos Island and I saw the anger in the people.

I saw an able-bodied man, there is nothing he is expecting that is coming and when he gets home, the wife is looking at him and he is looking at his wife. The children are growing and have nothing to eat. They say we voted for them and I told them that I didn’t come here for partisan politics because I was born in Lagos Island and that is the area of my family house.

I have promised that I’m going to seek for an appointment to see the governor of Lagos State. He must wake up to assist those people. They know I don’t belong to their party but let’s work for the sake of this country. If they don’t listen, then we are ready to take advantage of that but fair is fair.

You said some time last year that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should not think of contesting the presidency again but a few days ago, he said he would continue to contest. What do you make of that?

Our party has the grand norm which is the constitution of the party. The constitution was compiled by the founding fathers of the PDP and Dr. Alex Ekwueme will remain a respectable and responsible state-administrator.

When General Abdulsalami Abubakar was going to leave, he asked politicians: What we do to make sure that we have a system that will never allow the military to ever come back to governance?

He invited Chief Bola Ige, Jim Nwobodo, Solomon Lar, Adamu Ciroma and some other elders, including Abubakar Rimi, who came up with a brilliant idea. It is not novel because that is the same thing that happened in Switzerland. They divided Nigeria into six geo-political zones.

Otherwise, we have the majority tribe and the minority tribe because the problem since 1960 has been the majority tribe will win the election, they have their say and they have their way and the minority tribes are just onlookers. That was the major crisis we had that led us to the coup, counter-coup and eventually the civil war.

They divided Nigeria into six geo-political zones that captured both the majority tribes and the minority tribes. And they now came up with the top six positions in the land, president, vice president, Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the national chairman of the party.

They now said every eight years, all the positions in the northern region will come to the southern region and all the positions in the southern region will go to the northern region and that when they come, it can rotate. The party does not microzone any position. If it comes to the South, they allow the people of the South to compete and if it is going to the North, they allow northerners to compete for the positions. That was very refreshing and that was what kept democracy alive.

The moment we started tampering with that idea officially against our grand norm was what created the division in PDP. Atiku said if the party micro-zones the presidential ticket to the South-East; no, we don’t micro-zone. So, I want to appeal to him in the interest of millions of Nigerians, let this nation rise.

It cost us so much because we were all there when it happened in the build-up to the 2023 general election. Section 7, sub-section 3C of the PDP constitution is very clear that the party must adhere to the zoning and rotation procedures of the party for party positions and elective positions.

If you follow what happened at our national convention; the party cannot tell anybody not to contest because that is a fundamental right for every Nigerian who is cleared to vote or be voted for but the party must definitively state that the number one position is going down or up depending on who has held it. Is President Muhammadu Buhari from Lagos State or Cross River State? He spent eight years in office and you came and said you want the North to continue for another four years.

If you put the votes scored by Rabiu Kwankwaso, Peter Obi and Atiku, who will be in the Villa? So, I am praying because one is not getting younger but as long as I live, if we follow the constitution those founding fathers gave us, we will have no problem. But if we start to manipulate it, we will continue to fail. I hope we have learnt our lesson because a divided house will remain a defeated house.

We don’t microzone because every zone in the South will compete and whoever wins becomes the party’s choice. Anybody from the North who wants to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in 2027 will not be stopped but the party by its rules must state categorically and emphatically that the position is zoned to the South.

That is the responsibility of the managers of the party. If they don’t do that, those fathers who have passed on would be rolling in their graves. I must state that Dr. Ekwueme will remain a very special Nigerian.

He conceptualized the meeting and they set up this party. Obasanjo was still in jail at that time but who benefited from that system? Ekwueme contested and he lost a d he never at any occasion raised his voice that he must have it because he was the one that proposed it. That is a civilized behavior, and today, in whatever way you want to

Anybody from the North who wants to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in 2027 will not be stopped but the party must state categorically and emphatically that the position is zoned to the South

write the history of this country, Ekwueme will stand on a pedestal that is high. He never tried to destabilize the party, he could but he never did. He accepted the results and he quietly went home and his name will remain in the golden pages of our country anytime they write the history of Nigeria.

What is your opinion on the Lagos-Calabar coastal highway?

When I came back I saw that they are awarding a coastal road, I have heard about the East-West road but what is the essence of the coastal road. If it is a matter of the seaside and development of the seaside; then there is no problem.

At my age, I don’t go to many places but recently one of my little cousins got married and he came up and said that they wanted a sunset wedding. I asked the mother what they meant by sunset wedding.

She said they are going to do it at the beachside. When I got to the beach, I could not believe what Nigerians have done at the beach. We have so many brilliant people in this country and so many people with different ideas. So, what is wrong with us here?

Coastal road is that the most urgent thing to do and the way they landed that project is questionable. If I use my knowledge about management in government; there must be advertisement before the ministry will prepare all the memos based on what the contractors are quoting.

After all the work in the ministry, they will take it to the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to look at it and make their recommendations. I don’t know because I am not in government but some people are saying that the project did not follow due process.

First they announced that it was going to be Public Private Partnership (PPP); all of a sudden it was given to Chagoury. I want to ask these people; what is the most important need of Nigerians now? Is it the coastal road and they have paid a sizeable amount of money.

There is no chance in the world no matter how brilliant those engineers are for them to finish the road in four years. I hope the construction works out but who would want to go to Calabar and decide that the best way is a tolled road. Already, they have a network of road to Calabar. What value added effect will that road have?

What are they going to bring from there to sell in Lagos? I retired as a general and if I fly to Abuja now, I won’t be able to come back to Lagos with my pension. So, we need to be very careful and Abuja is not Lagos. I want to talk to Mr. President to take it easy.

What is the update on the reconciliation process in the Lagos PDP?

Even if you invite 99 per cent of the members to come and discuss, there will still be people who will complain. As far as the managers of the party are concerned, I personally did not see any problem among the elders. We heard a meeting here and one of them walked out, pretending that he was having toothache and he never came back.

I have served this party and I wanted to retire after the last elections but our people came and said you cannot take us to the middle of the sea and abandon us there.

That made me to stay on. We are trying not only in Lagos because once you go to battle and you lose, I want to challenge you go back into our history, any political party that is in power and losses an election, they hardly survive.

Due to the maturity and the methodology that Ekwueme and his team adopted in establishing this party, it still remains the political Iroko in this country. That is why it still exists.

I told you the story of how we lost the election. Peter Obi was a member of PDP, Rabiu Kwankwaso was a member and everybody was there but we failed to follow the rules and we paid a big price for it.

Some of us have not kept quiet on party issues and we are keeping it alive from all the corners. No matter your age, we will bring you in because we are still talking.

I heard the former vice-president after a meeting with Peter Obi saying if the party micro-zone’s the presidential position to SouthEast, he will not contest.

Have we ever micro-zoned? Even the All Progressives Congress (APC) that won the election; I always call them a congregation of strange bird fellows, but you can see what they are doing to unite the party and people are now up in arms, calling on the national chairman to resign. So, we will correct ourselves because the crisis in Lagos PDP is not a crisis but conflicting interest of individuals looking for positions.

 

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