Chief Olabode George is a former National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, the Atona Oodua of Yorubaland speaks on the latest development in the polity as well as his rumoured presidential ambition. Excerpts:
The National Leadership of the PDP said you erroneously misinterpreted the actions of the National Working Committee (NWC) with respect to the election of the Lagos State executive committee of the party. How will you react to this?
The person who said that doesn’t know what he is talking about. I was one of those who started this party; not the G-34 but since 1998, I have been a staunch member of this party. I was the first elected Vice-Chairman of South-West. I spent over 10 years at the national secretariat of the PDP. I have risen meritoriously from Vice Chairman (South West) to Deputy Chairman (South) and Deputy Chairman overall. They can’t teach me what is in the party’s constitution. If an elected member in any structure at any level, be it ward, local government, state, zonal or national resigns, dies or leaves the party, somebody will fill his position in acting capacity. In most cases, that person will be the deputy to the person whose position is vacant. The person acting will not stay for more than 90 days. Then, the excos at the level will meet and elect another person to that position from the same zone where that fellow who left came from. So, what am I mixing together? I will give you the party’s constitution so that you can read it yourself. When Moshood Salvador left the party in an unusual circumstance, Alhaji Waliu Hassan, the deputy state chairman acted in his place. Then, we all met with the full exco. Four people contested for the position of state chairman, Adegbola Dominic, Agbaje from Ojo Local government, Okunola and another candidate. We had the election and Dominic was elected. All of a sudden, they started saying that Dominic will only act for 90 days and I said ‘what are they talking about?’ and they said I am mixing things up. Let them come and show me what I got wrong. They are the ones who are putting logic upside down because this issue is so clear. Dominic comes from the same zone as Salvador and he was duly elected.
We had to go to court. The leader of the party now in the South-West, Governor Seyi Makinde was here last week to intervene and he provided a suggested solution. He led former governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose and Eddy Olafeso and the South-West zonal secretary here. As a party man, we listened to them. But I told them that I am not the only leader of the party here To me, the disrespect is that you have an elder who is not just a Lagos elder; all of them came in much later except Uche Secondus who was there from the beginning. When I was Vice-Chairman and a member of the National Working Committee, Secondus was chairman of Rivers state chapter of PDP. My grouse is that how can they say that the man whom we elected (Dominic) as state chairman should serve for 90 days? What they don’t realise is that Dominic has only one year. Let them just exercise patience and allow him complete his tenure. Then, whoever wants to contest can go ahead.
It has been alleged that the national leadership wants Dominic out at all cost because they felt he is one of your staunch loyalist. Do you also share this view?
Is the PDP a private business of anybody? It is a voluntary organisation. What else do I want to be in the party with all I have achieved? Let them go and do whatever they want to do. Time will tell of their style of management and the confusion. Leadership is not something you elect, it emerges. I haven’t attended any of their meetings since 2018 when former President Goodluck Jonathan launched his book titled, “My Transition Hours” in Abuja. You can see the total confusion and mess. We are suggesting that they should go back and call the elders to prepare us for the next set of elections. If they feel they want to sideline the party elders and run the party on their own, let them do it. Anybody who says an elder is not a fit and proper person; he himself will become an elder soon. It is just a matter of time. Those who were saying we don’t want elders to become this and that, where are they today? A child sees herbs and calls it vegetable. No matter what happens, I have said any day I quit the PDP, I am going home because the other party, APC is not a political party but a congregation of strange bedfellows. As for the PDP leadership, I don’t want to fire back at them because they are junior to me in age, experience and exposure. Let Secondus face me and talk. Has he forgotten what I did for him when he left as chairman of PDP in Rivers state? I had to go and beg late President Umaru Yar’Adua on his behalf and he accepted. When you are up, you pull people up. That is the way I was trained. When I assisted in pulling people up, I don’t expect any reward or payback; I am a professional and I have my business that I am doing very effectively. I also have a highly respectable, happy family. So, what am I looking for again? As an elder, I can’t just watch and allow a party we labored to build just waste away like that. That is why we keep shouting that they should not destroy the party. They have their period now and cannot be there in perpetuity. Secondus cannot be there in perpetuity. As an elder, there are so many information that I have and I know certain things are not right but it is not for public consumption. That is the way an elder behaves.
As a Yoruba leader, don’t you think your contesting the 2023 presidential election against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may be seen as a sign of division in the region?
We have some elders that we meet regularly. I was away for a while. When they read that they will be zoning presidency to the South-West and Bola Tinubu will be contesting, they didn’t ask for my permission; they said ‘yes, I must contest’. They said if Tinubu must contest, I must contest. Am I not qualified by age, experience or training? I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, I see the weaknesses and strengths of every areas. It will be the greatest disservice for our nation to have him contest as a presidential candidate. I am a true son of Lagos. Of all the governors who have ruled this state, Tinubu’s period is the worst. So, how can he succeed as President? He did virtually nothing. The debt profile of Lagos today is so humongous. After the debt of the federal government, the next is Lagos state. Is that the person we should consider as our next president?
President Buhari was recently booed by residents of Maiduguri during his sympathy visit to Borno state. What is your reaction to that?
That is a very bad sign. If the start losing the confidence of government, it is a wake-up call.[?]