A former Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, believes there needs to be a serious dialogue between leaders on the issue of zoning and rotational presidency. In this interview, he speaks on the politics of Lagos State, the state of affairs in the PDP and the 2023 presidency. He believes strongly that the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will not emerge as Nigeria’s next president. Excerpts:

Few weeks ago, you shook Lagos with the reception of some people who came in from the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Jandor. What was the significance of the event considering the number of people who flew into Lagos for it?

The governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has been planning a unity rally. Usually, the last year of governance for a four-year term-the fourth year is politics.

So, we have entered into a period of serious partisan politics. He wanted to jumpstart political activities by reminding the public, energizing the people and especially the electorate that the season has started. There will be a lot of activities, movement and all kinds of characters throwing their hats into the field. That was the period that Jandor and his team said they were coming. The party has not given any notification on who will be who. That day, some other people who were already with the party also came and wanted to be part of the unity rally. Jandor’s coming, I told them to showcase their stuff if they really wanted to ring a bell of their plans.

That was why it was so jam-packed and those who thought that PDP has gone to sleep will realise that they don’t start doing shadow boxing for too long. If they continue like that and a bell was rung, they will be tired already. So, usually, the last year of any governance is politics and we are entering the period now.

That was why we did that. I read this write-up from one of those who are contesting- he was writing under the shadow- he should be bold enough to come and say it if he is not educated enough on vagaries, the problems and procedures for managing a party-we would educate you instead of saying we were allowing people to come. And I said to myself, when he joined, we didn’t shut the doors on him. We are the founding fathers since 1998. He joined in between the twists.

Who is he to be saying we shouldn’t allow people? The political party is not a private company of anybody. If the party is not wide and open, how do you allow people in?

Because of his selfishness and lack of depth about the procedure of the party, political parties don’t shut their doors just like the police stations don’t shut their doors.

If you want to come in, come in and if not, you go. So, for the uninformed or pretenders, I want to reassure them that that is not the type of language we employ.

The party is not a private company of anybody. We are all members of the association voluntarily. I received another person here today- Victoria Oniru-who told me she has been looking for what do and how to go about politics. All I did was to introduce her to the leaders in Eti-Osa Local Government Area and then, they would meet with her and let her know the procedures. This is not a contracted party.

As many as are interested should be given opportunities to join. The more, the merrier.

With these people joining the party, does it raise the hope of PDP doing the unexpected by taking over Lagos after 20 years of AD, ACN, and APC’s reign?

Let me go into depth. Every now and then, people would say they have never won Lagos. I would just laugh over it. The system we are running gave room for massive rigging, serious manipulation and it ended up in idiocy.

That is why in a democratic dispensation, whenever an election is won, either to the state, national assembly or presidency, one is there by the goodwill of the electorate. How many of the people elected have gone back to the constituencies, where they have been elected to impact positively on the lives of the people there?

They took it for granted because they have a way of manipulating the election, results and everything that stand on their way. So, there has not been genuine commitment by those that were sent there. That is why I want to commend the people in the 9th National Assembly in all parties; that they have come up with the electoral bill.

That is a sign that this nation will now start to grow. Firstly, the quality of people that will be elected will be important; the people’s choice will be respected; the pretenders would be thrown aside because each time anybody who wants to be representative wants canvas for support, it is that I will join others to manage the resources of the country for your betterment.

If we handle the election process in manner that is free, fair and just and then collating and transferring the result electronically, it will give a semblance of sanity and better approach.

The output of that result will be credible. I have said on several occasions that I know the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu. He worked with us when we were at 2014 National Conference.

He is a respectable, responsible and committed man and he has the fear of God. I am also asking him for one more thing; that whatever system they want to procure, they should make sure these people wouldn’t have any opportunity to manipulate the software; whatever is transmitted from a particular polling station will be done electronically unlike when Jega was there, where people were physically carrying results through various means and they were going to Abuja.

All that mess would stop. He would bring us from the doldrums of the ancient Marina into what is acceptable and presentable in the developed world. We will be joining the clubs of civilized society if we do that, and through that, the real genuine, committed people will emerge.

You believe with electronic voting and technological process that PDP will be able to win Lagos?

Of course! You can see.

What are the things that made it difficult previously?         

First-class manipulation! When voting finished at the polling station, they would write the figures and sign. Then, they would go to the first collation centre in the local government.

They used the police, other securities and thugs to prevent your own people from entering. If the figure was 240 at the polling unit, they would have put 9 in front of the figure. It would move from 240 to 9,240. That is the shenanigans and charade that pervaded our political space for so many years. Let’s do it the way the civilized societies do it.

You have the hard copy; that is if you wanted it. The electronic data will also be there. It is there for us to procure. That will be next level. Let’s go and buy a system that is fool proof, safe and the Americans have the best now in the market. There is this chief consultant named by Christopher Krebs in America. He is a guru in cyber-security. He works for Krebs Stamos Group.

It was him who handled the last election in America and it was brilliant. Their works were investigated, if there was any cybercrime during the election. Nothing was found. That is what will guarantee peace in Nigeria. I am praying that our people would think that enough of this charade.

Let us do it the way they do it in the civilized world. This country will now join the people of the civilized world. I am looking forward to it and that would be the beginning of real democratic practice.

This is 2022, which is the election year. The presidential candidates will emerge and a host of other people that will be vying for one position or the other. Some people have started coming out. I am aware Anyim Pius Anyim visited you. Some southerners and northerners are also coming out in PDP and in the APC. They are talking of zoning. The North is claiming that there is nothing like zoning. The question is after Buhari has been president for eight years, are we supposed to be arguing about zoning again?

It is an interesting country. Today, some people are saying we have tried it, has it been successful or not? Have Nigerians got away from the tribal attitude? In Switzerland, they are the first to do zoning and rotational head of the country.

Up till today, they are still doing it. In Nigeria, we have just tried and it has given reasonable stability politically because of the errors, mayhem, and crisis of the First Republic where we had the majority having everything and the minorities are just to be seen and not heard. Both North and South, having that brought together now, a sense of relief that you are a full member of this group, that you will have a representative.

Even if you are from the minority, you would have come home with something. There are six top positions in the land, which are President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of the party. Six geopolitical zones, the minority and majority in the South and North; everybody will go home with something.

After eight years, it will be rotated, zoned and balanced. All positions that have been in the North will come to the South and vice versa. What can be better than that? For anybody to come out and say that we had it but let us throw it open, that person is driving us back into the mayhem of the First Republic that led to the first coup and civil war.

I want to beg our people who are throwing tantrums to be very careful. The political equation created for zoning, I am looking at it from my background as an engineer.

There was one major parameter that was never considered by the founding fathers of the PDP. They never thought a scene can occur where another political party can produce a president. Remember we were saying PDP would run this country for the next 60 years.

Though, we were cut napping and when we went back to our planning team with that major parameter, which we must now add to our political equation in trying to solve where it would be, whether in the North or South. We will now have to consider that parameter which is the fact that another party produced the president. With that production, is it necessary for us to consider it or to negate it? Today, it is in the North.

Tomorrow, it can be in the South. Let us for once fear the Almighty God, respect the doctrine of justice, fairness, and equity. If you keep looking at how beneficial it will be, you will be part of those that will benefit if we do it right. The Lady of Justice is blindfolded.

She has a scale and a sword; no pretences. That is why we have to ask for a meeting. Let the party call a meeting of all the BoTs, elders, governors, members of National and State Assembly and eminent party members. In a democracy, the major task is if there is a problem, call a meeting for robust debates and find a solution.

That is why I reduced it to a political equation. Now that there is another parameter, it must be considered. They can’t say it shouldn’t concern us. What will be the advantages and disadvantages if we leave it as an unimportant parameter?

In other words, what you are saying is that the founding fathers of the party did not envisage that Buhari’s presidency coming from the North, PDP’s last president came from the South. The equation to solve is we are going to say the last president came from the North or our last president came from the South…

Do we say because they are not members of our party but the man who became president is also a Nigerian and from a zone which is the North. Are we saying we should discountenance that information and don’t put into our consideration?

It is not right. When that is resolved, one will look at the qualities those that are throwing their hats into the ring. Even in the South, if compare and contrast, sometimes, we can say we don’t have that solid gold to present.

When I hear some voices throwing tantrums and negating, it scares me. We must meet and come to a decision.

Everybody can throw their hats into the ring but like our founding fathers stated that we have a formula, which we must consider – the rotation and zoning, so that we don’t miss out on anybody because that is the best rallying venture for peace.

Accommodating everybody?

It cannot be about only one person, tribe or zone. People will throw tantrums and ruin your plans. They will undermine everything you are doing.

These people are part and parcel of you for a time. Nation-building and political activities are not 100metres dash. It continues but we must save our nation. I have looked at the kind of constitution we have.

It is not the best; it is not working. Everything goes to the centre. All the resources go to the centre and they are redistributed based on certain criteria. That is not a fair judgement. Every part of this nation is blessed with one resource or the other.

We copied the American Constitution and we fell short in certain areas. Why not copy the whole thing and make a bit of change due to your local environment? California is the biggest state in America. In fact, the sixth-largest economy in the world because of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

We will define if we want it bicameral i.e. the House of Representatives and Senate, or we will only be able to have one rather than all the states assembly and can’t afford to pay.

How many local governments or counties like Washington DC do we have? Our income should determine that. So, let us cut our clothes according to the available clothes. Texas controls all the oil in the area.

They would just need to pay a certain percentage to the Federal Government. I have been through every part of this country. I have seen the resources God has deposited in every part of the nation.

There is no part that doesn’t have one major resource or the other. Let’s go back, tap and give a certain percentage to the Federal Government to run their government. That will even lower the hustle for the centre because the closest the government is to the people, the happier they will be.

 You are talking about resource control and restructuring…

Right now, we have a system where it looks so much like a military setup where all decisions are made by the head and responsible all the way to the baseline. Whereas in politics, it is from the base that it goes up in taking decisions because those are the people that would say ‘we trust you, manage it on our behalf,’ not these shenanigans we are running after, throwing tantrums and all sorts of things.

Are you worried that in your party, politicians like the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal from North West, Atiku Abubakar, and the Bauchi governor from North East are still coming out strongly to contest for presidency?

As I have said earlier, the decision has not been made for now. We are going to meet. All hands will be on deck. The party must meet to revisit the political equations, so that it can be solved and trying to solve the equation here must be with the parameter that must be added to that equation. Some are saying we don’t need to consider that because they are not part of us but they are Nigerians and they are from certain zones.

You want the votes of all Nigerians because if you don’t get their votes, you cannot be president. So, how does one stabilize that platform with the three tripod that sustains the platform which are justice, fairness and truth.

A three-legged body is a very stable platform. That is what we are craving for and struggling to make sure that is what we have. If one of the pillars is removed, it will start to wobble. Don’t let us collapse the system.

Let us look at it dispassionately and come up with what we will be able to sell to the larger electorate because they are more than those of us who are card-carrying members of any political party.

Of recent, there have been talks about the governor of Lagos not getting a second term. There are also talks about PDP wooing Akinwumi Ambode and Jandor and his group, taking the governorship of Lagos. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the APC national leader is aiming to become the president of Nigeria. Does that in any way give you any kind of thought that this might be the time for PDP in Lagos?

People have seen through their shades of lies, the deceits and manipulations. They are real congenital liars. Now, people have started to see the truth. Does he really win elections?

Those who have been hanging around him are now seeing. He was even bold enough to say that he is the kingmaker and now he wants to be the king. In our local parlance and culture, the kingmaker does not become the king. If we use it metaphorically, it is an insult. I remember one of our top people came to apologise that at the time we won all the South West states except Lagos, that we actually won Lagos.

That he was there trying to manipulate the results. It is not an impossible thing to do. The point is we have to look at the process. He has stolen humongous amount of money from the treasury of the state. There is nowhere in the world you would find two bullion vans drive into a private residence on the day of an election and the person is not in jail by now.

What is money laundering? What other attitude would one have to say this man is the greatest criminal in this country? What else are we looking for? We have spoken about the company he set up with the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, being the legal adviser for eight years- Alpha Beta collecting such a humongous amount from the treasury.

That money would have been used to do something meaningful to the state. See the report of the ENDSARS; graduates are jobless; non-skilled people are jobless. The younger generation is in a state of helpless and hopelessness. The real impact of poor and bad governance is directly hitting every family negatively.

They want to listen but because of the procedure of electioneering system, they don’t care and worry. They would manipulate and drop some crumbs to people. If the system is well-managed without anybody having any hand into the workings of the software, the truth will prevail.

Do you see Tinubu becoming the president of Nigeria?

I can’t see it in the wildest dream. We are not running a monkey republic that that is the type of fellow we want to throw up. Somebody we want must have a well-defined character above board.

He has to be responsible, dependable, committed, and abidingly loyal to the constitution of this country. I can’t see him fit into all my definitions of a good character.

He doesn’t have it. A man, who said he is from Lagos? He is not a bonafide Lagosian. Which school did he attend in Lagos? Where is his home in Lagos? Where is his family in Lagos?

Once you have decided to put yourself in the public domain, the public has every right to x-ray you, ask you questions, define yourself and whistle blowers will come. We cannot afford to sweep anything under the carpet and some others I have seen…

…like Osinbajo

Osinbajo has a very good family background. His father was a prominent supporter of Awolowo. He was a highly respectable and responsible person.

Osinbajo went to Igbobi College and University of Lagos, a professor of Constitutional law but I don’t know how we can explain his relationship with the governor he worked with for eight years. How can he be an angel having dined, slept, conversed with a character like Tinubu for eight years and still be an angel? Remember  the story of Job, when the devil was asking God who Job was. That God should allow him to put him to test, but don’t touch his soul!

The devil did. After the man lost everything, he was still singing and praising God and God said that Job would never betray Him… there is a story going around lately that Osinbajo and Tinubu’s companies are hands in glove, even the collapsed building issue has been buried.

Nobody is talking about it again. Lives were lost. Look at the ENDSARS protest. See the assets of Lagos State that are being appropriated to one another. I have reached a point in this country; I am 77 and God can call my flight anytime.

Only three scores and 10 is guaranteed. Anything after 70, you are on the departure lounge. Who are these people? What is the positivity that we want to leave behind for our younger generations?

The character is a major consideration for the office. Can we genuinely, honestly and truthfully say he is fit for the office? No! Who is he? What does he do for a living? …he plays politics for a living …and he has that kind of money? He has two aircraft. One can fly directly from Lagos to New York. Look at the pension they were giving themselves before, and civil servants will work for 35 years and go home with peanut. Even as a retired general, my pension is a little above N200,000 per month. If I fly twice to Abuja with that pension, I would probably get stranded midway.

They gave themselves humongous pension- four cars every year, a highbrow residence in Lagos and another one in Abuja. It is senseless greed. Only to serve for eight years? what about those who are serving for 35years, up till now, you are still creaming the funds from our treasury.

Do these people have the fear of God? That is another consideration. If you don’t have the fear of God, you should not be considered to head this nation because he has no human milk in him. He is reckless, mindless, stupendously greedy.

It is nothing personal. Let him come and prove that what we are saying about him is wrong. Let him come out for debate. Let us ask him questions and clear himself. Our party is ready. We will give everybody a level playing field in Lagos. Even at the national level, we will give everybody that sense of belonging. For those who want to compete, there will be rules and they should play by the rules. No godfatherism! There is nothing like Baba says. The people will say. We are so proud of the name of our party, which is the Peoples Democratic Party. The power resides with the people.

When the people decide to choose you, they must put you on a pedestal and x-ray you to know who you are, what you do for a living, your contribution and relationship with your fellow people in your constituency.

Once they are satisfied, we vote for you and send you to the people. Nigerians are sitting and watching. We don’t want a repeat of ENDSARS in Lagos.

We don’t want a repeat of a situation, where one man collects the toll. Why should there be toll in the first place? The responsibility of the government is to give succour to the people.

That is why the beauty of democracy is that every now and then, you must go back to renew your mandate and it is left for the people to say you have done well on the first one that was given to you or you haven’t done well. I wish this country well, we are falling so fast.

Source: New Telegraph 

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