Bode George is the former Deputy National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he spoke about the recent Supreme Court judgment on the 2023 presidential election, crisis in the PDP, among other issues. Iniobong Iwok brings the excerpts:
Now that the 2023 general election is over, where and what is the future of the PDP considering the leadership crisis in the party?
The only thing that can sustain our country is telling the truth to power, Mahatma Gandhi of India made a comment that I would like to replicate, 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 did we do wrong and what did we 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, state by state to find out their experiences, what happened, finances, the political aspect, how we conduct 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 in the federation for their impute, experiences, where they did well we will know, where they didn’t do well we will also know. So, 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 this one 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 with 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. This is my personal observation and personal 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 gotten to the battle, you have seen what it is. Yes, I agree with the comments made but I disagree with the judgment of the Supreme Court when I read them, on two major areas. The definition Justice 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, Professor 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? That is the mess Yakubu made this country go through 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, what we’ll do is 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. If we are not careful, this ship of state will go down like the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) because PDP is a very solid Iroko tree well planted, well nurtured and yes, occasionally we have setbacks because it is normal in every organisation but let the elders and leaders of the party be the elders in the room when we discuss moving forward.
What do you make of the rising debt profile of Nigeria and this administration’s readiness to borrow more?
I don’t know who is the voodoo economist in the Villa because the amount of money we owe now is N88 trillion. Are we joking, this is the time for governance and managing the resources of this country for the betterment of the people. 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. Bola 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.
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 this?
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 solid 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 that 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 for 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 now he is the deputy minister of defence, is that true? Now this issue that borders on security in Zamfara, 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 the Zamfara Commissioner 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.
Over the years PDP always set up a reconciliation committee after every election circle; yet, the same issue of imposition of candidates persist, what gives you the confidence that this time around it is going to be different?
Having worked at the national secretariat for 10 years, the problem that resurfaces in 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 our party is not owned by an individual but people 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 change them. That was the methodology used when I was there and there was no crisis. A typical example is the primaries in Lagos 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? Rather than allow people to vote, they will be looking for the aspirants and they become the Automated Teller Machine (ATM). And once they finish, they’ll run back to the national organising department to affirm the person they supported. But I won’t expand more than that and that is the major crisis which you see. If you go to the bottom and do your primaries at the wards and local government levels and create division at that level, how can you fight 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 a maximum of two people would come from the national and the organising of people is done within the state. The state exco, ward exco would have suggested 10 names per each local government and the party managers would 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 and so you are bound to do the right thing. But the fellow they send from outside, once he does all his manipulation here he disappears. Do you even know where he comes from? Whereas 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 which 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 Ob, Rabiu Kwankwaso and other chieftains who left the party should be approached to return, what is your take on this?
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 to tell ourselves the home truth. 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 and cannot be acceptable, should be avoided. I said to some people, if you get Kwankwaso’s votes, you add it to Atiku’s votes and add Obi’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 inside 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 they have done with this methodology that landed us on the deck with a full uppercut, did we learn from that and correct the nonsense? I sure bet you we will and if we don’t, then many of us will end up. I don’t want this party to end up like the All Nigeria Peoples Party (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 at our congress in Lagos. He came to the place and there was an agreement and we had already settled down but he now got down there and said there is going to be congress because he has changed his mind, when you have announced much earlier that it was going to be a family affair. And then you decided on your own from nowhere when 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 way, it will come back to haunt you down. That should have been condemned by the national. They should have asked him to 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 that party. Now what is the 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 Igbos. That is a misadventure and absolute nonsense.
Peter Obi said the country should restructure to have a single term of five years for our president and governors, what do you make of sure 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. Otherwise, the man is looking ahead. Why should Bola Tinubu do that, it is a direct question I’m throwing at him. Don’t we have other people who are not card-carrying members of any party? So you can perpetuate yourself 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. I believe this heavy 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, selflessly, they 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.