Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview appeals to all aggrieved members of the party to sheath their swords and embrace peace ahead of the 2023 general elections. Commenting on the frosty relationship between Governor Neysom Wike of Rivers State and the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, George called for calm. Excerpts:
How would you assess the situation in your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
It’s a real pleasure for me to be here and to rub minds because in democracy, we must always talk. In democracy, we must exchange ideas; we must discuss, agree and disagree on issues without being absolutely disagreeable. There is no point doing that.
Since our convention, I had been away and been watching. Naturally, in any organisation where you have human beings, you will have infractions, you will have disagreements, you will have all kinds of positive issues, negative issues. But the ability to be able to manage those crises for you to arrive at a positive destination would be a measure of your capacity.
Now, we are going into an election year. Yes, we have some problems in our party, but they are not insurmountable. First, I want to appeal to all shades and all sides to sheathe their swords. We are in the throes of political journey, national elections. We must convince the public that we have the capacity and ability to manage the resources of this country for the benefit of our country. All cacophonies coming from all corners, I want to plead with our people to sheathe their swords. We can achieve more by talking, no matter how heated the discussions would be, exercise your mind, but not people who are throwing tantrums, people who are throwing bombs and statements that are absolutely unnecessary, statements that can totally destroy this party, statements of arrogance, statements of innuendoes and name callings, I want to plead as an elder.
Some chieftains of your party have been complaining that the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should not be talking to people and that the party should be the one doing all the talking. Do you also share this view?
Who is the candidate? Who is saying he wants to wear the big crown? Why would he not talk to people? If he starts the networking, what is wrong with that? That makes a lot of sense. I am not saying A is right or B is right, I want to say everybody is right, but in the meantime, bring this issue within the party, because Nigerians are waiting for our party. They are fed up with APC that is a contraption, a congregation of strange bedfellows. That is not a political party.
So, if you decide to start throwing stones at every dog that barks at you, you will never get to your destination. If we don’t get it right, this nation will never forgive us. Everyday, when you wake up and you look at Nigeria, where are we? Armageddon is hovering over the corner of this country, ready to descend on our nation.
Are you not worried about the recent hobnobbing of Governor Wike with some APC chieftains?
I spent a lot of money and I prepared my campaign for national chairman like it was a presidential campaign. There was no village that I didn’t visit trying to canvass for votes but I didn’t get it. There was so much manipulation but I saw through them. I don’t believe that Wike will jump ship because if you remember some of the comments he has made against that party. PDP is still the best party, the most national in its outlook. The PDP has more successes in putting smiles on the face of the people. Whether he calls these other people to come and commission projects, it is all part of politics, I believe he will not jump ship. When he had called them some unprintable names in the past? And they are still the same till today, APC is a confused party, a congregation of strange bedfellows who never meant well for this nation.
One of the conditions given by Wike is for Ayu to step down. Are you also in support of this call? In case Ayu agrees to step down and the seat is zoned to the south, are you still interested in the position?
Let me be frank, age is not on my side now. At the time I wanted to do it, I was ready. I have learnt the ropes, I have seen the party from the embryonic stages to fully fledged human beings. The role I play now, I am at the upper chamber. There is a time for everything, so for me, it is a no. I am at a stage where I will always speak the truth to power. I am not looking for that, but let it be well done.
For Wike, my advice for him is that this is not the last bus stop for him. One day he will wake and he will smile.
How does your party intend to address the issue of one Hausa-Fulani leaving the seat and you have another Hausa-Fulani as your presidential candidate wanting to take over?
This is the most topical issue in the country today, and like our founding fathers said, they only looked at our party when they were zoning. After 8 years, all positions in the north must come to the south and all positions in the north must go to the south. We never envisaged that someday, another political party that can produce a President.
So, when Buhari now suddenly came, people said, ‘no it is not our party’. And, I told them that ‘please don’t start’. That parameter was not in our political equation before considering any other party. But is President Buhari from Anambra State? He is the President of Nigeria. Are we going to discard that? That was what led to this issue of rezoning and like I said, they had to come back to us because some said, ‘we don’t need zoning again’. I believe that through the same way we came about resolving the zoning thing, we have men who are respectable, committed, responsible and loyal to the party, not an individual. Individual interest is subservient to the bigger interest of the party. We will resolve our issues because if we don’t, like I said, the Armageddon is already hovering on our nation and it will descend on us.