From TAIWO AMODU, Abuja
Former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bode George, is an aspirant for the office of national chairman of the erstwhile ruling party at its convention fixed for Wednesday in Port Harcourt. In this interview, George, who is from Lagos State, insists he is the best
candidate for the topmost position in the party.
You have picked form for the office of national chairman of the PDP. Do you think the position is vacant, considering the claim of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff that he remains
national chairman till 2018?
You know, as a foremost member of this party, there are laws in this party and our constitution is very clear. Modu Sheriff is my friend, it is nothing personal. Legally, yes he chaired the National Executive Committee, (NEC) meeting that approved that that convention should hold. Then, he picked up the form to contest for chairmanship. He
submitted the form and went through screening. As acting chairman, that is the end. That was the end of his chairmanship! Because at the convention, there was no election; it is a one-way track. Once you pass through that tunnel, you have to pop out at the other end. It is a non return valve. So, this is legal. That’s the law. Now, the judgment in Port Harcourt was very explicit. That the convention has the power, it is the highest authority in the party, it has the powers to set up committees to do anything. I didn’t write the constitution, it was written to guide members. So, he has entered into the non-return valve, the tube. So, he cannot pop back up, he has to go out at the other end. Having got out at the other end, that was it.
Now, all the things that led to, whether he should be there, he shouldn’t be there and going to court, court of the same jurisdiction, you see, the judiciary itself has to sit up. A judgment has been written and I think one of the judges said, this is an abuse of the Court process. If it is a court of higher jurisdiction, then you say, ok. For us, the convention goes on, because they were mandated, specifically to go and prepare for another convention, within 90 days . That’s all. So, we are going on with the convention, but as the conscience of the party, the BoT met and said, yes, discussions should still go on, negotiations to massage the egos and calm all nerves. That should go on. So, reconciliation, negotiations are still on but that will not stop the convention because the moment we pass that date which is August 21, then we would have flouted the rule and it means there is no leadership in the party again. So, by the 17, we would hold a convention.
But Justice Abang that gave the recent judgment, accorded recognition to Sheriff; he said he was going to reconvene on the 15 and make pronouncement on the scheduled convention—whether PDP can hold it or not
Look, whatever he does there, it isn’t a higher court than the federal high court in Port Harcourt. Can he give order to counter that order? It is only the Court of Appeal that can do that.
So, whatever he says there, he can say it. You know democracy has a tripod, the executive, the judiciary and legislative arms. If any leg is wobbling, it means you can derail. I
don’t know who Justice Abang is but he should moderate, according to the law. Does he have power to counter another court of coordinate jurisdiction? I don’t understand. I am not a lawyer and no matter how educated you are, they say you aren’t learned. The learned should now do it in a manner that will sustain the respect expected of the law
court, because that’s the last bastion. But I believe that after the convention, we will be in a better position to resolve the crisis, because a lot of meetings are going on.
A lot of trouble shooting meetings, but Sheriff keeps giving terms that the other group finds unacceptable and there is insinuation that probably he is being used by forces outside the party.
Let this negotiation and discussions that are going on, let it go on, but like I said, we continue with whatever we are doing to bring in new managers of the party. After that, it will be the responsibility of the new managers to put this behind us. Being also the conscience of the party, BoT members had a meeting with the former president who
is still the leader of the party. We have asked him to wade into it and he promised to do that and he is going to show more presence at our meetings now, because until a new presidential candidate emerge, he still remains the leader of the party. Maybe his presence will calm frayed nerves.
The southern leaders that met in Port Harcourt have conceded the office of national chairman to South-West.
But Senator Makarfi at the inauguration of the convention planning committee said that agreement did not exclude other zones in the South to seek same office. Of course.
Is that not double speak?
No, it isn’t. You know, the way our founding fathers conceptualized it was to bring in a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone. You know, in the past in the North, you have the majority tribe and the minority tribe, the South also has the majority tribe and minority tribe and there have always been a complaint: that we are being cowed
by this heavy majority people. You know in our national constitution, there is nothing like geo-political zones but because of their experience and because they had to work together to bring about this unity in this nation, they now divided Nigeria into 6 geo-political zones; and of course, the top 6 positions, each one will go to one
zone: presidency , vice presidency, senate presidency, speakership, Secretary to Government of Federation, (SGF) and the national chairman of the party, so that everybody will have a sense of belonging.
That’s how this zoning thing operated. Once the party decides on which zone gets what, there is no law that says anybody else cannot contest.
So, we have had that before. I remember when Obasanjo was running for second term, Alhaji Rimi contested for the same ticket and the room didn’t collapse. He came there, openly he contested and he lost. I remember that Chief Alex Ekwueme also contested. So, nobody is saying you cannot contest, if it is zoned to a particular zone. You
see, for the last eight years since Tambuwal emerged as Speaker, we didn’t enjoy any of the topmost six positions in the South-West. Nobody. The speakership that was supposed to be with us, a lot of forces came into play and before we knew it, Tambuwal emerged. So, North-west then had Tambuwal as Speaker and the vice –president and the South-West had nothing. So, it gladdened my heart when sense of logic, a sense of oneness prevailed. They are now re-establishing the foundational principles of the founding fathers.
Last night, in Port Harcourt, this party survived what could have been a calamitous manoeuvre by saying, the foundational principles of justice, fairness and equity were re-established . They decided what should go to South-West, South-East and South-South. It brought a lot of relief. Because this party has a very, very unique taproot that no matter the wind, it will survive and that’s the only party that has the national colour of this country. I said to them, this is like a break or make meeting. They came out there, God loves this country, we would have been singing another song now, because it is in the interest of this country that there should be a viable, responsible opposition. So, we survived that. Whatever else, who will emerge will depend on a lot of factors from the South-West.
I could see a lot of ramblings, everybody thinking that he can take a shot at it, there is nothing wrong, we are in a democracy. Let them try. The state in which the party is now isn’t for somebody who cannot be trusted on the very hour he is elected. So, the party members, the delegates who are going should look at the party and the future. Like I always tell people, I draw an analogy of a ship at sea in a very stormy sea and you have to get to harbor—the ship is rolling, very uncomfortable taking in waters. You need a
tested captain, a very competent captain, a seasoned captain who knows the ropes, who knows what to do to take us out of this mess we are in.
Some people are not comfortable with you and they want a pliable person to assume office as chairman. How do you react to this?
That cannot be 100 percent. There is nowhere they will tell you, 100 percent are in your support. You will be afraid that they must be lying. Some will like you, some will not like you, they may not like your face, but when it comes to
doing the job, I have been proven to have done my best at any job given to me.