“I’m speaking out because today Nigeria is bleeding and wobbling. I’m talking because I’m a concerned Nigeria.”
A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George has asked Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and other nPDP members including the Speaker House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara as well as Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal not to delay their return to PDP where they will continue to be treasured and appreciated. “Saraki, Dogara, Tambuwal and other nPDP members are tenants in APC. PDP is their natural home. They are strangers in APC, moreover APC is not a political party, but a party of strange bed fellows,” he declared in this interview conducted by TUNDE THOMAS. George who also spoke on other national issues bemoaned the state of the nation saying Nigeria is presently bleeding and wobbling under President Buhari.
There has been a lot of anxiety, and tension in the country over the present state of insecurity especially the killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Zamfara with the latest being Plateau State, what’s your reaction to the developments?
There are times when elders and other well experienced people will not make comments on certain things going on in the country for one reason or the other, and there are times things will be happening in the country, and it will be negligent for elders to keep quiet, and this is one of those periods that elders must talk out. We must voice out our disappointment over these killings. What is happening in Nigeria today is not only sad but also very frightening.
I’m not speaking out against these killings because of my political leaning, but I’m speaking out against these killings because I’m an elder, and a patriot. I’m speaking out because today Nigeria is bleeding and wobbling. I’m talking because I’m a concerned Nigeria.
I want to make this appeal to President Buhari because we have the same background, and professional calling, and that’s talking about our military background. President Buhari is my former boss and I want him to succeed. If anybody is telling Buhari that there is no problem in Nigeria today, those saying that are not telling him the truth and they are not being fair to him.
I’m pleading with President Buhari being a former staff officer to him when we were in the military together that we have to do something about the present insecurity problem in Nigeria. I know that Buhari is a good man who is passionate about Nigeria. He loves Nigeria. I’m therefore appealing to him that we have to find an urgent solution to these problems.
The most disturbing thing in this country today is insecurity of lives and properties. I want to plead with President Buhari that he should take a cursory look at these killings going on in this country. These killings are not only creating division among Nigerians but they are getting scary. Nigerians are scared and if the situation continues like this, we are not only playing with fire but Nigeria may soon explode, and if the present situation is not well handled, it may result into another civil war. But we should not be poor students of history. We’ve gone through civil war before, we should not go that path again. President Buhari has to do something urgent to arrest the deteriorating situation.
Buhari should remember that the buck stops at his table, and the task of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians lays squarely on his shoulders as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. The President should realize that time is of essence in tackling this insecurity problem. I’m talking as a concerned citizen now, and not as a politician.
Imagine Nigeria’s issue is being discussed in the United Kingdom Parliament when we are not a banana republic. Can’t we manage our own affairs as a sovereign nation? It is sad that Nigeria today is not Nigeria of yesteryears where we all see ourselves as one regardless of ethnic background. It is very worrisome, sad, and frightening that nowadays the news coming from Nigeria to the outside world is about killings. Our leaders, especially President Buhari have to do something very urgent to tackle this problem.
Nobody has monopoly of knowledge. Nothing stops Buhari from calling a meeting of elders, traditional rulers, religious leaders, and even retired military officers to discuss this issue with a view of finding lasting solution.
Some Nigerians have expressed concerns that the state of insecurity and the killings can plunge Nigeria into another civil war if care is not taken, what’s your take on that?
Those who are saying that are not far from saying the truth. The situation in Nigeria today if not quickly addressed can trigger civil unrest, which can result in a war, but we pray that such will not happen in our nation again. President Buhari took an oath to defend and protect all Nigerians, and this is why he has to do something fast to prevent Nigeria from sliding into a state of anarchy. He should do everything possible to stabilize Nigeria as fast as he can do.
Do you agree with some people saying that President Buhari and APC are focusing more attention on 2019 rather than proffering a solution to the killings?
It is unfortunate if politicians will be showing more interest in elections than saving lives of Nigerians. It is only when you have a nation that you can have election. My advise to President Buhari and his party, APC is that everything should be done for Nigeria and the lives of Nigerians to be secured first. We need peace and security first before thinking about election. Nigerians need to be assured that their lives and properties are secured and not endangered. It is only in an atmosphere of peace that you can conduct election. It will be very selfish on the part of APC and its leaders to be more concerned about 2019 general elections than showing interests in saving the lives of many Nigerians that are being endangered by these killings.
Some Nigerians have called on President Buhari to sack the Service Chiefs or rejig the nation’s security set up as a way of addressing the problem, how so you see that?
Like I said earlier, the buck stops at the table of President Buhari as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, whatever he will do to restore the confidence of Nigerians Buhari should do it. Nigeria is fast breaking into pieces, it is now becoming a situation whereby some are saying ‘To thy tent O Israel.’ But it should not be like that – we all should live together in peace and harmony as Nigerians. We should all be passionate about our nation – that’s not the case today.
What will be your advise to President Buhari if you meet him one on one?
He should address the security issue. He must go out and get all the details and then act accordingly. President Buhari was my former boss in the military so I would not hesitate to tell him the truth which some of his aides are not telling him.
Buhari should reassure all Nigerians that they don’t need to entertain any fear about their security. If I refuse to tell President the truth or keep quiet about what is going on in the country, then I don’t love Mr President and Nigeria as a country. If we don’t talk about all these problems or if as elders we keep quiet then we won’t be able to find an answer to the crises. Speaking out or advising Mr President should not be seen as undermining the government as some people who are not patriots will like to interpret it.
Between now and the coming general elections in 2019, we still have about six months, so I believe that within the next one month, President Buhari would have been able to take some drastic action to restore peace and sanity in troubled areas.
What’s your view on suggestions by some people that 2019 general elections should be postponed in order to address the problem of insecurity?
There is no need to postpone or shift the election. Where there is a will, there will always be a way, the problem of insecurity and the killings can be tackled within a month. It is left to President Buhari to do the needful. He should realize that the buck stops at his table.
Why disrupt the election when there is a timetable already for the polls? I don’t think we need to shift the elections, and I still honestly believe that these insecurity problems, especially the killings can be resolved within a month. It has become a national problem, and we must find a collective solution. I strongly believe that this time, the nation’s elders and patriots should speak out so that we can find an amicable answer to these problems.
This is not politics affairs. We as elders must speak out as patriots who love President Buhari and Nigeria. Those elders that are keeping quiet over this problem because of party affiliation neither love President Buhari nor Nigeria.
How would you react to cries of marginalization by nPDP members in APC, having been in the same party with you before?
When these people, Saraki, Dogara and others were leaving PDP then, I cautioned them against leaving the party. I told them that in PDP you people are still landlords but when you get to APC, you will become tenants. I further told them that why are they leaving the house they help build to go and become tenants in another house?
How can you abandon your house because your house was leaking to go and become tenant in another house? Saraki and others don’t belong to APC, they were just tenants there, and that is why they are passing through what they are passing there in APC. For me, Saraki, Dogara and others have no business in staying a day longer in APC, they should return to PDP to help rebuild the party to make it stronger. Now that they have seen how they are being treated in APC, they should come back to PDP.
But won’t they feel ashamed to come back to PDP?
Politics is not like that. In politics, there is no permanent friend but permanent interests. Then to err is human but to forgive is divine – if they come back to PDP, they will be welcomed, they will not be sent away. PDP is their natural home. But now that Saraki, Dogara, Tambuwal, and others have had the opportunity of comparing life in PDP with that of APC, and that’s why they realized that they were being persecuted within APC. But that not withstanding, PDP has forgiven them.
How would you describe the chance of PDP in 2019 general elections?
PDP is back stronger. Then APC is not a political party, but a congregation of strange bed fellows. This is why APC is always in crisis and can never speak with one voice. While PDP is waxing stronger, APC is in perpetual crisis. Again, nobody can put PDP in its pocket unlike APC which has different masters and lords.
There has been a lot of anxiety as the general election is fast approaching, what are your fears about 2019?
Politicians should watch their utterances – they should refrain from making statements that will further divide the nation. We must also ensure that our comments must be such that we must think of tomorrow. I’m talking now not as politician but like a patriot and statesman, Nigeria should come first in the mind of our political leaders. We should not see 2019 as a do-or-die affair.
For President Buhari, my advice to him is that he should take a cursory look at issues that are germinating discord in the minds of Nigerians and should try to address them. Buhari should know that those telling him that all is well with Nigeria today are telling him lies. Nigeria is wobbling, and as the nation’s leader, he must take concrete steps to stabilize the country. Politicians should not be desperate to win elections. They should allow their programmes and manifesto to sell them and their parties. We should also learn to play the game by the rule. Do-or-die politics will not do us any good. But I strongly believe that all the noise about 2019 is needless. We should be sober and reflective over the killings going on in the North. I believe how to stop these killings and restore peace across Nigeria should be more paramount to our leaders – securing human lives and properties should be accorded the urgent attention it deserves.
Talking or campaigning about 2019 now is very selfish – those being killed, are they not human beings like us? We should stop these killings first before we talk about 2019. We need peace and security more than any other thing now. It amounts to insensitivity for any politician or politicians to be talking or carrying out subtle campaign on 2019 without taking concrete action to address these killings. We are alive today, but who knows what will happen tomorrow? It is immoral and ungodly to talk about election and 2019 when people are dying and the nation is burning.