•PDP now ready for the big fight in 2019
Former Deputy National Chairman, PDP, Chief Olabode George has described the former President Obasanjo initiated third force political movement as a grand deceit and a waste of time. He argues in this interview conducted by ‘TUNDE THOMAS that there’s no alternative political platform in 2019 than the PDP. George also spoke on other national issues.
You were among other prominent PDP members that recently converged in Abuja for a conference organized by the party leadership, what actually transpired at that gathering?
You know I withdrew from the chairmanship race at the party’s last convention because I didn’t want to be part of the charade taking place there, and since then I have been out of the country, and just came back. But few days after my return, the party’s national leadership invited us to a conference in Abuja. It was a conference designed to bring everybody together including the aggrieved aspirants during the party’s last convention.
But I vividly remember that on that night when I withdrew from the convention, when journalists asked whether I would be leaving PDP, I clearly said no. I said that I would never leave PDP but added that the day I leave PDP that I would shut my doors to politics. That means no more politics for me.
That was the decision I took that night because you can’t build a house, and you are a landlord in the house, but because the house is leaking, you then abandon the house to go and become a tenant. At the PDP conference we attended recently, the rebuilding of the party and how to strengthen the party was well discussed. It was a brilliant conference.
The conference reminded the party in the previous years when it was very vibrant, and I must express my absolute happiness that the speech by Uche Secondus, the party’s national chairman was very humble. The speech was classic. It was something expected of somebody to be on a reconciliation mission.
I listened attentively to Secondus’ speech as he enumerated all those shortcomings of the past such as imposition, lack of respect for the rule of law, and other ills of the party, those things that the party did that brought PDP to its knees.
Secondus then said that on behalf of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC that the party was sorry. And once he accepted that, and to hear ‘we are sorry’, it pricks my heart. For Secondus to have accepted that things were not properly done within PDP as envisaged by the party’s founding fathers really touched my heart.
Of course, with this apology I was really touched, and really is there any human being who doesn’t make mistakes?
I listened to Secondus, and I saw a ray of honesty. For the first time, it must have struck many people that we are no longer in government but that we are now in opposition. With this scenario, I saw that PDP is really prepared for the big fight in 2019.
When you were going for the conference, were you prepared for another thing different from what you encountered there?
No. They invited me saying that the party’s Board of Trustees and the party’s Working Committee was organizing the conference, and the conference was the first to be held after the convention. And you know what, you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, and I would say Uche Secondus did well at the conference. He was very humble, and very reconciliatory.
He spoke genuinely from his inner mind that injustice had taken place in PDP but that we all need to forget the past, forgive one another, and think of how to chart a way forward for PDP to make the party a vibrant opposition party ready to take power back from APC in 2019. He also spoke to Nigerians.
On the issue of Secondus apology to Nigerians, some are saying that his apology is an admission of failure by PDP especially for the party’s performance while in power for 16 years, what’s your take on that?
When people say it is an admission of failure, the result of 2015 general elections already showed it, and that was why we lost to APC. So there is no need for anybody trying to make unnecessary political statement out of that.
If PDP had not failed as a result of certain ills that pervaded the party then such as imposition, impunity, lack of respect for internal democracy and others, APC would not have won the election of 2015.
But that was then, PDP of today is now different. We have learnt our lessons. We are now seriously preparing for the journey to return to Aso Rock. If you want to be honest with yourself, you must be able to tell yourself the truth. PDP truly had erred in the past, but today the party is a different one.
After listening to Secondus speech at that conference, I told him that ‘now you have talked the talk, it is the time for you to walk the talk. I say let’s rebuild the party.’ There is no organization that will be on the free highways forever, the organization must at one time or the other encounter one challenge or the other. This is what happened to PDP but we are now back stronger.
But some Nigerians are saying that things can never be the same again with PDP, with some leaders of the party defecting to other political parties, people like Professor Jerry Gana, and Professor Tunde Adeniran, what is your reaction to that?
In spite of the past challenges that PDP has, it still remains the most formidable political party in Nigeria today. PDP still remains the party to beat, and I strongly believe that if we work very hard, we are going to retake power from APC.
Do you refer to APC as political party? No. I don’t think so. It is a party of strange bedfellows, and this is why you see the party lacking internal cohesion. Most of the times you see APC members working and even fighting against themselves. I believe with our determination to work together as a team now, PDP will be the party to beat in 2019. With the way PDP is bouncing back, and waxing stronger, I can say that APC’s days in office are numbered.
On Professors Jerry Gana, and Tunde Adeniran’s defection to SDP, what do you have to say to that?
PDP is not losing sleep over Gana and Adeniran’s defection to SDP. Although as the saying goes in politics, the more members, the merrier, but then Gana and Adeniran are adults, and the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of association so they are free to associate with any political association of their choice. But then I would say, what is Gana and Adeniran looking for in SDP? Why leave PDP where you are landlords to join SDP where you now become tenants?
Gana and Adeniran are founding members of PDP, and I remember Gana was the party’s initial Protem Secretary – these two are part of the founding fathers of PDP, I can’t understand why they are leaving a party they helped found and build. Do you say that because your house is leaking, you now pack out of the house to go and rent another one? No. Rather you carry out repair work on your house to make it okay again.
There is no political party that can be like PDP. PDP is the only true national party in the country. The way the founding fathers of the party designed the party’s constitution, no geopolitical zone is to be left out in the sharing of political offices and key appointments. At every point in time, each geopolitical zone must hold one vital position or the other.
This arrangement was deliberately designed by the party’s founding fathers to ensure that no geopolitical zone feels marginalized in the nation’s political arrangement.
Calls for a Third Force to take over power from APC and PDP have been waxing stronger, and such have led to the formation of Nigerian Intervention Movement, NIM, and the Coalition for Nigeria Movement, how do you see the development?
What is Third Force? What do we need Third Force for? Third Force is a waste of time. It is another deceit by some of our leaders. Are those people that are in NIM and CNM not Nigerians? From membership names being linked to these groups, are those names not names of people who at one time or the other been in either APC or PDP? Are those people that will make up the Third Force coming from outer planet? Third Force is a deceit, and a waste of time. Advocates of a Third Force should be ignored. They are confusionists. The promoters of NIM and CNM should be ignored. They are selfish. PDP still remains the best option for Nigerians. It remains the best alternative to APC.
Like I said earlier, we agree we made some mistakes in the past, but the party has now learnt its lessons. Nigerians should team up with PDP. Now that Nigerians have the opportunity of comparing the two parties, APC and PDP, and that now that they know the difference, and clamouring for genuine change, they should team up with PDP to vote out APC.
What’s your view on the present security situation in the country, especially killings by the herdsmen in Benue, Taraba and other places across the country?
It is quite sad and unfortunate that innocent souls are being lost. The killings have to stop. If we have genuine love for one another, and see each other as brothers and sisters, there won’t be all the bloodshed. The federal government has to find a way to stop it.
Thank God, a lot of other prominent and eminent Nigerians have been speaking out against it. Where we have genuine love for one another, these killings won’t be happening. Where we see ourselves as one, we won’t take each other’s lives in cold blood.
This is why I usually recommend Lagos State example to other states in the country. Lagos State has become a role model that should be emulated by others.
In Lagos State, we welcome others, and this is why Lagos State has become a melting pot for Nigerians. There is no ethnic group that is not represented in Lagos and Lagosians welcome everybody. We show everybody love. We don’t discriminate. We allow you to realize your potential.
Lagos is very accommodating. I will like other parts of the country, I mean ethnic nationalities to emulate the spirit of Lagos. Lagos State I’m sure is the only state where you have non-indigenes representing the state at the National Assembly. It is because Lagosians are accommodating that we allow Bola Ahmed Tinubu, somebody from Iragbiji in Osun State to become governor of the state.
Are you saying Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, APC national leader is not a Lagosian?
Yes of course. Tinubu is not a Lagosian. Tinubu is from Iragbiji in Osun State and he can’t deny it. I even challenge him to deny my claim. Quote me on that. It is because Lagosians are liberal and have accommodating spirit, that was why we allow him to become governor of Lagos State. It is not only Tinubu that is benefitting or that has benefitted from the spirit of Lagos, there are countless others. It is that same spirit that we have in PDP in Lagos State.
In the run up to 2015 general elections, PDP met and agreed to be liberal in picking candidates for different levels of the elections. We also agreed that in areas where we have large Igbo population like Ojo, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, FESTAC and Amuwo that we will field Igbo candidates.
This we did and it paid off. This is why today you have Igbo PDP members representing Lagos State at the National Assembly. Igbo PDP candidate even defeated APC Lagos State Chairman, Henry Ajomale in his Osodi-Isolo state and federal constituency during the elections. If other Nigerians can emulate Lagosians, this country would be better. If other parts of Nigeria can emulate the spirit of Lagos State, this nation would be a better place for everybody. As long as we continue to discriminate against one another, there won’t be peace in this country.
Since 1999 PDP has been unable to win Lagos State, why has it been impossible for PDP to defeat the then AD, later ACN and now APC led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Lagos State?
APC are master riggers. They have been manipulating election in Lagos State over the years. They not only manipulate but openly rig elections in Lagos State. But let APC be told that 2019 general elections will be different in the state, Lagosians are now wiser and tired of APC.
PDP will use 2019 general elections to retire Henry Ajomale and Tinubu from Lagos State and national politics.
There is nothing special about Tinubu, so nobody should try to create a myth around him, or associate any political prowess with him. The political end of APC not only in Lagos State but also in Nigeria is imminent. The era of deception is over – the game is up for Tinubu and his clan of political jobbers in Lagos State.