Bode George is the former National Vice-Chairman of PDP and leader of the party in South-west. In this interview with some selected journalists, he speaks about former President Obasanjo’s verbal attack on Jonathan, the postponed election and other national issue. SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, AUGUSTINE ADAH, was there. Excerpt:
What is your reaction to verbal attacks coming from former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Jonathan in recent times?
I don’t like to be joined in any contentious issues with Baba, but in this case I will not do Nigerian any service because I am no more a young man. I am in the bracket of 70 and above,
God has graciously granted us three scores and ten plus. You see it would have been better appreciated if Baba had attended the council of state meeting, I think he was the only former Heads of State that did not attend the meeting. He would have been better informed and his position wouldnt have been on the rigid platform he is postulating. I want to state with all candour that the longest serving head of state is General Gowon, he attended that meeting, Baba Shagari attended the meeting, even general Buhari who is contending and contesting also attended the meeting including IBB. So he was the only one that was absent at that meeting, so he would have contacted the right channel for full briefing before jumping into conclusion and make unsubstantiated allegations. That is one part to the issue secondly, within the same week; he had a vicious attack three times on the person of Jonathan, so you now begin to wonder what did Baba wants from Jonathan. One, he attacks on his person and not his policies. Somewhere in Istanbul he attacked him, he went to London and did the samething in semantics (play on words). Now he got home, the same attack continues. I want to appeal to him that he should take a cursory look at his humble beginning and to compare it to what he has become and as he said he is a Christian, he knows that as a Christian it is emphasized in the Holy Book especially in the new testatement where Christ says judge not so that you yourself would not be judge. he did not criticised Jonathan’s policy, he went as far as saying that Buhari will jail him that is why he is afraid of losing the election. I am holding my breath because in our part of the world, we talk to elders with respect that is why I am trying to get the right word to describe my feeling on the matter.
Don’t you think Obasanjo is expressing his anger over what is happening in government and the party?
I believe that Baba is not a young man he was the head of state at the age of 39 averagely, Baba should be about 84 or 85 and he should graciously fade away into the midnight. The things that are coming from him are a bit worrisome I dont want to use any other words, I think it was George Bush junior that says that after leaving office, he came to a place in Africa and try to assist in building some low cost houses for poor people, then a reporter came to ask him on what he thinks about Obama, you know his response? he said anybody that has been on that seat meant well.They further asked; you mean Obama is good? he said that anybody on that seat is good because it is a taboo for a former president to make comment either codemning what he is doing or adding to what the sitting president is doing. All I want to refer Baba to is the book of Romans chapter 13 that we should pray for those in authority that is what is required by the holy book. At the council of state meeting, everything was discussed and at the end Jega addressed the press on why they have to postpone the election, but for him to start insinuating and refer our president to Laurent Gbagbo of Cote’ Divore was very unsavory, it was very unfair, it is just unpleasant, what is the population of Ivory Coast? the political scenario in Ivory Coast, the tribal sentiments in Ivory Coast, the geography of Ivory Coast is not the same as we have here in the country. I think PDP is the one that accepted the six geographical zones in our own constitution, when the British left, we had three regions and Papa Awolowo when he went to the conference in the 50s suggested six regions to care of the minorities in the north and minorities in the south but it was not accepted, that was why we made provision for the concept in our own party PDP. That has sustained our democracy for the past 16 years and as I would like to term it, turn by turn limited. It is not a new concept, in Swizerland today, the headship of the three main people, the German, the Italian and the French are also rotated and Swizerland has never been at war, can’t borrow from the concept to balance from the vagaries of suspicion and unnecessary tribal sentiment, tribal wars and religious bigotry in our own country?. God has been so kind to Baba and I don’t want to say that his life would be like that of Saul in the Bible. The attack on the president who is much younger calls for caution, I will appeal to some of our Yoruba Obas to appeal to Baba so that he can remain on that pinnacle of respect. His attack on Jonathan is becoming too personal.
You said you don’t want to join issue with Baba, but he has endorsed Gen. Buhari, what is your understanding of the action?
Let me say this since you brought the issue of party; it is absolutely unacceptable to our party as long as he remains a member of our party. It is left for the managers of our party to decide on the matter. If he is resigning from the party, there is no problem but as long as he remains a member of our great party, it is the most unacceptable action by Baba. He has violated the constitution of our party and the managers of our party should take a cursory look at the action, otherwise tomorrow a much younger person will do the same thing and they don’t have the damn to challenge that person.
Apart from Jega’s explanation and Baba’s comments, do you think INEC itself was ready to conduct the election?
I granted an interview recently and there were too posers that I gave to Jega we are on the field, thank God he is a professor that means he is a very intellectually minded person. He came and told us that 88 percent of registered voters have collected their PVC in Borno State. Borno is where we have as the den of insurgency in the country, similar percentage number of voters has also collected their PVCs in other insurgency states like Adamawa and Yobe but in place where we are in state of calmness like Lagos, Jega recorded about 37 or so percent, we are just improving now.I think by last Friday about three million voters have collected the PVCs as against 5.6 million registered voters in Lagos State. I am not talking about Ogun, Oyo and other states in the South-west and he is saying we are ready for the election. Without PVC, you are instantly disqualified from voting, now do you go for a competition where you have almost 80 or 90 percent people that have fulfilled the requirements in the syllabus and the other people have not gone up to 50 percent? is right to go ahead and conduct the same examination for the two groups? The other question is this; Has he tested the card readers to be used for the election? You just bought the equipment from China and that day you will just be opening them for the first time, the last time it was tested was in the factory in China, but our own environment is not tthe same with the place it was manufactured and if you look at the vagaries as you go from the swampy region to the savannah regions of the north, the condition varies and nobody has tested the equipment. I am not saying it would not work, but let say we have about 9,000 polling units in Lagos, how are we sure that the 9,000 card readers would be functional, if for example, I go to my polling unit and it fails to work what shall I or INEC do? Have they made provision for redundancy and what is the rate of redundancy?
Are you suggesting that the temporal voter’s card should be used?
I want Jega to address this matter I am raising. If we have had the election on February 14 as planned, people would have taken arms all over the country because they would have gone to polling units to meet the machines not working. When Jega came on air and slamming everything on Boko Haram I was sitting across the television and was wondering if he has become a public jester or talking to kids. There was no experimental area where you can predict the fail rate.
What is your view on the military occupation at the residence of former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and destruction of campaign posters in Lagos?
Thank you very much for this question. First of all posters doesn’t talk and no contestant’s photo would be on the ballot box. Thank God I schooled in abroad, it is not because my father could afford it, I was on scholarship, I have lived abroad, I was in the Navy I had training in some many naval institutions across the world, I have sailed in so many parts of the world, I have seen elections in the developed world. Nobody would deface the city like the menace we have found in Lagos. It is a charade, it is disgusting, it is a disgrace because if they have spent just two percent of what they have spent pasting the posters of Ambode, Buhari and professor Osinbajo it would have make more people to be in school, bring better health services to the people, maintain good roads and creation of jobs for the young ones. This is the first time I am seeing this kind of madness in Lagos, they asked Buhari to come and debate and tell us why we should vote for him but he declined. They have pasted their posters neck to neck but posters don’t talk, It is modern lunacy that is ravaging the country, what are posters for? People came to our meeting and said we should past our own posters like them and I asked them is that your major? I said let us not follow lunacy because this is absolutely idiot. a cost per unit will feed a child three square meal per a day. Mrs Tinubu has not say a word since she went to the senate today you see her photo there like the queen of sheba, is that what we are voting for? we want to hear her telling us what she will do as a senator representing Lagos at the National Assembly, why do you deserve the support of the people in your senatorial district? If Baba Buhari refused to come for debate, why did he deserve our votes, I think this weekend I saw him appearing before Amanpour, Amanpour is an experienced political editor and Buhari accepted that he did all those things he was alleged to have done as a military head of state and when Amanpour further asked if he would do it again he said he will not, but a leopard does not change it colours. Under that skin Baba is saying that he would come and jail President Jonathan, it means there is no separation of power between the three arms of government. You know I was a Military governor, if I said I dont want to see you, you then have to shut the door and go out but in a civil life, you must listen, discuss and appreciate the enormous power that lies with the people because it is democratic governance where the people’s view are supreme. That is the difference between Jonathan and Buhari. You know when EFCC was created during Baba’s regime, it was a whipping horse. I went through the same thing without no justifiable reason. The fear of Nuhu was the beginning of wisdom, is that democracy? Has Jonathan send any security agent against anybody? That takes me to the next question If Bola Tinubu finds his way into the national government, I will be exile he has not got the temerity, the calmness of mind, he doesn’t even know what to do with power, he conjecture as if he is in the villa because the professor is his boy, he would say this is Bode George go and pick him up. He was in a different world when he said soldiers came to his house. When I heard that I drove to that place because my house is not far from the place and I did not see any army personnel anywhere, because I know the hierarchy and the structure of the military, it is only the commander in-chief that can gave that order. He said that they surrounded his house that is a lie. Why would he lie to the public after I went down there and did not see any soldier I said ah, the spin doctors are working and you who are his spin doctors, Dele is one, Bayo Onanuga of the News is another one. These people went on twitter, you tube and everything went on viral. Then I asked why should the president deploy troop against Bola Tinubu in Lagos? But he tries to create lies in the mind of Nigerians. I think I was in the university during the war and then went into the military, what Gen. Gowon has done for this country no individual has done that he had that good conscience to have saved us from the precipe of total disintegration. We should not forget him in history.