Former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, in this interview with select newsmen, expresses joy over the verdict delivered by the Osun Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in favour of his party candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke and expressed his disappointment with the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje, regarding the recently concluded exercise in the state. BOLA BADMUS brings excerpts:
The Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, last Friday, upturned the election of Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the APC and pronounced the PDP candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, as the winner of the governorship election. How would you react to development?
The pronouncement by the respected tribunal has started the journey to the Promised Land. I thank God Almighty that truth has prevailed and those judges have shown that no matter how long, truth will prevail and they have allowed the will of the people to prevail. This is a new beginning; the rule of law has come to stay in Nigeria. I commend the people of Osun State for their patience. We thought people were despondent, people were angry but they were quiet and I said this is like a graveyard silence. This has confirmed that prayer is much stronger than physical power. It is going to be well with this nation.
It is a lesson to this country. I remember the day they were messing up the election there; I kept talking to the people of Osun but look at it today, justice has prevailed and it is the day would be the turning point of democracy. The names of the justices who are on the panel would be written in gold because they didn’t do any under-table calculation. They were sincere, honest and truthful. They got all the figures and didn’t joggle with them. All those investors who had been running away from Nigeria thinking that all hell had broken loose, will now be reassured that when you take your matter to court, you will get justice.
I experienced it when they said we spilt a contract that wasn’t awarded in the first place. Throughout the trial, we didn’t hear anything like Bode George stole one kobo or any member of the board stole one naira. It was a discussion in the Board. Senator Bola Tinubu railroaded us, but I always say that some characters should be swept out of the judiciary. This happened until we got to the Supreme Court and they asked what the offence was. And I kept telling all my friends then that they shouldn’t write off the judiciary, whatever the flash points.
Does the Osun case offer any ray of hope to the bid by the presidential candidate of your party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to upturn the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the tribunal?
When the Israelites left Egypt, God told them they would move for 40 days, but they must behave themselves. When they crossed the Nile, they were amazed about what they saw as the big ocean in front of them split into two. He warned them, ‘don’t overjoy; follow my rules’. The 10 Commandments were handed over to Moses and then they were supposed to follow the commandments, but they broke the law. Moses had to smash the commandment tablet when he saw them worshipping idols.
Now, it is almost the same as our own. We should not lose hope; we must never give up. We must continue to pray and when we see something that is not right, let us be bold enough to say this is not right. We are gradually getting our country back to the comity of civilised world. Nobody has the right to tamper with the judiciary; it is self-retaining. I didn’t believe that this would happen in my lifetime but because of my experience, I kept telling my people that there are still people who believe that they will appear one day before their creator to answer to their deeds. The thing about the judiciary is that if you don’t succeed, you keep fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Those justices in the Supreme Court are no longer just normal human beings by my own reckoning. There is no reason for them to be afraid. Anything decided there becomes a supra and they can’t afford to do any unsustainable thing because of posterity. And now, this happened at the lower end of the rung, which means there is hope.
PDP tentatively has two states in the South-West from the six in the zone. How did you intend to build on this for the party to be stronger in the zone?
Let me take you through a recent memory lane on the issue of PDP in the South-West. Ahead of the 2003 elections, everybody thought it was near impossible for the party to have an inroad into the zone. There are 137 local government areas in the South-West. On the minimum, PDP visited each of the local government areas about five times, campaigning and explaining to the people that we also benefited from the policies of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and that it was not the birthright of anyone or group of people to claim to be more Awo just by physical outfit, round caps and glasses and the victory sign. We were able to do it in 2003 and we won because the people believed in us.
But somewhere along the line, after eight years, they decided to change their allegiance, which is the beauty of democracy. So, we lost and we have been in a spin since then. Afterwards, all kinds of leaders and characters emerged; some were good, some were bad and it is normal. Our choice must be to make sure that whoever would be elected by the people must be somebody who has shown the care and the concern to the growth of the people.
Now, how crucial would the performance of PDP in the South-West contribute to the resurgence of the party in the zone?
I am hoping that with the experiences we have acquired in the past as a party in the South-West, those newly-elected governors who are coming on our platform must firstly respect the rule of law; they must respect the constitution of the party and the love of the people must be uppermost in their mind. Politics is simply the management of the resources of the land for the benefit of the people.
The new governors who have been given the opportunity to manage the resources of their states must now remember in their mindset that it must be for the benefit of the people. They can primarily achieve this by focusing on human capital development, which has education as its frontline. They must help the children of the poor to be educated. They must provide skill acquisition for the youth. In whatever forms they want to do it, they must meaningfully engage the youth with futuristic skills and this must be a priority.
The two of them now would be a landmark to other states. They must not also throw the elders in the party and their states into the bush and say they don’t need the elders. What an old man would see while sitting down, a young man cannot see it even when he climbs a 24-storey building. What we are saying in effect is that there must cooperation and collaboration. It is not the duty of any group alone to think you have solution. When we come together, we multiply in wisdom.
Somebody said it and almost destroyed his state. It was idiotic because no matter how beautiful dresses a young man has, he would never have as many rags as the old man. I was governor when I was 42; Baba (Olusegun) Obasanjo was Head of State when he was 39; General Yakubu Gowon was head of this country at 32; Baba (Obafemi) Awolowo was 33 when he became Premier and they still lived all that long. The wealth of experience in political life is not something that you learn in the classroom.
Were you shocked by the anti-party activities of some PDP members in some South-West states at the last elections and what is your reaction to the resignation of former Ogun State governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel from PDP and his purported move to APC?
I recently stumbled on one of my old readings when I was doing my devotion at night: ‘Don’t run impulsively ahead of the Lod;, learn to wait for his timing. The second, minute and hour hands in the clock must point to the precise moment of your action.’ That is the advice I want to give to those who have crossed and those who are still contemplating. Gbenga Daniel has not contacted me and none of them has done so because they know my views.
What is the urgency all about? If you look at it, is it something that has been contemplated? Is it eye-service or what? You said your followers want you to move from A to B, how can that be? Why are you their leader? That statement was so light-minded. I know Gbenga Daniel; academically, he is very sound and intelligent. You cannot go on deceiving yourself like an ostrich that is hiding its head and all its other part is wide open but, because it can’t see people, it thought others can’t see it too. I am personally very disappointed about these people. Where you left, they would be disgusting; where you are going, can you be trusted?
Don’t you feel disappointed about the outcome of the Lagos governorship election and when your candidate, Jimi Agbaje, called to congratulate his opponent, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of APC, even before the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the winner?
Let me tell you something; this is also part of what I was referring to when I said political experiences cannot be bought from the shelf. When you get somebody who is yet to learn the rudiments of an organisation that is what you get. In any organisation, there are certain written laws and there are customs which are not written. You may read the written law, but for the customs, you have to grow to know that this is a taboo here. We have done a post-mortem analysis; maybe I was also guilty. When Jimi Agbaje came into the party, we were looking for quality and he was contesting mainly at that time with Musiliu Obanikoro. We have seen Obanikoro and the people said they can’t have any of him again. This one too came and in my 21 years of party politics in PDP, I have never seen such absolute nonsense and I blame the PDP national leadership for it.
We have resolved in the South-West that never again would anyone foist candidate on any state from the national. You don’t jump over the managers of the party and go over to the lower level and start picking because you are the vice chairman, deputy chairman or national chairman. You build your house from the foundation up.
If the man refused to work with the state chairman and state exco level and he thinks he can run elections by himself and he can do all he likes, what do you expect? Did he contact anyone of us throughout the campaign?
I don’t want to say much on this issue. But that behaviour is against party discipline, it is against the practice and culture of the party and we would never again accept that from anybody as long as I am in this party. I didn’t make the rules and regulations of the party, but all of us must follow and obey the rules so that we can emerge as the ruling party in Lagos.
But he said he incurred the wrath of the party leaders because he stopped the Lagos PDP tradition of sharing campaign money to the elders?
That is absolutely insane, quote me. Which PDP leaders are sharing money? Was he here? When he contested in 2015, we ran the elections where we won eight House of Assembly seats, six Federal House of Representatives seats and the margin of defeat at the governorship was nothing embarrassing. Sharing which money? So, it is an idea that he personified the party? I have been leader of this party from day zero: if he has the nerves, let him point the names of those who have shared the money. It is not only an insult; he must be a special candidate in the hospital. That election was not his election, it was Atiku Abubakar’s. The way they were supposed to handle the funds was already tabulated. Is he the chairman of the party? Did you ever see Atiku go anywhere without the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus and the DG of the campaign? Where did he (Agbaje) generate all those people going around with him? So, he has no regard for the party but the party money that the party sent, he now became the owner, driver and face of the party. It is an insult for him to say that and he needs to go for check-up. I had managed a national presidential campaign in this country; I have been the deputy national chairman of the party and I had managed the South- West and what we did was to follow the rules of the party and we won five states out of six.
If he raised his own money, then we can say it is his own money. But the money from the party belongs to the party. Let him go and find out what happened in Ogun and Oyo states. In fact, the governor- elect of Oyo State put in more money and sat with the leaders there. You know the effect of what Agbaje did; many of the people he purported to have given the money disappeared completely.
So, what has become of the rubbish he did? He was beaten blue, black and green by APC. He lost woefully and disgracefully. That was the worst result we have ever had in Lagos. You can see the result; Sanwo-Olu had over 700,000, but he Agbaje could only polled over 200,000 and he is still talking. He should go and bury his head in shame.