Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George has asked ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to shut up and stop playing to the gallery through public criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari. He gave the advice in Lagos in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS. George also urged factional National Chairman of the PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff to accept reality, and stop any further act of prolonging the crisis rocking the party.
According to George, the Court of Appeal’s recognition of Eyitayo Jegede from Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the PDP is a tacit recognition of Makarfi’s faction as the mainstream PDP.
“Sheriff’s eyes should be open now. He has come to divine judgment. He and his followers should be remorseful and return to Makarfi’s mainstream PDP. Sheriff has been an embarrassment to PDP, he should stop further acts of rascality,” he declared. He spoke further on this and more.
What is your reaction to Eyitayo Jegede’s victory over Jimoh Ibrahim at the Court of Appeal, and the implication for the lingering PDP crisis?
The judgment has reaffirmed my confidence in the Judiciary and it will no doubt help to strengthen our democracy. It is a classic judgment. Before that judgment, the whole world was looking at us, but thank God for the judgment, which to me, represents victory of light over darkness.
Democracy is a tripod. The Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature. As an engineer, I look at democracy as a three-legged body, but the moment one leg is out of the structure becomes wobbling and it is no longer stable, and that’s why I have been deeply worried about the future of our democracy with the recent development from a section of our judiciary.
Thank God that Chief Justice of the Federation has also expressed concerns at what is happening in the judiciary. He has also promised to restore sanity, we are happy at that.
On the implication of the judgment for both Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi led factions of the PDP …?
Cuts in … I’m coming to that. The judgment has proved that all this while, Modu Sheriff has been playing a spoiler’s game in the PDP. The Appeal Court judgment in a way, by recognizing Eyitayo Jegede from Senator Makarfi’s faction of the PDP as the party’s candidate for the recent Ondo State gubernatorial election has in a way confirmed that faction as the authentic PDP. It is time for Sheriff to quit honourably now. Not only that, he also owe us an apology for trying to destroy PDP.
You know what happened at Port Harcourt Convention when people from Sheriff’s faction tried all shenanigans to perpetuate illegality, God destroyed their evil plans. The situation was so bad that the crisis in the PDP got to a point when some people even thought that the party would never recover from the crisis, but thank God for divine intervention.
That Appeal Court judgment made my celebration to be double as I’m celebrating my 71st birthday, and this judgment also came as double celebration for me.
In politics, you know that a political party is like a police station,. The door is never locked, the door is always opened, and you have all manners of people in a political party, rapists, armed robbers, intellects, hooligans, they are all there, all manner of characters. But what you should ensure when you are fielding candidates for political offices is that rapists are not put in charge of Women Affairs, armed robbers are not put in charge of the Treasury, but everybody should have a say in a political party to manage all kinds of characters in a political party, requires wisdom and grace from God.
If Modu Sheriff and his followers have a sense of remorse, you will pardon them, but we can’t drive them away. You don’t drive people away from playing politics. My appeal to Modu Sheriff is that he should allow peace to reign. He should return to the main fold PDP. The PDP umbrella is big enough for all of us. He and his followers have been playing God, but with the court judgment God has proved Himself.
He and his followers have tried their rascality, it didn’t work, they should come back to the fold. They should also be remorseful. Let us all rebuild our party. The PDP umbrella that Sheriff is trying to tear apart is too strong for him.
Are you making a personal appeal to Sheriff now that he should give peace a chance in PDP?
Sheriff’s issue should not have come this far. He and his followers should have allowed peace to reign. Sheriff and his followers should not allow their personal interests and ambition to override the overall interests of the PDP. Sheriff should know that power and positions are temporary, even our life is temporary. What Sheriff should remember is to think of how he would be remembered. He should strive to leave a good legacy. You are there today, others will be there tomorrow. Don’t undermine others because of personal ambition. Soldier goes, soldier comes, barracks remain. I’m not afraid of saying it the way it is, Sheriff should jettison personal ambition. He has been an irritant in PDP, and for God’s sake, he should not destroy this great party, the biggest political party in Africa.
But Sheriff has always maintained that it was you people in PDP that invited him to come and rescue the party and that until he finishes his mission, he won’t go, what is your reaction to that?
Who called him? Who invited him? Certainly not all PDP members, especially elders. It was a group of young men in PDP led by Governor Fayose, and one or two other PDP governors that actually invited him. But we elders in the party advised them against having anything to do with Sheriff, but Fayose and others didn’t listen to us, and we are all paying the price of our governors’ disobedience today because Sheriff, who against our advice they brought to our party has become a big source of headache and embarrassment to PDP members. He has become an albatross.
That notwithstanding, there is even nothing wrong in inviting Sheriff as he has been claiming, but why did he want to perpetuate himself in office illegally? That means that Sheriff has his own personal ambition, he is just using the invitation as an excuse to execute his own personal agenda.
Sheriff is my friend, I’ve known him since I was in the military, I have nothing personal against him, but let the truth be told, Sheriff is being driven by personal ambition. There is no way Sheriff can even be the party’s chairman because of the party’s zoning policy. PDP has zoned Presidency to the North, and the party’s chairmanship to the South.
Sheriff is a stranger in PDP, he is not familiar with PDP rules and regulation, and that’s why he wants to bring the party down. But by the grace of God, PDP will not die, the party will continue to wax stronger.
If Governor Fayose and others that brought Sheriff to PDP had listened to PDP elders, we would have been saved what I will call Sheriff embarrassment.
The lesson in all these is this, especially those of us in the Makarfi’s faction of PDP, if we don’t remain righteous, just, fair and equitable, divine judgment may also come down onus as it is happening to Sheriff’s faction now. It takes a crazy fellow a second to throw a stone in a well and one million professors will not be able to find the stone. PDP is lucky, extremely lucky that the party has not collapsed as a result of this crisis.
Is it true that at a point some members felt like abandoning PDP for Sheriff and form another party?
Let me first say again that PDP governors made a big mistake in inviting Sheriff to the party, but like they say experience is the best teacher, we elders have now been vindicated, while the PDP governors must have also learnt their lesson, and learn how to listen to elders. It is true that idea of forming another political party and leaving PDP for Sheriff was contemplated by some of our party members, but some of us especially myself, I told those members that if your house is leaking will you pack out and go and build another house, then if you get to the new house, it is leaking again, will you abandon the house again? I told them that there is no way we are going to leave PDP for Sheriff, a stranger to the party.
The founding fathers of PDP would never have been happy with us if we had abandoned the party to Sheriff.
Some people have implored the National Judicial Council, NJC, to sanction Justice Okon Abang over his castigation by the Court of Appeal, do you agree?
I believe Justice Abang should have by now been sanctioned by the NJC. His conduct on the Bench has been very questionable. Imagine, even granting reliefs or orders that were not even sought by the appellants to them. His role in PDP crisis through his judgment should be investigated. If it were to be in other climes, Justice Abang would not have still been sitting following his indictment by the Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice of the Federation, and the National Judicial Council should set up committees to investigate and sanction Justice Abang.
It made me to remember how I was sentenced to jail for 18 months for allegedly splitting contracts, when no contract was ever awarded by me or those charged together with me. But it was a political persecution and my detractors also succeeded in using a judge against me. But I thank God that the Supreme Court eventually overturned that judgment and I was acquitted and discharged.
In a normal setting, the judiciary should have remained an independent entity, but what you discover is that in our system, some judges still allow themselves to be used as willing tools by the executive. The Chief Justice of the Federation and the National Judicial Council should restore sanity in the judiciary.
Justice Abang should bury his head in shame, he has become a big embarrassment to the judiciary. I also expect Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, to come out and deal with the lawyer to Sheriff’s faction who was asked to pay N5m fine to each of the three judges of the Appeal Court for maligning their names – that lawyer was very unprofessional in his conduct.
On this issue of alignment and realignment of political forces with a view to forming another political party, how do you see that?
There is nothing wrong with formation of new political parties because the constitution guarantees freedom of association, but my question is this, why in a hurry to form another political party when we have not nurtured the existing big ones to fruition?
Look at the United States, both The Democrat and The Republican parties, the two major parties in America have been there for long time, and they have also been having their own shares of different political crises, but yet members of the parties have remained steadfast not rushing to form another political association. Even in the Scripture, we are told to expect tribulations, tribulations will come, crises will come, but the assurance given to us is that such will not overwhelm or overcome us.
If my house is leaking and I say let me go and build another house, if you build another house, who tells you that one wMany people including former President Obasanjo are saying that things are getting too tough for Nigerians and that President Buhari should do something fast about the recession and economic crises facing the nation, what is your reaction to that?
What people should realize is that Rome was not built in a day. We all have one role or the other to play in bringing the situation back to normal.
But to crucify President Muhammadu Buhari I don’t agree. For me, I believe in praying for leaders. Let’s pray for Buhari that God should give him the wisdom to pull Nigeria through the present economic crisis. It is true that many Nigerians, millions are genuinely suffering, the hardship in the land today is beyond human comprehension, but rather than condemning Buhari, I will continue to pray for him to succeed.
Although we belong to different political parties, but I don’t want to talk politics now, let’s talk about the nation and Nigerian interests, I pray to God that the president should have quick solutions to myriads of problems facing us today especially problem of poverty, hunger and biting economic recession. Buhari should assemble a team that will work with him to get us out of these problems as fast as possible.
Condemning Buhari is not the solution but we should advise and pray for him. I believe it is too early to condemn Buhari, may be after three years, we can ask him to present his scorecard. Condemning Buhari is not the solution but we should advise and pray for him. Moreso, I don’t believe in the approach adopted by Baba [former President Olusegun Obasanjo]. Why should Baba go public in his criticism of Buhari? Obasanjo has unlimited access to the President, even if he asks Buhari to come and see him at his farm in Ota , I believe Buhari would go there to see him and there he would have expressed his mind on the nation’s state of affairs to the President, after all he was Buhari’s former boss in the military. But for Obasanjo to have gone public to condemn Buhari’s policy to me is like a betrayal, it amounts to playing to the gallery.
For those other Nigerians condemning the President openly, it is understandable, they don’t have direct access to the President, but for Obasanjo who have unlimited
access to the President to have behaved in that way, it is like playing to the gallery. I believe he should have adopted a more matured approach. However , like I said earlier I believe it is too early to condemn Buhari, may be after three years, we can ask him to present his score card.
There was a report that some Yoruba elders were trying to broker peace between you and former President Obasanjo. The two of you were known to be very close until things fell apart, how true is the reconciliation effort?
I’m not fighting anybody. Baba is Baba anyday. I’m not fighting him. He was my senior in the military, and my political leader when he became civilian president. I worked with him closely and if I still see him today, I will salute him and pay him compliments as my elder and senior. But like I said earlier, whatever a human being does he should be fair to all, and God fearing. Vengeance is mine as God says.
If we are not close again today, it doesn’t matter. When I was working with Obasanjo, I was completely loyal to him, 100 percent loyal, but what I got back in return for my loyalty was a shock. I didn’t bargain for it.
What kind of shock was that?
I supported Obasanjo blindly but what did I get in return, I got a blind eye for supporting him. I was jailed on a false allegation. I went to prison falsely accused but thank God the Supreme Court quashed my jail sentence.
But my disappointment with Baba was that when I was released from prison, and my supporters came rejoicing with me, and I was given a heroic welcome, Obasanjo said we were celebrating criminality. That means that Obasanjo who I was extremely loyal to, also believe that I truly committed the crime.
But God fought my battle, and my adversaries were all put to shame. I thank God for the Supreme Court judgment, which exonerated me from committing any crime.
I was wrongfully jailed, but since God has vindicated me, I bear no bitterness or grudges against anybody including Obasanjo, but I have learnt a great lesson about human beings. I thank God that I went to prison, I came out without becoming a blind person or suffering one deformity or the other.
Life is but a walking shadow, and the Bible says in everything, always thank God.
Was it true that at a point during your imprisonment, some members of PDP tried to expel you from the party?
It is true, and very interesting. That was a period I just came out of the prison, and some members of the party who obviously are my political detractors dragged me before this same Justice Abang, he was sitting in Lagos then.
These PDP renegades wanted me to be expelled from PDP Board of Trustees claiming that as an ex-convict that I was unfit to be a member of the board.
The curious thing here is that it is not the party, PDP, that wanted to expel me but rather some members who are my political adversaries.
I wasn’t even in the country at the time, I was away in London, but by that time, I had already filed an appeal against my conviction and the matter was before Supreme Court waiting to be heard.
When members of my staff in my Lagos office drew my attention to the letter, I quickly arranged for a lawyer to appear on my behalf, and the lawyer told the court that my appeal against the conviction was pending at the Supreme Court.
That was how the matter was put on hold, and luckily, when the Supreme Court finally ruled on the case, I was discharged and acquitted. That was how that case came to a natural end, otherwise my adversaries would have ensured that I was expelled from the party’s Board of Trustees, but God shamed them, and their plan failed.