Bode George is a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He is former military governor and later chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), as well as ex-deputy national chairman, Southwest PDP.
Chief George in this interview with Sunday Sun at the weekend bared his mind on the state of the nation and enjoined Nigerians to vote wisely in the forthcoming elections.
To lift Nigeria out of the current mess, he advised Nigerians to forget about political parties and think of that person that would use Nigeria’s resources well to better the citizenry. Excerpts:
The long-awaited 2023 elections are here, what is the situation in your party, the PDP?
From my perception, there’s hardly any organization, political or otherwise; they will have issues, little problems, because if you have an organization and you say you are trouble-free, it is not an organization. Somebody must be deceiving you. We have a little problem in our party. It started as a little problem, but it is expanding and we are getting close to the national election. It is heart-rending to see that in the distribution of top positions in the hierarchy of the campaign, here, Southwest, how do I go back to the platform when our candidates come to my zone to mount the rostrum and face the people and tell them vote for this? Right now, Northeast is cushioned (presidential candidate). North-central is with the national chairman, Northwest, director-general of the campaign. I have been director-general before, I know the powers of the DG of the national campaign. South-south has the vice presidential candidate and also they have Governor Udom as chairman of campaign. Southeast has acting chairman, board of trustees; now, where is Southwest zone? The largest electoral state in this country today is Lagos State. We have enough numbers in Ogun, Oyo, Osun. Where are we, because decisions will be made, discussions would go, who will man this, who will be that? In terms of appointment, in terms of strategy, we are outside the board. The founding fathers didn’t do it that way; they gave us a superb strategy of building an Iroko political tree from the swampy forests in the South to the savannah region. There’s no village you will not hear PDP. I had been, I had managed national campaign, I had managed national conventions, and I served 10 years at the national secretariat. It was a brilliant strategy. Why are we moving away from that now? What you will not accept that’s the first dictate in life, don’t do it, even to your enemy. Simple question. Where are we in the melee, how are we going to sell our party? Even the dumbest Nigerian knows that this APC government has led us into a bottomless abyss. No water, no light, no petrol, no money, no food. Think of those millions of people selling perishable items, what happens to those people? And the shock is that it’s a good intention from the president and his team to say that we want to make sure those who have hoarded naira in their homes would not have their way. Brilliant, brilliant, but their approach to solving the problem has put the whole country in disarray. What has it got to do with mammy market? What has it got to do with the poor man who is running from his office to his home? They know those who are culpable, go for them; don’t give the sin committed by these characters (as a reason) for all of us to suffer. It’s injurious. In fact, we in our PDP, we don’t need any more thing to campaign. Are you better off today than when we were there? That’s all we need to ask. But we also have a little problem, which can be resolved, if our managers now can think of Nigeria first rather than their tribes. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Make us proud. Tell our people this is the position that you have in this government that is coming. Look, public office is public trust. You are telling us vote for us now then when you come back, I will see what I will do for you. (Laughs) There’s no monkey now in Idanre, they have all disappeared. Now, it’s money for hand, back for ground. Let us be proud. I am a PDP man. All the other political parties (such as) APC are a congregation of strange bedfellows. That is why what you hear from el-Rufai is different from what you hear from the Villa, it is different from what you hear from the national chairman of their party. Who are they? They all came from PDP. They are trying to copy PDP. A copy is not like the original, but we are making monumental mistakes. People say 24 hours in politics is a long time, that is why we are waiting, we are watching. He can still make amends. All these issues that I have friends here and there. Yes, you have friends, when you become president you will be servicing them. Is that the essence of being in government? The essence of being in government, because it’s a public trust, is to utilize the resources of the land for the benefit of everybody. What has kept my interest in politics now is the fact that the electoral process is also changing to what is orderly. Let the will of the people be respected because it is they who, invariably, will decide what they want. If they make a mistake, you come back to renew your mandate four years after. Then they could say, this man again? Nigerians, let us shine our eyes and shine our minds. Forget about political party now. We are ideologically inclined in this country, ‘kadan kadan, wayo-wayo, surulere,’ calm down, remove the façade, look at the man. Can you trust him? Has he proven himself to be a real leader who has utilized the resources of the land for the benefit of the people? Think, think. If we miss it this time around, I don’t know where Nigeria will be. The beauty of this country is that it is so gifted. Every corner, God gave us, is it human resource, is it agriculture? Some nations are struggling and fighting to be like us. The deputy secretary of the Treasury in America is a Nigerian. You find some other Nigerians in the sciences, in medicine, in law. Look at the other lady in England who was even fighting to be Prime Minister, she’s a Nigerian. What is wrong with this giant? Why are we moving backwards, when the rest of the world is rolling ahead, we still see ourselves through the prism of tribalism? Our founding fathers came up with this principle of justice, fairness and equity that is a three-legged body. Justice to all under the law. Equal justice to all under the law. You cannot disregard anybody, saying “My people will vote for me and I will be president.” President of where? This is not a military government. Inclusivity is the number one thing in politics. You must relate with everybody. You must move out to everybody. The issue with our party, I would say, is, if they had apportioned all those top brackets to all the zones, by now, we would have reached the pilot gate of the Villa and only wait for the 25th to start dancing inside. But where are we now? What are we doing? It requires the principal to get back to the table and forget about those lying to him: “You will win, forget those people.” Forget some people, in politics, national politics? This is not tribal politics. How would you solve the problem? It’s a national calamity that you disregarded a whole tribe, a whole zone. In your calculations and in the distribution of positions, how can we respect you? But it’s still possible for him to get back to that table, sit down, look at it and solve the problems we have. There are problems here and there, little things messed up in some states. We can manage all those ones, but when it comes to the national team, for God’s sake, I am appealing to him, don’t destroy what those Babas enacted. If I look at them now, only a few of them are still alive. They have got to that age where they are no longer strong to make an impact. They have already collected their boarding passes and the Almighty can call their flight at any time. Many of them are already seeing and hearing the voice of the Lord. They have played their part, they have run the race and they finished well because they handed over to us a modern party that is unique for a multi-tribal nation like Nigeria. Why are we throwing it away? I could liken it to an Iroko tree, any tree. The leaves, depending on the season, would turn to green, yellow and keep changing. You know what doesn’t change? The root. The root of the tree. The day you touch it, tap it and mess up with it, that tree will die. Let them be very careful not to touch the taproot planted by our founding fathers. Let us respect each other because, whether we like it or not, some day, we will pass on. When we were coming, nobody asked God: send me to Africa, send me to Yoruba land, send me to Igbo land, send me to Hausa land. The Almighty God is there, if you live your life in deceit…we have a song in my language, kole kole, kole sori apata (Build your house with a solid foundation). No matter the wind, it still stands, but if it’s flimsy, a little wind, you are gone. That is the state of our party. We have two weeks before the national elections. In that two weeks, he can still make amends. Call the G-5 and others. If you want to be a leader, you don’t discountenance anybody. In politics, discountenance? Your enemy today may be your best friend tomorrow.
In that case, what are the chances of the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the forthcoming election, if he doesn’t reach out to the G-5?
What I don’t do is play God. I am a retired general. You take an issue, you look at it. You do an analysis, what we call an appreciation of the situation, and proffer solutions. You don’t waste your men, you prepare for them. Before we get to the war front, let us sit down, let us revisit the planning. All those jokers who are telling you gbos-gbas, this-that, they are not important. When the issue comes to reality, they will be gone. You will be left alone like Lot. What would you tell your creator because, some day, you will answer? The failure or success of a leader would be on the pages of history. Whatever Buhari has done now and their government, this is mid-February now, March, April, May, and he will be gone. Eight years have gone pim, as if he didn’t even start. But what are we going to remember them for? Lai Mohammed for his lie-lie. The end product is, who is happy? Whether you are a rich man, poor man, middle-class man, who is happy?
As a chieftain in PDP living in Lagos State, it seems you haven’t come out in support of the party’s governorship aspirant?
I am close to 80 now. I can’t deceive myself and be lying to my conscience. Once you are 70 years, you are already in the departure lounge. God gave us in the Holy Book, three scores and 10, he guarantees. Every hour you live after 70 years is by grace. Get ready; He can call your flight anytime. Something happened that shook me to my foundation, talking about let’s do this strategic thing and then you reneged. I don’t need any leader; I’m my own leader by myself. I will do it all by myself. In my local parlance, when an old man sits under a tree and a young man climbs that tree to the top, what the old man would see, that young man may never see it. It’s an adage. There’s a truism in it. I sat on my own quietly, the national managers of our party implanted a group of people to say they won the elections for the state manager. Where are they today? They manipulated it, threw everything under the bus. What you plant is what you’re going to reap. You can’t plant cassava and think you are going to get cocoyam. No I have run my race, I have done the best humanly possible, and I thank God I am still alive waiting for that day of judgment to face the Almighty God, my creator and present my certificates and my deeds. I’m not saying I’m a saint. I want to present my scorecard. He is the righteous judge. That’s all I’m waiting for. Just like Peter said in 2 Timothy, Chapter 4 verses 6-8. I have run my race and have finished well.
What is your take on the Emi lo Kan movement and APC’s Bola Tinubu’s push to become president?
It is the peak of arrogance and lack of respect to the dictates of the Almighty God. Emi lo kan, and my reply is, se oye idile ni (is it your ancestral property)? How many languages do we have in Nigeria, how may tribes do we have in Nigeria, from Sokoto to Calabar, Maiduguri to Delta, you see how far, how big? Over 200 million people. Emi lo Kan? Let the will of the people be respected. If, peradventure, they vote for him to be president, good luck.
In your assessment, will Tinubu make a good president?
I have assessed him perfectly already. Bola Tinubu, first of all, is too old to be on that seat. He said he is 70 years old. His first daughter is 61. How can you have a child at age nine? Definitely, he is past 70. Those who know him from their local village say he’s in his 80s. You could see the degenerative concept of his movement and I’m not underrating him. He doesn’t have that good health. It’s only advisory now to spend the rest of his life enjoying himself with his wife, his children and grandchildren. If he goes to that Villa with that health, ministry of justices, ministry of agriculture, Foreign Service, ministry of defence, internal affairs, petroleum, physical and monitoring policy, no power, no this and that, how would he manage it? He should be resting, sleeping and waking up anytime he wants. My perception is that it’s time for him to retire home so that the rest of his life he can enjoy with his wife, children and grandchildren. His wife, Remi, wanted to go to the Senate so that she would become Senate President. His son is waiting on the ladder to become governor of Lagos State. He is the only one that controls all these public adverts you see in Lagos. It is only the company of that boy. Is that the way to manage Nigeria? His daughter is the Iya Oloja of Lagos, so she will become Iya Oloja of Nigeria and be collecting tolls. That is his style of management and it is not acceptable to me. Nigerians can make their decision. I’m not God and I don’t see any crystal ball. But for me, in my own analysis, no sir. He is my friend. If he sits across the table with me, that’s what I would tell him; mine is advisory. I can’t compel it. Let the will of the people prevail. Because it’s a public trust. Let them decide on their own whether he is fit and proper to lead them. I’m an individual, I have only one vote. That is my analysis on Bola. I don’t hate him, but I know he has a hell of a lot of baggage to carry. No sentiments now. The way this nation is today. What also trolls me is the fact that this is the candidate representing the APC government in power; what have they proved to us that we should entrust them for another four years? They should be begging Nigerians that they would learn and change, not Emi lo Kan (joke). I said to somebody, with the money Tinubu has from the Alpha Beta Company (that is the direct source from the treasury), he should have set up an agency in each local government with between N500 million and N1 billion per local government and start skill acquisition programmes for these young minds. They used to call it trade centres to go and learn carpentry, painting, hairdressing, fashion, and at the end of that they give interest-free loan to start business. You think they will ever forget you? But he’s running Emi lo kan. Emi lo kan, junketing in the air. Emi lokan, emi lo kan, good luck.
This fuel crisis, in addition to naira re-design, what is your take on it?
Who is the minister of petroleum? If there is any problem, who are we to ask? Is he really in charge? The minister of state for petroleum, have you heard anything from him? The group managing director of NNPC, the only thing I heard from him was on CNN advertising that they want to go to the stock market and put NNPC on the stock. You want to go and refurbish the refineries. The refineries built since when? It’s like you have an old car that is about 50 years old and you want to refurbish it. It is like me now and you say you want to refurbish me, even if you refurbish me, how much can I run? Can I run as much as a young man? Something is not adding up. Like I said, they congregated, they made sure they got rid of Jonathan; they got the power, end of eight years, no power, no money, no petrol, no water, and no food. In the meantime, tribal warlords are fighting all over the place. May God bless this country. But I know, God gave us people, brilliant, intelligent people. Who is the world trade leader now, is it not Ngozi? Can you throw her under the bus? We didn’t use her properly, so she got the world trade agency, which is an agency of the United Nations, and she’s doing well. Look at the young lady who wanted to be British minister and ended up becoming a minister in Great Britain. The guy who went to Africa Development Bank, Adesina. He was an asset to IITA in Ibadan. That was where he was working and they transferred him to somewhere in East Africa (Kenya). From there they brought him back to be minister of the country. That agriculture ministry here landed him that plum job he is in now and there are many, many Nigerians in many nations of the world doing exploits. Two weeks to general elections and no money. I got back to this country two weeks ago; I struggled like hell to get N100,000. Since then, nothing else. Am I going to start hustling POS? While every country is moving forward, we have gone back to trade by barter. If you have garri and I have bread, if you want my bread, we trade off.
Going forward, what is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
The failure or success of any government will be on the pages of history. Let me just leave it like that. Nigerians must shine their eyes; shine their minds, think, and remove the façade. All these Labour Party, APC, PDP, remove the façade from them and see the human beings behind every facade. Can this man successfully manage the resources of this country for the betterment of Nigerians? As you carry your PVC there, think. It has nothing to do with party now because we are at a crossroads. I don’t want to see us end up like Somalia, Sudan; I don’t want to see us end up like Syria. Look at Lebanon, the Paris in the Middle East is in tatters now. I pray we don’t go that way. Why not? If we pretend and we don’t tell the truth to power, we are digging a ditch for ourselves. The essence is not to illogically criticize, it’s to state emphatically the problems. Don’t start diverting, they are asking you what is your name, simple question, and you start diverting. Not like the boy with the big mouth, Dele Alake. Bola too should wake up; are they helping him? The last time they were all shouting the gba gbas about him, what happened when the whole thing collapsed? He ran away to America. Where did he get money to buy house in America, he was a journalist in Concord, then became commissioner for information. Today, he’s also bloating and living across our lagoon here in Ikoyi from Ikoro Ekiti. All to Bola. It shall be well with Nigeria. Dele Alake was talking trash recently. He will be lucky to do one per cent of what I have done in my life. He went on national television and was maligning my name. When I was in secondary school, he was probably in primary school. These are people who abuse traditional culture; proper, basic home training, he has none. He opened his big, wide mouth, basically not on normalcy, he knows what he smokes. A journalist is civil. Because I was a governor in that state, I know the people of Ikoro where he comes from. They are decent, civilized, respectable, responsible human beings. After Bola made him a commissioner for information, he ran home, he wanted to be senator. They drove him out. They said, who is this one? He doesn’t show their culture, he doesn’t have the respect; he was rejected massively by the people. They asked you simple questions, all these property your oga has, how? Answer. If you don’t have an answer, say I don’t know. He started abusing people. Alake collected from Bola Tinubu one of the best houses owned by Lagos State government. As you come down from the link bridge into Alexandra, you turn right, the first house there, Bola dashed him. Waterfront house. Lagos State property, from Ikoro ooh, in Ekiti. Let him be rest assured, whether I’m alive or not, there will be a day we will collect all our enviable assets back from such clowns.
What’s your final word on the state of the nation?
Every Nigerian is now concerned, every Nigerian is interested, asking, where are we going? Somebody asked me the question yesterday, sir, what about the former heads of states that are still alive, they are not getting involved? I’m not too sure. But if they don’t, I want to appeal to them. They have run the system before. Right now, who has money, who has petrol, who has electricity, who has water, who has food? And, like joke, this is the second week that we are heading into. Nigeria, the giant of Africa? Let them go and meet within, shut the doors, find the solutions. The sin of a few Nigerians who have hoarded money cannot be visited on the others who have no business there. The security agents are there, they know all those who have committed this offence.