Despite Ali Modu Sheriff's claim to the chairmanship of PDP, those in Ahmed Makarfi-led faction are seriously jostling for the position. In this interview with Punch's Toluwani Eniola, ex-Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, speaks about the party’s crisis and his ambition to become the new national chairman.
Some believe that at 71, you shouldn’t be contesting the post of the national chairman of the PDP but playing the role of an elder statesman in rebuilding the party?
What is the age of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, John Odigie-Oyegun? What is the age of President Muhammadu Buhari? So, you need a baby to face them? The PDP is in a dire state. The ship of the party is in a very heavy storm. We need a tested and a reliable captain to get it to the harbour. It’s not a job for the boys. I started from the bottom of the ladder. What was Ahmadu Ali’s age when I was his deputy? The position of the national chairman requires a man with a lot of wisdom and experience. At 71, I am still fit as a fiddle.
Why are you contesting to be chairman of the PDP when the court has nullified the power of the Ahmed Markarfi-led caretaker committee to organise the party’s convention? Don’t you think your aspiration is contempt of court?
Four different courts of the same jurisdiction have ruled on this. The Abuja court, which recognised Ali Modu Sheriff, is not a higher court. A court of the same level cannot overrule the other. It is a complete judicial rascality. How can you say Sheriff is the valid chairman when we were told by another court of the same level of jurisdiction that the caretaker committee was legally constituted? So, it is shame. This legal rascality is never heard of in a civilised country. We also have authority from the same court which says we can do our convention within 90 days. I will like to appeal to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to caution these people. They are defacing the country. I feel ashamed as a Nigerian. I should have read law.
You were once accused of collecting $30,000 from a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. Many are saying with this smear on your record, you do not deserve to be the chairman of the party?Have you ever seen me in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s office to answer any charges? The man who collected the money had said that it was not meant for me. I was the chairman of the South-West committee to handle the crisis in the zone. The committee was made up of 18 people. $30,000 was what he gave us as the allowance for that meeting. It was not given to me. And it was not from Dasuki. The man who brought the money said the national chairman explained that it was our allowance. The members of the committee knew that I didn’t collect any money from Dasuki.
What is your view on the argument by some South-South leaders of the party that the national chairman should be zoned to their area?I think that based on ethics and the foundational principles of the party, no region can have it all. All the zones have had their fair share of the party’s leadership. Only the South-West has not had it. The South-West has not had anybody in the top positions of the party. So, their argument is not valid. The South-West deserves the position.
Do you have any backing from former President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo?I have just spoken to them. They cannot say that they don’t know me and my worth. I was the Director General that brought former President Yar’adua to power. So, I am not new to Jonathan. They know I am very qualified. It is not a matter of whether they are backing me or not. I have to convince the delegates.
Are you not worried about the recent defection of a former Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, and others to the APC?We lost the assets we had. Once we get the platform back, they will come back home. Every one of them, including Ribadu, Kwankwaso and all those who left us will still come back. This is because they are landlords in the PDP. They are not tenants. If you are a tenant in any house, the landlord can send you out at any time. If you are a landlord in a house, nobody can send you out. We know ourselves very well. Justice, fairness and equity, which are the foundational principles of this party, must be revisited and followed. They would certainly come back. I am sure they will. Where they are, compared to the PDP, is nothing. It was out of annoyance that they left but they will come back. I will woo them back.
Some aggrieved Lagos PDP groups accused you of using military style to lead the party in the state. Are you not worried that this internal crisis will affect your chances at the convention?Which military tactics did I use? The best thing about the military is that if there are laws, you must obey the laws. Indiscipline ruins any organisation, whether military or civilian. If there is a law, which I didn’t make, it is for us to obey so that there is sanity. We are not in a jungle. We must insist the laws must be obeyed. We must be bold enough to tell the truth all the time. That is the duty of a former military officer and I am proud to be one. My military background is a plus.
Makarfi once said the ongoing anti-corruption war is not selective. Do you share this opinion?
I am not aware of that. Certain things must have prompted him to say that. I have not read the details of what he said. As far as I am concerned, if he said whatever he said, I cannot condemn him, he is the acting chairman. The story must have followed certain logic before he said that. I don’t want to comment on that because I didn’t read the statement.
Are you satisfied with the performance of President Buhari since he assumed office?
They (APC) have asked Nigerians to exercise patience. By 2018, when we are going to start the campaigns again, we will take their scorecard and our scorecard out and that’s when the battle would start raging. I don’t want to get into any argument for or against. They asked us to be patient and give them time. We will know what to do by 2018.
The PDP has been moving from crisis to crisis and there seems not to be an end, how do you think this can be resolved?I don’t see a problem in that. There can never be a time when you will have a crisis-free party. This is the difference between me and other contestants. I have managed serious crisis. I managed the Anambra crisis when the governor of the state was kidnapped. Experience is not something you gain in one day. That is why I am bold enough to say I had been tested. We know what to do.
What is your relationship with Ali Modu Sheriff?
He is my friend and I have nothing against him. Disagreeing with him on the party’s leadership doesn’t make him my enemy. I had known Sheriff when I was still in the military. But what is not right is not right.
How do you intend to pacify him if you become the chairman at the forthcoming convention?
We will talk. First, all the court cases must be withdrawn and its against the party’s constitution. We will have family talk. Going to court makes the matter worse.
Why do you think you are a better candidate than Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Uche Secondus, Raymond Dokpesi and others vying for the position?It is not a matter of being better. Adeniran and I are about the same age. He has a PhD in political science and I am a professional engineer of 49 years in practice. With my own varied experience in party management, I am more qualified than other candidates. The state of the party is not for somebody yet to be tested. I know Adeniran was a minister but managing the party is not the same as managing a ministry. Party management requires some other experience. My military background is also a plus. Others (contestants) lacked the broad experience in party management that I have.
Have you reached out to Adeniran to step down for you?
We will have a meeting soon. The South-West caucus of the party leadership will still meet. There will be a family meeting where suggestions will be made and decisions will be taken on how to close ranks.
Will you step down for him?
If the leaders weigh the options and they believe that Adeniran should represent them, it is not a do-or-die matter for me. The same thing should happen to him.
What have you done to get the support of northern delegates?
They have worked with me in the past. I have transversed the nook and cranny of this country. My name alone attracts a lot of support. They know that I will be fair, that I will be just and completely loyal to the party. That is what we need now. We cannot bring a bambino, who has yet to be tested and entrust him with power. You know the worth of someone when such a person is under pressure. We have weathered the storm and with God on our side, we were able to succeed.
What exactly do you intend to do differently that other PDP chairmen failed to do?
There have been so many mistakes that I have seen within the party. I shouted that they should take my advice and suggestions which offered a way out. Once there is fairness, justice, equity, there will be less problems. When people flout your constitution, you have to bring others in. Nobody should be above our constitution. We must follow it and work together to deliver the party. The centre point of every democratic practice is the people. We have to retrace our steps.