BODE GEORGE It is Sacrilegious to Compare Bola Tinubu to Obafemi Awolowo

Bode George
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Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George, former National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party and erstwhile military governor of Ondo State, spoke on some topical national concerns and the future of the country. Gboyega Akinsanmi presents the excerpts

For two decades in Lagos, PDP has tried unsuccessfully to wrest power from the ruling party. Why has the party always failed to win Lagos governorship elections compared to other South-West states?
It is very right to find out why and how we have not been able to win Lagos State since 1999. It is due to a combination of some factors. First, it is partly our fault. Second, it is partly because the system is rotten. The procedure of electing public office holders is rotten. It needs to be completely dusted, reviewed, renewed and modernized. Third, in a land where there is much poverty, many people have lost their souls, they look forward to hand-outs or stipends they will get from politicians because they think they must survive and their children must eat.

How did Nigeria get to this level of political mess?
It all started during the crisis between 1998 and 1999 in Lagos State. Who won the governorship primaries? People started saying all sorts of things. You cannot trust this aspirant. He has been with Gen. Sani Abacha. He contested under United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), Abacha’s political party. As a result, we cannot trust him.
And this man lied to the elders that he had been an agent of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) abroad. I was in the Presidential Villa. I was with Gen. Oladipupo Diya. We knew those who came and lobbied to be deputy governor during those dark times. Suddenly, they resurfaced with claims that they were the ones who fought this and who fought that.
I think my memoir will be quite rich, to tell the truth. I am saying all this because it is not unconnected to the same question you first asked. He emerged with the belief that this was a genuine man as against ‘Omoluabi of Lagos’. The first thing they did in their first term was to set up a company called Alpha Beta. In the history of any civilized country, it had never happened that a consultant will collect taxes on behalf of the government. Nowhere in the world had this happened. These people are still alive. But the younger generation must read about this.

Do you subscribe to Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe’s statement that Bola Tinubu has achieved more than Obafemi Awolowo?
It is absolutely sacrilegious to compare Pa Obafemi Awolowo to Bola Tinubu. It is an infamy. How do you compare a Volkswagen to a Mercedes? Is it because he wants to praise-sing? Then, he is not a Christian. Even in Pa Awolowo’s times, he did not have a company collecting revenues for him. They started it. That is the source of their wealth. Think of 10 percent of the collection. Lagos collects between N30 billion and N40 billion every month. He takes 10 percent of that.

I am generating this story because the man, who was managing the company, broke it. The man said they owed him N45 billion. If they owed the managing director N45 billion, what about the executive chairman? Let us look at the record of Pa Awolowo’s performance briefly. He governed the Western Region from Ibadan as the headquarters. The territory Pa Awolowo governed comprised Ajegunle the boundary, the whole of FESTAC, the whole of Badagry, the whole of Alimosho, the whole of Mushin, the whole of Ibeju-Lekki, the whole of Ikorodu and the whole of Epe.

In Lagos, Fadeyi was the end of the Western Region that Pa Awolowo governed. The region also covered Warri, some parts of Bayelsa, Oke Ogun in Oyo State and many places. Pa Awolowo was the premier over all these places then. Think of his achievements. Think of his commitment. Think of his civilized approach to governance. I have been on both sides. When I sit down and look at some issues sometimes, I tell myself that it is a pity that I did not meet Pa Awolowo.

It is like I am reading about someone from another planet. When I became the military governor of Ondo State, I ordered (for) all books written by Pa Awolowo. I read them all. That is why I encouraged all governors, who want to succeed to read Pa Awolowo’s ‘Procedures of Managing Government’. If they follow it, they can never fail. That was the kind of concept I brought. They were committed. They were candid. Of course, they made their mistakes because they were human. But when you compare their output to failure, they scored Grade A. Lagos is just a subset of the region Pa Awolowo governed.

How does Nigeria fix the process of electing political office holders?
The democratic procedure of electing our lawmakers, our governors and our senators is unimaginable. In every aspect of it, the procedure is flawed. That is why some political leaders have capitalized on the weak system to perpetually oil those who are in charge. The first time I went to my polling unit and voted, after voting at the polling unit, they would announce the results. Before they got to the collation centre, they had added seven in the front of the number.
Why should we have a system whereby human beings will be the one collating election results? This is the 21st century. People were physically carrying results. I am an electrical engineer. I am also a technologist. Some people say we do not have technology in this country. Who says that? If somebody removes money from your account, you get an alert. If somebody deposits money in your account, you get an alert.
Is that not data processing? Why is it possible in developed countries? And these people claim they have no server. I am talking about the ills that have become so embedded in the system. In the last elections, I do not want to excuse our party. I have mentioned a massive amount of money. I have identified corruption and flawed electoral procedures.

Does it mean that the PDP has always lost governorship elections in Lagos because of the flawed electoral procedure?
Not really. But it contributed to it (the failure to win governorship elections). Another challenge we have is our party members. Some will come and pretend they are party loyalists. They collect the tickets, go to the emperor and trade (the tickets) with money. It is the monetary part that concerns them rather than commitment and loyalty to their party.
These are the things that I have seen in the last 20 years. It does not seem impossible because nothing has a beginning that will not have an end. And the end is coming. The last time we had an imposition and that really affected our performance in the governorship election.

It was alleged that Jimi Agbaje frustrated the PDP in the last Lagos governorship election. Is it true that he sold out?
As an elder, I will not comment on that. When a family has squabbles, you do not go to the marketplace to undress yourselves. Every family has squabbles. It was a party affair. At the appropriate time, we will come out with facts to prevent recurrence after post-mortem analysis.

With these challenges, what are the elders doing to reposition the PDP?
Let me say this: the founding fathers of the PDP came out with certain plans. If we had kept to these plans, things would not have gone this way. At the time we started, we said we would rule for 50 years (Vincent Ogbulafor, the party’s former national chairman said 60 years in 2008). But the human frailty, the greed in human beings, the lacklustre and the manipulation of the zoning system affected us. You are driving on the highway, then you put your gear in overdrive and cruise on.

You need to be very careful because you can hit a bump or roundabout. We were cruising. We hit a tornado which was unexpected. And we were bounced out. Thank God we did not die. Now, there is a need for the leadership of the PDP to sit, do an assessment and rebuild. It is not just where we stopped. People say ‘let us go’. Nothing happened. If any company has that kind of management, it will not be long the company will pack up.
This is what we have been saying. There is a need for the elders – those who have been there since 1998 and those who are currently there now – to come together and rebuild our party. PDP is still my party. It is our concern. I am not saying we have reached our El Dorado. I am not saying we continue as though nothing was wrong.

A number of things were wrong with the PDP. I am suggesting the way to correct that. We must agree we have problems. In the recent time, Garba Shehu, spokesman for the President, said Nigeria was drifting towards a one-party state. I said this was a wake-up call for our party. What did he see? We must go inside and do serious talking. Otherwise, that observation will become the belief of the electorate.

To what extent are the younger elements, especially the governors deviating from the norms? Are the governors rallying round one another in states the party is not in control?
In my part of the world, we always use an adage to solve riddles. You saw a hunchback man carrying a load and you told the hunchback man that his load was tilting to one side. It was the load you were looking at and not the man. I will not say more than that because I still love this party and because I am an irredentist Yoruba man. I am very proud of my heritage. I am very proud of my upbringing. I will not go to the marketplace to disrobe our party.

We have problems with that. I know we still have enough time to deal with our problems. That is why the party must, as a matter of urgency, call an emergency meeting of all the elders, those who are the original founding fathers and those who are still there now. Let us shut the door and talk. We have to shut the door and tell ourselves home truths. That is my take on this issue. I do not want to go out now and start talking about what is in the public.

Some people got angry and left. Some came back. Some have said they would never come back. Some left because they were looking for greener pasture. The moment APC is in crisis they will opt for another party. We are not sure where we are going. But I believe if the current managers of the PDP will take to this advice, call meetings zone by zone, area by area or state by state and we talk, we will find a solution.

Do you think PDP can win the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections?
I have not been directly involved. I have been getting snippets. But I am very concerned. I was told that some left the PDP. Some have come back when they found out they were moving out of the frying pan into the fire. I will be lying if I say I am directly involved. Dickson is my genuine committee brother. I wish him well. I heard some things about what is going on there. I have tried to send people there. That is what I can do. I believe the managers of the PDP are working to calm the nerves of the aggrieved members.

We cannot have an association where everything is going on well. That is why the managers of the PDP are there. I have spoken with the Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde. He is the one leading the campaign in Kogi. I have prayed for him and advised him. The APC is divided heavily in Kogi State. But remember what I told you: the procedure of electioneering in Nigeria is archaic. It is flawed. It is absolutely a sham.

In India, recently, 800 million people voted. This is not the Indian population. India is the biggest democracy in the world. The number of ethnic groups in India can form Nigeria. They conducted the election and no candidate went to court. It took them two weeks to do the final collation. There was no crisis. There was no tribunal. Why is our own process different?

This is where the younger generation comes in. When were in schools, computers were as big as this room. With all these new technologies, what are the problems? Why can’t we use new technologies and remove human intervention in the system of our election? That is why I do not trust those results they are going to bring.

Anything manually done cannot be efficient. It cannot be correct. You will see what will happen. They will now go to the tribunal. The judge will now tell you this one won and that one lost. Then, why did you allow people to go out and vote? Let the judiciary just decide whether you are the one to be or not.

Is anything wrong with the role of the judiciary in the electoral system?
For me, it is absolute nonsense. Is it the judiciary that determines who won and who lost elections in this country? That is why all these people like the emperor want to have full control of who becomes this and who becomes that. Recently, I was shocked: they wanted to appoint justices into the Supreme Court. I was told Olubunmi Oyewole was nominated again to the Supreme Court. He was number 32 in Lagos State.
After he did the hatchet job for Bola Tinubu, they wanted to appoint him the chief judge of Osun State with those who are senior to him. Suddenly, they manipulated the system. We wrote a petition that this would not happen. Later, they took him to the court of appeal. Now, they want to make him a justice of the Supreme Court. Why can’t they look at his antecedents? Why can’t they look at the judgment he has given before?
ßHow experienced is this young man? I singled him out because I suffered under him. Facts are before him. But he manipulated them. Go and read the final judgment of the justices of the Supreme Court on my case. He manipulated the whole facts. He turned logic upside down. I am not a lawyer. But at least, I was in school. I read up to a very high level. So, those are the kinds of character we have on the bench. What are we doing in Nigeria?

How can we make the present electoral system efficient?
I am not too comfortable with the procedures of conducting election in Nigeria. The will of the people must be respected. The procedure is nonsensical. We are not living in isolation. I told you about India. They have their own Silicon Valley. They almost landed on the moon. Do you think we do not have people who can drive this process here? We need to scrap INEC and start all over again with the single aim that the whole process will be technology-driven with very minimal human input.

We do not need to take election results to Abuja to make an announcement. We do not need to go from polling units for result collation. Once you insert your PVC, the system recognizes it. Why can’t we add value to it? We must ensure we scrap the present system. We must redesign it, try it or borrow the technology from the developed countries. How do they do it in France? I just told you about India. Canada just had its election. Did you hear anything about it? What is our problem? They said there was no stable power. Solar panels are there. Irrespective of where you are, you will get an alert from your bank.

That is my fear about all these elections. Otherwise, the people of Kogi should just go and vote for a candidate who serves them better. The success of a leader is the number of people you are able to lift up from the doldrums and not the number of people you are able to suppress directly or indirectly. I have a lot of classmates, when I see some of my friends, I feel very sad and weak. That we are still able to move is by the grace of God.