BODE GEORGE: I thought of blowing up Kirikiri Prison when I was convicted

Chief Olabode George was National Vice Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this chat with WAHEED BAKARE and OLALEKAN OSIADE, the former military governor of old Ondo State spoke on the current crisis rocking the party, among other issues. Excerpts…

With the conviction of a former Governor of Adamawa State, James Ngilari, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), do you think the anti-corruption war is on course?
That man was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he jumped ship. However, justice must be dispensed according to that lady of justice, who doesn’t know who you are. She is blindfolded while holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other; she doesn’t know who you are.
That is the way justice must be dispensed in this country because it is sine qua non for democracy. The court is the last bastion of the people, I went through it, all the three layers. The first layer convicted us, when even his judgement said no kobo was missing. And he said we split contract.
All the prosecution witnesses they brought said we didn’t do anything wrong, but (Justice Olubunmi) Oyewole still convicted us. We went to the Court of Appeal in Lagos, but we know who was behind all the noisemaking, but at the Supreme Court, we thank God that there are still justices in this country, who have the fear of God in them.
They projected the level expected of a judicial officer. Anytime I remember the concluding part of that judgement, it en-courages me in this my journey in politics. Justice must flow like a stream and righteousness like a river that will never go dry. There should be no witchhunting, if you have committed a crime, face the music.
Like the Americans say, ‘if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime’. Simplicita. Let’s say this is the first step in the right direction. But remember, when he committed the crime, he was in the PDP. Let us see what happens to those that have been arraigned and those that have gone through investigation.
What do you see to the part of the judgement that allowed him to choose any prison of his choice where he will serve his jail term? He is to choose where to serve?
Do you see what I am saying? The lady of justice does not know who is black or white, whether you are an Indian or a Nigerian. Let justice flow, let the procedure be respected.
Will the common criminal who stole in a market get the same opportunity; the opportunity to serve in a prison of his choice? I have never heard of such before. Let justice flow like a stream and righteousness like a river that will never go dry, it is in the Book of Amos.
With the way you spoke highly of the Supreme Court justices, what is your view on the raid on the homes of judges by the DSS?
I have absolute confidence in their lordships. There is a procedure, follow the procedure. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in America, as tough as they are, they dare not go there until they have completed a procedural process.
The report should have gone to the head of the judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who will present it to the council before any action could be taken.After that, you can then ask them to proceed on suspension and then face prosecution.
That was a terrible precedence they have laid, because tomorrow, somebody may decide to go and grab the president. It is not that they are immune from prosecution for criminal offences, but let the law takes its normal course.
Having been the National Vice Chairman (South) of the PDP, one would have thought that your chairmanship is automatic. Is it the stigma of being in prison that is stopping you from running for the chairmanship of your party?
You make me laugh. There is no automatic in politics; even the best of hands will fight it out. It is for you to go out there and sell yourself. I even saw it as a blessing in disguise, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Just like the late Nelson Mandela said in one of his books, “the prison is the best place one can really examine himself”.
The prison is like passing through hell of fire, tribulations, but God didn’t say you won’t have tribulations, there will be tribulations, but if you trust in God, you will get through. In prison, I met a man called Garaje Olode, he was on the death row. On Sundays, during prayers, he was always praying and he was happy, so I asked him why he was happy and he said that he mistook a man for an antelope and shot him.
That was why he was sentenced but he had spent 28 years on the death row. He was lucky that he later got state pardon, so when you are in prison, that is when you will xray yourself. I was initially angry because the soldier in me was pushing me to take AK47 and just barrage the whole prison and blow it up, but the Lord intervened and after the first night, I told my wife to bring me my devotional books.
In the Bible, Joseph went through tribulation, went to prison and still became the Prime Minister of Egypt. What about Baba Awolowo who was charged for treasonable felony? Do you remember his allocutus after the ruling? He said; “blessed be your verdict and blessed be the sentence you are going to give me.
We are in twilight and from this twilight, we go into darkness. And after darkness will come a glorious dawn”. What happened to him? He went to jail, he was in Calabar, and then, the war broke out.
General Gowon became the Head of State and they needed him. He had gone through fire and he came back to become the Vice Chairman to Gowon, to prosecute the war. His brilliance and contributions are still there in the books of history.
So, which stigma are you talking about? They didn’t say that we stole anything. They just wanted to wrap me, Bode George and put me away.
So, why don’t you want to be chairman, since you have been cleared by the Supreme Court? Whether I will be chairman or not, let us wait and see. If God has not put it in my line, who am I to have it?
But I thank God, the whole of the South West met and they said it is Chief Bode George we want. That is my zone asking me to be, but when we got there, some people wanted another bambino, who they think they will be able to manipulate.
Meanwhile, other zones were fielding their best, the most experienced, and that is why we said, what happened in Port Harcourt was a divine intervention. Whether I will become PDP chairman or not depends on the Almighty God and our people.
If I have their support, good, if they say they are withdrawing their support, I will move back to my house and sit down. The position comes with a lot of responsibility. It is the turn of the South West and they know that they cannot hoodwink us.
Nobody has ever conquered the Yorubaland, never. There are 6.5 million registered voters in Lagos alone, which is a large number, bigger than any state of the federation. Can you toy with that?
So, we wait, but we have more serious hurdles now, let us cross this hurdle first, then we go into the convention. If the people say I should run, fine, if they say no, I will back out.
Is it true that Governor Ayo Fayose has been elected as your party leader in the South West?
That is not what happened there, I was there. Fayose will never get up to pronounce himself as the leader in the South West. Those who made that mistake have already apologised. They said he is one of the leaders, and of course, as a governor, he is one of the leaders.
As chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, he is one of the leaders. When he got up to address us, he said, ‘let me salute my leaders, I want to thank you sirs for attending this meeting’. What other respect do you want?
We pray that our children should be bigger than us, but a child will never say he is now the father of his father. I was there, Ebino Topsy (Chief Ebenezer Babatope) was there, Otunba Gbenga Daniel was there, Senator Iyiola Omisore was there. So it’s not true.
Do you agree that former President Goodluck Jonathan mediated too late in the PDP crisis?
When we met Jonathan after the election, he told us that he wanted to take his sabbatical, he was going on leave like a university lecturer. I remember at that meeting, the first person who spoke was Dr. Bello.
He said; ‘oga sir, sabbatical in politics? It is very dangerous, I beg you, this is not a university’. Of course, it is the sudden, unexpected loss, which he did not prepare for that gave him a shock, and that sent him into a state of flux, giving his own experience and age.
But tough times don’t last, only tough people do. He decided to withdraw and gather himself together, and all kinds of brickbats were coming. So, he gave up in good faith. When we all sat back and this crisis happened, he came out to handle the situation.
Jonathan is a very calm person, mild in his interaction, but people can take advantage of that. When I first saw a statement that he had recognised Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff as the chairman, I was shocked. But he refuted the report and I was glad.
People are talking of political solutions; shouldn’t that be the way forward?
When we heard that, we in the South West met and I said political solution is okay, but we must iron out the legal issues. When you have bush rats dancing in the middle of the road, you should know that the drummer is in a nearby bush.
What are we negotiating? Is Sheriff working alone? If we don’t tackle it legally, we will still meet the same problem along the line, so we must seek legal interpretation first. We have read the judgement of the Court of Appeal, it was a split decision and the minority judgment was classical.
I have been in the management of the PDP at the highest echelon for 10 years, managing this party. The National Convention of our party is the supreme organ; whatever is decided by the National Convention is sacrosanct.
It is only another convention that can upturn whatever had been done. They want to short circuit the law, but we must go for the full interpretation because it is a legal battle.
If we don’t tackle it now, they can still use it before the general election and say there was no political solution. Whatever the Supreme Court decide on this matter, so be it. If we don’t clear it now, it will hunt this party until they bury it.
I am talking as somebody who has been at the top management for 10 years. The law is the law, the PDP Constitution is our ground norm. We are not against political solutions but we must clear this legal hurdle first.
Were you consulted before Fayose and others brought Modu-Sheriff on board?
How could that be? They just brought him; he has not even learnt the ropes. Well, the people that brought him have apologised. Fayose publicly apologised, everyone is bound to make mistake.
But the reconciliation committee has recognised Modu-Sheriff by submitting their reports to him. Isn’t that a fact?
Which committee? We have disassociated ourselves from that. I just spoke with the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), he didn’t know anything. It was a suggestion, still to be discussed and somebody leaked it to the press.
Can you see the people they want us to sit with? I believe that Governor Seriake Dickson as a descent, respectable and responsible man could never have leaked the document to the public.
The opposition will always use any weakness from the other side, so, who released it? It means we have not learnt our lessons. Political parties are voluntary organisations, it is not compelling.
So, if people are not learning, it means they want to kill the party, but those of us that have served and slaved for the upliftment of the PDP will fight and say no, that is not the right direction to go. Anything apart from the decision of the Supreme Court is a waste of time, we must not get into a cobweb that we won’t be able to get out of.
Is the formation of Advance PDP your Plan B if you lose at the Supreme Court?
We are politicians, when we get to that bridge, we shall cross it. I have no idea about the APDP, it is the opposition that is spreading the rumour. I have never been told about that, but Modu-Sheriff has ceased being our chairman.
The section that the two other judges quoted was referring to a substantive chairman. The PDP Constitution says “any officer elected”, not appointed. And to be elected, you must go through a convention.
Modu-Sheriff has never been to any convention where he was elected. He was selected, so he cannot be part of those the constitution refers to as having tenure of four years. He is coming from a smaller party so he doesn’t understand how it works; we have rules and regulations in our party.
People are moving in droves out of the PDP, especially senators. Won’t that deplete the party before 2019?
Let them go, they will come back. People are not patient and they don’t know that patience has a lot of value added things. If we have just five loyal, dedicated and committed people, all others can go.
What is the percentage of the card carrying members of the party as against the voting public? The public is watching and they will decide who they want. Right now in Nigeria, we are talking about the economy, we are talking about trust and genuine leaders.
Like Thomas Jefferson said, ‘may God give us men of principles, so that we would have principal men’. Jefferson was the third president of the United States, look at the time he made that statement and it is still relevant today, and it will continue to be relevant.
It is not about noise making, we have programmes listed for the people. Those who quit the party now will return, they will come back when they see that the platform is stable. It is when you have tribulations that you know those who are yours, those who are collected, loyal, committed and dedicated.
What is your view of the APC?
That is not a party, plenty of things are not well with APC and they know. We are going through our travails now, but they are keeping quiet about theirs. You can’t compare the APC with our party.
The PDP was put together by leaders such as, Chief Bola Ige from South West; Dr. Alex Ekweme from South East; Chief Solomon Lar from the middle belt; Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi and others who ordinarily would never have sat together. But they came together to form the PDP because Gneral Sani Abacha was trying to transform himself into a civilian president.
They would never have sat together to discuss politics because then, tribal politics was the way forward, but these people came together and said why can’t we turn this union into a political party? Those were the combatants and that’s is why PDP cannot go down.
There is no village in Nigeria that you won’t find the PDP. So, the culture and the norm started from day one, not like the APC which was a combination of already formed parties. Strange bird fellows, that is what APC is; ACN, APGA, ANPP, CPC and all kinds of things put together. Somebody will say I am the National Leader when there is an executive president and the chairman is to be directed like they were doing in Bourdillion.
Can you praise Buhari the same way you praised Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos?
I praised Ambode, so what? Go and read all the statement I have issued in the past, if my oga does what pleases my mind, I will praise him. I still call Buhari my oga because he was my boss in the military.
Usually in civilised countries, you allow them the first two years to run the government and execute their plans, occasionally when you see something that is not right, you point it out and when you see what is going on fine, you also say it.
It is our country, the fact that we are in different parties, be it APC or PDP doesn’t mean that we are not Nigerians. If they do something that will augur well for the development of our country, I will be pleased to say it. I said to them, that we don’t have money, I told oga to call them to a roundtable conference and not fight the Niger Delta militants because that is the major source of income to our national treasury.
I said, ‘all of them are your children, they call you Father of the Nation. Instead of fighting, discuss with them, how best you can work with the people in that place’. That was what late President Umar Yar’Adua did. I was in the navy, I know the terrain, the pollution and the environmental degradation going on in that place. The Niger Delta should have been our own Texas.
Don’t you think Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has done better?
Buhari is a retired General, he is very conscious of these things, but Nigerians have started again. Don’t forget that it is a collective responsibility. But you should know that an Acting President is different from the executive president.
It is still the same APC, but we shall meet by the last quarter of this year to assess them and politics will start. As for Ambode, I said he is trying when I saw that the useless traffic in Lagos has reduced. He redesigned the bend on the road to ease traffic.
Pass through Lekki to Epe today and see good roads, the young man is opening up the place for economic activities, but Ambode should know that Lagos is not only Epe, he should visit Lagos Island and uplift the place.
We need such roads and developments in other local governments like Alimosho, Akowonjo and other areas. It is not for me, it is for the benefit of the people and that is why we are in politics.
The moment you forget that the people are the centre piece of your administration, you are finished. What is the definition of politics? It is the management of the resources of the land for the benefit of the people.
We didn’t see you at the 80th birthday party of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Do you still have a cordial relationship with Baba?
I don’t have to make my relationship with him public. The fact that I didn’t attend the party doesn’t mean that we don’t have good relationship. I have served my time, I am happy with myself and Baba is also happy with himself.
Anytime I see Baba, I greet him because that is the respect and honour in Yorubaland. You must bow to your elders so that those coming behind can respect you too.

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BODE GEORGE: I thought of blowing up Kirikiri Prison when I was convicted BODE GEORGE: I thought of blowing up Kirikiri Prison when I was convicted Reviewed by BOMI THOMAS on 06:16 Rating: 5

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