2019: PDP ’ll Bounce Back If I Become Chairman – George




Former Deputy National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, is aspiring for the National Chairmanship seat of the party. He tells journalists he is the most qualified for the job. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there for LEADERSHIP
Why did you join the race for the PDP National Chairmanship seat?
I am in the race because our party has gone through a storm worse than the devastating one that wreaked havoc in America recently. We went through a very vicious time, and fortunately for us, we are lucky that the Supreme Court gave us back our life.
Now as a party, we have a Caretaker Committee. Even President Muhammadu Buhari, when he met leaders of other political parties said it openly and clearly and I want to quote him: “This government and this nation need a vibrant opposition.”  Isn’t that enough challenge that we should put our house in order for the benefit of Nigerians who are not even card carrying members of our party?  So, I thought about all the situation, consulted widely and decided that I need to submit myself to the party and serve the people and all members of the party in the position of the National Chairman to be elected at the next elective convention of this party which is expected to hold in December this year.
Looking at my relationship with this party, I have served this great party at one level or the other since its inception. I have been National Vice Chairman in the terrain when the party had zero representative in the South- West, and I had served meritoriously, every National Chairman, except when I left as Deputy National Chairman.
I had the privilege of serving under astute party administrators like Baba Solomon Lar, Chief Barnabas Gemade, I served Audu Ogbe and I served under Ahmadu Ali while all these men were in position of leadership as national chairman of the PDP. When it comes to knowing this party, and knowing the network, I think without any contradiction, I have enough knowledge of this party.
Having consulted round this party, meeting different class of personalities and age grades, and hearing the consensus that, this is the time for someone with adequate knowledge and leadership skill to come on board and pilot the affairs of the party, at this level I decided fully to offer myself to do that which will make the party the toast of Nigerians voters who desire good leadership again.  Most importantly, I know that as a man, if you don’t give back some of those knowledge you have acquired in life, in providing a sort of service  when occasion demand your intervention, your conscience will prick you till you pass on.
After the consultation, I thought deeply that since I have what it takes to take this ship of state from the stormy seas in which it founds itself back to harbour safe and sound.
So, I decided that I will bring to bear my experience, my knowledge  and my energy and get this platform to be stable. You know why? The party is in a state that no one will be proud of totally right now.
The  office of national chairman has been zoned to the Southern part of Nigeria. How will you justify the clamour of the South west to  clinch this seat?
First of all, when something is zoned to a large house, you look at those who have served in that capacity before. The South -east had served as chairman of the party, I don’t want to be quoting dates, but they cannot be considered for the seat now, and that’s why you won’t  find anyone from the zone mentioning anything about vying for the  seat. South -South itself has acted for two years as Chairman. The  South west has neither acted nor occupy that position in substantive  form and  I believe what is good for the goose is good for the sauce.
Fairness, justice and equity are the major tripod on which this party was established. That is just the political analysis to justify that it is the turn of the South- West. Secondly, there was a meeting last  year of all the Southern leaders in Port Harcourt and at that meeting, the decision was taken that the South west should present the next candidate for the PDP Chairmanship position.
Now, to me, our zoning is a guideline, it’s not a Berlin Wall and this  is not the time anyone should rock the boat. This is the time for those who are loyal to the party and committed to come on board, stabilize the platform so that we can have a very formidable campaign  and election. The zoning is key, but it does not necessarily exclude  anybody. Look at our convention in Jos, the first convention we had in  Jos,  when President Obasanjo competed for the PDP ticket, they didn’t say they zoned it in particular to one zone. But this one has been zoned. At the Jos convention, Papa Ekwueme contested, General Obasanjo  contested, and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi contested too. But the result is  obvious. When something is zoned somewhere, the party faithful who love the party will gravitate towards that because that’s the decision  that was generally taken by the party. Now, more so that we are not in  government, that we have just passed through this series of crises,  this is not the time to start another crisis which may be so  devastating on the party. So, I will appeal to our brothers elsewhere,  we have just one window, one year opportunity to quickly stabilise the party and prepare for national election. The founding fathers of this  party created the six geopolitical zones, for a reason. The six geopolitical zones was not known to our national constitution, but for  their experiences in the first republic where minorities from both the   north and south, were completely neglected and they shouted out, they came up with a solution that the political parties they are going to establish must be able to take care of all the zones so that every  Nigerian, no matter where you come from must have a sense of  belonging. That assisted the party for the last 16 years.
There was a time the South west was to have the Speakership of the  House of Representatives, but they said we were fighting amongst  ourselves and Bola Tinubu the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria  then teamed up with some of the rebelling PDP members and they  supported the candidature of my young brother, Aminu Tambuwal and he  became the Speaker. Throughout that period, South- west had none of  the top six positions in the country at that time. I expected that the  party would  have taken a step at that time to prevent a calamity, but  we didn’t. The effect of that was the loss suffered by the party in  the South -west as a repercussion. Now, again in their own government  now, they said they don’t believe in zoning and now, South east don’t  have anyone in the top six positions in the country.
What is causing agitations in the South East? We must learn from that and prevent any such occurrence in the PDP.
I believe that our party  should follow the dictates of our founding fathers, and get to win the hearts and minds of all Nigerians. Those of us who are card carrying members of this party, how many are we? The electorate will decide. We must be seen to be fair, to be just, and to be equitable. Those are the things we will exhibit to win the hearts of everybody.
So, this issue of the clamour that the chairmanship is zoned to the south generally, we must be very careful, more so, there is no Villa, in the party now. In the past, the Villa would have intervenes  and say, ‘ok, let’s do it this way’ and people will listen. If we allow this to heat up, and it comes out into the open and we cannot manage it, then, how can we convince the larger electorate that we can manage Nigeria fair, and equitably. It is a turning point, and we can’t afford to miss the right turn. It was a decision taken and I remember that it was former governor,  Peter Odili who made that passionate appeal at the meeting and the conclusion was drawn that the South west should have the Chairman seat.
It’s about a year ago before we went into the spin, we haven’t forgotten that. If anybody is pontificating and saying that no decision was taken on the matter, he or she is lying.
You seem to have a strong belief  that the PDP has a strong capacity to bounce back, do you think Nigerians see the party the way you are  seeing it?
We have to convince Nigerians. You as a marketer, you have taken a product that was in the market before to the people and they waived you away, saying we don’t  want it because it’s not effective, you know what you sold before, you had done a post mortem analysis on where the product went wrong, what is the thing that the people don’t like, what are those things that affected the product that our people used to love so much, that it was the beauty of every home, then you will get it right.
The post mortem of the PDP shows that impunity was a big problem.
Today somebody wins at the party’s congress, you send his name as the winner but when the results are out, even before he reaches the doorstep, it’s been changed because of some interest, how do you retain members loyalty in such a circumstance? You disobey so many lawful rules and you think it’s going to be rosy? No. Those of us who\ started with the original concept, who knew what we sold to the people, the good product we produced and the people bought, we know  what to do about it again.

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