Chief Bode George
Chief Bode George

Peoples Democratic Party chieftain Chief Bode George speaks with Executive Editor, Wale Ogunniran and Chief Correspondent Adebobola Alawode on the situation in the PDP, his imprisonment, his relationship with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the state of the nation and sundry issues.


Would you say the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is in crisis?

Which crisis do we have? Every other structure is in place. The only thing is that our party took a decision, but the other man who said he is the Chairman went to court and we won. The Court of Appeal took a hasty decision but we are still in the Supreme Court, there is no problem.

In fact, they are negotiating, there is no problem, it is not a fundamental problem within the party, the party is not split, every structure is in place. We are still going for a convention to elect the managers of the party at the top level, so who is quarelling with who? They are misguided and this is why we need a lot of education, from the ward level. I have seen the missing link. People just wake up one day and say they want to do this or that without any idea on how it is done.

Chief Bode George

If you remember, the law was not existing then, that if you defect to another party, you are out. But then, what happened to the Alliance for Democracy, AD? The founding father, I could remember Baba Abraham Adesanya, was like a father to me; I said, ‘Baba, what happened to all these your children, your governors?’ He said: ‘Bode, who told you they are my children? You call a meeting and they wouldn’t answer you; they say, this Baba self is old.’ This is their history.

They now became AC, then ACN and now APC. That was the beginning of the fracas; they were changing colours like a chameleon. That was what happened. PDP is solid. We have not added anything, PDP is still PDP. Like I said, the crisis we are having is not fundarmental, it is an issue where the chairman resigns.

The zone, according to our constitution would get a replacement to act. And he is in acting position until a convention confirms him, and you can only act for three months. If the convention has not confirmed you, you are out. Now he (Ali Modu Sheriff) chairs the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting that confirmed that there would be a National Convention. You know the zoning thing in our party is formidable, in fact that is the bedrock on which our party stands: the zoning concept.

The zoning concept implies that out of the six geo-political zones, each zone must go home with something, and after eight years you rotate again. With all these, we went for a convention. Our convention is supreme according to our constitution. I am going to read out some parts of the PDP constitution, the PDP has norms. I will read to you functions of the national convention: “The national convention shall have supremacy in all matters pertaining to the party and all officers of the party shall be bound in the exercise of the function in the decision of the national convention. The national convention shall have the authority to formulate policies and programmes, elect or remove the national officers of the party, elect the presidential candidate of the party from the National Executive Committee, appoint such committees as may deem necessary, desirable or experience and assign to them such powers and functions as it may deem fit. Once a decision is taken at the national convention, only another convention can change that decision.’

This has been our guiding principle. My brother and my good friend was acting chairman because he wanted to contest. He had collected the form, filled and returned it; that means he has ceased to be chairman because you can’t be the judge and the jury at the same time. Something happened at that convention. We generated delegates from the ward; imagine the whole ward coming to that convention. And that was when the issue of how long the tenure of those acting now would be. You know 2019 is fast approaching, people are already saying there shall be de-rotation, because the south have just finished as the president, let us quickly do this convention to prepare ourselves. The presidential candidate must come from the north, the Chairman of the party must come from the south. That was what led to the decision and he left in anger.

The convention now said, okay, rather than hold any election, let’s sit down and appoint a caretaker committee to sort out these grey areas because people were now like: would it be 2017, 2018?

So we said no, 2019 is too close, that we might have a crisis that may prevent us from doing that; let’s do it now so that we start preparing our presidential candidate before 2019. That was how the issue of the caretaker committee came about, believing they can just resolve the issue within three months. But it was delayed due to the court issues. In the constitution of the party, if you take a person to court without following the due process, it is punishable by expulsion but because the national committee is not there, and there is a limit to the power given to the caretaker committee, they couldn’t do much.

You know when there is a vaccuum, some would come up try to impose themselves as the super power. But immediately we empowered the caretaker committee to carry out a full operation to sort out these grey areas so that when we go for our national convention sometime this year, those issues would have been sorted out.

We would have had a successful convention but Ali Modu Sheriff went to court, even what they didn’t ask for, Justice Okon Abang gave them. For me, that is not a good sign. There was a court also in Port Harcourt, that went through our constitution and everything we did at the convention and discovered that everything we did was in accordance with our constitution. Nigeria of 2017, the 21st century is not Nigeria of 1950s. At the press of a button, you are all over the world. The rest of the world are watching us.

We are inviting investors to come and put their money here, these are the things they would be watching. What is the situation in that country? No rational mind would want to invest in a country like that unless you don’t want to recover your money. They delivered the judgment, he saw what her colleagues read, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that something had gone wrong. I suffered it, so I know.

The prosecutor was on our side, but on the day of judgment his hands too were tied. He shifted the judgment and when I wanted to talk, my lawyer said no. He sent us to jail, even though it was established that no money was missing.

But I am happy the judgment is now following him for the rest of his career. Even in the court, the prosecutor said that the case was not even supposed to go to trial and that the judgment was passed on a shifting sand.

The justices of the Supreme Court have gotten themselves what their children, great grand children would reap. It is only the truth that can heal the wound of this country. At that level, there is nothing they should be afraid of, having become Chief Justice, not all of them can get there.

For the fact that you are a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, that is the highest echelon of the judiciary in this country. It is enough, why should you be afraid? Let the truth be told, we believe that the truth would be told at the Supreme Court. That was why we decided at the elders’ meeting that we should go to the highest court, because whatever comes out, they can’t jettison our own norm.

If they say throw it away, the man has the right. What that means is that we are creating a fundamental crisis which nobody knows where it would end. Today it is PDP, tomorrow it would be another party, where do we stop? Political parties are like police stations, you don’t close your doors. Let us go and get justice, let us listen to what is in our constitution, that is our principle. Let’s follow it. Nigerians should get involved, democracy is about freedom of association, speech and movement. As long as you do not express yourself in a manner that is not reasonable, or try to hire some people to go and take up arms against the government. Oliver Cromwell, the father of democracy said: ‘Let the people decide’. Let Nigerians decide who would be their king. No wuruwuru because if they do that in PDP today, it may be another party tomorrow. Where do we stop? We had sixteen years uninterrupted democratic government because our founding fathers understood what it takes and they added the zoning issue for peace to reign, to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. They created six geo-political zones so that we have six top positions in the country: the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the party.

Each of the zones will be given one of these; that makes it possible for each zone to be part of the higher echelon. That was what sustained democracy for that long without any intervention or interruption from anywhere. You know there were various parties, regional and tribal, but all came together because the late Gen. Sani Abacha wanted to transform and succeed himself as civilian president. They stood there but God intervened. That was how PDP came about; people that would not in their wildest imagination think of talking politics.

This party is a total and complete replica of the nation Nigeria and we have resolved that this nation must remain the government of the people by the people and for the people will never again perish; that is our driving force. We may not be there, but with our time we must make sure we defend what is called democracy. We have an Acting President in Yemi Osibajo who is a professor of constitutional law. How would you say in your time as the Acting President (one of the tenets of democracy is freedom of association) you prevented us from holding our meeting on your watch, not on President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, how? PDP never did that, if it had done that, there would have never been APC.

If we had put the people first, we wouldn’t have lost the election but now we have learnt our lessons, we are ready to come back. Our brothers in the APC are just a congregation of strange bed fellows, they are not there.

Nigeria is not a natural country, it is like Switzerland. The idea of our party was originally conceptualised in Switzerland, because there, there are majorly three ethnic groups; the Germans, the Italians and the French. Others may still go to the central government but the major positions are shared among the three major ethnic groups. Even during the second World War, there was no second World War in Switzerland because there was peace. They have been running that system. Why can’t we run the same system? Even if you are in the minority, you still have the right to aspire to any top position in the country. That is the democracy we are talking about.


From what you have said, people are saying that going to court may have strained the relationship between you and Ali Modu Sheriff, what is the situation like?

First of all, when you go to court, you don’t come back the same way, but that is personal. This is the grown norm, you don’t overrule this document, because tomorrow somebody may come and misinterpret it. He is not my enemy, he is my friend, he had called me, we would continue to talk but let the truth be told, that is all. If you read that minority judgment, classic, compared to the hand written one and the other two. We are not enemies. The other judges can err but at the Supreme Court, the number whatever judgment they passess, their names would be there forever, like my own now. Let us go and listen. They are people who would be saying, is this not the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau?

Do you see some forces trying to destroy the PDP?

That is what we are saying. Like I said before, you can see the voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau. If you see the bush rat dancing in the middle of the road, it drummers are in the bush. For me, let us go to those that will dispense justice with the fear of the lord and in accordance with the our constitution and the survival of democracy in our country. We believe that judgment was totally out of the book.

We had an agreement: five-five from each group to reconcile, he pulled out. This book tells you how you can become chairman and how you can remove any officer. Any decision by the national convention is sacrosanct. And once you are removed, only another convention can restate you. Let us wait, we are already in the Supreme Court. We have a lot of elections coming up, let us wait. The Supreme Court cannot afford to delay because the world is watching us. I plead with Nigerians who are old enough to understand to remember the crisis of 1962-1963 and what we went through. The beauty of it is to avoid the pitfalls of the past. We are the giant of Africa in terms of human resources, mineral resources, agricultural resources, let us wait for them. I believe they will expedite action.

Another thing that is of interest, is that we have electoral laws and the INEC, and these electoral laws guide the INEC and every actor on electoral processes. You know the Lagos State House of Assembly recently came out with a new bill that says that during an election, electoral officers have the right to ask anybody to be removed from the polling station, including the agents of all the other parties and nobody can argue.

Secondly, all your agents who will counter sign all your documents would not be given a copy of the results there; and that, they will only give a copy to a policeman. I pray that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode should not sign that, it is a death warrant, he will heat up the polity in Lagos beyond recovery.

Are you going to court over that because it is against the electoral law and should be cast off?

Times are changing, people are hungry, don’t subjugate their will. We saw it 1962, 63 and 64. The result was a dark period we don’t want to remember. Lagos is too critical for this nation, it is the centre of economic activity for the whole of West Africa. And we have discovered plenty of oil in our waters here. They are supposed to be lawmakers and not law breakers.

What do you think of the present crop of politicians?

To contest through a party other than the one you belong to, you have to defect, and most of the present crop of lawmakers defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Let me put it this way, human beings cannot be trusted, it is only God that you can trust.

These are young people. Where is the future of this country? If they had thought deeply before jumping into action, you know they think it is a profession. To contest an election, you must first be a member of a political party. You just tell them you want to contest for so and so position; you will go through the rigours of the primaries based on the guidelines of the party. When you win, you become the flagbearer.

Once you become a flagbearer, you don’t need to convince us anymore. But the problem is, how many people are card-carrying members of the political party? You need to convince a larger number of the electorate that your platform is better than other platforms. We campaigned in all the nooks and cranies of these constituencies. They must also be convinced that this candidate would represent them well. When you get to them, you will tell them, ‘I would do this and that’, not for yourself but for them. After doing this, they never went back to the people, which is a betray of trust.

These people got there, forgot the platform that took them there and jumped onto another platform. These people were rejected in their constituencies, but they are still saying they are honourable so and so from so and so constituency. Did your people send you to go over to another platform? These are basic things that they do not understand. What they have done is a big, big mistake. How would you go home now? Did you call the elders, party chiefs or your constituency that you are leaving the party?

My opinion is that we should ask the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, since it is the federal leader, to declare the seats of those that jumped ship vacant. They should go and test their popularity at home and test their weight. That is the most civilized thing to do.


How did you get the courage to remain in the party after spending 18 months in jail, even when your party was in power?

First of all, let me quote the opening page of the last book written by the late South African President, Nelson Mandela. It says it is in prison that you discover yourself. I learnt something there; people were coming, some were wondering: did this man commit this offence or is it political victimisation? A night before we left, the then Zonal Director of the prison with the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, and all the Area Commanders and the Director of SSS came to the prison at night and said they wanted to see me.

So they saw the officer in charge and the Zonal Director, and I followed them. When we got to the office, all the Zonal Commanders said you know by now, you can go home. I said how can I start going home like a robber that sneaked out of the prison. I said, sir, I am not disobeying you, tomorrow is just a couple of hours, how can I go home now to start knocking at the door.

They thought people were going to riot in town, by morning. I remember the Deputy Governor of Oyo State led people from Oyo. And since I went in, I never came out of that prison until that day. It is worth thanking God for. There was no sickness, I was looking fresher. These are the types of corruption I am talking about,. Demoralisation, it doesn’t have to be financial, your attitude to your fellow human can also be a form of corruption. I pity the woman (Waziri Farida) that caused the whole thing for she has to answer to her God. She was supposed to be the custodian of anti-corruption. She was jubilating that she was able to jail Bode George. I feel vengeance is not mine. For me, it was an opportunity to see the goodness of God and I learnt a lesson: don’t trust any man but God. I was working like a mad man for the number one, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the leader of our party. What he said shocked me but I wasn’t angry, I have forgiven him because God used all that to teach me a lesson. So why would I run away from the party?

Remember what I told you, it is courage that will build your life, not life itself. So, I am not afraid of any human being, now I am above 70 years, I have paid my dues, I have been on the topmost mountain working very closely with the president of this country and I have seen the various shapes from the top of the mountain to the deep of the valley, I know what it takes.

Service is about encouragement. I remember singing some of the songs when we were in primary school, those were the songs we were singing when our teachers were teaching us. Those were the ethos, civics, human behavior. It is not the PDP that sent me there, or those who thought they had the power.

And corruption is defined as misusing the power that is given to you, not only financially. Like our oga (Buhari) who is sick, pray for your leader. Pray for those in authority so that their decision that would affect you on Planet Earth would be positive. Let us pray for them so that they use the resources of the country to the betterment of the people, put smiles on the faces of the people. Nobody can decimate this party. If it is only five loyal people remaining, then we would bounce back because I can’t see any other political party like ours. It is an Iroko tree with a solid taproot.

You said you were shocked about the statement of the ex-president, what shocked you, secondly, do you mean you did not wear prison uniform?
We were supposed to wear something simple, you know how much that would cost the government, the financial implication, whether you wore it or you didn’t wear it, the truth is that freedom is curtailed. But in all, we thank God. Many went and didn’t come back, some came back with terrible diseases, it is not my making. The president wasn’t my father but he was my leader. I served him with all my hear, all round. But when he made that statement, I recalled all my services, even my mom heard that statement. But thank God, I am talking about it now, I worked with him as my commander with absolute loyalty. You know I talk about it now, not for vengeance or annoyance but for historical purposes so that the younger generation would learn. When I came back, President Goodluck Jonathan was calling me in Lagos to help organise a politically rally. So we went down to Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) to make sure that the reception was fantastic. Now some Imams from Abeokuta, Ogun State wrote me a letter that they wanted to have prayers for Baba (Olusegun Obasanjo) and they wanted me to be Chairman of the occasion. I would had loved it (to attend) but election was coming, and since he wanted me to handle Lagos, I forgot to go. So when I came back from TBS by 9 p.m. I was told that somebody was waiting for me in my office, I asked him any problem? He said there is a problem sir. Then I said what problem again? I just came back from prison, I was just getting ready for President Jonathan’s visit the following day. He said that their paper requires my response, I said response on what. He said this is what Baba said: that I was celebrating criminality by going to the Church that I called a rally in the Church because of the crowd. I asked what he was talking about? Is it a one-on-one interview? You people had come again. He said no sir, then he brought out the speech prepared by Baba. My wife and I and some party leaders in Lagos had agreed that the following week, we were going to get buses and that all local governments would go all the way to Ife, greet the Ooni, head to Oshogbo to greet the monarch, Ibadan, Oyo, to thank people that I have come back and then end up in Baba’s house, to say: Baba I have come back, and then that happened. Because he came for the service and said he was deceived. Who deceived you to come? When he came to the Church, he couldn’t get to the front of the Church during my thanksgiving service. He got to Union Bank and disembarked and trekked to the Church. I couldn’t call anybody, I was shocked, I said a little prayer and said this is not the time to get angry. First I don’t believe he said it but if he said it, I left him in the hands of the Creator. When Baba came back from prison, he went to the Baptist Church to thank God. These are the experiences you share with people. I never met Chief Obafemi Awolowo till he died, but when you read his book, he was a gifted person. His modus operandi, the way he manages people and materials for the betterment of the people, as at that time in the western region. So I thought, if I would have been there during Baba’s birthday, that was what he would have been reading in my presence. I said God works in mysterious ways, I forgot to go there. Even the judge, the contract they said that they split, he was not aware of it. And what was the splitting, even the memo that was presented to the management was that the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, was coming to Nigeria to assess our seaports so that they can make the Nigeria’s ports the hub for West Africa. They needed to repair those ports and other things so that when they come, they will tell them, we have all the facilities. So, it was to be done in Calabar and Warri. So, we shared the contracts to different contractors so that the day they are coming, the contract must have been completed, that was the recommendation, and the whole board listened to it and approved it. I was not even around to witness the awarding of the contracts before I was wrongly convicted and sent to 18 months imprisonment.

Chief Bode George

How true is it that you had once referred to Baba as a prisoner?

Never. I met Baba through Stella, that is, Baba’s late wife, we were classmates and I became closer to Baba because he saw that I was loyal. When they finished the election, he said Bode what do you want? I said Chief of Staff, he said no, I have put someone there. I said okay let me go to the party for you. That was how I was given the position. This is a man that if you tell him that Bode did something, he will call me in the presence of the person and ask me, Bode do you know this man? If I know the person, I will say yes or no, if I don’t. He will tell the person, this is Bode, tell him what you told me now. If he can’t talk, Baba will talk. That was the kind of relationship we had. So why would you allow the destroyers of human resources? Baba is an experienced man. He has experienced the ravages of life, there is nothing he has not seen as a man and he has an incredible native intelligence. We travelled all over the 135 LGAs of the southwest to win the hearts of the people in support of Baba. We went to the elders to settle the issue between Baba and Awolowo, and anywhere there is problem in Yourba land, Baba would say Bode go there. I settled Ife/Modakeke crisis. That was where my title came from, I didn’t struggle for it. I am a thoroughbred Yoruba man, and I have no apologies for that. You see, if you work with a good conscience, God’s reward would come. What are you looking for, who died before and was buried with his mansion? But the way you have impacted the lives of people would never be forgotten.

You attributed your being jailed to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, though you were not in the same party, how did he contribute to your travail?

He was part of the crisis, he didn’t start it. We have settled but the truth must be told. When the case came up, I was Musa Yar’Adua’s Campaign Director General, we held a meeting, all these things that I said Baba this Baba that, we confronted ourselves and I said, Baba, who told you that I was following Yar’Adua? As if I was looking for something from him. You asked me to be Director General of the campaign, it was flawless, he won brilliantly. I wasn’t looking for position. A person from the Southwest was to be the Chairman of the party, but he singlehandedly sent it to the Southeast because they wanted to give Baba Board of Trustees BoT Chairman, I didn’t quarrel. When we were in the military, we had been trained and the loyalty was in the system. You don’t do what you cannot defend, so I said I will not. I have a name to protect. Remember, Nuhu Ribadu was the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he made a public statement that they have investigated all that is happening in the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), and that it was a systemic failure. He said there was nothing in that case. Despite the fact that Baba said they should do a forensic audit, but they said there was no forensic, it was a systemic failure. If you give someone the power to spend five million Naira without a time frame, who is at fault? The system. And then they brought Waziri Farida, who visited Lagos for the first time and paid a courtesy call to the Emperor of Lagos, (Tinubu), and went back. The president wanted me to get something. As I left the President’s office, I met the former Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa and a lady on the staircase. I saw Waziri, this lady and Aondoakaa; she greeted me and I asked if she was one of the new ministers or special advisers? She said no, that she is Mrs Waziri. Then I went in for the meeting. During the NEC meeting, they were calling for another convention, and I said, sir, we just finished the national convention, why don’t we allow things to settle down, because I was also the chairman of that convention that brought Vincent Ogbulafor as the Chairman. Then the president called me and said that the people manipulated the constitution; that only a former president could be chairman of BoT, and that before the President could take any decision, he must consult the Chairman of BoT. When I saw it, I said who put this here? He said that was why he wanted to ratify it because some people wanted to be Chairman BoT. That night, the EFCC came to me and said Farida wanted to see me, and I said what is wrong? They said maybe she wanted to chat with you, and I asked for what; I remember met her about two days ago. That was how we got to her office and I was detained, she never showed up there. I said this is an old trick. From there, they moved me to Lagos and the story started. The Executive Director of Finance was not brought there, the Executive Director of Engineering was not brought there. So the contract of executing the project originated from the Executive Director of Engineering, the fellow who would pay is finance, then I didn’t see any of them. Before we knew it, they had made a special law in the Lagos State Assembly, sanctioned by the Attorney General. They went to court, but the lawyer from EFCC didn’t know what he was doing, so they removed him and then brought Festus Keyamo. When they brought him, they used the law of Lagos State. Farida came to Lagos wanted to see the Chief Justice of Lagos State, they had wanted to reshuffle the whole thing because then they normally appointed Chief Justices as EFCC judges. Another interesting thing was that, Tinubu’s newspaper, The News Magazine had published a story which read “100 Billion Naira Stolen By Bode George In NPA”. Immediately, the NPA issue came to light and I sued them to court. The judge who took the case was Justice Oshodi, I have never met him before but I knew his father who was also a judge. We went to trial but they couldn’t proof that I stole, they couldn’t do anything. We were expecting judgment when the other EFCC thing began.

Oshodi is a disgrace to the bench. His father was a thoroughbred Lagosian, but this boy is an utter disgrace to Lagosians. He didn’t give judgment, he waited until Justice Oyewole gave his judgment and convicted us. Oshodi now used Oyewole’s judgement to dismiss our case which had been sealed and signed over one year ago. These are not the quality of people that this country need, Oyewole was promoted by Tinubu and company to the Court of Appeal. Infact, the worst part of it was that they wanted to make him the Chief Justice of Osun State as compensation and he would have accepted it. He just delivered the judgment and ran away because he thought they were going to burn down the place because of the crowd. But it is now history, he has apologised, we talk now. This is part of corruption and as I said, corruption is immorality, what is the gain? He is there now, I wish him the best of luck, if we meet, we greet but trust, love for your fellow men. The judgment would follow them, that shows they should be removed from the judiciary, the judgment was on a shifting ground.


What is the secret of youthful look?

Contentment, less worry, whatever you have, God gave you. By the grace of God our party will survive as you can see the hands of people trying to pull it down. Come 2019, we would be back to maintain democracy.

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