A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, tells TOBI AWORINDE about the crisis rocking the party and the inability of police to unravel killers of Funsho Williams
Some have expressed criticisms that you, as the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State, has been unable to lead the party to victory in a governorship election since 1999. Why is that?
That is a load of trash. The process of electioneering in this country in the 21st century is a joke, where people are carrying papers by hand from your polling unit to the collation centre. It doesn’t make sense. We’ve been talking about electronic voting, nobody is listening. It’s a joke. Somebody in Lagos has stolen so much money that he’s richer than Nigeria, so how can you win an election?
Look at the last local government elections in Lagos. The people were so despondent that they didn’t come out to vote. It was a disgrace because they are tired of this life. You say, ‘You cannot win.’ How can you win? Do you know the humongous amount of money the fellow has stolen? With people who are hungry and angry, they would buy them out and write the results for them. I don’t know where this country is going. We need to speak truth to power. Our process is terrible and very heart-wrenching. What is the challenge? Why can’t we do e-voting, so that the votes of the people and the will of the people will be respected? What a joke! We are not serious.
2023 is around the corner and I am pleading with the President that they should bring out the report of the constitutional conference, revisit it and let us restructure the country. That is the only thing that can bring peace to this nation. All the people jumping all over the place, thinking, ‘In 2023, I’m going to be president,’ it’s all a joke. The electoral process is faulty, so the results will be faulty. The people you will then say are members of the National Assembly or governors will be faulty. We have tried this structure, it is not working and it can never work.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is believed to be in the running for presidency in 2023. What do you think about this, especially with regard to allegation that he has a serious health issue?
Well, it is his personal decision. For me, I don’t think he has that character — that is my personal belief. I’m not God, but this nation needs a God-fearing, committed, dedicated, selfless human being to be the President of the country. Like I said, it is my own opinion, but he cannot wear that cap.
What would be your response to people who say all those qualities are found in him?
Those people need to re-examine themselves. They could be lying to themselves. He (Tinubu) ran this state for eight years and he has continued to surreptitiously control the state. No, he doesn’t have them (the traits). I cannot deceive myself. Talking about the head of this nation? Look at his antecedents.
Just mention Alpha-Beta alone, what is behind that Alpha-Beta? And everybody is pretending that they don’t know? Who set it up? Who got all those people in the House of Assembly to approve the bill? Have those people working in Lagos Internal Revenue Service disappeared or what? What is good is good and what is bad is bad. Never have I heard anywhere in a civilised world where somebody will set up a company to be collecting the revenue on behalf of the government and they pay first to the account of that company before they remit the money to the government coffers. What could be more criminal in nature than that?
I look at the future of my state, it is bleak. But of course, after the Federal Government’s debt profile, Lagos State is next. What’s going on in this country that you cannot tell the truth to power?
The Lagos State House of Assembly passed the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2021 earlier this year. Do you think it’s a promising move?
(Laughs) It’s a joke! What I want them to have a bill on is how they alleviate the sufferings of the younger generation. Look at the millions of people who are jobless and need skill acquisition; how will they create jobs for them? How would you lift up their lives from the doldrums of hell? That is what I want to hear. If they are genuinely working for our people, it means they will look at how best to resolve the crisis in which they are so sunk. We keep talking about it, but they think it’s a one-off trash and they will go back to those people and say, ‘On the day of election, I had so-and-so many millions of votes.’ Charade! The electoral process itself is sickening.
The killers of 2007 PDP governorship hopeful, Funsho Williams, have yet to be uncovered 15 years after his death. Why do you think it has been so difficult to find the killers?
We should ask the police who investigated it. The truth will prevail one day.
Do you think there is sufficient evidence to catch the killers?
Right now, they have shut it down and are pretending they don’t know, but they know. I have linked this one to the bigger one, when Cain murdered Abel. When God asked him, ‘What did you do to your brother?’ he said, ‘Since when did you appoint me as my brother’s keeper.’ But eventually, justice was meted out. Funsho has not died in vain. May God’s will be done.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has been touted as a contender in the 2023 presidential race. Do you think he would make a good president?
If he could work with Bola Tinubu for eight years as his legal adviser and Commissioner for Justice, then I reserve my comments.
But he was commended during his brief run as acting president. Don’t you think he has proved himself?
It must have been his lackeys who were commending him. Wasn’t it under his watch that he brought that he brought Alpha-Beta to be registered? Was he not the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice? Why did he allow that? Why didn’t he advise against that? Have you ever heard in a civilised world that whoever is managing the country will set up a company and then allow that company to start collecting the revenue of the state, when you have full-salaried personnel in the IRS? What is sickening is sickening, what is evil is evil.
Look at the damning report of the man who was managing director of Alpha-Beta. We are all here and someone is there cleaning up this state and the state is mounting tons and tons of bills that we owe. The debt portfolio of Lagos is next to the Federal Government, who is going to pay those bills? There will be a day of reckoning.
Why do you think it is so difficult to indict the company?
It’s not difficult; it is just that people do not want to take up the responsibility. You know, criminal records are not time-bound. Someday, the truth will come out into the open. People can be covering themselves up now, thinking all is well.
The PDP has been engulfed in a crisis over the national chairmanship. There are reports that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is the behind the crisis. What are your thoughts?
Let them leave that young man (Wike) alone. If there is no action, there can’t be a reaction. It didn’t just drop out of the sky. I have an example: when they messed up the issue of the chairmanship in Lagos State, we wrote several times to them that ‘you have to correct this nonsense within the constitution, so that everybody would know, for real, that you are acting well.’ That is our governor, that’s how we know that you don’t start working and treating issues based on your own opinion. It must be within the constitution of the party. They erred there, we pointed it out. So, we took them to court, got a proper judgment and they are now defying the judgment of the court. You disrespect the judiciary, so you’re a lord of the manor.
The ability of the managers of the party to rise above crisis and resolve crisis is a measure of their confidence. But if you denounce the constitution and decide also to do whatever you think within your mind outside that constitution, then you have erred. I am happy that the elders rose to the occasion, so let them not start talking about Governor Wike, governor this or that.
We must, at that level, be able to speak truth to power without being afraid, otherwise why are you jumping all over the place and saying you are ‘Your Excellency.’ If something is bad, say it is bad. We have a local parlance in my place that says, ‘If you speak out, you die. If you don’t speak out, you would die. So, just speak out and shame the enemy.’ That is my opinion.
What do you think about the rumoured joint presidential ticket of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Wike?
I don’t know anything about that, the issue at the moment is that we need honourable men to rise up to the occasion and speak truth to power, and he (Wike) did that. Whether he is going to run for vice president or president is immaterial.
Are you then against PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, being re-elected?
They have told them that they cannot contest, the elders said, ‘No, you cannot!’ It’s not a private company.
What do you think of his tenure?
Do I need to say more? If the elders got up, unbiased, and spoke truth to power that ‘you are not managing this party according to the rules,’ they have a right. The Board of Trustees is the upper chamber of the party that they can call you and tell you the truth—that is the essence of a BoT, it is the conscience of the party. It would have failed in its responsibility if it did not do something.
It seems as though there has been a trend of PDP chairmen not being able to hold the fort for very long. Why is this?
I was there at the national level for 10 years, I saw it all. But it’s not a matter of holding a position for a long tenure. No! If you do well, they will re-elect you. But if you have disappointed them several times, they will have the right to say, ‘Enough is enough.’
Who, in your estimation, is the best performing PDP national chairman?
I would have to sit back and look. But I would say my oga, Dr Ahmadu Ali (2005-2007), did the best during his tenure and maintained that decorum of civility. Thereafter, people got involved, manipulating the system and that’s what you get. If you start manipulating the system, you won’t succeed. The failure or success of a leader will be on the pages of history. Now, we can compare and contrast his own tenure with all the others because there were achievements. Those were the days we won landslide victories—we won about 29 states.
Do you think you can ever get back to that?
Why not? The Nigerian populace are waiting to see a well-managed party. That is what will convince them that when these people get to the government, they will manage the resources of this nation for the benefit of the people. That’s all.