Chief Olabode George is a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). The Atona Oodua of the Source in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI speaks on Saturday’s Presidential election, developments in Lagos and other issues. Excerpts:
The 2019 presidential election takes place this Saturday. What is your message to Nigerians?
I want to appeal both to the voters, the managers and the security agencies. Our nation is at the crossroads. This election will decide the future of our country and the generations to come. Therefore, we must play the games according to the rules. Nigeria by the creation of Almighty God is a nation like a beacon on the hill. It means that whatever happens in this nation ricochet all across Africa. It is a semblance of America and the rest of the world. If it goes well here, the rest of the world will be guaranteed that all will be well in Africa. We are no longer a dark continent. It is just the mismanagement; the lack of respect for the rule of law. Those are the issues that are making us look as if we are in the Stone Age. In this elections, let us reflect civility and respect for the rule of law. Let whatever we do be accredited as being done in any civilised world. We are no longer a pariah nation. The whole world is centred on what happens this Saturday. I pray that the Almighty God will make us prove that we are competent and civil enough to manage ourselves. My final appeal to Nigerians is that on that day, it will be a day for this nation to come of age or to go down. Let the will of the people be respected.
For those who have been making inciting statements, what message do you have for them?
There are some people who have been making unsavoury comments, saying foreign observers will go back to their countries in bodybags. Is that not the peak of lunacy? Foreign observers are coming to monitor elections, and you, a senior public official said they will go back in bodybags? .For a man that educated to be running riot is alarming. He should withdraw that statement and admit that it was a slip of the tongue. It is unacceptable, scandalous and absolutely sacrilegious.
Given the roles allegedly played by the security agencies in previous elections, especially the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun, as a retired senior officer in the Nigerian Navy, what is your admonition to the security agencies?
They should remember that they took an oath to defend the lives and properties of the people of this country. They are not enemies of Nigeria. They are Nigerians and so it will be illogical and unreasonable to turn weapons against your fellow countrymen. Those who are young now may not remember the crisis of 1963 in Western region when the elections were openly rigged. That little crisis which people dismissed that it was just within the Western region engulfed Nigeria into a civil war. No nation goes into a civil war twice and survived. We love peace and sanity. We want good governance; we want an administration that will improve the economy, give jobs to the people; that will allow people to live anywhere they want without any encumbrances. The days of these tribal madness and religious bigotry that people have been playing can no longer old. I am a Christian. My older sister got married to a Muslim. Today, she is an Alhaja but she is still my sister. Your religious beliefs are your religious beliefs. It has nothing to do with your managerial skills. Setting one tribe against another is no longer acceptable in a civilised setting. To me, what should be paramount to Nigerians is the need to get the best man to manage our affairs. I am happy that the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar has spoken about restructuring. That is a very good thing. We are not saying ‘take power from here to there’. I have been to all the nooks and crannies of this nation. There is no state that God has not endowed with something, be it mineral resources, agriculture or human. So, they should go and develop all those resources for the benefit of the people. Centralising everything in Abuja and saying life begins and stops there hasn’t worked and it will never worked.
The Presidential election is between Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC who is seeking reelection. What are your expectations?
The electorates will decide that. My message to Nigerians is that if you are better off today than before, vote APC and return them for another four years. But if you have been suffering, if your children can’t get jobs and the future looks bleak; then vote for the PDP. When I heard oga (President Buhari) said that ‘I am going to jail looters’, he is not the judge, jury or judiciary. I want to remind Nigerians and oga (Buhari) himself that he should look at his right and his left side as they stood during their rally in Lagos. The one on the right, who is he? The greatest thief in Nigeria who should be in prison is the chief campaigner of the APC. The one on the left, go and look at the mansion he built in his village. How did he acquire the money? He was just a union leader. The day I heard him say all criminals should come and join APC and their sins will be forgiven I was alarmed. That was the most sacrilegious statement I have ever had from a leader. He has poured a lot of odium on their party. Who forgives sins except the Almighty God. So, the thing has gotten into their heads and they have lost their minds.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo backed the APC in 2015, now he is supporting the PDP candidate but they have said he is not a factor. What is your take on that?
It is absolutely illogical when I listened to Bola Tinubu abusing Baba Obasanjo during their rally in Lagos. First of all, in terms of the ideological development in Yorubaland, you don’t use abusive language on somebody older than you. It is a curse on Tinubu’s head. I pray that a younger person too will curse him. Is he saying Obasanjo, as a former president and elder statesman cannot say his own mind? The beauty of democracy is free speech.Obasanjo was discussing issues but Tinubu was not. He was only busy using abusive languages. That is a sign that he has lost his mind.
Why do you think it has been difficult for the PDP to win the governorship election in Lagos since 1999?
Some problems had been ours and some of our elders bought into the dummy Tinubu had been selling to them. They have now discovered that they are being taken to the filth and that everything he has been promising them were just loads of deceit. Their eyes are wide open now. I hope with this election, we will tell him ‘Enough is enough’. I know he is a master rigger but we are ready for him. Let no security agency threaten anybody. We are Nigerians. You can see what is happening in Venezuela. We don’t want that here. Tinubu’s day of reckoning will come. But you know why I am not so bothered? He will not remove all those structures from Lagos. Because the land belongs to Lagos State, he who owns the land owns the property on it. I hope that in my lifetime, we will revisit all these illegal acquisition. If all the former governors have acted like him, what will remain for the people? Let me quote Nuhu Ribadu. He once said the greatest thief in Nigeria is Bola Tinubu. Don’t let him think that it is all over. If Ribadu could call him that and oga (Buhari) is saying he wants to jail looters, then he should begin with the greatest criminal who should be forgotten in jail for all that he has done in my state. If we don’t get all that he has illegally acquired during my lifetime, my children will collect all their resources from and he will return back to his Iragbiji.