Chief Olabode George is the former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview with journalists in Lagos, he speaks on sundry issues as they affect the nation. Ayo Esan brings excerpts:
Q: Why are you so passionate about the happenings in the country?
My passion about the country could be traced to when I was on a regimental assignment in Akure and I left Akure about 30 years ago. That means I was in my forties. It means I became governor at 42. General Ibrahim Babangida once told me not to rush into decisions, that is, one should speak when it is appropriate. That is when you have enough information. When I was in government, I was not a civilian but when I became a civilian and in politics, you can only look back. Well I am ready for anybody to challenge me, we participated in the National Conference; our report is still there parked into one corner. The effect of that now raised different voices like ‘we want zoning, there is no zoning’. Now what is going on pushed me to ask what is going on in this country?. When the G13, G14 and G18 people started our party, the PDP, it was as a result of their understanding, the failure of the first republic that they came up with the zoning policy How could you have imagined the late Bola Ige, Chief Alex Ekwueme or Chief Jim Nwobodo, Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi or Bamanga Tukur from different parties to have come together? When they now came up, the zoning thing which is not in our national constitution was adopted to solve the problem. So, what were they talking about? ‘Turn by Turn Nigeria Limited’. That was what we did and end up having zoning. I am only voicing out my experience, having participated in the military, civil organizations and political parties. Now, you will have eight years from the north and some young Turks are saying, what is zoning? It is not in the constitution, let’s take it easy, that is the basis of my view on the historical antecedents about Nigeria.
Q : Why are Nigerian youths so disenchanted about elections in Nigeria compare to India that achieved 80 per cent voting recently?
On the day of election, the young boys will be there fighting. When the result is out, it is poor compared to the population we have. And I said it, this nation is blessed with human resources all over, but what is the future for them? You think in a system where we have thuggery and fight, will there be good result? When INEC admitted it has no server. It is about civic responsibility but who talk about it here? But today the young boys are carried away by irrelevant things and issues that cannot add value to the betterment of the country. Recently, one young man was celebrating that he had acquired one billion Naira. I wish the father of the young man is still alive? It is so disgracing and disgusting. I have children and my first child is forty-six years old and others are in that age bracket. What is their pride? My father was a civil servant and I went to university and he did not even know how I got my job? And when we got the job, the second month you get the usual car and you are allocated with a flat. That is not the situation now. They are equally not ready to join campaigns for any election because the system is flawed.
Q : What is your take on the proposal that we should have one senator per state instead of three presently?
You cannot do it by fiat. What about the uneven number in the House of Representatives? Something had been done by the military. I remembered during the creation of local governments, we did not know, I was a governor, they said we are creating local governments and Ondo people came to me. Some were fighting that they don’t want this, they don’t want that. I still remember and I don’t want to mention name, someone came to me and said Bode, if you go there and allow them to cut Lagos into pieces, I will hold you responsible. I was a soldier and what is my business with local governments? When I met my Oga, IBB and said this is what this person said. He, IBB replied, they don’t know the importance. Today, Kano has 44 local governments. So, it is not about having one Senator per state, what about members of the House of Representatives? Does it solve the imbalance in the polity? Kano has 44 local governments and Jigawa was cut out of Kano with over 20 councils. Katsina has over 20 and Niger with its large councils. How did I know? When we were going for convention, the moment you call out Kano delegates, Niger, Katsina delegates, you have won that election. What about here? Is it about land? Look at the number of people in Lagos, it is bustling with people. And there is no Nigerian tribe known that does not reside in Lagos. We must tell ourselves the truth because one day we will die. We will go naked because we came with nothing.
Q: You call for the scrapping of INEC. Is INEC the problem and what about the political class?
The judiciary is also a disgrace. I am not a lawyer and even from my ignorance and for God sake people voted, they brought results and you now look and award the victory on technical ground. Again, if you know that the judiciary will decide the winner of election, why are you bothering people to vote? The essence of going to the judiciary is for you to make them to go and repeat that election. What is the essence of our people queuing up for the election? I want to be educated on the matter. The judicial officers are now the returning officers, they now determined who become governor, members of House of Representatives, senators etc.
Q: What is your take on the current closure of our boarders?
May be we should draw from President DonaldTrump and build walls. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. If Nigeria wants to close all our boarders and you have a point of entry, that is fine. But, this porous nonsense, just get in and get out is not helping matter. And may be for security purpose the boarder can be closed. Again, it is not only in Idiroko and Seme that we have boarder. People go through all kinds of areas that link us. Now it is a matter of having more resources from direct taxation from those importing goods.
Q: Some people are of the opinion that civil servants are the major problem or most corrupt of Nigerians, do you agree with this?
Unless you are incompetent and lazy, they will saturate you. They will start filing lot of memos for you to deal with. You enter the office, you can’t even see the man behind the door. One day you call the man and say all these things that you are doing is not in the best interest. When you are given that responsibility, you sit down to do it. Civil servants cannot give approval without the consent of their bosses. Don’t blame them, I am talking about INEC because procedurally, you have put human beings in between. Once you finish from your polling units, you write the figure and by the time you get to the next collation centre, they would have tampered with whatever you have written. The stronger ones will prevent you from entering the collation centre and when you complain they will tell you that the agents will do whatever you complain about. They use all kind of force including police to prevent you from moving in. With where we are now, given that we have had 20 years of democratic experiment is huge. Let us bring this experience together so that we can move forward. So, don’t blame civil servants, you tell him to come to work at 8 am, he will be there and you don’t show up until 1 pm, he will follow your track. So, don’t blame them.