I may opt out of politics over Sheriff – Bode George

Chief Bode George is a former deputy chairman and member, Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he describes the recent Appeal Court judgment which reaffirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the party as a setback to democracy. Excerpts:

What is your reaction to the recent court judgment recognizing Sheriff as the authentic PDP chairman?
I was shocked.

To use the word shock is the minimum I could say. It is worse than being shocked. My immediate conclusion was that this is the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. Our national convention decisions from what we were told were set aside. National convention decisions set aside? I leave that to political pundits to analyze. But for whatever it is, it is a very dark day for democracy.

This is a very sad day, it would make a lot of our old men, those founding fathers that thought of uniting this country and bringing oneness to Nigeria to chuckle in their graves and the ones that are alive, I pray that won’t send them to their early graves. It was a very sad day. When I got the phone call, something came to my mind,
I remembered when I was in form four, you know the Tafawa Balewa Court then was the Supreme Court, the High Court, and from my area, coming back to TBS, everybody was interested in the judgment of Baba Awolowo then, wanting to know what happened.

That’s the picture that came to my mind. What Baba said then was; “We thank the judge, Justice Sowemimo, for his learned conclusion,” but he felt that we were going through a dark tunnel in which nobody could predict but that he hoped at the end of the day, God Almighty would show Nigeria where to go.

That was the first thing that came to my mind and today, how? The party that was in government, very well established, that had been by its own accord the most populous political party in the whole of Africa, being decimated and reduced to Sheriff as its chief manager. He just came to the party. Democracy is not about one party state or one political party. Democracy is about aligning all voices- majority, minority to have a debate. I feel very sad.

I am not that young anymore but I am still not that old. I expected at this time that my nation would have been at the level if not close to the first line of developed states or developed countries.

This is nothing but a complete muzzling of the opposition. We await the decisions of other managers of the party in Abuja but if nothing positive comes out clearly in the future you cannot see me playing any more political role. I’ve run the race...my spirit had never been this low with this news and I am talking personally about myself. Whither Nigeria? Where do we go from here? A lot of people expected a vibrant opposition, and now they have taken the opposition from the vibrancy to an appendage of the ruling party.

I weep for my country and I am praying that when President Buhari comes back, we pray for his good health, those who are masquerading and manipulating all these things should hand off and allow the system to run. Don’t kill the goose that has laid the golden egg of political activities in this country. Don’t do that.

Whatever we are doing will come on the pages of history. We cannot afford to write another dark period in the democratic history of this country. It was a bad decision. Though I am not a lawyer, to the judges, we are unlearned but I know what logic is, I know what common sense is, I know what it is to stabilize the system and that is a complete direction towards instability.

Our convention is the basis on which Senator Ahmed Makarfi emerged. They said they had nullified the convention. Are they saying that we didn’t hold a convention? What reason? But for whatever it is, the shock is worse than the Hiroshima bomb
Out of the eight PDP members in the Lagos State House of Assembly, six of them have defected to the APC, what is your reaction?
I am extremely disappointed in them. A rolling stone gathers no moss, those who tried that in the past, where are they today? If you bite the finger that fed you, you are heading straight into perfidy. Can they trust the people in that political party that they have gone to join? It was through our sweat, through our hard-work, we sat down, packaged, worked, and spent our time and money and resources to convince the people. What they have done now is that they have disappointed the constituency that voted them in. Now will they have the nerve to go back to those constituencies? Did they consult them? It is the most irresponsible behaviour I can ever imagine. You didn’t send yourself there. That is why sometime I look at the South African model, it is the party that decides. There is no name when they go for election, people would vote for the party and at the end of the day, the party that has the largest votes produces the representatives and the president because it is the party.
But they said they were forced to defect because the PDP is in crisis
Which crisis? Now, there is no crisis, after all the court has given it to Sheriff. I am ready for a challenge that there is no political party as stable as the PDP. Unfortunately now, like I said, the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. When you see the bush rat dancing in the middle of the road, his drummers are in the bush. That is exactly the way this whole scenario is. But we are enlightened enough to know that this is another masquerade. We should pray for our country.
Still on the court ruling, are you saying that the case of the PDP is beyond redemption?
Naturally, I was first Vice-Chairman, South-west, Deputy National Chairman (South), Deputy National Chairman for the whole country. I have grown in the party, I know the nooks and crannies of this party, I have worked so hard.

I spent 10 years as one of the managers of the party and we did our best building it up. It is a political colossus. That the court would throw off our convention beats my imagination.

That (national convention) is our own Supreme Court, any decision taken at the national convention is sacrosanct, and it is only another convention that can change the decisions of that convention.

Now the judiciary has said they can change it for you, I wish our nation the very best. During the 16 years of the PDP, we never went on that channel of decimating any political party. Rather, our approach was let’s use the powers of government to woo the hearts and minds of the party members, that is what is done in the civilized world.
But there was said to be an unwritten agreement that whoever the court pronounces as chairman, all the factions would come together and support him.

I wish them the best of luck, I will never be part of that. I can’t be A today, B tomorrow. Stand fast on your mind, flip-floppers don’t achieve anything.

That is not the concept for which those old babas established this party. If anybody wants to join Sheriff, you know it is a voluntary thing. I will remain a public commentator.

Are you saying that you would be relinquishing your membership of the party or what?
I will sit in my house. You can still be a member. By the time the dust is settled, we know where they are going.
Is reconciliation not impossible in the PDP?

The reconciliation started but Sheriff backed off. Now the court has given him the mantle of office. We, members of the Board of Trustees met, discussions were held that they should send five members each or so to meet. He pulled out and insisted on going to court.

Now the winner takes it all, what do you want to reconcile now? To him (Sheriff), he is on the position of strength, legal strength, but does he have the muzzle and the people? How will he convince a lot of party people who have been labouring for this party since 1998? He was on the opposition, it is going to be an inglorious day for many old hands. Very sad and I am also saying that it is a sad day for the country.

There was this report about your commendation for Governor Ambode and a lot of people are saying, is Chief also joining the APC?
(Smiles) It must have been misconstrued.

I had an interview and somebody asked me that in terms of infrastructure, did I think that Ambode was doing well? In my conscience and this is physical, you can see it. I said I must commend this young man, I have never met him and I don’t intend to meet him, I don’t need anything from him.

When I travel to Akure, Ekiti, you go through Epe axis, in fact, I have been going through that route since I was a governor in Ondo, it was my shortest route to Akure from Lagos. You go and see what he is doing for his people in Epe, it is commendable, it has nothing to do with politics.

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