Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, in this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief), said that the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar cannot and should not be trusted with the restructuring of Nigeria if the controversies surrounding the call on the party’s National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to step aside for a southerner is not resolved. He said Atiku does not have the unifier character to restructure Nigeria, among other issues.
‘Former Vice President and ex-Senate President Planning To Kill PDP’
Is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hiding any secret from Nigerians over the Ayu-must-leave crisis and the resistance?
There is no secret Nigerians must not know and if there is, I think the presidential candidate of our party is in the better position to say it or be held responsible. There is nothing secret as far as I am concerned.
The only thing acceptable in any civilised norm is to be able to tell the truth to power. People can manipulate, they can scheme, liars and postulators can be telling you things to satisfy you, to direct you and even cheat all the way to win an election but what keeps you on that throne is your character. What is going on in the PDP now is totally different from the principle of equity, justice and fairness upon which the founding fathers built the party.
But why do you think Atiku is adamant about letting Ayu step down despite the persistent crisis?
Atiku is the only one who can answer that question. I ponder because Atiku is my friend, we have no enmity; there is nothing that is secret. What he is doing baffles my imagination. If he is a thoroughbred politician, which he claims to be, then he should be able to say, ‘look, I want to be a unifier in this country, I want to restructure this country now.’ The crisis in the PDP, though small, has to do with restructuring. If, therefore, he cannot handle this little problem of restructuring in the PDP, how can we trust the whole of this massive country Nigeria in his hands for restructuring?
The problem of restructuring is not new to us but the way to address it is what we lack. PDP’s founding fathers then sat down to find a lasting solution and they divided the country into six geopolitical zones. North West, North East and North Central and South West, South East and South South, and came up with also six top positions. They brought about the sense of inclusivity that out of these six zones, everybody will benefit unlike before.
PDP is structured to give a national spread, a national political party that has the colours of Nigeria from the Southern flags to the Savana regions. There is no part of this nation that you won’t find PDP.
That was an achievement on their part. But because this arrangement was not documented in black and white, it was verbal; people are now distorting the oral history to suit themselves.
Did you say Atiku and Ayu are tampering with the root of the PDP?
That is exactly what they are doing. Never in the history of this country would you have the presidential candidate and the National Chairman of the party to come from the same zone. Number one President, number two Vice president, number three Senate President, number four Speaker, number five Secretary to Government and number six, National Chairman.
If number one goes up, number two goes down and so on. But what we have now is the Presidential candidate from the north, the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) is from the northwest, the National Chairman of the party is from the North Central, now come down to the three zones in the South. The Vice Presidential candidate is from South South, the Southeast has acting BoT Chairman and what role will that one play, and also ask them what have they given the Southwest.
They are telling us to wait until after election and Ayu is telling us that he has a four-year mandate. Now the question we are asking is simple and we do not need rocket science to see there is a lacuna here. They are tampering with the very fundamental that established this party. You are not expected to leave out any zone.
Can Nigeria really trust Atiku on restructuring with what is going on in the PDP?
How can we trust him? The little lacuna we are seeing in the party is about inclusivity so that nobody will be left behind, but he is telling us we should vote for him first and then he will consider us. There is no fool anywhere. And Ayu is saying he has a four-year mandate. So, how can we trust Atiku to restructure Nigeria with what he and Ayu and their co-travellers are doing now? From the little party, you can’t be honest, then we will now entrust you with the massive problems of Nigeria? That’s not possible.
Peradventure Atiku wins the Presidential election, what would happen, don’t you see crisis in the PDP?
It doesn’t matter a bit to me. Once he becomes the President, the onus is on him to prove his character, the onus is not on me. I have said my own and at this age, I am closer to 80, I am not looking for anything again in life. Let history be kind to those who had been faithful, honest and able to tell the truth to power. This is, for me, is a continuation of the struggle for the unity of Nigeria.
If Atiku refuses to heed your demand, is the G-5 governors and yourself going to work for another Presidential candidate?
That is a very potent question and that will be a decision of the group. There will be a debate and discussion and that was why the last meeting we held in Lagos came up with a communique that we still stand by the decision that we are opposed to Ayu’s continuity as National Chairman. But we still have enough window of opportunity and discussion to reconcile.
We still have almost 90 days to the election. The final decision is of Atiku. I am not saying he will not win but even at that, the onus is on him to ensure inclusivity. Everybody must have a sense of belonging.
Can the G-5 governors and yourself be trusted also because of your failure to sustain the demand for power shift to the South like what we witnessed in the ruling APC. What you people are doing now is like applying medicine after death?
Let me take you back. Why I am so involved in this matter is because we have not really discussed this part. How did we come about this? I stopped going regularly for our NEC meeting before they said that particular meeting was so important and we should come, I attended and I saw some younger people trying to throw tantrums. The meeting was so argumentative.
It was advanced at the meeting that there is no need for zoning again in the PDP that we have outlived that. I then referred to the party’s Constitution; section 7 (2c) states that zoning and rotation remain sacrosanct for party offices and elective offices. In other words, the party position must zone and elective offices must zone. So, what they did, either intentionally or otherwise, was to only zone the party positions and left elective positions. I was surprised because it was the immediate past National Chairman, Uche Secondus that did it. I said if we have zoned one part, we must also zone the others. We now set up a Revisitation Committee to look at the report of the Zoning Committee and put a lot of elders in the new committee.
The first day was riotous but some insisted that if they say there was no zoning, PDP will be destroyed because our brothers from the north were angling to take all the key elective and party positions. As a result, they felt we should jettison zoning. The meeting ended abruptly.
We held another meeting and we refereed to the Constitution, which says zoning and rotation are sacrosanct. But as at then, six months had lapsed when they have started selling forms for the elective offices. And that affected decision-making in a way.
I had been an advocate that another northerner cannot succeed President Muhammadu Buhari after eight years. But we agreed not to disrupt the party. So, we started begging most of the Southerners who were angry to calm down. We told them that our focus should be to get rid of the APC at the national level. We appealed to the people that due to the exigencies of the present situation, we should accept
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