PDP only got bloody nose, not technical knockout, says George
As preparations for putting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on track after the judicial resolution of its internal crisis commenced with the setting up of committees to handle some outstanding issues, erstwhile Deputy-Chairman, Southwest geo-political zone, Chief Olabode George, told Niyi Bello (Head, Politics Desk) and Seye Olumide, of plans to sanitise the platform and strengthen it to win the 2019 elections. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians pointed to lack of internal democracy and indiscipline as the major causes of the internal crisis that almost consumed the PDP. How do you hope to move forward and remove these evils?
The PDP is a disciplined party because there are rules and regulations in our constitution but unfortunately, some few people decided to break the law. The extant provisions in the constitution were completely disregarded and dishonoured as if it was a lawless organization. What started at the national percolated down to the state level and we told them what they were doing was wrong.
It has nothing to do with interpersonal relationship but it went deep into the heart of the party because they violated the basis of the law that we all accepted as our guardian for operation.
Some people said (Ali Modu) Sheriff had a faction but I ask, where did they do the congress for them to emerge? There was no congress but he appointed his executive like he appointed the other people who were with him. Where did they organise their convention? That is the highest level of impunity. But having said that, now the Supreme Court had given a ruling that everything we did was according to the laid down rules of the constitution.
So it was decided that there would be no victor and no vanquished. We should replicate that all the way down to the grassroots but we also drew a red line that after that day of the judgment, anybody who flouts the constitution will no longer be spared. Let’s bring some sanity. Let’s be civil and let our respect for the constitution be optimum. You would have expected everybody who loves the party to fall in line and benefit from the general amnesty given to all.
Now some people have remained recalcitrant, they will not listen, the national headquarters decided that there would be a National Disciplinary Committee to deal with erring members who continue to disregard the constitution and it should be replicated right through the zone, states, councils and wards. Any organization that has no discipline, where people can do whatever they like, will not survive.
Something that should have been resolved within two to three days took us over 18 months. We just had a meeting that the same two committees set up at the national level, the disciplinary committee, and the reconciliation committee must be established. It is normal to have friction in any organization but there should be a guideline to oil this friction among the people. We are opening our gates for those who left and lost on the Supreme Court order, they can come back to the party, and many more people can join as long as when they come, they abide by the laws. Henceforth, there would be zero tolerance for impunity and disregard for the laws of the party. It is not an individual decision; NEC in Abuja took it, which is the next in hierarchy to the national convention.
It is a short time between now and the convention. How do you hope to bring all the aggrieved on board?
This has nothing to do with the personalities, as it is not an individual quarrel. The constitution is supreme, decisions at the National Convention are sacrosanct and it is only in another convention that it can be changed. Having said that, we already have a structure, which made us survive the tornado that we went through. I said it before that our party has a very solid trunk; it is a big Iroko tree in this country that is standing strong in the centre. What I am saying is that we left our mansion to a rented apartment and we are clearing the house now to make it habitable. We are stabilising the house for our campaigns for 2019. The caucus has met; the caucus and the BoT are preeminently, places of civility and moral leadership. We know that the National Working Committee is temporary and we are running out of time, that is why we are organising a special convention to extend the powers of the committee prior the time we will have a major convention to elect the principals. There are some states that have not done their congresses so we need to stabilise those states so that when we start the convention, everyone will be involved. We had a short meeting that was suggested by Governor Fayose that Southwest leaders should wait to discuss with the caretaker committee that in our zone, we want to start the reconciliation and resolve our own crises. The Chief Manager of our zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso has agreed. We were being told that some heavyweights who left in Oyo State are already coming back and the former governors are also coming back to strengthen the party again. This is a new beginning. We only got a bloody nose not a technical knock out. We will send apologies and stabilise the party again. We have just six members of the caretaker committee and I really commend them.
But some PDP members in the Southwest are still questioning the authority of Fayose and Olafeso in the zone.
We have shown them the olive branch and those who want us will come back, not on our terms but the terms of the constitution of the party. We will no longer tolerate behaviors that will not tally with civilised and acceptable norms of the PDP. We all accepted that the impunity was too much and it must stop. It is the moral compass of the party that determines how far the party will go
How can the PDP as a party, capitalise on the weakness of the APC to strengthen itself?
Having learnt lessons of the mistakes of the past, we are all determined that those pitfalls of the past will not hunt us anymore. Once that is established, anybody who is going to fall out of line, there would be a chief whip who will bring them back on line. You need to get back the confidence of the electorates. They are our masters; the public must be convinced that we are better ready to manage the resources of this country. That is the beauty of democracy.
What impact have the ruling party had on the masses? What have they done for those who defected to the party? In our party, there are very strong pressure groups, we have the Governors Forum, which must be respected and the National Assembly Forum. That is why we must have consultations where we all must have our inputs and you won’t just be an emperor that will just pick a direction. We will not go through that line of perfidy anymore. If you tell them people are angry, they will only start abusing you. I was on Channels and I was asked what PDP would give to the people, I said they should first ask the people if they are better now with the ruling party. Where is the National Chairman of the APC, where are their highly ranked officials to come out now and defend their policy. The centre is not holding.
They keep saying Oga is not around, did they build their party around just one man. They should learn now that these are real facts because those who will vote in 2019 are more than us card-carrying members of any political party. I am more concerned now because I am a Nigerian, everybody is suffering. So let them go back to their drawing board. We must allow them to rule for their remaining one year, then after that, we go straight into politics. Your manifestoes stated this but this is what you did. We present our own and let the public decide. That is the way it should be. It is like a warning signal to them.
During the PDP crisis some of your lawmakers, particularly from Lagos, sat on the fence and some even abandoned ship. What are you going to do with them?
That is the state of our nation. You got the ticket, we mobilise the people in their constituencies and gave you the nod to go and represent us. It is a privilege to be so honoured and you dishonour them by abandoning the ship. What have they brought back to those constituencies? I am not saying they should come and worship me like they do in Bourdillion. What have they done to their constituency? Have they been able to manage resources for the benefit of the people in their constituencies? Let them search their consciences.
About those who are at the national, I called some of severally, at the end of the day they showed up in the meeting in Abuja. Success has so many children but failure is an orphan. Like I said from the 12th of July, there would be no room for flouting the rules. Let’s see what their activities will be. Some have done creditably well, in their constituency they’ve done some empowerment, I will not judge anybody for now.
They have been given a general amnesty; let us head to the future. I think some of them had meetings with the state chairman and they said they were able to iron out some things, I wish them the best of luck. I believe very strongly that the judgment was a landmark judgment because it reestablished democratic fronts in the country. Political parties must have rules. So that decision is not only for PDP but also for this nation. All our international investors will also take a cursory look at this. They now know we have a rule of law. Someday, if it had gone otherwise, somebody can just wake up and say he is the chairman of a party. I have advised some of them, they have jumped from frying pan to fire. This is home. Stand up for what you believe. PDP has not collapsed. The founding fathers have sacrificed more than enough that the PDP cannot fall. You will find PDP anywhere because it is a national party in its outlook. That is difference between our party and APC.