Let Makarfi, Sheriff fight to the finish in court — Bode George

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Let Makarfi, Sheriff fight to the finish in court — Bode George

CHIEF Olabode Ibiyinka George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview, bares his mind on the state of the nation, the crisis rocking the PDP and the need to restructure Nigeria. He also accuse the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to trying to decimate the opposition in Nigeria. Excerpts By Dapo Akinrefon ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads The PDP has been engulfed in crisis and it is a fact that your party has not been this polarized. What exactly is the root cause of the crisis and how can it be resolved? After the 2015 elections, the then Chairman, Alhaji Mu’azu, left the party, and that created a big vacuum. Of,course, once you have been in power for so long you hit a bump, if you are not prepared, you will go into a state shock. We were in that state of shock and we needed somebody to manage the party and manage the fallout. In our Constitution, if there is any vacancy in any of the national offices, we have to go back to the zone that produced that Chairman to produce someone to act until that tenure expires. Chief Olabode George There were so many people from Borno State, who wanted to come in and some governors felt Modu Sheriff was the most reliable because he had had a fallout with the APC. It took a lot of persuasion, a lot of meetings and people were saying he was just coming as an interim leader and that there should be no hues and cries about it. His mission was to tidy up and stabilize the platform. So, he became the Acting Chairman and, in our party, if you are acting, you have to be confirmed by the Convention before you can be a substantive Chairman. We had a National Executive Committee meeting of the party, which is the next level to the National Convention. The Board of Trustees of the party refused to endorse the Convention but we told them to give it a trial and that we didn’t want to get to a point where we would be disintegrated. The NEC agreed to having the Convention in Port-Harcourt. That Convention would have confirmed Sheriff as Chairman but when they got to the Convention, the night before it, he had already taken the form to contest, he had submitted the form and was already screened and was ready for the contest. By the virtue of that, he had ceased to be Acting Chairman because you cannot be the judge and jury in your own case. So, when we got to the Convention, night before it, certain things happened, which we leave for history; Sheriff walked out and, of course, the Deputy Chairman was not contesting, so, he took over the control of the Convention. And so, the Convention, in its wisdom, now thought if we hurried up, we would get into a bigger mess, that the most sensible thing to do at this point was to have a Caretaker Committee to manage the affairs of the party and call for another Convention. It is legitimate. Part of the functions of the National Convention, apart from being the supreme authority of the party, is that it can appoint any committee it deems fit and it is only another Convention that can remove that authority. The convention now set up the Markafi Committee, under due process, and gave them three months within which o call for a Convention. So, they met to fix another day for the Convention to hold, to meet the deadline allotted by the Convention. So the southern leaders now met to do the zoning for the NEC offices for the South. We now returned for the Convention in Porth-Harcourt to meet the deadline of the three months. So many things happened along the way, there were court cases here and there. The Convention now decided that we would give the Caretaker Committee an extension of one year within which it would call for a Convention. Why it is so fundamental to thrash this out is because it has a direct impact on the interpretation of the Constitution of the party because the party Constitution is our gron norm. Sheriff is my friend but what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. He has just joined our party and he is yet to imbibe the norms and the culture of the party and the PDP is not a tribal party, not a regional party, it is a national party. There have been calls for political solution to the crisis. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is, in fact, among those pushing for political solution. Do you subscribe to this position? When people talk about political solution, nobody is saying ‘don’t find a political solution’ but you have hit at the heart of the party’s constitution, and it must be resolved for the future. That is where we are but I have no doubt that whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court, that is the final arbiter. If it favors us, fine; if it does not favour us, fine, but we would have been there to clear this issue that could be a recurring decimal once and for all. My clear submission is that the ultimate resolution of the PDP crisis resides in the Supreme Court which has proven time and time again as an organ of responsible, intelligent, integrity conscious and morally upright men and women whose purpose and vision is to protect the dignity of the judiciary. There can’t be any half measures anymore. We need a clear, firm and binding total solution. This can only be obtained at the highest court in the land. Nothing else will do. But some members of your party have accused the ruling APC of attempting to decimate your party. Do you agree? Let me wrap it up by saying that I have a very strong suspicion that there is an attempt to decimate our party. What is so important about saying that you are Chairman when you know that you are Acting Chairman, no Convention has confirmed you? So, it means you can be removed because if he had been confirmed by a Convention, it is only another Convention that can remove him. This is simple logic; let us go and get that final decision but it is not only for the PDP which could affect any other political party in this country. Democracy has come to stay. If we have this friction, let us sort it out in court so that this unnecessary abuse of judicial process would be sealed, nailed and buried once and for all. The other party, the APC, is a congregation of strange bed-fellows. But some members of your party are moving in droves to the APC. Are you not worried? The important thing is this, some people have feeble minds, they serve the moment, they must be where there is sugar. What is important is to make sure that we get back to the original concept of the Peoples Democratic Party. The people of Nigeria cannot roll to anywhere. Let them run to wherever they want to run to. I am more keen in ensuring we stabilize our platform; we present the manifesto of our party and the people of Nigeria are the centerpiece of our own concern. There have been agitations for the restructuring of Nigeria. What do you think? I completely submit myself to the decisions taken at the National Conference. I was even a delegate. To give that sense of oneness in this country, there is need to reduce the power at the centre. That is the essence of restructuring. Restructuring the country is good but the most important thing is for us to ensure that oil production goes back to the level it was during our own time so that money can come back to the treasury. But there are fears that this might lead to agitations for secession. States have some powers. Like in the United States of America, they have discussed so many issues over the years which led them to the present stage. In the US, there are so many things that the states control but that does not mean that the central government does not have certain control. Let the states be autonomous so that development will be there and they would be held responsible. That is the restructuring that I understand and that is what was approved at the National Conference. As a leader in the South-West, why is it difficult for the leaders from the region to speak with one voice irrespective of party affiliation? If you go back memory lane, you will marvel. Is it because of over-exposure? It is not too late for us to be united. I don’t know whether it is in our culture or norms, but we find it hard to speak with one voice. I don’t think it could be difficult for us to come together. The Egbe Omo Oduduwa that was set up pre-independence was purposedly for the Yoruba but they tied it to a political party. After the experience in the First, Second Republics and military intervention, they ended up with Afenifere, I don’t want to go into lengthy history. Afenifere itself should have been non-political, it should have been the voice. They have now experienced their shortcomings. Afenifere in English means you want good things to come to you but the moment it became associated with a political party, we lost that chance. Now that is over. Recently, I was happy when Chief Ayo Adebanjo called me and said there would be an Afenifere meeting and that they would want me to be there. When we got there, they said they were rebranding, and I got a bit interested. That political connotation has been removed. Afenifere should be a rallying point for the Yoruba, the equivalent of the Arewa Consultative Forum, irrespective of religion, party affiliation or your concept. The day we went for a meeting in Akure, many people expressed joy that change had come to the region. Your former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo celebrated his 80 recently. Do you still have any grouse with him? No. As a Christian, whatever happens in life and in any situation you find yourself, always thank God. I have nothing against baba and, as a Yoruba man, you must respect your elders. Arbiter Bed Committee Meeting Content management system Court Case Decimal

 

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Hmm