FormerDeputy National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George has insisted that the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu lobbied to be appointed Deputy Administrator or a Commissioner in Lagos State when late General Sani Abacha sacked the Interim National Government, ING, headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan in 1993.
George who was reacting to denials by some associates of Tinubu that the APC stalwart never romanced nor lobbied the late dictator for appointments as claimed by Mr Kola Abiola, son of the late M.K.O Abiola in a recent interview, insisted that Kola Abiola’s claims against Tinubu were true. “Tinubu can never deny it. He lobbied Abacha for appointment and I was a witness to it. Those defending Tinubu are his apologists who are not familiar with the story of June 12. I challenge Tinubu to an open public debate on any popular TV station in Nigeria and across the world on this,” he declared. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, George also spoke on other national issues.
What is your reaction to the nationwide controversy trailing Federal Government’s decision to set up Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen in states across the country?
The Federal Government should tread softly. It should be very careful about the whole thing. This is not the first time that Fulani herdsmen or the Fulani cattle rearers have been traversing the length and breadth of this country, and we’ve never heard of anything of such before. No past government in the country has ever contemplated anything of such – so why would federal government now come up with this idea capable of precipitating crisis?
Already the uproar that is being generated by this Ruga policy conceived by the present federal government is enough to tell any leader that there is need for caution. We should tread carefully. Why is this idea of Ruga settlements now being conceived? Is it because we now have a Fulani man as President that this Ruga tendency is now manifesting in Nigeria?
Let’s cast our mind back to the past, when we had an Ijaw man as Nigeria’s president, did he go round or make an announcement that they should set up fish ponds all over Nigeria? When Baba Obasanjo was Nigeria’s president, did he make it an official policy that they should plant cocoa in all hamlets all over Nigeria?
Developmental purposes should be seen as negotiation between parties. This Ruga project should not have any coloration of the federal government being involved. The impression that the Ruga project gives is that federal government wants to create a colonization army.
I want to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari that the federal government should tread softly. President Buhari was my commander-in-chief in the military, and I served as a staff officer to him, so I’m therefore appealing to him as my Oga that he should tread softly.
If this Ruga project is something that will boost the economy and will benefit Nigerians, all these opposition against it would not have arisen. Naturally Nigerians would have gravitated towards it, and embrace it. Every state governor is the chief security officer of that state; power and control over the land within the state rest squarely with the governor. So federal government doesn’t have the constitutional power to impose the Ruga project over any state.
In the first place, the federal government has no business getting involved in the Ruga project, it should be a private initiative between parties who will discuss and come to terms of agreements among themselves. It is very wrong now that Nigeria is on the cliff. I want to see Nigeria as an indivisible entity where all the tribes would first and foremost see themselves as Nigerians. I also expect this nationalism to drive us to greater heights. What I see today all over Nigeria frightens me, and I cry for my beloved country, Nigeria.
What I’m saying here has nothing to do with politics. I’m speaking as a patriot who loves my country. This Ruga project by the federal government, which they are desperately promoting, can it be sustained? Is it in the common interest of all Nigerians? And if there is cacophony of voices opposing it, should federal government not listen? I believe federal government should listen to those voices of reason opposing the Ruga project.
What is your reaction to the present state of insecurity, and the way out?
The situation is not only unfortunate, but it has also become alarming. But for me I believe that creation or setting up of state police is part of the way out. We should establish state police to have effective control over issues relating to insecurity. The Nigeria Police as it presently stands is overwhelmed. The number of officers and men in Nigeria police is grossly inadequate to effectively police over 200 million Nigerians.
Although some are talking about state police being abused, but there is no system that is perfect. Then we should even start it first. We should not expect that if we start state police today, then we will have perfection immediately. It will take time before we attain perfection.
In the United States of America which is our role model, they have what we call county police or what we call local government police. They also have state police – then they also have the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The other day, the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu was lamenting that he has only 334,000 men and officers in the Nigeria police, and Nigeria’s population has been put at 200 million people. Then how can 334,000 police force man the internal security of this country? Even if you add the personnel of the Civil Defence Corps men, LASTMA and whatever you call them and join them with the Police, it still amounts to nothing.
How can it be that the Inspector-General of Police is based in Abuja and he control all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, then how can he be effective? We are not serious.
All these things happening are issues that require urgency to tackle because we are talking about the internal security of the country. Then when people like us are talking, we are not talking politics, we are talking about national interest. So whatever I’m saying should not be misconstrued. I’m talking as a patriot who loves his nation and dear country.
Sadly on this issue of insecurity, we are losing the battle. Something has to be done very fast to bring the situation under control because Nigerians are no longer secure. We should be able to tell ourselves the home truth. Nobody prays that Nigeria should be turned into Somalia where banditry, kidnappings and other forms of crimes are prevalent but sadly we are now travelling on that road to Somalia. Our prayer is that this should not be so, but those in authority have to do all the needful now.
How would you describe the approaches being adopted by the federal government to tackle the menace of insecurity so far?
The federal government has to buckle up. The security situation across the country is pathetic and alarming. But unfortunately look at the way federal government is taking the issue as if it is not a serious matter. Look at the way the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was trying to downplay the seriousness of the issue when he recently travelled to the United States of America where he met the US Vice President, Mike Pence.
Haba! Prof. Osinbajo, how can you be lying or not saying the truth about the situation of things in your country? Unfortunately for Osinbajo, the world is now a global village. Although Osinbajo tried to hide the truth about Nigeria from Pence, but those people in America and other countries of the world know that bandits, kidnappers and abductors are having a field day in Nigeria, and this is why some of those countries including the United States issued warning alerts to their citizens coming to Nigeria and those resident in Nigeria. My advice to Osinbajo is that he should be careful. The job he is holding on to will end one day, and there will be a day after his job, and when that period comes what will he tell Nigerians? Will he be able to look Nigerians in the face?
What is happening in Nigeria today is not a joking matter. People now live in fear in Nigeria. People go around in Nigeria. The first job of any government is to provide security for lives and properties but on these the present federal government has not lived up to expectations. Security first, then others follow. All over Nigeria, people are crying.
My advice as a Nigerian to President Buhari is that the federal government should organize a national discourse on insecurity. We should have a national discourse on the issue with a view of proffering solution. Democracy is government of the people by the people and for the people. We are not in a military era, this is a civilian government so President Buhari must let Nigerians make an input into how the scourge of insecurity can be tackled. This has nothing to do with politics. It is in our diversities that our strength lies.
On the raging internal crisis rocking Yoruba Council of Elders, some eminent Yoruba have expressed concern about it, what’s your own reaction to the crisis?
I’m very disturbed. I’m not happy at all about what is happening in YCE. What those elders are doing amounts to washing their dirty linens in the public. I’m going to beg all the parties involved. I will appeal to both the Secretary-General, Kunle Olajide, and the YCE President, Colonel Ade Agbede to sheath their swords. I will speak to both of them personally.
YCE has always been one united family, and that’s the way it should remain. The founding fathers of YCE like late Justice Adewale Thompson and Baba Archdeacon Alayande would not be happy in their graves with the present unfortunate development in YCE.
Disagreement is part of life, but then you only disagree to agree. The moment members of the same family go to the market place to expose one another, then that means the situation is degenerating out of control. It is even a taboo in Yoruba land for elders to fight in the public. These elders should cool down. As the Atona Oodua of the Source, I’m speaking to all parties to give peace a chance. They should be able to resolve their crisis within the YCE fold.
It is just like what is happening in Afenifere. Imagine, the emperor of Bourdillon, Bola Tinubu is leading a faction. This is perfidious and treacherous. How can Tinubu lead Afenifere, and imagine also taking the same group to Aso Rock to meet President Buhari. A divided house is a defeated house. What does some of these Yoruba want history to remember them for? When I saw those that headed to Abuja parading themselves as Afenifere leaders, I shuddered.
On this issue of claims by Kola Abiola that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu lobbied to be made an Administrator, or a Commissioner when General Sani Abacha sacked the ING led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, you came on it to say that Kola’s claims were right, but some supporters of Tinubu have claimed that you said so because you are not on the same political page with Tinubu, how do you respond to that?
I have nothing personal against Tinubu. I don’t hate him. We may not be in the same political party and there is no big deal about that. Nigeria’s constitution guarantees freedom of association. On this issue of Kola’s claims, I’m saying nothing but the truth. Kola Abiola was right. Tinubu begged Abacha to make him an administrator or a state commissioner. I was in the military that time, and I was in Aso Rock with Gen. Abacha and Gen. Oladipo Diya who was then Chief of General Staff to Abacha. I was the Principal Staff Officer I to Gen. Diya. I was then a Commodore in the Nigerian Navy. The equivalent of that rank in the Army is a Brigadier-General.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians don’t know this. Most Nigerians only know Bode George as a politician. Back to what transpired then between Abacha and Tinubu.
Tinubu came to Aso Rock to lobby for these positions but already the military had taken decisions that Abacha’s regime was going to be purely a military regime unlike that of Babangida who appointed civilians as deputy governors to military governors then.
On the day, the Abacha’s government took that decision, it was taken in Lagos at Air Force Mess at Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island. Military officers present were from the rank of Lt.-Colonel and above. When the question was put to the military gathering as to whether civilians should be accommodated or given some roles in the new military government, all the officers present in unison and overwhelmingly rejected the idea. I was part of the military gathering that day.
Tinubu actually came to lobby to be made a commissioner but when he was told about the military decision, he became sad. He wasn’t happy and that was when he went to join NADECO and other pro-democracy activists. If Abacha had given him the positions he lobbied for, Tinubu would have been part of Abacha’s government.
Unfortunately some of these people defending Tinubu and now attacking both myself and Kola Abiola don’t know all these that I’m revealing. I’m saying it again categorically that it was when Tinubu didn’t get appointment from the Abacha’s government that he, out of frustration and anger went to join NADECO.
I challenge Tinubu to a public debate on this. I challenge Tinubu to a public debate on any national television station either here in Nigeria or abroad. I’m even ready to face him on CNN or BBC on this issue. I’m calling out Tinubu, he should take up my challenge. Even if he said we should go to a graveyard to face one another on this issue, I’m ready to face him. For those defending Tinubu, have they seen Tinubu coming out to speak personally or issue a personal statement on Kola Abiola’s claims and my support for Kola Abiola? I’m talking about people like former Lagos State APC chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale, former NUPENG President, Joseph Akinlaja and others who have become Tinubu’s defenders on this issue. If these people don’t know about what transpired during the June 12 crisis, they should keep quiet instead of defending what is not defensible, I say once again, Tinubu should come and face me in a public debate on this issue if he believes I’m not saying the truth. General Diya, and Colonel Olagunsoye Oyinlola who later became Lagos State Military Governor were some of the witnesses to what I’m saying. If Abacha had agreed with Tinubu, Tinubu would have become Deputy Governor to Oyinlola. Both Oyinlola and Tinubu are brothers. They are both from Osun State. Tinubu is from Iragbiji while Oyinlola is from Okuku. Nigerians should ask Oyinlola if I’m lying. Facts are facts, Tinubu can’t deny that he lobbied Abacha to be made a commissioner or deputy governor to Oyinlola. I’m putting all these together in my memoirs, which will be out very soon.
How would you describe the defection of former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, your former ally in PDP to APC?
Like I said in an earlier interview, Ogunlewe has gone back to where he comes from. He has gone back to his vomit. Nobody is missing him in PDP. I don’t want to waste my saliva talking about him. His defection is like a good riddance to bad rubbish. Talking about him or his defection to APC is a waste of time.
Chief Henry Ajomale in an interview said that with Senator Ogunlewe’s defection, you are the next big fish from PDP that will defect to APC. What is your reaction to that?
Ajomale is daydreaming. I can’t and will never join APC. APC is not a political party. It is a congregation of strange bedfellows. I’m not a political prostitute that jumps from party to another. Since 1999, I have been in PDP and up till now, I’m still in PDP. I can never leave PDP. If Ajomale is waiting for me to join APC, he is not only wasting his time, but he will wait till only God knows when.
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