Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has finally made a volte – face in throwing his support behind the candidature of his estranged deputy, Atiku Abubakar who clinched the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP during last week end’s national convention in Port Harcourt. Both men have been at each other’s throat since 2003 with Obasanjo vowing severally that not even God will forgive him if he forgave Atiku. In this interview with his close ally, Chief Olabode George in Ikoyi, Lagos, he quoted Obasanjo to have changed his stance on Atiku. The PDP candidate had in his post victory speech acknowledged the former president who tore his PDP card on the heels of the 2015 elections as his mentor. George further speaks on the PDP convention, 2019 general elections, and party politics, among other contemporary issues. CHIDI OBINECHE conducted the interview.
With the feelers we are getting, do you think Buhari will hand over if Atiku defeats him?
He will. I believe that coming from our profession, that noble profession, where Justice, fairness, discipline are the key words that we are trained with, he will concede defeat.
If a civilian can graciously hand over, why would you, a man who went through a disciplined professional career refuse to concede defeat? Why? Why would he want to burn his country? The will of the people must be respected.
I saw what happened in Ekiti. That of Osun was absolutely shambolic, disgraceful. The rest of the world sounded a warning that, that was the worst thing they have ever heard or seen in Africa.
Is that the kind of picture we are painting for the rest of the world? What will happen to investors who want to come here?
We are 58 years old now. Are we still thinking back to 1963? No, please.
With what happened in Ekiti and Osun states, does that give you confidence on INEC to supervise the 2019 general elections as a non- partisan umpire?
I have spoken copiously about the attitude of the INEC people. Let them not burn this country.
The pages of history will be replete with their inadequacies for generations of their own people to read about them.
The professor who is there had worked with us before when we were at the National Conference.
Let him not allow his name to be dragged into the mud. What is just is just. What is bad is bad.
As a young man, let him stand up and defend what is right, so that the younger generation will remember him as a young man who stood with the truth.
That is the only thing for him to do. He was honoured to be put there. He is not serving an individual. He is serving a system, a nation.
A lot of people including me were not happy when we found a returning officer who couldn’t read 1, 2, and 3.
A whole professor who is supposed to impart knowledge on our children was talking from both sides of the mouth. It was disgraceful. I have never seen anything like that in my life.
That must repeat itself in 2019. That is the golden year when this nation will turn around for better.
We are watching and I believe Nigerians understand what is going on.
The message I will pass to Nigerians is let those in charge of the elections exhibit first class managerial skill, so that people will look at us and decide which party will manage the resources of our country best for their betterment.
We saw it I Port Harcourt, as the people quietly moved to make a record, like a chainsaw they were moving; everybody peacefully casting their votes.
At the end we should give kudos to Governor Okowa and his team in Convention Planning Committee.
We must also give kudos to the management of the party. The fear before we went to Port Harcourt was that it won’t be fair and free, they gave us guarantees that it would be free and fair.
Now, we have shown to the world that we can be better managers. We did indirect primaries.
Those who claimed that they did direct primaries; I can see as a general and a strategist where they are going.
They are pumping figures – 1.9m, 2.5m, when the population in that area is not up to that. They are preparing to announce wrong results.
We will not accept it. We know the population. The offices of statistics, the National Population Commission know the population.
What they are pumping now is greater than the total number of registered voters in the country. Very bad.
They want to create figures where there is none and justify it. The total number of registered voters in Lagos is 9.9m.
But when they were returning they overshot it, even as a party. In this 21st century? Don’t attempt it.
We cannot afford to go back to the crises of 1963 in the western region. It started here and eventually the whole nation was engulfed in a civil war.
Please, Oshiomhole should guard his mouth. He keeps saying provocative things suggestive of the fact that if we announce it heavens will not fall.
At that time Edo state was part of Western region. I don’t know how old he was during the crises in 1963. Let him be very careful. This is not Labour union thing.
You are talking about the future of a whole country. Buhari is Fulani; Atiku is Fulani; Buhari was a soldier; Atiku was a Customs man, Buhari was a former military ruler; Atiku was vice –president; Buhari is 75, Atiku is 72; Where is the edge Atiku has over Buhari, looking at this?
First of all, you look at their health status. Atiku can still run a 100 meters dash maybe under 11 seconds.
Can my oga run it in 11 seconds? Atiku has a healthy body. He doesn’t have any ailment. If you see him as he goes around, you won’t even know that he is 72.
He is blessed what about the commitments? I remember what he said at his post victory speech. He said he learnt a lot from Obasanjo’s tutelage.
I know he has streams of friends’ right across the length and breadth of this country. People know him. He has interacted socially, politically and so on.
There is also something going for him. As a Muslim he has the authority to marry four wives. Titi is from Yoruba, Adaorah is from Onitsha, and the other two are from the North.
You may think that is mundane but look at his household. It will work for him and douse tension across the landscape.
Anywhere he goes in this country, he is at home. That is why I think he is a man for this season. There is no perfect individual. We will continue to pray for him. He knows that he has to spread.
He may have offended some people along the line, but he will go across and embrace them and bring them back.
The more heads that look at a policy, the better for that policy.
In his post-victory speech, Atiku paid glowing tribute to his former boss, Obasanjo, saying he learnt a lot from his tutelage.
Indirectly he was soliciting for his support. With the insight you have, do you think Obasanjo will throw his weight behind him in 2019?
Yes, as a former president, no matter what, his voice can still make a difference. He has seen it all before. He has worked with him before. He has gone through the mills and you can’t wish his voice away.
I can tell you that when I had discussions with him, I was happy about Baba’s disposition to the top four who contested in the last PDP presidential primaries. That was Atiku, Tambuwal, Saraki and Kwankwaso.
He said whoever among them that got the ticket would be acceptable to him. That was his mission, his vision and his conviction. I saw him, I heard him clearly, he told me and I can say it.
At that level, you are also wishing the nation you have ruled well. Those were his thoughts. He said, he is no longer a young man, he doesn’t know when God will call his flight, but when you learn from the stool of the elders it is exciting.
He zeroed on it and said any of these top four is acceptable to me. And someone among them won.
You heard the man who won in his acceptance speech accepting that he spent his tutelage under him, and learnt a lot. What else do you want as endorsement? All he wants now is a blessing from his mentor.
And in human relations, there is no perfect human being. In our lives, as we are going, who could have concluded that Baba and Bode would be together again?
Human beings got in between to separate us for their own selfish ends. Life perpetual will shine on those who trust in God Almighty, because it is him who was, who is and who will be forever.
Whether we like it or not when we get to the last bus stop, we will disembark. The book of Amos chapter 5, vs. 22- 28 is very clear that the Almighty God warned the Jews to stop worshipping or serving other gods.
He told them off and said let justice run like a river and righteousness like a stream that will never go dry.
That is all I want in this country. Let us do what is right; just and fair so that we can all have a sense of belonging.
Since the PDP lost power in 2015, there has been a spate of defections from the party to the ruling APC. If it regains power next year will it accept back those defectors, as they will definitely want to return?
Political parties are like police stations. Nobody shuts the door. If you go to any police station in this country even at 3:00am you will surely find at least a desk sergeant there on duty. Same with political parties.
You open your door for people to come in no matter the circumstances, because you need the number. When you win election, because you have the good, the bad, the ugly, you will not make the minister of women affairs a rapist.
You will not make the minister of finance a thief or armed robber. You need everybody.
When APC was campaigning for 2015, they labeled everyone in PDP ‘corrupt’. Those who were saying that what party they belong to now?
It was a sing –song in those days. All I am saying is that let the will of the people prevail. Voting for your choice of candidate is the only power the people have and nobody must prevent the people from exercising them.
Don’t conflagrate this nation. Let the choice of the people be respected and we will transcend to 2019 seamlessly. Our convention shows that this nation has developed.
These interlopers should stop and allow a decent election to hold. Ours was like you were watching the Republican convention in Chicago. This is the 21st century. Is it not possible that we can replicate that in 2019? Let the will of the people prevail.