Bode George: IBB WiII Be Welcomed With Open Hands If He Visits South-West
Chief Olabode George, former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the controversy trailing the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and how to overcome challenges in the PDP ahead of the 2023 general elections. Excerpts:
The last is yet to be heard on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) now known as Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). Some stakeholders in the oil-producing areas have vowed to take President Muhammadu Buhari to court over the issue. How best do you think this can be resolved?
Actually, I haven’t read the bill but I saw the screaming headline that the crisis in the oil has been resolved. If you regard that as a solution without carrying those who live in the oil-producing area along, then you haven’t found any solution. You must carry the people along so that there will be a lasting solution. Yes, it is a natural resource for this country but that doesn’t mean that you owe it all. These people in the oil-producing areas suffer the brunt, so you must carry them along. Look at what is done in other parts of the world. All their oil fields are not controlled by the federal government. So, even though I haven’t read the content of the PIA, I believe that anything done without the consent of those people will not work. You must get involved; they must be part and parcel of the networking so that they can get a sense of belonging. They live there, so they will protect. But if you neglect them and appropriate everything to government, someday another government will come and it will reverse it. We must do things that are perpetual and long lasting. That’s the way I believe that things should be done.
You were a delegate to the 2014 national conference. Do you think the implementation of that report will address some of these contentious issues?
I have said it severally that I am appealing to the president that he should take the report and send it to the National Assembly. Let them examine the details, add or subtract and it will be a beautiful starting point for this country. What we are doing today is not working and it will never work. For us to wait, get all those major resources all the way to Abuja every 30 days and we redistribute there? No! That is why we take two steps ahead and 10 backwards. We have been talking about Petroleum. Now by 2030, petrol engines will no longer be manufactured. Then, what are we going to do? Have we started thinking? If we don’t have petrol engines and no spare parts to manufacture, what do we do? By 2030, we think it is still far but before you know it, it is here. I get worried about our nation and we think that report if implemented will greatly help in addressing our challenges.
Former military president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) clocked 80 last week. What can you say about his contribution to Nigeria’s present state?
I don’t want to sound bias. I also worked briefly with oga (IBB) and I respect his camaraderie. He is a completely detribalised Nigerian. He touched my life and I can never forget him. You can’t play God but if we have to put him on a pedestal to judge, he made more friends in every nook and cranny of this nation. That is why I couldn’t believe he is 80. He is still as razor-sharp as he is when he was much younger. It’s a gift from Almighty God. Success or failure of a leader will always be on the pages of history. That is why at his 80th birthday anniversary, you saw how many people are still struggling to attend the ceremony. We felt left out but when I saw the analysis of those who made presentations, I said it wasn’t complete. So, it shows you that even at that age, people will still honour him. Of course, he is not God and being a human, he made mistakes. But if you add the mistakes he made plus the goodness that he did for the nation, the difference is clear. He will go to any corner of this nation and he will be welcomed.
People are saying that the South-West has not forgiven him because of the June 12 debacle. Do you think he will be welcomed in the region like you said?
He will be welcomed even in the South-West. On the issue of June 12, there are arguments for and against. Everybody will have their own opinion but like I said, take the good sides and the bad sides, he is still way above the average Nigerian. But I insist that if he goes to any corner of the country today, they will still welcome him with open hands. He will still be welcomed here.
Ahead of the national convention of the PDP scheduled for October, some stakeholders have listed your name as one of the aspirants for the position of national chairman. Given your experience in 2017, is that a challenge you will be willing to accept?
I think if you are a committed member of any organisation and they need your support at a critical time like this, then you should be willing to assist. If I am asked to come and help the PDP, a party I love so much, why not? Between now and the next election, we need all the right minds to come to the table and stabilise our platform and prepare our party for the elections. If they ask me to come, I will serve, at least effectively until after the general elections. I have thought about it and I said ‘look, I am tired’. But if the party leaders now think I should go for the position of national chairman, I will offer them my service. As long as there is life, there is hope. All we need now are men who have proven integrity and capacity to manage the affairs of the party. Dedicated and committed men who will be fair, just and equitable. Those three tripods are the main tenets that our party requires now. I am happy that all our people are now saying the current leaders managing the affairs of the party should take a step aside and let’s bring in the best of brains to help the party. I will appeal to our people; we must have all hands on deck to save our party. It is not a personal issue now. The party platform is wobbling very badly and we must be able to stabilise it and allow it to get itself ready to contest against those in government now.