Chief Olabode George, former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), did not hide his angst against the plan by the Lagos State government to bill motorists that travel on Lekki-Epe Road, saying it would be a rip off without the provision of  an alternative route. He also spoke on his Abacha days, his trial and conviction for contract splitting as well as the fate of the PDP in Lagos and the South-West. Lasisi Olagunju, General Editor, and Sulaimon Olanrewaju, Deputy Editor, bring the excerpts.
YOU were at the Aso Rock Villa during the time of General Sani Abacha, you worked with General Oladipo Diya. How was it?It was a most trying period because when we started, there were some misgivings after the annulled election of June 12, 1993. I remember that young officers were fed up; they wanted to pull out and go to the barracks and let civil authorities be in charge. The military was divided. I remember when they were going to appoint administrators, General Abacha asked us, the senior military officers, whether we wanted civilians to be the administrators or we wanted military officers. The debate went back and forth; eventually we said if we were taking full responsibilities for our actions, it had to be military officers. So, it was decided that military officers would be the administrators while civilians would be their deputies.
The next issue was that of MKO Abiola. He was hiding somewhere and suddenly, he went to Epetedo area where he declared himself president. Many of us didn’t like that. I remember that we were at another meeting at the villa where a decision was to be taken on whether we should arrest Abiola. I can never forget that meeting. The head of state was the chairman and I was the secretary of the meeting. All the senior officers were at the meeting. Some said he should be arrested because he had committed a crime, while others said he had not committed any crime. I think it was a trying period in the military and I pray to God Almighty that the military will not venture into governance any more in this country. The camaraderie that we enjoyed, the oneness, the trust, the brother’s keeper concept was destroyed. I will also plead with the civilians to be careful so that they don’t give any excuse to the military authorities to say they want to have a taste of government again.
At that meeting, I told the head of state that if Abiola was arrested, some people would think that he was being punished unnecessarily. I told them that there was no way anyone who declared himself president at Epetedo could be guilty of treason because there was no way he could have seized power from Epetedo. I said since we were planning a constitutional conference, he should be left as a freeman so that he could also participate in the conference.
Less than a week after that meeting, I was out of service.
That means you were also a victim of the June 12 struggle?In a way, yes. But as military officers, we didn’t get concerned about what the civilians were doing, what we wanted was to save the name of our service and organisation. We wanted to save it from the vagaries of the political manipulation.
You travelled out of the country shortly after your retirement?Yes, I thought discretion was the better part of valour. The situation was not quite what I expected it to be, so I went on self exile, I needed to cool off. When the heat started coming, I didn’t like it and I knew worse things were going to happen, that is why I had to leave.
What informed your return to the country, when you did?I was in London when I got a message that General Sani Abacha had died. It came like a thunderbolt. Not long after that, Baba (Obasanjo) was released from prison; he then visited London. Stella, his late wife, was the one I knew very well, we grew up together. When they got to London, Stella called me and I went to see them. We went out to dinner. When I was a Staff Officer in the Villa, Baba used to come and I was the one handling his visits when he wanted to see either General Abacha or General Diya. So, Baba also knew me. So, when we met, he was asking me why I left the country and I told him I had to take cover. We chatted and later parted.
Again, they were in London and they called to inform me. We met again and Baba was telling me that some jokers were asking him to contest the presidential election. I told him to ignore them that he should not allow himself to be dragged into politics. That was my first reaction. Later, I got together with my good friends, Ebenezer Babatope, Yemi Ogunbiyi, Tunji Ayanlaja and Niyi Alonge, and we were discussing this matter. I then came to a conclusion that if Obasanjo was needed at that time, he should answer the call. Then, Nigeria was in a state of flux and a tested captain was required.
So, on his next visit, I told him that he should consider taking up the offer. He was surprised and I told him that if after consulting with his family and friends, he decided to take up the challenge, I would join him. We left it at that but I meant it. When he finally decided he was going to run, the very day he was going to launch his coming to politics, I landed in Nigeria. I was with him throughout the period of the campaign.
After the election and Baba won, we all moved to Abuja. When he was constituting his cabinet, he asked me what I wanted and I told him that with my experience in the military, I could be his chief of staff. He said no that he had already decided on who would be his chief of staff. Again, he asked what I wanted and I told him I would go to the party. He was surprised, but I told him I would go to the party to work for him. I had wanted to be the Deputy National Chairman but due to some intrigues, I became the National Vice-Chairman (South-West). My plan was to win the South-West for the PDP.
You have been so critical of Senator Bola Tinubu, could it be because of your inability to take over Lagos State from him as you did in other states?I have nothing personal against Bola Tinubu, nothing at all. When he first came in, despite the fact that we were not in the same party, we supported the Lagos State government in every way we could. But when we saw his own concept of operation, the Alpha Beta issue, we had to change. There is no government, since General Johnson, which has so raped Lagos State as this chap. From 2000, using Alpha Beta, he has been collecting a percentage of the treasury every 30 days. Imagine the kind of money he has taken from the treasury. That is just one source. What about LASTMA? When you are fined by LASTMA, the company that collects the money is owned by Bola Tinubu. Highway Mangers belongs to Bola Tinubu. Go to Ikoyi and the choice areas of Lagos State and see the amount of properties belonging to Tinubu. If General Johnson was that greedy, because he could have been, would there have been anything left for Tinubu to now appropriate?
Even the governor that is there now, I feel sorry for him. Did he have one nominee as a commissioner? Did he have anybody as a local government chairman? Does he control any policy in the state? Unfortunately, he will be the one to answer to the people of the state. There will be a day after his job. For the rest of his life, they will be asking him what he did as governor.
We know what General Johnson did, we know what Jakande did, we know what Mike Akhigbe did, we know what my friend and classmate, Gbolahan Mudashiru, did in Lagos and all the other governors. What would they say he did? Flooding. They have pumped so much sand in the whole of the riverside; reclamation without environmental impact assessment. I am still rebuilding my house which they damaged because of their greed.
How many houses and properties would Bola Tinubu carry to Iragbiji? He has also acquired the former site of the Lagos State Polytechnic at Isolo. I have just learnt that his wife also owns one of the modern cemetaries in Lagos. They do not only want to control where we live, they also want to control where we are buried.
There is so much corruption in the state.  When we saw the allegation against the speaker of the state house of assembly, we were shocked. And despite all these, Governor Fashola has the nerve to ask students of the Lagos State University to pay N250,000. Despite taking about N3billion every 30 days from the treasury, he now wants to start charging toll on the Lekki-Epe Express road. Anywhere in the civilised world, once you build a tollgate, you must build an alternative route so as to allow anyone who does not have the funds to pay to go through the alternative route. Where is the alternative route from Lekki Phase 1 to Epe? It means the whole population living down there is in prison. If you want to get out you pay Bola Tinubu, that is what it means. Let him come and start collecting the toll. If he does not provide an alternative route, he should just forget it.
The tollgate will become effective next week, is there anything you can do to stop it?
I will lead a protest against it. I have told him. The day they plan to start collecting the toll, I will lead the people in protest. Let him bring the police. Let the governor seal the leakages in the state coffers where Bola is looting like hell. He should do that and give good education to the future leaders of the state. Some of us got bursaries when we were in school, which is why we are where we are today. Increasing fees from N30,000 to N250,000, what moral authority does he have? I do not blame him, he was not elected; he was selected to be there.
Now, Tinubu is multiplying himself in other states: in Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti. I know Ibikunle Amosun, he came from the stock of PDP. He wouldn’t want to be a stooge of Tinubu. Abiola Ajimobi is a seasoned administrator; he won’t want to be a stooge of Tinubu. Now, he (Tinubu) has the audacity to say he wants to be the Yoruba leader. The Yoruba people have come a long way and can’t take the like of Tinubu as their leader.
This is without prejudice to the people of Osun State. I have been through the nooks and crannies of the state. In fact, I have been to Bola Tinubu’s village in Iragbiji to campaign. They showed me the primary school he attended and what his real name is and his nick name, which is Archipelago. He only went to primary school there. This is a public challenge; let Bola Tinubu show us his certificates. Let his friend, Akiyelure, who said they recruited him, show the certificate with which he was recruited. We know his brother was at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, does he bear Tinubu? Raufu Tinubu wrote a book, tracing their genealogy and listed every member of their family. There is no mention of any Bola Tinubu in the book.
When Bola Tinubu’s mother died in Iragbiji, he did not have the nerves to attend the funeral because he was afraid that the truth would be revealed. So, what kind of person is this man? He has corrupted most flying agencies. The only one he has not been able to corrupt is the State Security Service (SSS).
Your contract splitting problem…A week after the appointment of Farida Waziri as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), she came to Lagos to see Tinubu. Let her swear with whatever she believes in that that is not true. Tinubu railroaded Bode George into prison, thinking he had drowned me, forgetting that I am a sailor; the more you press a sailor seaward, the more he manoeuvres and pops out. The fact is that no human being can drown me. It is only those who live in perfidy that will die in perfidy. I am not afraid of him and his co-travellers because the truth cannot be drowned. They railroaded us and took us on trump up charges and said that we split and inflated contracts. In fact, I thought it was all a huge joke. Now, the case was Federal Government versus Chief Olabode George and others. Michael Aondoakaa, who was the Attorney-General of the Federation, did he sign the fiat? It was Supo Sasore, then Attorney-General of Lagos State, who gave fiat to Keyamo.
What did we do to warrant our conviction? Was I an executive chairman? Did I have any authority to sign any kobo in NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority)? Procedurally, an executive director of whichever branch would bring memo to the boardroom to discuss; they themselves would present the memo.
The EFCC said we split contracts, which contracts? If a user department decides this is what they want to do and he is able to defend it, the board will have to approve. The man who brought the memo to the board was not charged along with us. The executive director in charge of finance was not even tried. The worst part of it, the board meeting was every quarter. The minute of a meeting held this quarter, for instance, would be read at the next meeting in the next quarter and ratified before it becomes law. During that period, the memos and everything done would have gone to the ministry because the ministry had a representative at that meeting. So, if we did not follow any administrative instruction, shouldn’t the ministry have intervened to stop it? If the ministry did not intervene and the memo was brought back, it meant the ministry had acquiesced. So, what exactly did we do?
The judge who did the dirty job was promised that he would be promoted to the Court of Appeal. Let Farida tell the whole world why she sent Oyewole to a seminar in South Africa. Oyewole has never been a staff member of the EFCC, so why should the EFCC pay for his participation in a seminar in South Africa? It was a reward for doing Farida’s dirty job.
What is the hope of the PDP in the South-West?I think the PDP in the South-West needs a post mortem. I think the vice-chairman and all the mangers of the party need to call a meeting very urgently, we need to get together. I have been championing this and shouting about it. Let us sit down and look at what had really happened to us. We know that Ekiti and Osun are a different concept because they stole our mandate. I said it before and I will say it again; the judges sat down and started removing and cancelling figures and stole the people’s mandate.
But beyond all of that, the PDP in the South-West has to meet to strategise. When we meet, I have three or four options I will suggest for consideration. One, did our governors perform well or not? We need to look at that. Two, are the Yoruba people angry for one thing or the other, maybe the PDP offended them? The third option is, were we careless? The last option could be a combination of all or some of these?
We need to do our findings and aggregate all suggestions and come up with a unified solution. I have my own view on the way forward but a tree does not make a forest. One thing I know that the Yoruba people want now is to be at the centre. So, it is up to us to do our homework well and we shall bounce back in the South-West.
Do you think the PDP will ever take over Lagos?Yes.
When?By the grace of God the journey has started. The last election gave Lagosians the opportunity to see things for themselves. Lagosians now know there is so much deceit by the ruling party in the state.
They say ‘Eko o ni baje’ but the people know that the state is going to the dogs. Go to my house, when I moved there, I could see the lagoon. Now they have sand-filled the lagoon almost halfway. So, the water level of the lagoon has risen so high that houses are regularly flooded.
Now Bola Tinubu has seized a fishing island between Lekki and Ikoyi, which is where he wants to have the headquarters of his empire. The Lagos State government used to have a guest house at Bourdillon. The house has been taken over. Even the house where Bola Tinubu lives on Bourdillon, we all know how he got it and how he eventually arm-twisted the state to pay for it. They have raped the state blind and the people are beginning to see that these people are rogues. So, there is no doubt that at the next opportunity they will be voted out.
If in the last local government election the ACN rode roughshod over you, what guarantee is there that things would be different next time?You see, in that local government election, we won a couple of councils, but the chairman of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), a retired chief judge of the state, collaborated with the ACN to manipulate the result. This man, when he was going to announce the result, said “ACN won all the local government chairmen.” Up till now, there is no breakdown of the results. We have filed our papers at the tribunal. We are taking that step to ensure our people do not resort to violence. But I can assure you that it will not happen again.
Where are the human rights activists? Why have they kept quiet over this injustice? If it had been the PDP that did what the ACN had done in Lagos, the so-called human rights activists would have taken over the airwaves but now, not a squeak from them. That tells us they are on the pay roll of Tinubu. But all of that will change. I can assure you of that.
-Note: This is the complete detail of what he told Tribune Newspaper


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