Former National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Bode George has likened his silence on topical national issues to being in a submarine mood.
The retired naval officer cum politician told the Vanguard Newspaper in an interview published on Sunday that the unity of Nigeria which he described as richly endowed, is what has been agitating his mind.
George who recently turned 71, said “you know as a naval officer, when a submarine, especially a nuclear submarine, dives, there are certain levels because of the echoes, it is not a vacuum, but because of the configuration of the underwater, it knows the best place to hide and be there hours un-end and surface ship would be moving round and round trying to locate it. So I said let me be in that submarine mood and watch.
"So many topical issues nowadays have come to the fore. You know Abraham Lincoln said that it is not when everything is rosy that you know who are leaders, it is when there is tribulation and those that stand up then are the real leaders. What Abraham Lincoln said at that time is as still relevant today as it was then. So where are we going as a nation?
"And this is not politics now. Yes I belong to the PDP but, at the same time, General Buhari and I belong to a very important profession in this country and that is the military. I also retired as a general and when I sit back, I keep thinking, what is happening? I looked at the issue of Boko Haram, the issue of corruption. I have listened to the issue of the judiciary and watched the movements, the comments of the generality of Nigerians regarding our own brothers and sisters from the South-South, the oil producing region. My advice to President Buhari, who is my senior in the military, is softly, softly.
"Those people who live in that area are also Nigerians, they are not enemies. The degradation in the place is disturbing. The late President Yar’Adua went into a dialogue and came up with a solution to improve the lives of the region’s youths. Many of them are abroad studying to become professionals in various fields. Jonathan continued from where Yar’Adua stopped but most of them are now stranded in some of the universities. Now, thinking as an economist, that area is the source of our revenue, our oil production has dropped massively and that is affecting the income of this country. If you now look at how much it will take to sustain those youths in the universities versus how much we are losing in income, there is need for dialogue. I plead with the President, as a staff officer, as his junior and as a naval officer, the area will not augur well for any warfare, he should reconsider his stance.
"As a political leader, he loses nothing by encouraging all citizens for better life. If we don’t have income, how would they do all the social services required for the majority of Nigerians? I have seen both military and democratic governments, but the beauty of a democratic government is that you must dialogue, you must reach out, you must listen, otherwise it becomes a monotony. Democracy is not a monotony, it is a creation of dialogue. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That is one major concern for me as a Nigerian at this age."
The PDP chieftain who lamented the present crisis in the party, described the Modu Sheriff led faction as a fundamental political error and bitter lesson.
"I want to accept that we made mistakes. So, it is okay to say the choice of Modu Sheriff was a mistake. It was a monumental mistake. Sheriff is my friend. It takes one crazy person to throw a stone in the well, but one million professors will not be able to bring out that stone. That is where we have found ourselves now. There will be tribulations.
"The party has a very deep tap root; otherwise we would have gone under. This little tribulation, to me, should serve as a lesson. Would you abandon your house because it is leaking and build another one? I am using this metaphorically so that you can understand the problems of running away. The best thing we can do is to strengthen the PDP and we are now in the process. You must accommodate everybody because democracy is all about debates. Those who ran out of the PDP headed for the APC due to one issue or the other. A committee has been set up to go round and reach out to them, remember I described the APC as a congregation of strange bed-fellows. They are in government alright but is the government in them? Where are they now? The old men who founded the PDP had the experiences of the 1950s, the 1960s, the first republic, the second and the military interregnum. Some of them even landed before military tribunals but they survived.
"They came up with the six geo-political zones and, as a practitioner, what sustained our party and democracy in this country for 16 years, was this issue of Turn-by-Turn Nigeria Limited. It was a brilliant concept and that brought peace. We made some mistakes but we have learned from the mistakes."
George described the attempt at floating a mega party which is being bandied in some quarters as a waste of time and fruitless journey.
"I wish those planning a new party the best of luck. Let them start it. Do you know how long it takes to start something to become a colossus? It takes time, even we have not fully developed yet. We are now knowing what it means to be in the opposition, that it is a different process of learning.
"In politics, a political party is like a police station, you don’t shut your doors. If you go to a police station, it is always open, you do not shut the doors. We have set up a committee to go round and talk to those who left the party but which party has that tap root that is national? he asked rhetorically.