Chief Bode George is the former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is also the Atoona Oodua of Yorubaland. In this interview with AYODELE AJANI in Lagos, he spoke on the state of insecurity in the country, the herdsmen/ farmers clash and the situation within the PDP in the south -west among other issues of national importance. Excerpts:
As a general, are you not worried about the level of arms proliferation in the country? You see a young herdsman carrying an AK -47 rifle and this has raised the level of insecurity in the country. What’s your take on this?
There are laws in this country; the agencies that are supposed to monitor the movement of arms are not there for fun. But you know, tribalism is the greatest drug in any nation. It is worse than taking cocaine and we have over-empowered tribalism. But, this ought not to be. Like I asked, who decides which family he was born into and when you die and whether you are coming back? Do you have the right to say that I want to go to China? Do you know there is only one being, the one who was, who is and will forever be. He is the only one who determines where you are to be born and when you die and if you want to come back, where you will go. We all need to calm down, take a step back and revisit our relationships. You know what I have interpreted this to mean, and that is why I said, what is the role of the media? The media’s role is to point out all the mistakes being made by government and the governed.
It is like asking who is the national conscience of this country? Who is the President? Is it good the way we are running it? So, if a Yoruba man now becomes the president again, Yoruba people would start doing whatever they want with complete disregard to the laws that are there. As a young man in this Lagos Island, I have seen Fulani people driven their cows for 50, 60 years but they never disrupted anybody’s farm. They knew their routes, but why now?
The people are not saying, don’t drive your cows, but you are damaging our crops. And then after damaging the crops, you now went the extra mile by fighting. The government must intervene; the government must ensure they have a committee to look into this. There are two types of Fulanis, the Town Fulani; they don’t roam around, then the cow Fulanis. To the cow Fulani, the cow is his God; he will die because of the cow. And you think he would abandon the cow to go and rape. So, the question is who are these characters? Something like a devil has entered the country.
The town Fulanis are elegant, and we stayed together. But suddenly, things have changed. If you see anybody that looks like Fulani, people will shout, he is a criminal, a killer. That is the interpretation now, so we are losing grip. It is only one person who can stand up and say enough and that person is the president. Because he is from the tribe of Fulani and when he talks, they will listen. Most of our colleagues in the north, even governors from the north are saying enough is enough. What is all these? Look at Shasha in Ibadan. Since I have been going there I know that is the area of the Hausa people.
They speak Yoruba; their children go to the same school with Yoruba children. Go to Agege Central Mosque on Friday, you won’t even know them; they will be speaking Yoruba with you, the same with our people in the north. So, don’t let them politicize this matter. Something is definitely wrong and the national conscience of our country should rise up and put a stop to it. If he doesn’t, we will not be at the brink that I said we are, we will go to the gutter. And if we go into that hole, God knows what. It is a very serious matter. Look at the story in Ibarapa, how a young man, Aborode , a doctor, well-educated was murdered as if life is nothing. I met my best friend in the navy; he is a thorough bred Fulani man. He is a young man, I didn’t have a car.
I just came back from a course, so I stood in front of the barrack, waiting for anybody to give me a ride. And you know what? He parked and said where are you going? And I said to the base sir. He picked me up. From that day till today, when he sees me, he would say my only brother south of the Sahara. He would do things that I require that are lawful for me. I want to plead especially during this period and the Muslims would also soon have their Ramadan. That is the period of atonement. Let us calm down. Nobody is your enemy, except the person that breaks the law. Why would the police run away and not take charge? Every Nigerian from the north to the south are waiting for the statement from the President because it is going to be weighty as a Fulani man.
How do we solve the problem between the farmers and the herdsmen?
I made a suggestion here. Why don’t we see in Brazil, the same cow people driving their cows from Rio de Janeiro to Brazilia or in Argentina to start going from one village to another with your cows. Ranching is the answer. Let us embrace the modern way of keeping the cows. It can be done. If you want land to do ranches in Ogun, Oke Ogun in Oyo and in Ondo, I was once governor in Ondo, they have land.
They can give you areas where you pay and you have a ranch. People still eat the cows; they will go there and buy. Driving them all the way, and destroying the farms of the people, God himself will be annoyed. So, let holistically take few steps back to look at this issue and resolve it. This is because it can lead to unimaginable crisis which we don’t need now. That leads to the question you also asked about my fear for Nigeria. We should resolve this crisis. We are still battling with COVID-19 and I learnt COVID-19 is no respecter of anybody. And it doesn’t respect weather.
That one is on the ground and we still want to create more problems for ourselves. And this is why we are talking about restructuring of this country. The system we are running is not working, it is so military in its concept and operation. Let the will of the people prevail. And this system has an apex. Somebody sits there as a president and dictates to everybody.
If the states are empowered, won’t they sort themselves out? We copied the American system, it is bottom up and not up down. The system is not working, we must restructure before 2023. Those who are angling for positions, we must restructure first. Let sit down and talk. They can take the report of the constitutional conference of 2014. Everything that can be done is there, and they were approved at the plenary sessions. Jonathan gave the report to Buhari. If I see him, that is what I will tell him; if you want peace, implement the report.
Of recent some of your party members/leaders in the south -west have decamped to the APC. What is the cause of this?
Was it not some days ago that I was sitting down in the office here and the issue of Gbenga Daniel came up. And I said to them, those who were with me that I learnt that they invited Gbenga Daniel to come and lead Ogun PDP. I said how? For over an hour here, we discussed the matter. I said don’t waste your time.
For instance, the problem we have in Lagos especially, you have people who would grandstand, and they would say they are with you, but they are not with you. They are with Bola Tinubu because of the pittance they get from him. They pretend that they are here. God will expose all of them. They don’t know the meaning of Atona Odua, my chieftaincy title, the pathfinder of our progenitor. God will expose them and shame them. Gbenga Daniel has gone to the APC a long time ago. There is a reason why he left for the APC, but I won’t say it here. He has gone there a long time. Fayose that is making noise when he was governor, who did he consult. You don’t know what he did?
The national treasurer is from Ekiti, Eddy Olafeso is also from Ondo. So, one wing from the three wings in the south-west got very prominent positions in the National Working Committee of our party. What I mean is, we have Ondo/ Ekiti, Oyo/Osun, then Lagos/Ogun. Only Ondo/Ekiti got two positions in the NWC when he was the only governor in the southwest.
It is not done like that? Who did he listen to at that time? He is now saying one young person is rude to him. He said Seyi Makinde is junior to him. And that one junior person was insulting him, when he was insulting the elders, he didn’t remember? You too, you are now saying some of our people left for the APC. Anybody can go anywhere; there is nothing that has a beginning that will not have an end. And Yoruba people say when the time has come, it has come. I won’t say more than that.