In this interview, Bode George tells the story of his imprisonment which he attributes to politics. Excerpts:
Let’s start by looking at why you always say there can never be peace in a state of injustice. Something must have informed that.
I will look at what has informed it in two folds: One, from my own experience and, two, from the Holy Book. The Bible says, first of all, that when the righteous people are in government, there will be progress and there will be peace. But if you have it reversed and you have the evil one in government, there won’t be peace. And so I have looked at it from my experience, to see that once there is no justice in the land, anywhere, there will never be peace.
We don’t need to go too far to understand the depth of what I’m saying where you have people who are to manage the resources for the betterment of the people, who are entrusted with the management of the resources and what you find in return is acquisition; senseless acquisition; thoughtless acquisition. Nobody came into this world with any mansion and nobody will go back with any mansion. So, whatever it is that you have, when you have few that is okay and there are people at the baseline, who can’t even think of what to do, where to go, how to get there, yet you are privileged to put things in place to better their lot and you fail to do so, it is injustice to the people and there can’t be peace under such situation.
Take the Arab Spring scenario for instance. Remember it started in Tunisia and I have been to that country where they had a very powerful civilian president who was totalitarian. In fact, the fear of his name alone was the beginning of wisdom. It took just the anger in a young graduate who struggled and could not get a job. And he bought a cart, pulling it and selling wears; and then the police came, arrested him and took the cart away from him. Just like what you see in the streets of Lagos. And he became angry and frustrated. He was really angered by that and he poured petrol on himself and set himself on fire. That was the beginning of the Arab Spring and it hasn’t died down.
I am saying this to the privileged, wealthy Nigerians. Let us be our brothers’ keepers. The masses are getting to a point that it will be difficult to tolerate what is happening..
Don’t you see the hands of the Federal Government in the things that can push Nigerians to this point?
People are always looking at President Jonathan as being responsible for these problems. They say,’ ah, Jonathan has not done this, he has not done that’. He cannot do everything. What he is supposed to do to every state and every local government, he has done every month; sharing the resources for the benefit of the people at the local governments and states. It is left to the people at the state level to ensure that they lift up the people under their care, same at the local governments. So many of them are doing it but some are not.
For instance, in my state (Lagos), how many scholarships are being instituted for the children of the under-privileged? You seized their motorcycles (Okada), you drove them away from their means of livelihood. What alternatives have you provided for them or are they not supposed to live? But you are there because those people voted for you to manage their resources for them. They are your leaders, not you their leader. You are a servant-leader. But what are the people getting?
You see, a tree cannot make a forest. In the old Yoruba parlance, they say “Oba kan otosi mejila” (meaning, one king twelve poor). No, that is not the essence of living. And unless there is a deliberate policy of the government of the state to lift the standard of living of the people, they are heading for hell that will come.
We have most of the best governors whose states are making good money turning their states into paradise. Go to Akwa Ibom, go to Rivers, Delta.
And the Federal Government is implementing SURE-P. What is my state (Lagos) doing? Making life impossible for the people? Is that why they voted for you? If somebody entrusted you to manage the resources on his behalf and you now turn around to make the man a slave, even if you can get away with it because of judicial rascality, God will not allow you to do it.
2013 is a track balancing year before we head on to the 2015. Everybody must have a thorough retrospection that no, “Is this right? Will I be able to defend this before my creator?”What about those who contorted the so-called NPA case against us?
And what about that? I mean what is your true story because the NPA issue has remained a subject of argument despite the striking out of your appeal on the judgment?
It would be a subject of argument because we were charged. Now we have taken our case to the people because, vox populi vox dei, the voice of the people is the voice of God.
What were we charged for? What were the charges? One, that we disobeyed Federal Government circular. There is no criminal law against that at the federal level. Our enemies provided their own law in Lagos State that we disobeyed Federal Government circular and so a law made by Lagos State House of Assembly was now applied against us; federal officers, part-time chairman of NPA. I disobeyed Federal Government circular? Isn’t that a joke? Even the state attorney-general, Dapo Sasore, who is married to my cousin, now gave the then Federal Attorney-General, Andoakaa, fiat to try Bode George.
The second charge was that we split contract. In his judgment, he said, yes, he agreed that we didn’t do it directly but vicariously that we gave the people the plan of what we wanted, that they did it in a department and to the Board. The man who presented the memo to the board was not even arrested. The contractors were not brought. Nobody was brought to say, yes, we benefited from the contract or any of the members who owned the company. But in their judicial wisdom, we were sent to jail. Let Nigerians judge.
I was in civil service for over a quarter of a century, over 25 years. I served at a high level and retired as a general (commodore in the Navy). I have been in public service all my years. I had a lot of exposure, thanks to this beautiful country that gave me the opportunity to have been to so many colleges; internationally renowned colleges, to know what formulation and execution of policies are all about. I had managed a state at that level to understand the legislative arm of a federated system. The state assembly made a law for their public officers. But Lagos State judiciary, Oyewole in particular, now expanded that public officers to mean federal public officers. Is NPA under Lagos State government? So, tomorrow, this same Oyewole can be arraigned in Sokoto on the laws made by Sokoto State and be put in prison. Let them think. And as long as there is injustice in the land, there would never be peace.
They wanted to drown Bode George. The political achievement that I have garnered which they are envying me for is as a result of a mission, not my personal mission. We will liberate our people from the hands of these people.
But before we get off this, the Federal Government circular in question, which they said you disobeyed, what was it actually about?
The circular was about the expenditure level. There was a law; 1991 Decree where the managing director of NPA, barring all other process in his office, can award up to N10 million; the executive directors can award up to N5 million; all of them sitting together as management can award up to N20 million or N25 million and then the Board N50 million. They now said there was a circular in 2001 which never came to us because it bore the stamp of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. If it was meant for NPA, it would bear the stamp of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Minister of Transport by the Act of NPA is the legitimate minister who can direct the NPA because the NPA is not just an organ, it is like transient parastatal. After NNPC, NPA is next.
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