A former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, is the immediate past Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). In this interview with select newsmen in Kaduna, the presidential aspirant speaks about the gale of defections from the APC to the PDP and gives a recipe for what his party should do in the midst of the long list of presidential aspirants. BABA NEGEDU reports
There are many Presidential aspirants in the PDP and recently the Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, talked about bringing all the aspirants to a round table to discuss the possibility of a consensus candidate. How would you react to that?
You don’t rule out anything in politics. First of all, I have not read that statement of the BoT chairman; I have not even discussed it with him. Assuming he made the statement, politics requires discussion and dialogue, such dialogue and discussions may produce what the BoT chairman is alleged to have said.
It may also just reduce the people in the field. In my going round, I had also propagated the need for us to come together to talk to one another and see how we can bring unity among all of us because we are stronger united and divided we will become quite weak and we will just become picky dogs and that is something that we must avoid.
How we will get there I can’t say but we have many ways we can get there. I am not asking or forcing anyone to pull out of the race, but I am of course, for dialogue amongst ourselves and other leaders and to see, irrespective of who emerges as the candidate, all others would rally around the eventual candidate to work as one.
It is only by dialoguing and discussing before that can be determined. Interests can be discussed and balanced and then ultimately how we go forward is decided. If all of us have to do primaries, let’s go with the understanding that we will all work together for the eventual winner. So it is good to talk, I will be prepared to talk in any discussion that will bring unity amongst us.
I can’t say what I will do or not do at this particular stage, but I have not been invited to any particular meeting. May be it is just an idea that the BoT chairman has articulated loud for others to hear, but politics is full of things and in the next few days we will see what will happen.
Talks about harmonisation and integration of returnees are ongoing, how has it been, especially since one of the governors is contemplating joining the presidential race?
Well, you see, it depends on the way you look at this particular issue. What I have been made to understand, which is the true position of the party, because I did discuss with the committee on the harmonisation and the party leadership; is that where you have a sitting governor coming into the party with all his apparatus of government, certain parameters of integration were agreed upon for the state. It’s not something to do with the nation. You get my point? And where he is a senator, certain parameters in respect of his senatorial zone were agreed upon, or state assembly or even House of Representatives. But I think some are misinterpreting this to be wider than what the intended purpose is.
For example, if you are in the House of Representatives, looking for Senate, it does not apply to your ambition for Senate, because it relates to your current position, it does not relate to any other position that you are looking for beyond your current position, and this is worth discussing, dialoguing upon and ironing out issues with all involved.
Even here in Kaduna, I have called for a meeting of key leaders of the party so that we can see how politically we can bring about hitch-free integration of returnees into the party without causing any unnecessary disruption that can be counter-productive.
How is the PDP coping with the gale of defections from the APC to its fold?
I had long predicted these defections many months back. When we were going through difficulties and people were losing hope and I was asked similar question as far back as last year, my reply was that the time for defection from APC and other parties to the PDP will be coming and it has happened.
I predicted it correctly and I am not surprised. Personally, I feel happy that it has taken place. It is also not the end of it. We have seen the first wave and we expect more defections to follow, especially because of the reaction of the APC and its government. Some are just biding their time and do it at a later day. You know it happened to us in the PDP. It is a matter of time. Personally, I am happy that we are getting returnees and getting new party members, especially new people that have never been in the PDP before and the party should be prepared for a lot more to come in. Of course, every positive thing comes with challenges. The challenge will be integrating all the party men and women.
But I am equally happy that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has set up a machinery which has been working day and night to bring a smooth integration and harmonisation of interests of party men and women in states that are more heavily affected by the defection. That is how politics is played; constructive engagement and that constructive engagement is still going on and I believe at the end of the day people will accommodate each other in the overall interest of the party. It is a challenge but challenges are there to be overcome. I am confident that the national leadership of the party is equal to the task to see to the integration.
Fears are being expressed that because of the large number of those vying for the PDP presidential ticket, some people may not be happy with the outcome of the selection or election of whoever emerges and that, this may lead to confusion that may scuttle the chances of the party?
When I was answering a similar question in relation to what the BoT Chairman said, I did say that it is good to talk and dialogue before the D-day to ensure that there is unity among all party men and women. We have done that before. We should continue to talk and dialogue among ourselves. This way, we can reduce the trouble and the fact that we are talking and in constant dialogue will make it easier, fair and transparent. If you look at the primaries conducted in Ekiti and Osun states, nobody will say that it was not free, fair and transparent. Look at the margin between the winner and the runner-up in Osun. It is only in a free and fair contest that you get such margin. So, the party is living up to its word by ensuring there is a level playing field for a credible primary. I don’t foresee any problem. At the end of the day, we will have a single candidate through a democratic way and that candidate will generally be acceptable to all of us.
Why do want to be President?
For me, I have known governance for sometime at state level. I served Kaduna for three years as Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning. I came in from the private sector. I have private sector experience, especially banking. I governed this complex state for eight years. I have legislative experience, having been in the Senate for two terms of eight years. I got a bonanza when the party leadership fell on my laps and that enabled me to know about managing political party. If you cannot manage your party, even if you are elected, you will have problems governing. If you can’t manage the legislature and build cordial relationship such that key legislations that can take this country forward are passed, then governance becomes complex for you. If you cannot manage complex society such as Kaduna, which is a mini Nigeria, you cannot manage Nigeria. God has so designed that one has passed through all these processes.
These, to me, are advantages but of course it does not mean that it is a foregone conclusion. Somebody who may have not prepared himself in governance at all may find himself in government but the country will pay a price for that. I believe I have these advantages. Others may have their own comparative advantage but at the end of the day, the people will decide.
At this stage, the first thing is to seek for the party’s nomination. The successful nominees will become the candidate that will stand for the election. But first thing first; if one’s party does not put one forward, one can’t say one is contesting for presidency yet. At this stage, I have come to the conclusion that it is okay, based on the consultations that I have had. Those who have shown interest are equally capable. We do not know how many more will show interest but whatever it is, power comes from God. The party men and women will decide who will be the candidate. I will subject myself to the will of God and the decision of the party men and women whenever it is made.
Would you want a contest or settle for consensus?
I am open to either. It is not what I want but what is achievable. We should subject ourselves to anyone that is widely acceptable to all of us.
You said recently during your tour of some states that you will not leave the PDP if you don’t get the Presidential ticket…
I will accept whatever is the outcome in good faith, whether I emerge as the candidate or not. I mean whatever is the outcome, I will accept it in good faith. Anyway I can contribute to the success of the party, what I can do, I will do, but the question is, will I leave the party and go to another party? I have said it repeatedly that if I leave PDP, I will go into semi retirement politically. By semi retirement, it means that you won’t find me contesting for elective office. I may still be a political player, playing whatever role that I could play, but at my age, if I don’t get nominated now, you can imagine what my age will be at another chance.
I don’t belong to those who think you should continue to seek electoral office irrespective of your age. What is the essence of the “Not Too Young to Run” in this case? So it defeats that purpose. The President just signed this into law, not just signing the law, we should take every step to actualise laws that are good for our country. So definitely you may find me not playing active politics that I am playing now, but definitely, not leaving the party that I am in. If I say I am leaving politics, I am leaving it for good. I won’t move to another party. For what? To seek elective position or appointment? It is not something I will think of.
What is your view on the recent by-election in Taraba State and the one that was suspended in Rivers State following violence?
I said it when I went to commission projects in Rivers State that one governor who has been under consistent siege of intimidation and harassment from the Federal Government is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. It is uncalled for and this must stop.
The Taraba State election in Takum went fine, the one in Port Harcourt, look at the disruption in connivance with the security agencies involved. We all know who in the Federal Government is always behind these crises in Rivers State. Nobody should be beyond being called to order. The person in the Federal Government who is consistently causing security breaches and crisis in Rivers State must be called to order. The government knows him; we all know him and the President owes it as a responsibility to this nation, wherever such individual exist, he should be called to order, otherwise the havoc they will cause to our democracy and our country would be grievous.
Therefore, INEC did the right thing by suspending the election. Beyond that, the correct thing should be done and the police or any security agency must not allow themselves to be used by an interested party in the political process to hijack political process whether in Rivers State or any part of this country. The siege on Rivers State, its people and government must stop.
One of the allegations against this government is that the fight against corruption is selective. How will you fight corruption assuming you become President?
First of all the issue of corruption did not start in 1999… When you have something pervasive as it is, no matter your good intentions, we need to talk to one another on how best to deal with his issue once and for all. And the only way to deal with it, just as the talk for National Conference, is a conferencing on a holistic and comprehensive way of tackling and dealing with corruption in this country and putting a stop to it.
It is not so much of jailing Mr. A or B or so. It is a complete change of orientation of Nigerians and if you draw a line and you take corrective measures and it never occurs again, you are far better off as a nation. But if you don’t discuss it and evolve a nationally acceptable approach across board – meaning across all interests, professionally and otherwise and we embrace it as a national philosophy and national agenda…
I have read a lot of write ups where people alleged that if you move from one party to another party, even if you have a case, it is put in the cooler. These people are being short sighted! That is not the end of it, when things change, watch crime channels (on television) where after 30 years, a case that was unsolved is revisited and somebody will solve it. So it is a temporary reprieve and this will continue to draw us back except we come together as a country and discuss a holistic way of fighting corruption….
How I will approach it, is a national discuss on evolving a comprehensive programme to deal with issues of corruption in all facets of society, not just politics.
Some people say that you appear to be too soft to handle issues that require taking a hard position. How do you react to that?
Some of you worked with me when I was governor in Kaduna. I was softer that time and we handled Kaduna very well. Not by intimidation, not by jailing or abusing anybody, but by governing on the principles of justice, fairness and equity. That is what can make any man strong. If you are guided by these principles, you will be a strong man because people will listen to you.
They will respect you; they will give you all the necessary support you require to succeed as a leader. No matter how strong you are, if you are an unjust and unfair leader, you will become as weak as anything. So I have been tested and my frail body did not give way (…laughter). But I assure you, if you follow me on campaign, you will collapse.( laughter )…when I am walking you have to run.
With that kind of capacity there would be nothing that is beyond me. And of course, a tree does not make a forest. No matter how capable you are, if you don’t have a good team, you are likely going to fail. So the first thing a leader needs to do is to have a balanced good team and delegate power. But you have to monitor the power you have delegated and ensure that it is being applied for the good of all. That is what I did in Kaduna and I succeeded and that principle will apply nationwide, should I have the opportunity (to be President) and I assure you, we will succeed.
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