Senator Ahmed Makarfi is chairman of the national caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with some newsmen in Kaduna, he opens up on the new dimension to the leadership crisis rocking the party. MIDAT JOSEPH was there for LEADERSHIP Weekend.
Nigerians had hoped that the PDP would provide a virile opposition but as it is today, your party is engulfed in an unending crisis. What is the assurance that your party will make any impressive outing in the 2019 elections?
You see, we are a growing democracy and some mistakes are unavoidable, especially when you view how the parties came together to be formed. You have strange bed fellows coming together. But over time, water will find its level. The political party will transform and grow and you eventually find them operating based on the principles and doctrines that developed democracies have their political parties. We are going through our own problems now and even in the party, its own time of crisis will come. No doubt it will come but being the biggest and oldest party, it is expected that we go through our own crisis and reformation before others.
Personally, I don’t see any political party; either PDP or APC remaining the way they are now. A lot of things are likely going to happen and as for the form and shape they will assume, I can’t say. But all that we are going through is what will separate the chaff from the grains. It is good for democracy! We have been having nomadic politicians and that is part of the problems we have in our democracy. During one season they are here, the other season they are there. And it is common to all the parties especially, parties that have governments at one level or the other. Nomadic politicking is very common and it is unfortunate. But after all the movements, there will have to be settlements and we shall get to that period of settlement. As to whether we will be able to give a credible challenge; a good fight in the 2019 election, when did APC come together? It was basically a year to election; that was when APC came together as a party. So, it means it is not too late for us. Whether APC will remain as one party, don’t bank on it. Also, don’t bank on whether PDP will remain as PDP. A lot of things are likely going to happen that will put the major party in one shape or the other and that is the time you can begin to make your reasonable and sensible analysis as to where the pendulum could swing. But I am positive the pendulum shall swing towards positive change because in change, you know there is negative and positive change. I am one of those who subscribe only to positive change not the negative one we have now. Talking about change, life itself is dynamic; you see Nigeria will continue to go through all kinds of changes until we get it right and the Nigerian voters have discovered their powers, the power of the vote. And I tell you they will continue to change governments at each opportunity they have, if the government they elected fails them. Nigerians themselves have taken opposition as a personal right. So whether a political party at a particular time offers opposition or not, the citizens have not been deaf and dumb. Opposition as it is today is rife and that is the most potent and dangerous opposition for any party in power. If it were from a political party, you will say oh it is politics. But when it is coming from the voters, that is not politics because the voters are humans, they have feelings and they know what they are feeling and they are voicing their opposition. We shall definitely catch on and harvest those sentiments of voters over the ruling party at the right time and we will get there.
PDP members in your camp are allegedly working towards registering a new party called APDP. What is the truth of the matter?
Let me be categorical, the caretaker committee is not behind the registration of APDP. But you know PDP is made up of millions of members. It is possible some members of PDP and some other members of political parties are involved in that. I have not tried to find out because I know it is irrelevant. As a matter of fact, registration of political parties is very open. May be because of similarity in name with PDP that is why people are concerned. Let me be once more categorical that we are not behind the registration of APDP. But we have never ever shied away from making it clear very loudly that we are not going to allow ourselves to be boxed into a corner. We go with all options open to us and being an opposition party, we will be foolish to give a clear direction as to where we are going or how we are going to get there. We are wise enough to leave options open and to keep our secrets secret. Anything we are going to do, it will just be seen that it is done without giving anybody any chance to preempt us and to attempt to block us. We have never shied away from saying that all options are open to PDP and not me, not a few, but the party will make the decision it feels comfortable with at the right time.
Sen. Sheriff has threatened to sue you for contempt over the Appeal Court ruling?
I read about the issue of contempt. You see people talk about this rule of law; who is complying with the rule of law and who is not complying. Even some of their members in going to see Modu Sheriff say they won their case based on the rule of law. Some do so maybe because they don’t know while some do so in a deceptive manner. The position of the law is that once you file an appeal, the status quo remains until that appeal is determined. There are certain motions that when you file they serve as a stay until the motion is turned down. If the judge doesn’t attend to it is his business. It is not your fault that he has not attended to it, but it serves as a stay until it is rejected. So, as far as we are concerned, we have done all these processes. But what we have seen is like an intention to invite some kind of breakdown of law and order. That is why even though legally we are on the right to assume anything but we have chosen not to be confrontational. It is not worth it to create a situation that will make the little injury worse. We are doing our politicking and will follow the due process of law for justice to be done but we will not fall into any entrapment that could lead to breakdown of law and order. Not because we don’t know our constitutional rights. Again, when you talk of contempt, people should read the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt; even in the majority ruling, they called Modu Sheriff all kinds of names that if you call yourself the chairman of any party, you should not continue to parade yourself as chairman of any party. But at the end of the day, for whatever reason they arrived at the decision they arrived. They have done their job and the constitution provides for what you should do in the event that you disagree with a judgement and we have done the needful. We are not holding it personal against their lordships; they have done their constitutional duty and have said what they want to say and we are exercising our constitutional rights. The process is in advanced stage. We are not leaving any chance in pursuing this. Even the political solution suggested we are not in totality ruling that out, but we have only said that it has to be comprehensive, germane, it has to be sincere and based on water-tight legal basis. I will explain that in due course.
But tied to contempt, the Court of Appeal went further to say, the status quo before May 21 2016 should be reverted to. It didn’t mention Modu Sheriff or whatever, it mentioned status quo before May 21. Of course, before May, Modu Sheriff was acting chairman, he was never chairman. It was for the convention to confirm him if NEC appoints you, NEC can remove you. Two, the status quo before May 21 means that all the former national officers should go back to their seats, all of them, not just working committee, it includes all those assistants, that was the status quo before May 21. Now who is in breach of that? Is it not Modu Sheriff? He is only working with those he appointed; people he unilaterally gave appointments and they are assuming the positions of people the Court of Appeal has said should go back to their offices. So who is in contempt? He is ignoring the ruling that affects 3 other persons asked to return to office. If you go by this, legally there is no Working Committee, anything that comes from there is illegal, it is null and void because that is the status before May 21 2016. There are no national officers in place. Even if he goes for a kangaroo convention, it will be declared illegal if another person goes to court because the court will say it was not the status returned by the Court of Appeal. That is why we keep on wondering what the intention is really? Is to continue creating these crises in such a way that PDP is finished?
Now, we said we have no problem with the Court of Appeal judgement. Let it be implemented in full. And that is what the governors and former President Jonathan proposed. And if you mean well for the party, everybody should resign after which the lawyers from both sides should sit down and look at all the judgements and propose how we can politically resolve this while fully complying with all the relevant judgements blocking any loophole for any future legal action.
We said we have no problem with that but Sheriff said he has problem with.