Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the immediate past chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former governor and two-time senator from Kaduna State, in this interview with MUYIWA OYINLOLA and RUTH CHOJI speaks about President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid, the PDP’s preparations for next year’s general elections, among other national issues
The president has declared that he is going for a second term. Has that not sent jittery into the heart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
First of all, I want to ask you if you heard the president openly declare his intention to contest for another term. There was a statement that he had declared. The statement was issued by the party, but I didn’t hear him openly declare his intention. But that is not to say he cannot declare. This is his first term and he has the constitutional right to seek for a second term.
There are two levels of choices for the president; the first is for his party to agree to field him and the second is for Nigerians to ultimately vote him back into office. We haven’t even come to the first layer. I will expect that he will constitutionally seek for a second term because he is not constitutionally barred from it. It will be news if he decides or an announcement is made on his behalf that he will not contest, that would have been news. But for an incumbent to declare his interest to contest, that is not news. That is a natural expectation.
He must at one point or the other address his party and people on whether he will declare and he must tell Nigerians why he will seek a second term. That has no bearing on the PDP. I have always said that, my personal opinion has been that the PDP should prepare for election irrespective of who the presidential candidate of the APC will be. You shouldn’t make plans on the measure of one person. What if the person turns out not to run? Then what happens? So, the plan should be on whoever is contesting. If you have only one plan based on one person, what happens if he doesn’t contest?
The APC-government recently released a list of alleged treasury looters and they all happen to be PDP members. How do you react to this?
The country and international community have reacted to it. No matter the good intentions the government might have in fighting corruption, when you taint it politically, you defeat whatever you are doing. It negates the intention. There are matters that cannot be politicised. Fighting corruption is one of such. All of us must work together to fight corruption and insecurity in Nigeria.
We must all join hands to ensure that every nook and cranny of Nigeria is secured so that people can move about without fear. We must not politicise the economy. We need the cooperation of both government and opposition to move this country forward. We watch the British and American parliaments, when issues come, they come together across party divides to deal with it as a nation while maintaining their different party identities. And they also disagree strongly on matters of principles when the need arises. But there are matters that they don’t treat like political issues.
Are you bothered about the recent defection of some prominent members of your party to the Social Democratic Party (SDP)?
Some prominent members have moved. Some of them are persons that we keep in touch on personal basis. The PDP and SDP have worked together before especially during (former President Goodluck) Jonathan’s time. The PDP has worked with many parties in the past including the APGA. Thus, I am not ruling out any particular thing. One thing or the other might have made some people to take certain actions; I don’t consider it as the end of the road. I believe the party is talking to those who have moved out and to those who have never been in the PDP before. With time, Nigerians will begin to see the progressive alliances with a view to bringing positive change.
Some people are of the opinion that the PDP should change its name to give it credibility. Will you subscribe to this?
The PDP has agreed to set up a committee to look at all matters that have to do with the party, coming in, possible merger or alliances, so we have to wait for the committee to come up with recommendations before we can decide.
Apart from Prof Jerry Gana and others who went to the SDP, the former National Chairman of the PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff, has also left for the APC. Are you surprised about the latter’s defection?
People in Nigerian politics move from one place to the other. He came from there to the PDP and he has returned there. He has the constitutional right to decide where to belong. Some people left the PDP and went to the APC. We are hoping that most of them or some of them will at one time or the other come back to the PDP. Some people might not have been in the PDP, but we are hoping that they will come to the PDP. The time to say who has gained or lost has not come, but I believe that at the end of the day, the PDP will gain.
Your party, the PDP, has been out of power for over three years now. What lessons have the members learnt that will guide them during the next general elections?
One is that, we must never take things for granted in our dealing with party men and women. Impunity must be resisted. In our dealing with Nigerian citizens, arrogance must not creep into our deeds and actions. We must communicate well with Nigerians and also deepen our efforts in meeting the yearnings of Nigerians. Of course, a lot of propaganda has been done, they painted us black. It is not good for democracy to be painting each other black because you might end up painting everybody in the country black and that is how foreigners will be looking at us. We must deal with issues but the way we are going about it, we are actually diminishing ourselves by ourselves and that is not good.
If the PDP comes to power, I hope it will not de-market Nigerians at any given opportunity that you have?
You don’t have to travel outside to de-market Nigeria. Some of the activities in the social media de-market our country. For example, you will see a video clip of dollars that they allegedly found in the house of one person or the other. And all these stories go out. By the time foreigners see these things, they will not want to come and do business with us. PDP must bring about a new orientation for the citizens so that we will look positive to the rest of the world. Of course, we must not sweep vices under the carpet but we must also highlight the good things that are happening in the country.
The PDP was in power for 16 years, and Nigerians wonder why they didn’t fix our roads despite the huge amount of money made through oil then?
It is not just a question of roads. I will rather reply you by asking you that since this government came to office in the past three years, can you mention one road they have constructed? The PDP might not have done everything but we did a lot of things and of course we could have done better. But these are all lessons that we have learnt and we will do better.
Recently, some hoodlums went to the National Assembly and stole the mace. As a former senator, what does that development portent for national security and the legislative institution?
If you want to destroy democracy, it is the legislature that you will attack. In the dark days of military regime, have you ever heard them suspend executive or judiciary? The only thing they suspend is the legislature. Any democracy is reflected by its legislature. So, what happened was an affront on Nigeria. People who can pass through all the screening and checking points at the National Assembly to go and pick the mace and then, keep it somewhere looks like a pre-arranged work. It was pre-arranged and also an attack on democracy. We have painted Nigeria in bad light. It is something that all of us irrespective of party should condemn. Even though the APC condemned it, and the APC senator is the brain behind it, why is the APC not taking action on their senator? The stealing of the mace was an affront on democracy. It leaves lots of room for suspicion and let’s ensue that such a thing does not happen again.
In less than a year, Nigeria will be going through another round of election, are you satisfied with the posture of INEC or do you have some misgivings?
I haven’t seen any posture at this particular point in time but they should know that all eyes are on them. Most Nigerians don’t trust them. They are being suspected of working in tandem with the government in power. Again, when you look at past elections like the Osun senatorial run off, the INEC did well but they did badly in the gubernatorial election of Edo State. Forget about the judicial pronouncement, it was based on matters that were placed before them. Definitely those who witnessed the elections and the conduct of INEC said it left much to be desired.
If you go to Anambra, honestly you can’t blame INEC. You should blame the political players. So, there are places they did well but in other places, there are failures. They must have a single standard which is to deliver free, fair and credible election.
You have been a governor, senator and party chairman, there are reports that you are aspiring for presidency, how true is this?
You are asking me to make a declaration which I will not. When I finish my consultation, then I will make my declaration. Sooner than later, an official statement on whether I will be contesting or otherwise will be made. But of course, I belong to those in the PDP that are consulting to run for that office and in due course, things will take their natural shape.
One major challenge the PPD might have is that it appears it has lost its stronghold in the North to the APC. How do you think your party can change this tide?
That was then not now. Let’s go for election. All we ask for is free and fair elections and you will see how we will floor the APC in the North.
Do you think a free, fair and credible election possible under this present INEC leadership?
If they become nationalistic and work for it, then nothing is impossible. All and sundry must rise and challenge them to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
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