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If we destroy institutions, Nigeria will pay the price — Markafi

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Makarfi

Former Governor of Kaduna State and the immediate past National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, told SAXONE AKHAINE in this interview why he joined the presidential race.

What made you join the presidential race?

I have been consulting across the country since I left as party chairman.

It’s just consultations and not endorsement. But it gives one an opportunity to feel the pulse, and it tells whether to go forward or not.

The result of the consultation has been quite positive, and I believe it is fair enough to come to the conclusion that one should join other equally capable party men and women who have shown interest in seeking party’s nomination for the 2019 presidential election.

The successful nominee will be the candidate that will go for the election, but first thing first.

If one’s party doesn’t put him forward, you can’t say you are contesting yet.

At this stage, I have come to the conclusion that it is okay, based on the consultations.

Those who have shown interest are equally capable. We don’t know how many more will come forward, but whatever happens, power comes from God.

The party men and women will decide who will be the candidate. I will subject myself to God’s will and the decision of party men and women whenever it is made.

Have you formally informed the party of your intention?

I have not written to the party, but whom do you consult with? It is the same party men and women that you consult informally. One has to come to the decision to seek nomination before you even make it formal.

Everything is stage by stage. Very soon, I will start formal visits to various party organs, and when the party comes out with the guidelines, that will be the appropriate time to write.

Guidelines and timetable for the primaries have not come out.

It does not, however, mean one should not or cannot visit the party to formally inform.

I have known governance at state level. I served Kaduna for three years as commissioner for finance and economic planning.

I also 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. I got a bonanza when the party leadership fell on my laps, which enabled me to know about managing political party.

If you cannot manage your party, even if you are elected, you will have problems with governance.

If you can’t manage the legislature and build a cordial relationship, such that key legislations that can move this country forward are passed, then governance becomes complex for you.

If you cannot manage such a complex society as Kaduna, which is a mini Nigeria, you cannot manage the country.

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 forgone conclusion.

Somebody that may have not prepared himself in governance at all may find himself in government, though the country will pay a price for that.

Others may have their own advantage, but at the end of the day, the people will decide.

How prepared are you for the complex nature of the Presidency?

How do you prepare for office of the president? You look at the responsibilities involved and then plan how to handle it.

Some of the challenges facing the country include that of security, economy, unemployment, threat to the country’s unity, due to mutual suspicion, corrosion of what binds us as one entity and government being at conflict with itself.

On the security challenges, I served as governor of Kaduna State, where I was able to mobilise the citizens, irrespective of where they came from.

I was able to earn their confidence and they worked with and supported me.

So, we were able to restore normalcy, which people thought was impossible. Managing complex security issues is not new to me, just as handling different people.

If you look at it from that perspective, one is prepared for the job.

On the issue of managing party crises, if we did not manage the party well, we would not be talking of PDP now.

It’s not that we did not have misunderstandings, but the fallout was not significant enough to threaten the party.

Indeed, the trajectory is that PDP is actually going up and not down.

You can look at what is happening or about to happen in the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is likely going to split into two or three factions, once they hold their convention.

We only had a few people leaving PDP, but there was no split. My team and other party leaders were able to achieve that.

Because of my balanced nature, I was able to manage the mutual suspicion of ethnic and religious colouration, while I was in Kaduna. I was called names, but I was happy because I was for none and I was for all.

As the president, you have to be for all Nigerians. My life history has been that. Luckily, I went to secondary school in the East, which impacted me positively.

At a young age, I was exposed to almost every culture in the country, because my school reflected every ethnic group. Nothing will be strange to me in terms of governance.

I believe we did fairly well in Kaduna State, not just in terms of keeping the peace, not just being fair and equitable in terms of treating people, but also in terms of development.

No part of the state cried that I favoured one part over the other. I have been out of office for 11 years and when I drive through the roads we constructed 15 years ago and I see they don’t have potholes, I marvel.

However, a tree does not make a forest. It is for us to build a team and hold it accountable. The president must be able to build a good team that reflects Nigeria.

The team must be capable and must work as one and not in conflict with each other.

You cannot have government institutions going in different directions on the same issue.

If I find myself in the office of the president and such happens, it is either one of them goes or both of them leave, depending on what the issues are.

The question of inclining towards one because of personal relationship must not be there, since it has to do with national interest.

What is your view on allegations that the current effort to tame corruption is targeted at certain people?

I believe Nigerians read the statement by the British High commissioner cautioning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to take sides.

I think that was a good call. I still believe that key institutions of state mean well for the country.

It is the desperate political elements that are behind the attempt to destroy the institutions in order to remain in power.

I honestly do not believe that this is the stand of men and women working in these institutions.

Politicians should be careful because if we destroy the institutions, Nigeria will pay a heavy price. If you politicise security and economic issues, you will be destroying the country.

It is not only politicians that are corrupt. Some public servants are also corrupt, just like some army officers and other security agents.

Corruption is to be found in every segment of the society. It is just that politicians make headlines and are seen as corrupt.

If you are a governor and you think the best way to taint certain individuals aspiring to your office is to use state institutions to scuttle their ambition because your party is ruling, you may succeed but the party may bring somebody who may give you a good run for your money.

By the time you mess things up, you can never tell how this will affect you or the future.

We had president Obasanjo. Where did he come from? There was Nelson Mandela. Where did he come from to become president?

The recent one is in Malaysia. Who did he bring out from jail to take over from him? Ultimately, it is God that does all these things.

So, we must be careful how we go about this fight against corruption. Nigerians should be wiser. The law says you must be convicted, and if you are not, you are as clean as anybody.

My call to my party and other Nigerians is to go strictly by what the Constitution says.

Otherwise, we will be encouraging abuse of the process for political purposes. It is not good. It is some of us in politics that are polluting the system.

Ordinarily, if we don’t put pressure on the institutions, they won’t behave this way.

If you don’t succeed in getting the party’s nomination, how will you take it?

My politics is that of decency, and not just within PDP. Because I want to be my party’s candidate, it is not an excuse to insult or undertake negative campaign against other candidates.

It is a question of what do I have to offer that is better than what the other0 person has to offer?

It shouldn’t affect personal relationship. At the end of the day, whoever gets it will have to work with others to succeed.

If another candidate gets the ticket, I will do what I can to ensure he succeeds, just as I expect that if I get nominated, others should be prepared to do whatever to enable me succeed.

If I am nominated and eventually get elected, my philosophy won’t be to go after the opposition.

Rather, it is to see how I will work with the opposition in any area for the good of all, while maintaining our independent political opinions over any matter.

That is how you can bring Nigerians together. And that is when people will not even have any need to cross carpet.

If I get nominated and I find somebody in APC that can help me achieve my goal, I will go for him/her without demanding that he/she joins PDP. I will leave you to make that decision.

That is the kind of politics I want to see in Nigeria.

What is your assessment of government’s handling of insecurity in the country?

I must give the government credit in the area of Boko Haram. Not that it has come to an end, but government has recorded some success.

However, the success would have been higher, if not for rivalry among government institutions.

This is unfortunate. All arms of security must work together to tackle insecurity and insurgency wherever they exist.

The herdsmen-farmers crisis is spreading like wild fire. The criminality along Birnin-Gwari and Zamfara axis has heightened, just like cultism in some places.

In Kaduna, we hear of Sarasuka. The criminal elements are getting numerous. If we allow this to spread further, the entire country will not be safe.

We read recently of Zamfara State governor saying he has resigned his position as chief security officer of the state. Is it out of frustration or lack of capacity? There must be a reason.

Somebody visited me from Birnin-Gwari during Salah and he told me that the criminals released hostages to go home for Salah, but warned them that they can come for them again.

In Nigeria? Criminals release you to go home for Salah and tell you they will come back for you? Give me a break.

We can do better and we must do better.

So, what is the way out?

Stick and carrot approach. We must stop using security institutions for political purposes.

Just imagine the number of police officers involved, when a political figure was to be arrested on either real or imaginary charges.

But if you call that you are being robbed, the response is usually poor. We must free our police, military and other security apparatus to serve the people.

We must give them all they need, but we must give them targets to meet.

If you succeed, you get promotion. Promotion should not be because you have served for a number of years on one rank. It should be on achievement.

We must work with the community. They must not feel exposed because they volunteer certain information.

The bad eggs in the system must be decisively dealt with. If we are able to do this, we will begin to record appreciable success.

The herdsmen/communities conflict must be tackled. We have to find a way to work with lawful, indigenous Fulani people.

It is disturbing them because it is disturbing their livelihoods. The majority of those causing crisis crossed over the border.

They may not be the majority, but if you work with the majority, you will achieve better result.

They will be at the forefront and we will achieve results. Let security be community based.

If each community can secure itself, Nigeria will be safe.

Few months to 2019, there seems to be no strong attempt by PDP to wrest power from APC…

The APC was made up of different parties, which came together for 2015 election. I am sure we will also come together.

It may be an alliance, it can be anything, but when that is done, you will see the direction the opposition will be taking to legitimately wrest power from APC.

We don’t want power through illegitimate means. Secondly, we are waiting for the windfall, which we are hoping will come soon.

We heard they are thinking of postponing their conventions.

They can postpone, but it must certainly come. After all, the court says extension is illegal and if you want to postpone now, you will be doing an act of illegality.

They will make it easy for us because they will end up without a valid candidate. Whichever way they go, something must give. When we reap that windfall, we will see how strong we are and chart the way forward.

We must also thank the APC for working for us. They have refused to govern well; they have been fighting one another.

There is no way the executive and legislature can work again as one. There is no way that party can be cohesive again.

There are elements in government fighting one another and there is nobody to call them to order. We should not expend our energy, when somebody is already working for us.

What is your advice to former PDP members that moved to APC, but who are no longer comfortable there?

What will they be staying for? It is obvious to a number of them that that is no longer a platform for them.

The question is: where will they go? The majority of them no longer have room in that party. So, what are they staying for?

As a former senator, what is your reaction to the schism between the Senate and other organs of government like the police, customs and EFCC?

That wouldn’t have happened under Obasanjo or Goodluck Jonathan.

They would have been called to order before it gets to where it is. It is totally unhealthy.

The only way to remedy it is through a change of government through election.


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