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Makarfi: PDP will not limit its presidential search to Northwest

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Ahmed Makarfi

Presidential aspirant and former chairman, Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi spoke on the party’s plan to harmonise returnees with old members. SAXONE AKHAINE reports.

How do you see the gale of defections from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I have long predicted these defections. When we were going through difficulties and people were losing hope, I was asked similar question in 2017, my reply was that the time for defection from APC and other parties to the PDP will come, and it happened. I predicted it and I’m not surprised. I feel happy that this is happening. It is also not the end of the matter. We have seen the first wave and we expect more to follow, especially because of APC’s reaction. Some defectors will buy their time and do it at a later day. It happened to us in the PDP. It happened to one and will happen to the other. It is a matter of time. I am happy some returnees are coming back, as well as new party members.

Of course, every positive thing comes with challenges. The challenge will be integrating all the returnees and those they met in the party. I am equally happy that the party’s National Working Committee has set up machinery, which has been working day and night to bring about 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, which is still going on. I believe at the end of the day, people will accommodate each other in the over all interest of the party. It is a challenge, but challenges are there to be overcome. I am confident that the party’s national leadership is equal to the task.

How delicate is this task of reintegrating these interests?
Well, it depends on the way you look at the issue. What I have been made to understand, which is the party’s true position, because I discussed with the committee on harmonisation, as well as 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. It’s not something to do with the nation. And where he is a Senator, certain parameters to do with 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 instance, if you are in the House of Representatives, looking to go to Senate, it does not apply to your ambition, as it relates to your current position. It does not relate to any other position you are looking for beyond your current position. And this is worth discussing, and ironing out issues with all involved.

Here in Kaduna, I have called for a meeting of key party leaders to see how we can politically bring about hitch-free integration of returnees, without causing unnecessary disruption that can be counter-productive.

How about streamlining the number of Presidential aspirants?
You don’t rule out anything in politics. First of all, I have not read that BoT chairman’s statement. I have not even discussed it with him. Assuming he made the statement, politics requires discussion and dialoguing, which may produce what the BoT chairman is alleged to have said.

I have also propagated need for us to come together to talk to one another and see how we can bring about unity among us, because we are stronger united. If we are divided, we will become quite weak and that is something we must avoid.

How we get there I can’t say. There are many ways to get there. I am not asking or forcing anyone to pull out of the race, but I am for dialoguing, to see, irrespective of who emerges as the candidate, that all others rally around him.

It is only by dialoguing that this can be determined. Interests can be discussed and balanced, and then ultimately how we go forward. Let’s go with the understanding that we will all work together for the eventual winner. I’m for any discussion that will bring unity.

I can’t say what I will or not do at this particular stage, but I have not been summoned for any particular meeting.

What is your take on the suggestion by Rabiu Kwankwaso that PDP should pick its presidential candidate from Northwest?
That’s his personal view. One can only try to understand what his reason could have been. I have not discussed with him, but he may be thinking that way because of the high voter registration and usual large turn out in the zone. But that is not the party’s position. The party’s position is that the presidency be zoned to the 19 Northern states and FCT. So, whomever party men and women find suitable from the zone will be supported. It happened before, when we had a presidential candidate coming from a small state and he was widely accepted.

Do you fear that the Presidential primary could create another tension in the party?
If you look at the primaries conducted in Ekiti and Osun, nobody will say they weren’t free, fair and transparent. Just look at the margin between the winner and the runner up. It is only in a free and fair contest you get such. The party is ensuring there is a level playing field for a credible primary. So, I don’t foresee any problem. At the end of the day, we will have a single candidate through a democratic process, and that candidate will generally be acceptable to all of us.

How confident are you, given the level of consultation across the states?
Whatever be the outcome, I will accept it in good faith. Anyway, I can contribute to the party’s success. What I can do, I will do, but the question is: Will I leave the party for another? I have said it repeatedly that if I leave PDP, I will go into semi retirement politically, which means you won’t see me contesting elective office. I may still be a political player; playing whatever role I can, but if I don’t get nominated now, you can imagine what my age will be at another chance.

I don’t belong to the group that thinks you should continue to seek electoral office, irrespective of age. What is the essence of Not-Too-Young-To-Run then? The purpose is defeated. And the President just signed it into law, but we shouldn’t stop at that. We should take every step to actualise laws that are good for our country. So, when I leave politics, it is for good.

What is your view on the recent election in Taraba State and the one in Rivers, which was suspended?
I said it before in Rivers that one governor was under persistent siege and attack. The Taraba election, the one in Rivers, Look at the disruptions, the actions of security agencies during Taraba and Rivers election. We all know the person within the Federal Government that is always behind these actions and crises in Rivers State. Nobody should be beyond being called to order. The President has a responsibility to perform on this issue, otherwise if this should continue, the havoc this person will cause in the country will be worse in the future.

Therefore, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did the right thing by suspending the election. The police and other security agencies must not allow themselves to be used by interested party (ies) to hijack the political process, whether in Rivers State or any part of the country. The siege on Rivers State, its people and government must stop.

How would you fight the corruption war, if elected president?
First of all, the issue of corruption did not start in 1999. That is not an excuse for corrupt practices that had taken place since the return to democracy in 1999. No matter your good intentions, we need to talk to one another on how to deal with this issue once and for all. The only way to deal with it is by convening a comprehensive conference to find ways to deal with the issue and put a stop to it. It is not so much about blaming Mr. A or Mr. B. It is about a complete reorientation of Nigerians. Then, we will be better off as a nation. But if you don’t discuss it and evolve a nationally acceptable across board way of dealing with it, you are just wasting time. This is because it has been embraced as a national philosophy and agenda. So, while you may be stopping one person, another person is getting away with it because they have some cover.

This will continue to draw us back, until we come together as a country. Fighting corruption of the past is important, but stopping the on-going corruption is a lot more important. So, as the President, I will fight corruption by holding a national conference to deal with all facets of corruption.

Some people feel you are too soft to handle Nigeria…
On the issue of being soft, I was more frail as a governor, but we handled Kaduna very well, not by intimidating or insulting anybody, but by being just and fair. That is what can make any man strong. If you are guided by these principles, you will be a strong man, and people will give you all the necessary support needed to succeed. No matter how strong you are, if you are unjust or unfair, you will become weak.

I have been tested and my seemingly frail body did not give way. I assure you, if you follow me on campaign, you will collapse. I can make do with an hour or two of sleep a day and with that kind of capacity, I am good to go. But no matter how strong you are, if you don’t have a good team, you cannot succeed. You need a good team. And you have to delegate responsibility, though you have to supervise to ensure that the power you delegated is being used for the good of all.

Would you say this government has demonstrated`, fairness and justice in handling the country’s affairs?
Even the President said it once that, if he were younger, he would have done better. Secondly, it is not his doing that he falls sick. We all fall sick at one time or the other. But it is also a factor that may have contributed to slowness in governance. Then, there is no team currently working. We see agencies fighting one another. A leader needs to set up a team that works as a unit. Not handling the legislature very well is also a factor. He did not have a legislative experience, and these have all affected governance performance.


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