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‘Attempts to weaken genuine opposition can instigate ugly tendencies’

By Saxone Akhaine
30 January 2017   |   3:43 am
We never thought APC would wrest power from us. We never even gave APC a chance of becoming a reality. But, it became a reality and it is governing Nigeria today.
Ahmed Makarfi

Ahmed Makarfi

Strong elements in APC behind crisis in PDP

Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and a former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, in this interview with Northern Bureau Chief, SAXONE AKHAINE, spoke on the festering leadership crisis in the party, the Southern Kaduna crisis, and why meddling in opposition politics by APC signposts danger for the nation’s democracy.

At what stage are reconciliatory efforts in your party, especially in the light of Senator Ali Modu Sherrif’s insistence that he is the chairman of the party?
I don’t want to over-labour this matter. If you are a leader, you are expected to lead people, but when you don’t have the people behind you, I don’t know what you are leading. Having said that, let us allow the court to decide the issue at whatever time they find convenient. But, what I may say here is that this matter is a very serious one, and has the potential to bring avoidable disturbances to large parts of this country. Why do I say so? Where you have some elements in the ruling party interfering in what is going on in an opposition party, may be in order to bring down genuine opposition, such can instigate ugly tendencies as we head towards local government elections. In an APC-controlled state for example, they can use such a division to deny PDP the chance to legitimately field candidates and this will be the greatest disservice to democracy in the country. That is why I am telling the judiciary that the situation we are today is not just a simple party affair but linked to elections across the length and breadth of this country with unimaginable consequences if allowed to linger for too long.

Of recent, the Supreme Court ruled that states must hold council elections at certain periods of time. That being the case, the judiciary ought to settle all manner of cases, not just those involving the PDP, but any other before them, involving political parties in good time before the processes for council elections begins otherwise, there is the potential to bring avoidable fracas in a number of states. We will not do anything on our side to promote violence, but when you sense danger, you voice it out. We already have enough problems in this country. I think we should take all measures to prevent ugly situations when we sense them coming.

Recently, a group of women protested against Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, and asked the Federal Government to sue him over the arms funds scandal. What do you make of this?
Well, we all know that the president and governors have immunity and cannot be prosecuted until they complete their tenure, or are out of office. So, it is over-politising issues to call for the impossibility. That being the case, the protesters should wait until Fayose leaves office. Meanwhile, they should gather whatever evidence they feel they have against any chief executive. They can write petition against any governor, or the president to any investigative authority, even while they are in office. Nothing stops the authorities from doing their investigations, but prosecution is not possible. To call for the impossible is to be ignorant of the law. Whether the law is a good one or not, that is the law. So, I think they are just playing politics by calling for his prosecution.

Do you see the protest against Fayose as a way of sensitising the people against his candidature for any elective office in the future, or any of his anointed candidates?
You see, he is not going to contest for the governorship again because he is already doing his second term, except he wants to go to the Senate, which I have not heard him say so. But, as you know, in Nigeria we have this ‘drag him down syndrome’ going on. I am not in the position to know their reasons for doing so, but all I am saying is that to call for what you know that constitutionally is not possible at this particular time, is politicising the issue.

Do you think Fayose can function well in office as chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, with all the allegations raised by his opponents and the Federal Government?
He is not the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum where you may say the majority APC governors and the central government would have asked ‘why do you support such an individual?’ It is simply an internal family affair of PDP governors. Currently, he is the most senior governor. With their modus operandi, they have chosen him for the short period remaining for him in office, as governor to lead their forum and that should be respected. He is not the leader of the PDP; he is leading the PDP Governors’ Forum.

The crisis in Southern Kaduna, has lingered for long. The affected area is a PDP-controlled senatorial zone. How do you see the ongoing violence, and what measures should be adopted to put the crisis to rest?
What is going on there is unfortunate and I condole with the state government, people of Kaduna State, and especially people in that area that have been adversely affected by the crisis. May God repose the souls that were lost.

However, I must caution that government and people from the area must not politicise this issue irrespective of their religious backgrounds. It is a serious criminal issue and, of course there may be matters to do with other things that may not be seen as criminality. I am not in a position to say much because I don’t have all the facts. Again, let me say that we must not politicise the matter because if we attempt that, the crisis will spread beyond Kaduna State and that would be a disaster.

I welcome the Abdulsalami’s committee because we need a body of arbitrators composed of men from both sides of the divide that the people can have confidence in their ability to stem the tide, and re-establish stability and lasting peace in that area. It is something that requires collective effort. I don’t want to look at it from PDP point of view, but I have been speaking with a lot of people from the area, both the ethnic groups, not minding whether they are of this tribe or that, this religion or that. They are all concerned about what is going on, and nobody mentioned politics to me. I believe that some of them are also talking among themselves to see how they can be partners in restoring peace in the area. The situation there is a terrible one that must never be allowed to continue. I believe that the solution should be community-based. With the support of the centre and state government, as well as other leaders, the problem should be brought to an end very soon.

As the bloody crisis between Fulani herdsmen and inhabitants of Southern Kaduna festers, Governor Nasir El- Rufai, was alleged to have paid for the cows of herdsmen from neighbouring countries that were killed, based on a committee’s report of the post-election violence, in order to ensure peace. What do you make of this?
Well, I have not seen that particular report; maybe it is the Sheikh Lemu’s report of 2011 post-election violence. You see, the problem in this country is that it takes too long a time to implement reports. If it was the Sheikh Lemu’s Committee report, and it was implemented on time, maybe it would have removed suspicion. But, if other things begin to happen, because a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and then you come and implement, or impose the report, and maybe without even educating the people, the people may misunderstand it or get it misinterpreted. I don’t have all the facts, but I am only saying the possible things that might have happened. All I can say is that the events of the past have happened; it is where we go from there that matters. And where we must go is to restore peace, not only in Southern Kaduna, but also in all the troubled parts of this country.

How prepared is the PDP for the 2019 general election. Do you think the party can govern this country again?
We never thought APC would wrest power from us. We never even gave APC a chance of becoming a reality. But, it became a reality and it is governing Nigeria today. You cannot say this is not possible because in politics anything is possible. We believe it is possible and we are working towards that. Just as I said earlier on, we believe and we have seen evidence that strong elements in the APC are behind the crisis the PDP is facing today. You know that within a party and a government, there are cells of interests. Some more powerful than others, and each cell is with different ambitions. We believe there are strong cells within the party and the government of APC that are fuelling this crisis. The aims and objectives of those behind this crisis is not even to help the president govern the country well, or even return to power. We know that their ambition is to even wrest power from the incumbent. And for that to be easier for them, there shouldn’t be an opposition. This we know, but time will definitely tell whether they will even survive within the larger APC family.

The opposition was alleged to be behind the rumour of President Buhari’s death claims. Could that be true?
First of all, our prayers for the president is that of quick recovery, so that he can return within the 10 days he requested for, to resume his mandate. We have no ill will towards him, and we wish him the best of health. As PDP, our position is that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and not president of one side of the polity.

Secondly, even though they didn’t mention us directly, opposition can be anybody. It could be opposition within the APC itself. I even suspect maybe it is the opposition within the APC that was behind the president’s death rumour. However, if you are talking of the opposition outside APC, what do we have to benefit from the demise of anybody in APC’s government? They will not bring his position to the PDP, or any other party. It is still going to be within the APC. We know that what is happening is a conglomeration of different interests. So, if it is some kind of opposition that is fuelling the rumour, definitely it has to be the opposition within the APC itself, especially those who may think that they stand a chance to benefit from such a scenario. God has time for everybody, our prayers is that the president should be in good health to serve Nigeria well.

Mixed reactions have continued to trail President Buhari’s re-submission of the name of the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to the Senate for confirmation, despite the controversy surrounding him.
Except on strong legal and moral basis, any nominee of the president for any office, the Senate should consider and approve such because the Senate is not to select for the president whom he should work with. When you look at legal issues, you also look at strong moral issues. If you cannot find such against the person, whether you like him or not, it is the choice of the president, and such a person should be confirmed. Coming specifically, to the issue of the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, my candid opinion is that after all that has happened from the returning of the name to the Presidency, based on whatever reports, and the president setting up an internal investigation process, if the president is really convinced that there is no ground to withdraw his name, my candid opinion to the Senate is to set things aside and consider him on the basis of the merit of his capabilities, and therefore approve the president’s nomination. But, if the Senate has concerns about EFCC’s mode of operations, or the way it carries out its duties, the confirmation avenues should take up such and sort issues out.

Also, if the Senate is of the view that there are some processes, which are basically bias or politically tainted, it should confront the nominee during the nomination process, get explanation for such practices and where he is wrong and cannot defend the issues involved, corrective measures can be taken because nobody is perfect.

As far as PDP is concerned, I will urge the Senate not to politicise Magu’s nomination. Rather he should be taken up on where there are grievances, and not where we have done wrong and we want it to be covered up, but things should be done on merit so that matters can be sorted out. The larger picture is dealing with the issue of corruption. This cannot be fought by one side, but through collective efforts.

Some individuals have dragged Magu to court already. How do you think will this affect his chances of securing confirmation by the Senate?
The fact that he has been taken to court does not invalidate his confirmation by the Senate; one has to be convicted for his confirmation to become invalid. But, since he has been taken to court, they have to prove their case before the court, and if the court finds him guilty, the Senate can use that as a reason to either consider him, or disapprove his nomination.