Makarfi: Tasked to mend broken walls
Loosely translated, Makarfi means, the powerful one. It is also taken as the big and bold. For the subject of this essay, his own strength and boldness is of a different sort.
By May 29, 1999, when he officially became the governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi was 42 years plus. And as if the month of May happens to be his lucky month, on May 21, 2016 when he was selected the chair the caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Makarfi was three months shy of his 60th birthday.
Born in the month of August, the former governor of Kaduna State has been programmed to blossom in the month of May. His selection to lead a fire-fighting committee of the PDP makes him an august visitor to Wadata Plaza. He has three months to conclude his visitation and make recommendations for the return of peace and harmony in the party.
Having been trained in accounting and worked as a banker, Makarfi must have been selected to render account of his art of peace-making. Those close to the former senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial district, say his stint as commissioner for finance and economic Planning of Kaduna State, as well as membership on the Board of Trustees at the Institute for Conflict Resolution, Abuja; revealed his disposition as a born peace-maker.
In 2011 when he stood for a return election to the senate, it was a mere 1,355 votes that separated him from his challenger, who scored 366, 398 and was returned for the senate seat. Despite the fact that his party was in power and could with the right combination of calls and contacts tamper with the verdict, Makarfi took the electoral outcome with equanimity.
Even while on the saddle as Kaduna State chief executive, Ahmed Makarfi’s tenure was not associated with the loud living and truculence of those Obasanjo years. Situation and circumstances in the state after his inauguration brought out the character of Makarfi as a man of peace and process.
He was welcomed to the governorship seat by protests trailing the planned introduction of Sharia law in the state as was done in neighbouring states. In a methodical and painstaking manner, Makarfi initiated reforms that not only diffused the tension, but also set the state as a model for socio-cultural harmony.
It was evident that his stint as commissioner, shortly after the Zangon Kataf religious crisis happened, imbued him with knowledge and ideas that helped him as governor to thwart the new trouble that loomed large in the state through the Sharia agitations.
Noting how the two religious groups in the multi-ethnic state were agitating for and against the Sharia legal system, Makarfi employed the magic wand of dialogue by causing the two groups to talk among themselves and chart the path for the future.
The then governor seemed to have been exposed to the underlying issues-economic, ethno-religious and cultural-that were causing incessant frictions in the state. In Makarfi, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC’s) charge that parties in crisis situations should learn to speak their truth quietly, found true expression.
In an interview, Makarfi expressed his mind as he assumed office. He said: “I came into office with the intention to look into this, to see how to use not force, but dialogue of consensus to make others see wisdom in giving people their self determination within the context of recognizing their independent, traditional identity under their own local chiefs and the rest.”
It was that singular openness and Socratic elenchus that marked Makarfi out as a democrat and helped to hold volatile Kaduna together. His success in addressing the social and cultural issues that were always the points of disagreements in the state has continued to serve as a guide to successive administrations.
The legendary tripartite legal system, developed by the Makarfi administration, which flowed from the Leaders of Thought Forum dialogue, was a masterpiece of a document in conflict resolution. Taking cognizance of the multi-ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural tendencies in Kaduna, the administration reformed the legal and judicial system. That was how the state entrenched the tripartite legal system that encompasses common law, Sharia and customary laws.
It was obvious that the governor did not want to give anybody total and absolute powers, because under the tripartite legal system, the power of censure or punishment could be exerted to the highest level by way of appeals.
Makarfi’s idea of leadership is that the leader owes it to the people to provide leadership by being accountable, keeping them informed, listening to them and communicating with them. “Leadership without communication cannot work; that’s my own idea on the principle of leadership. Leadership cannot be about the accumulation of wealth,” he once declared.
Given his calm disposition, his selection to head the caretaker committee of the PDP on May 21, 2016; at its convoluted national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had the marks of divine orchestration.
Though he is a foundation member of PDP, he was lost in the cacophony of impunity and braggadocio that defined politics of the party in the past sixteen years. Makarfi was one of the five conveners to form the Peoples Democratic Party in Kaduna State in 1998. It could be rightly said that he was actively involved in propagating the manifesto, helping to bring the party to the people.
But even as he served the people of Kaduna State and Kaduna North senatorial district on the party’s platform, his self-effacing nature did not make him a dominant character in the national contest for the control of the levers of the party structure, either in his home state or at the federal level.
During the recent congresses leading to the botched convention, Makarfi’s politics of give and take helped to wean the Kaduna chapter from a major crisis. Not only is he from the local council with the former National Organising Secretary of the party, it was said that when he discovered that there was some defalcations in the list of the delegates that emerged from the wards, he did not threaten thunder and brimstone, but rather pointed out the anomaly.
He had, while hosting members of the PDP congress appeal committee revealed that if PDP should aim to regain power at the centre, it should stop counting on the failings of the ruling APC, but look inwards to see what caused its defeat and make necessary amends and apologies to the people.
Not being someone that throws his power around, the former governor believes that majority interest should override personal ambitions. Yet he does not like to confront issues from the point of weakness, but from a point of strength, which revolves around reason.
It becomes auspicious that such a character could be fished out at this point in time of great political challenge to the PDP. The closest the party came to having a reformer was when former governor of old Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, became national chairman. But for the hawks in the party, Nwodo would have tamed PDP of impunity and excess.
Makarfi’s success would be wrought in his belief that a leader succumbs to pressure when he does not give good governance. Having been a governor under a turbulent period, the Care-taker chairman could be said to have been equipped to solve the leadership puzzle in the party.
He disclosed to an interviewer in 2009 that, “for people in positions of authority in our society, you find that they tend to listen to people who bring in stories of who likes them, who doesn’t like them.” Faced with such situations, how would Makarfi handle them? “If you’re doing the right thing, the majority of the people will like you. Some will not like you so much. You are not there to be liked by everybody. But let what you are doing be liked by the majority of the people,” he said.
The former chairman of Senate Committee on Finance has, therefore, been called to walk the talk and help PDP find its rhythm with the ideals of the founding fathers. Being a man whose education, social background are not hard to see, having attended the Federal Government College, Enugu and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, it appears PDP has started looking out for men with brains and not just those with big bank balances.
In the next three months, Ahmed Makarfi would demonstrate to PDP faithful and Nigerians at large how far his power of peace building could go in mending the broken walls in the party. If he succeeds in unfurling a new look PDP, it would be a bonus to the call for fresh minds and ideas in the political leadership of this country.
The recent endorsement of Makarfi’s caretaker by all critical groups in PDP shows that even in its darkest moment, the light of goodness can still shine, showing the path for remorse, reform and rebirth of the party.