‘APC changing colours like chameleon on restructuring, others’
Former governor of Kaduna State and immediate past chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi speaks on steps it is taking to reposition ahead of the 2019 general election. He also frowns at the free movement among the ECOWAS states as one of the factors fueling the issue of herdsmen challenges in Nigeria.
How has the PDP fared after its December 9 national convention?
Not many people gave the party a chance before the convention as many thought it would scatter from the Eagle Square after the convention but that did not happen. However, that was not to say there was no fall-out of the convention. The truth is there must be issues before and after any convention, PDP not excluded. But it is gladdening that the party remains solid, united and one after then. We had anticipated that some issues might arise, that was why we set up the reconciliation committee, which moved to work immediately after the convention. The current leadership also set up other two committees, which consist of Seriake Dickson Committee and the other one led by former principal officers of the National Assembly to reach out to the aggrieved and to bring them back on board and to integrate them in a bid to provide a united front.
Although, I have left as chairman but I continue to give advise in areas where am needed and I am also handling issues I can handle on my own just to bring unity into the party.
How true is the insinuation that your leadership intentionally threw away the entire Southwest bloc, which is key to the PDP’s future, from achieving its aim of producing the national chairmanship position as earlier agreed before the exercise?
I want to disagree with the assertion that the Southwest PDP is in shamble and secondly there was no deliberate intention to throw away the Southwest or any other bloc from any part of the country. The issue is there was no political arrangement from the South as to where the National Chairman should come from. The South met but it could not agree on the micro-zoning arrangement. Before every convention, you meet, discuss and also take certain decisions. The unity that existed from the South before the August convention disappeared before the December convention. When the South met the South South and the Southwest could not agree. They met again and agree on all other positions except two the national chairman and the deputy national chairmanship. Even the South-East excused itself from it. So when they could not agree, the Southwest and South-South decided that the convention should decide who become the chairman and deputy chairman.
It is therefore not appropriate to heap the failure of certain part to sit down and agree as the fault of the rest of us.
Nobody directed the North to meet and maintain what they have done, I did not ask them, it was not in my position to do that and nobody stops the South from agreeing on certain terms. Failure to agree was what made the race open and politics is an issue of negotiation. So the South, particularly Southwest came to the convention divided, campaigning against each other and in politics when you are campaigning against yourself and you want the rest to give you power, it becomes more difficult.
It was at the venue of the convention when the election was about to start, some of the Southwest contestants started going round to say they now have a consensus candidate while some others started going round disclaiming there was no such agreement. So, in such confusion, whom do you blame? Except you don’t understand the politics of Nigeria, that is why you will expect to win elections on the convention ground. Before you get to the convention ground, all the alliances have been formed and you would have known whether you will win or not.
My position is that a particular region may not have the leadership of the party but it may end up having what is even more than the chairmanship. The power and influence of a national chairman is limited powers even when your party is in government. Can you tell me how powerful the Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is today? I think where people should look up to is the Executive because that is where policies are formulated and executed and that is where the interest of people you represent can be implemented. That is my personal opinion.
The impression that the party is absent in the Southwest is not correct. For me, you have to go gradually to achieve peace; anything you rush into especially where there is sharp division is bound to fail. So the party is very conscious of these problems and we are doing all we can to harmonize. I can tell you that you will know our strength as a party when the elections come.
At present the PDP seems not to be showing enough readiness to oust the ruling party in 2019?
No serious party will want to continue to remain as an opposition. The role of any opposition party is to take over power and that is what we set our eyes on right now. And I want to thank the APC for actually making our job easier and I continue to pray that APC continues to make our job easier as we move closer to the 2019 elections. Nigerians would make the right choice by voting out the party in power come 2019. As to our preparations, all I can say is that we are doing all that is legally and politically possible to achieve our objectives. It would be inappropriate for me to give a hint of what we are planning.
How do you react to the alleged overbearing influences of governors in the party, one of the factors people believed cost the PDP victory in 2015?
Well, going back to the 2015 elections, the North expected to have the ticket and that really matter to some. But even at that, the party’s language during the election was not so polite in the campaigns. The manner and language some of our members used in campaigning for the 2015 elections was insulting to a certain part of the country. Also, the party structure was not used for campaigning rather TAN, which was an external arrangement, was used for the Presidential Campaign. And TAN was just a motor formulated by some people to impress those in power, it was not something structured. PDP is a structured party from the federal down to village level; to now abandon that structure and use something superficial, naturally there would be problems because it discouraged some people while some others became nonchalant.
I can tell you that some governors are not even aware how campaigns were going on and no governor was part of the campaign council. When you blame governors, I can tell you that not even the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum was in the Presidential Campaign Council. These factors contributed to losing elections, not that APC won, but PDP threw away the elections. There could have been difficulties or challenges, but if we have acted differently, there was no way we could have lost the 2015 elections. If we are talking about the states, I can say yes but on the presidential, there was no question of over-bearing influence by any governor especially as I mentioned, no governor was in the Presidential Campaign Council.
APC is now talking about restructuring…
Cuts in. I addressed the media recently when this matter came up where I said the APC is now like a chameleon changing colors. All I can say is that, right from the beginning, we in PDP are for restructuring. Besides that, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Chairman of the committee by the APC said that restructuring is not important. The following day, I featured along and said all the conferences that were initiated for the processes were done by the PDP because it was during the era of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan some of the conferences were done and some of the recommendations bothered on the issue of restructuring. I also said restructuring means different thing to different people, the starting point is to narrow down the understanding and proceed from the stage by stage because there are things you can do immediately, some on a short-term and some on a long term. Several of this issues being raised today is because of several issues happening within the country right now and we have to be sensitive about it. I believe running away from this issue of restructuring is like running away from reality. For a party to say because they want to win elections therefore they have changed their position, that is the height of deception and it is for Nigerians to take them for whom they are.
Do you see PDP benefiting from the re-ordering of elections?
The position of the law is clear on this. It is not what is passed but what is signed that becomes law. If the President signs it, it becomes law. We passed the same law during my time at the Senate and then a court said it was unconstitutional and that it was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that has the power to do that. If that is the case, so be it. But for me, PDP should prepare to win no matter how elections are ordered. To think that elections should be ordered this way or that way, it is a lazy way of approaching elections. Whichever way it is ordered, we should campaign and work.
Don’t you see the herdsmen crisis as a threat to the coming general elections?
I believe this issue has assumed a dimension, which is alarming and all hands need to be on deck to address it. This problem ravaging the North Central and the Southern part of the country has assumed alarming dimension and all hands must be on the deck to address it. When I was governor, this problem was rampant in my area but people did not know. It was similar to what is happening now; tough the ferocity was quite different, the proliferation of arms was not there then; cutlass and arrows and other minor weapons are used then.
One of the issues fueling the herdsmen crisis ion Nigeria is of free movement of ECOWAS, which has made it difficult and complicated. There is the need to readdress the issue of free movement of ECOWAS.
The Federal Government has talked about the issue of the ‘cattle colony’ but colony as a word now sounds to be offensive. Colonization to me means domination but ranching sounds more of business. Anybody can go into ranching and you do business where it is feasible, you cannot do business where it is not feasible. On the issue of free movement by ECOWAS, if people will be crossing our borders and killing and maiming people all in the name of ECOWAS free movement that is absolutely wrong because every life is important and in the spirit of ECOWAS, we should not continue to waste lives.