Recession: All hands must be on deck — Makarfi
The Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, spoke to The Guardian on the economic challenges facing the nation, the recent demand for his resignation by Senator Ali Modu Sherriff, among other issues. Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief reports.
Senator Ali Modu Sherrif recently requested your resignation, along with the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin before he can come to terms with any reconciliation. What is your reaction to this?
I have not spoken with Sherriff. I only read what he was quoted as saying in an interview. In it, I saw a caption where he said the Chairman of the BoT and I should resign. But, he has not said what would happen, if we were to resign. It is easy to make proposal, but when making proposal, it should be durable. If you are looking for peace, always make the proposals such that when they are analysed, there are things the other side would concede. That is what a good proposal should look like.
I have been a member of BoT, so, it is not for anybody to tell me to start attending to something as BoT member. Remember that I am a founding member of PDP, and when I was leaving as Governor, that was when I was appointed into the BoT.
I don’t really know his intention for making that statement. Be that as it may, I’m not foreclosing any move on peace and reconciliation. But, it should be on the basis of reasonable things and not of impossibilities. And mind you, I don’t represent myself, but the PDP governors, National Assembly legislators, PDP Caucus, the BOT, States Chapters Chairmen, and all other organs of the Party.
So, it is the Party against one individual and a few others, who feel they cannot subject themselves to the party. And those talking should better understand that. But, as the Chairman, Caretaker Committee of PDP, I have encouraged all organs to meet for reconciliation and I hope the opportunity will come for us to be able to reconcile. Even after emerging victorious in the court, we still need to reconcile. Because you cannot say, I’ve won all the cases; so let anyone go to hell, no. At least certain things would have been determined, and then you begin the process of healing. We don’t allow ourselves to go through to the end of such tunnels before reconciling. The onus is on the other side, as a matter of fact. The party is prepared to make some rational, durable and reasonable concessions.
What will the concessions look like?
I only represent the party. So, I cannot say this is how it will be. But I know the party is prepared to be flexible and accommodate what is reasonable.
There is the speculation that another convention of the party will come up in Abuja. Has the party decided on this and how soon will it be organised?
We have been given a timeframe of up to one year. It is not our intention to be there till the end of the year. Why it is made flexible is so we don’t have to go through an extension. Let us work towards reconciliation and hope that the courts will close the issues, as soon as possible, for the stability of the country and democracy. I pray so and I believe they have the capacity. I believe they know how important it is and that they will address the issues appropriately. So, as soon as we lay certain issues to rest, what else do we have to pursue other than to arrange for a convention as soon as possible?
You once raised an alarm that there are invisible hands from the ruling party, fueling the crisis in the PDP. Have you met with the leadership of the APC to discuss the issue?
I still stand by what I said earlier. Some individuals within the ruling party are fueling the crisis in our party, but not all of the government of the ruling party per se. They know themselves and we have a fair idea of who they are. We will meet them politically and not any other way. We shall overcome and there is no need to overheat the polity. The important thing is that we know them.
As the Chairman of the PDP Caretaker Committee, how do you assess the current economic situation in Nigeria?
We are all Nigerians and we know that things are tough now. I read a letter written by Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie to the President. Before that, there were some elements of appeal in his letter, especially where he called for all hands to be on deck to salvage the nation. This is not an issue for one political party alone. Long before that letter, and even long before President Buhari was sworn into office, my candid opinion was that the country was in a serious problem and that we were heading into more serious problems. But all hands need to be on deck. There is a time to play politics, and there is a time whether you belong to the party in government or not, we shouldn’t play politics with certain issues.
The situation in the country today really requires everyone’s contribution, to salvage our country from the present economic condition. As Cardinal Okogie said in that letter, if the economy is bad, it is the political class that is to be blamed. The military should also share in the blame, because they have done a lot of damage to the system. So, let us own up to the wrong we have done and let us collectively repent and come together for the sake of the ordinary man and woman, and even those that are not ordinary, because security is important to all of us. Let us sincerely see how we can salvage our country and put it on the right path. Of course that doesn’t mean we should become a one party state or that politically we should agree on all matters. But we should realise that the country’s survival is foremost. There are times we would disagree politically, but then go to the electorate on how we move forward. When that time comes we take it as such. My personal opinion was expressed in Cardinal Okogie’s letter and I support it.
Some people in government say they inherited the present poor economy from former President Jonathan’s administration. Do you agree with that position?
The problems are a lot more structural and have been with us for a long time, even before 1999. Of course, there are issues that can be tied to the last five, seven years or so, which is why I say it is a collective thing. The present failure can be extended as far back as can be remembered. However, it is not the time to start apportioning blames, rather, we should all come together and salvage the country, by doing the needful.
In any case, people voted because they were dissatisfied with the last administration. If they were satisfied, they would have returned the past administration at all levels. This they didn’t, hoping things would improve with this Government. So, it is good to go forward and see what we can do and improve our economy. It should not be seen as failure to say, look the issue at hand requires that we should come together and salvage our country.
You recently debunked claims that the PDP sued some Judges. Can you throw more light on this?
I made a press release. Firstly, the solicitor that filed the case on behalf of the party did not do so with the consent of the party. As the Chairman, Caretaker Committee, I only saw it in media report like any other Nigerian. I suspect that was done while I was out of the country and I am not sure other committee members were aware of it.
Be that as it may, I am not a lawyer, but the procedure is that we can petition the NJC against any member of the Bench. Or appeal against any judgment, order or ruling from any court. And we have been following that procedure strictly. When the news broke, I sought for advice and tried to understand what happened. I never got any advice indicating that that action was right, which was why I had to take the decision of immediately, issuing that press statement, indicating that as chairman, I was not aware.