42--- VANGUARD, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2018 2019: APC has made it easier for us to win — Makarfi SENATOR Ahmed Makarfi was former Governor of Kaduna State between 1999 and 2007. He also served as a Senator before becoming Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of the People's Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview in Lagos over the weekend, he bares his mind on various national issues ranging from re-ordering of elections by the National Assembly, preparation of the PDP ahead of the 2019 elections and how the party is managing the fallouts from the December National Convention. He also talked about the failure of the South-West to clinch the chairmanship of the party as well as restructuring. Excerpts *Makarfi By Gbenga Oke and former governors in order to forge that the convention should decide who such confusion, who do you blame? You THE People's Democratic Party, the way forward for the party. I am sure becomes the chairman and deputy cannot blame anybody. Be that as it may, PDP was enmeshed in crisis the party is set and working so hard to chairman. Failure of a certain part to sit no part of this country should be taken ahead of its National Convention be a virile opposition party. down and agree should not be seen as for granted. and there were still some skirmishes the rest of the country heaping Except you don’t understand the after the convention. Can you tell us What is your reaction to insinuations something on somebody. politics of Nigeria, that is why you will the progress the party has made after that your leadership stirred disaffection Nobody directed the North to meet and expect to win election on the convention that? in the South-West zone after it opened maintain what they did, I did not ask ground. Before you get to the Well, not many people gave us a up the office of national chairman to them, it was not in my position to do convention ground, all the alliances chance before the convention, many all zones despite earlier zoning the that and nobody stopped the South from have been formed and you will know thought the party was going to scatter office to the region where the party is agreeing on certain terms. Failure to whether you will win or lose before from the Eagle Square but that did not not strong? agree was what made the race open and getting to the convention ground. happen. But that does not mean there I want to disagree with you in your politics is an issue of negotiation. So You may not have the leadership of was no fall-out from the convention. assertions about states of the South- they came to the convention divided, the party, you may end up having what After any convention, there must be West. First, there was no intention of campaigning against each other and in is even more than the leadership of the issues arising from the conduct of such throwing away the South-West or any politics, when you are campaigning party. As chairman of the party, you have conventions. So, it is not different that other bloc from any part of the country. limited powers even when your party PDP has some minor issues after the And by the time we went to the is in government. Can you tell me how convention but it is gladdening that the convention, there was no political powerful the chairman of APC, Oyegun party remains solid, remains united and arrangement from the South as to where is today? I think where people should one. Before the convention, we the chairman of the party should come To think that elections look up to is the Executive because that anticipated that some issues would from. We came in May and a convention is where policies are formulated and arise, that was why we set up the was scheduled for August in Port- should be ordered this executed and that is where the interest reconciliation committee which moved Harcourt, the PDP met in Port-Harcourt way or that way, it is a of people you represent can be to work immediately after the and micro-zoned the chairmanship of implemented. That is my personal convention. the party to the South-West before lazy way of opinion. The current leadership also set up two August last year. approaching elections. Apart from the Dickson committee, I other committees which consist of When we went to Port-Harcourt, know there is another committee being Seriake Dickson Committee and the because of interference from Whichever way it is led by Dr. Nwodo with Dr. Bello Haliru other one led by former principal officers government, that election could not take and David Mark. They are of the National Assembly to reach out place and our tenure was extended for ordered, we should complementing what others are doing to the aggrieved and to bring them back a year. When we were approaching the campaign and work. I just to ensure peace and on board and to integrate them in a bid December convention, the North met accommodation in the party. When you to provide a united front. This is also to and politically discussed among believe strongly that mention that the party is absent in the provide a strong and virile opposition themselves and maintained the microzoning. The South met and they could me, you have to go gradually to achieve anyhow the elections South-West, I disagree with that. For to the All Progressives Congress, APC, which is in power. We have covered a not agree on the micro-zoning. Before come, PDP can win peace, anything you rush into especially lot of grounds, but that does not mean every convention, you meet, discuss where there is sharp division, you are to say there are still no issues but I am and also take certain decisions. The bound to fail. So the party is very not in a position to know what those unity that existed from the South before conscious of these problems and we are outstanding issues were because I am the August convention disappeared against each other and you want the rest doing all we can to harmonise. I can not the national chairman of the party before the December Convention. When to give you power, it becomes more tell you that you will know our strength now. they met, they could not agree. Then difficult. So really, it was a local failure as a party when the elections come. I have left the office of chairman but I they met again and agreed on all other because the remaining part of the Nigerians should stop looking at the big continue to give advice in areas where positions except two positions which country had their agreement intact. But picture of ceremonial things, those I am needed and I am also handling were the chairmanship and the deputy I think they did not see a reason to unify things don’t win elections. You don’t go issues I can handle on my own just to chairmanship. And they left that before they decided that the convention by the crowd to win elections. In 2015, bring unity into the party without decision among themselves and even should determine who emerges. which crowd did we not have as a party? necessarily having recourse to the the South-East excused themselves from It was at the venue of the convention Did PDP not lose elections? So, don’t current leadership. The current it but the South-South and the Southwhen the election was about to start, be carried away by the crowd that leadership has been meeting with West could not agree. some of them started going round to say attends a rally. relevant organs of the party, the And when they could not agree, the they now have a consensus candidate governors, National Assembly members South-West and South-South decided while some others started going round disclaiming the same agreement. So, in Continues on Page 43
VANGUARD, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2018 — 43 Continued from Page 42 It is being said in some quarters that PDP has not shown enough confidence and direction to convince Nigerians the party is set to take over power from APC in 2019. How prepared is the party for 2019? No serious party will want to continue to remain as an opposition party. 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 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 elections. I do not pray Nigerians continue to suffer and that is why I believe Nigerians will make the right choice by voting out the party in power. As to our preparations, all I can say is that we are doing all that is legally and politically doable to achieve our objectives. It would be inappropriate for me to give a hint of what we are doing or what we are planning. It will amount to someone going to a battlefront and publishing your war plans, you have as well committed suicide before going for the war. We keep our plans to our chest but be rest assured we are used to the politicking and we shall leave no stone unturned. Till date, many still feel the overbearing influence of the Governors in the PDP is part of the reason why the party lost in 2015. It is also believed that such played out in deciding who emerged Chairman of the party at the December Convention. Being a former Governor and a major player in PDP, how do you react to this? Well, going back to the 2015 elections, the North expected to have the ticket but even at that, our language was not so polite in the campaigns. The manner and language some of our members used in campaigning for 2015 was insulting to a certain part of the country. Also, the party structure was not used for campaigning rather Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, 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 down toward the village level; to now abandon that asset and use something superficial, naturally there will 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 sitting in 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 election. There could have been difficulties or challenges, but if we had 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 at the presidential level, there was no question of over-bearing influence by any governor especially as I mentioned, no governor was in the Presidential Campaign Council. They were basically expected to be on-lookers until you visit their states to campaign. They made a mistake. Going forward, the PDP has only 11governors, so the people are working together with the governors we *Makarfi APC has made it easier for us to win — Makarfi have and the governors are also showing their support. I have not seen where they are showing overbearing influence on anybody; if they have ideas, they share ideas and we implement the ideas. Right now, you won’t find that in PDP because the situation is completely different, we know that and we are making use of all the assets that we have, whether governors, former governors or former ministers, we respect the view of all who can add value to our party. Recently, the APC stated that the party is now for restructuring after they initially rejected it. Many believed it is because elections are approaching. Where does your own party stand on the issue of restructuring? I addressed a World Press Conference when this matter came up. I said that APC is now like a chameleon changing colors. All I can say is that, right from the beginning, we in PDP were for restructuring. Besides that, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Chairman of the committee by the APC They said they are not a political party, time will tell; if they turn out to be a political party, we will see how it plays out. Obasanjo himself said anytime they turn to a political party, he will cease to be a member said on Channels Television 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 Obasanjo and Jonathan some of the conferences were done and some of the recommendations border on the issue of restructuring. I also said restructuring means different things to different people, the starting point is to narrow down the understanding and proceed stage by stage because there are things you can do immediately, some on short-term and some on long-term basis. Several of these issues being raised today are because of several issues happening within the country right now and we have to be sensitive. 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 who they are, people who will do anything just to remain in power not because they mean it. Does the PDP feel threatened by the political moves of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo especially with his third force? We don’t feel threatened by the Coalition of Obasanjo. I can tell you that most of them are friends and associates. They said they are not a political party, time will tell. If they turn out to be a political party, we will see how it plays out. Obasanjo himself said anytime they turn to a political party, he will cease to be a member. My take on it is like in the United States where you have independent candidacy, you have the Democrats and the Republicans, then you have an independent candidate who looks at a candidate and decides where to swing at the last minute. That is what I feel it is, time will tell what their aims are. What is your take on 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 INEC that has the power to do that. If that is the case, so be it. But for me, I think my take is, 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. I believe strongly that anyhow the elections come, PDP can win. So we should concentrate on the main issues and not through any shortcut. On the issues of Herdsmen ravaging the Country. What do you think the APC led government be doing to tackle the issue? I believe this issue has assumed a dimension which is alarming and all hands need to be on deck to address it. This a problem that is ravaging the North Central of the country and the Southern part of the country. When I was governor, this problem was rampant in my area but people did not know but it was similar to what is happening now; tough the ferocity was quite different, the proliferation of arms was not there, just cutlass and arrows. The influx of some of these people because of free movement of ECOWAS has also made it difficult and it has complicated the matter. Therefore, this matter we must look at it critically. The Federal Government has talked about the issue of the colony, colony as a word sounds to be offensive, colonization to me means domination. Ranching sounds business, anybody can go into ranching and you do business where it is feasible, you cannot do business where it is not feasible. So, we have to begin with the policy of modernization of ranching where it is most feasible at this time and re-orient and re-indoctrinate the herdsmen. It will take time but it is doable, modernize their profession, give them some level of education, give them incentives to make them change their ways and methods. Anything to achieve peace is not a waste. I am not saying they should reward them for criminality or illegality, I am talking of domestic herdsmen that are Nigerians, they should assist them to modernize their practice. Then 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.