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PDP needs more than conventional politics to defeat APC in 2019 –Makarfi

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the immediate past National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party and one of the party’s presidential aspirants, in this interview with some journalists in Kaduna, says Nigeria’s fate beyond 2019 will depend on the conduct and behaviour of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Nigeria Police Force.

It was reported that some of the aspirants jostling for the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential ticket for the 2019 election are actually moles to destabilise the PDP ahead of the presidential poll. What do you think about that?

Well, I didn’t make the statement. I read it but in politics, one cannot rule that out. Even when the PDP was in power, I know that the party tried to infiltrate other political parties as well. So, don’t expect that the party in power now will not try to infiltrate the opposition parties. That is a normal thing in politics. Also, the opposition tries as well to infiltrate the party in power to at least have first-hand information about what is going on. A mole may be one that is given a specific task – to sabotage. I can’t say for sure that there is any aspirant that has been given a task to sabotage. But espionage, even among governments, takes place let alone among other political parties or groups. They are things we should expect actually. That is why everybody has to be doubly careful about the way they go about playing their politics; you don’t leave your flanks wide open.

Cast your mind back to 2015; how did the All Progressives Congress come to power? Openly, key members of the PDP left and joined them. But that was not the fatal blow. The fatal blow was actually those who remained in the PDP but worked for the APC. So, don’t rule it out that people can also remain in the APC, not because they like it, but because they may wish to work for us; don’t rule out that. It happened in 2015 against the PDP and it can happen in 2019 against the APC. So, I don’t want us to overplay this because we may even be throwing away an issue which can end up benefiting the party one way or the other. It all depends on how we look at it.  The votes of the PDP members alone cannot make us win elections; we need the votes of everybody, irrespective of political parties, including the APC. And how we get the votes doesn’t necessarily have to be through a conventional way of politicking or relationship or association. I don’t want to go further than this but winning elections is not by a clear, defined line. To take power from an incumbent in an African country, you need much more than conventional politics to achieve that. If you just stick to conventional politics; I’m sorry, you may never succeed in actually getting that power. So, we should not be worried about that. The issue we should be more concerned about is: what are we doing to keep us united? What are we doing to avoid frictions? Though there must be frictions and differences of opinions, it must not be allowed to lead to rancour that can affect the party internally and this is up to us; it is not up to the government or any other party. It is up to the PDP.

Talking about frictions, considering the array of presidential aspirants in the party, is the party going to reach a consensus on the candidate or not to prevent the destabilisation of the PDP?

I have been asked this question before. Consensus may mean everybody agreeing to support one person; it may mean a number of persons coming together to agree among themselves and form a bloc. Look, the convention I conducted was not a universal consensus but it was the consensus of the majority. Some people say, you don’t go to convention with a predetermined outcome but you can actually do so, provided it is an outcome you people willingly sat down and agreed upon. So, 100 per cent consensus may be impossible but you have actualised a consensus of the majority and it may be that everybody might go to convention on their own. Anything can happen because this is a developing situation and it develops over time. The fact that there is no clear position on the consensus now does not mean that there will not be tomorrow and I am not saying that there must be by tomorrow. So, just leave it as a possibility but not an issue to be forced by anybody. There was never a time that the party leadership mentioned that they force consensus on anybody. It is only that aspirants are encouraged to interact with one another to see if they can come to some understanding among themselves. As aspirants, we are friends. We have been talking, we will continue talking. I shouldn’t rule out any particular thing happening before the convention.

Recently, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar visited you after which he also visited former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, where the former VP asked him to step down. Did Atiku also ask you to step down for him or were you the one that asked him to step down for you?

That question never came up between us. We only discussed as democrats; as people who started the PDP together. There are stakes involved. We need to be comparing notes and working together in the interest of the country, democracy and our party. So, nothing like that was actually discussed but I believe he is eminently qualified. He has also expressed that I am equally and eminently qualified, but among several qualified people, it is only one person that will emerge as winner. So, I don’t have any problem if he emerges as the party’s candidate and I believe if I emerge as the candidate, he will willingly accept my candidature but nobody made any specific request to the other.

Even as you have gone far in your presidential ambition, there is a rumour that you will soon dump the PDP for another party. What is your reaction to that?

You see, I think this is coming from two sides; it is coming from both the PDP and the APC. I think the APC fears me most and they are daydreaming that I will be in their party; that is my opinion because the first thing that drew my attention to what trended in social media was that the people reacting to the rumour were mostly members of the other party. Maybe it is their calculation and thinking that, from all in the PDP, I am one candidate that they fear and will not want to face in the presidential election.

On the other hand, that is on the side of the PDP, there are those who think that my ‘non-combatant’ nature might be a sign of weakness. But the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was not combatant, Alhaji Shehu Shagari is not combatant; leaders don’t have to be physically combatant. It is what you have in your head and the programmes you have that matter. It is not about abusing anybody. It is not about shouting on top of your voice. It is not about being loud. It is about what you really have for Nigerians.

For me, I keep friends irrespective of their political persuasion; you shouldn’t become my enemy because we differ politically. We can disagree but something can still bring us together. And for the PDP to win, we need votes from everywhere. So, rather than some people from within my party to look at it that way, they should see that as a great asset because it is an asset that can resonate with even non-PDP members. And to win, you need non-PDP members. If you just stick to only PDP members, you won’t win elections. After all, to win, you want to take away votes that could go to the APC, you want people in the APC to think ‘okay, if I cannot have President Muhammadu Buhari, who in the PDP can I vote for?
Some people have become so disappointed with politicians that they don’t even know what choice to make between the PDP and the APC. So, if you don’t have someone they can look at and say, okay we can trust this one, how are you going to get the votes? And we should not assume that Nigerians don’t have a choice to make. So, you have to excite them; you have to present them with a credible alternative for them to see that we can trust this one. It goes beyond appealing to members of one political party alone. You have to appeal to people across board. We are not in power and if you are not in power and you want to take over power from the incumbent, you must have an appeal across political lines. That is the surest way to win.

So, for me, that is my own opinion about the noise. Once people see that you have potential, they must create issues to talk about. I am happy that nobody is talking about me not having the capacity or that I don’t have the credibility. Do you get the point? I have history and record and I think people should be judged based on their record and history and not by permutations. Desperate people make permutations when the die is cast and we should expect more permutations. I remain unperturbed because this kind of things will continue to happen.

So, I remain focused. I am in the PDP. I have said it before and I am saying it again that if I leave the PDP, I am leaving politics. And that is it. What will I seek in another party anyway? Absolutely nothing!

It was in the news sometime ago that you and the PDP governors had an agreement that they would support you, and we later heard that they had reneged on that agreement. How is true is that?

I never sat down with the governors’ forum to reach any formal agreement. Before the convention to elect the national leaders of the party, the governors were sharply divided and I sensed danger because the governors are our generals. Whether you like their faces or not, they are very important to the party. They have contributed enormously to the party and I believe they will continue to do that. Of course, the governors are not the only people contributing to the party. Everyone is contributing in their own way. But the governors cannot be wished away. We will continue to respect and value them because we need them now more than ever before if we have to win the election, just as we need other people to come in.

Yes, I did some legwork and reached out to every one of them in trying to bring them together and finally, I succeeded in bringing them all together. That was why we succeeded in having a rancour-free convention that was responsible for bringing us to where we are today, where the party is now bring seen in a positive light. I didn’t get any agreement or promise but of course, you hear political statements maybe from individuals saying, ‘Your efforts will not be forgotten.’ Well, time will tell if the statements were just statements or they meant what they said. But assuming that I had sat down and reached some agreement with them; that is completely faulty. Up till now, some of them look at me and tell me the same thing – that my efforts will not be forgotten, but we will wait and see what actually happens. Politics is dynamic. So, if some have said so and then gone ahead to do another thing, that is their own cup of tea. I take things as they come but to be specific, there were no formal agreements between the governors’ forum and me. Individually, some might have made statements to suggest that at the time of my need, they will try to be supportive but I don’t take that to be a written promise. We make this kind of statements. I hear it from Board of Trustee members; I hear it from National Assembly members; I hear it from people in party structures across states. Even yesterday, I got calls from some states that I didn’t even initiate, telling me the same thing but time will tell. It is good if people remember the good that each one of us has done and that means each one of us should be assessed on the basis of what each one of us has done and not what is unknown. It is not gambling; it is about the general elections. So, it is a developing situation. We are talking. There is no governor that is not accessible to me but I don’t try to overburden anyone of them because I was in that office before and I know what it entails and I believe they are interested in winning the elections. So, we will see what political discussion will lead us to between now and the date of the convention.

Are you satisfied with the Independent National Electoral Commission and security agencies’ level of preparation towards the 2019 general elections?

I was shocked when I read the news in one of the national dailies that the 2019 elections might be postponed. But thank God, I later saw INEC coming out to deny making such a pronouncement. That was the most dangerous news I ever read. That was very reckless. You see, the interest of Nigeria is larger than the interest of any of us. How we conduct these elections and how we manage this electoral process will largely determine the fate of Nigeria. INEC and the security agencies must know that the fate of this country squarely lies on their shoulders. It is not even about history being kind to them; it is about how they will end up. Therefore, they must conduct free, fair and credible elections.

You can see some moves like freezing of accounts and monitoring of opposition governors. I have never heard about where an APC governor’s account is being frozen. If governors do certain things, is it only the PDP governors (doing them)? The APC governors may be doing worse but you never hear that happening to any APC governor. While elections are approaching, you don’t hear of the APC members or aspirants’ accounts being frozen. But here (in the PDP), even accounts of family members of aspirants are being frozen. They should remember that there is tomorrow because what goes around comes around; what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you are doing anything to anybody, do it to everybody. Our governors must be left alone to work, our aspirants must be left alone to do their politicking and campaign without being molested like other aspirants.

From what I am seeing, I am not comfortable and if Nigerians keep quiet, then it is like harbouring what is wrong. People must speak out. If it happens to someone today, it can happen to you tomorrow. You don’t have to be in politics but it means, once you are a voice of dissent, anything can happen to you.
So, for me, I think INEC and security agencies have a lot to do and so far, I am not impressed but they must remember that the fate of Nigeria lies squarely on their shoulders. The PDP and other political parties will do what is right.

I am cautioning the APC; they should not be smiling and grinning, we must never burst this bubble. They should not get carried away by the comfort of power and think that they are immune from calamity. We are all not immune from calamity; nobody knows when calamity will come. We all have a stake; we all have responsibility, whether you are in the PDP, the APC or in any other political party. INEC and security agencies and other agencies that are used to muscle down the opposition, they must remember that the country comes first and not any government or political party.

What is your reaction to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun’s resignation after a long period of National Youth Service Corps certificate scandal?

I will not answer you until you tell me where she is now.

She is in United Kingdom.

I understood she has dual citizenship, right? So, right now she is claiming (to be) British. That is the price you pay for the appointment of people like that. That is why I always refer to people’s history and record before you give them serious responsibilities. We all have history and records. Who knows how many are out there without one certificate or the other?

With this now, do you think it is advisable to henceforth give such positions to people who have dual citizenship?

That is why I said we all have history and records, so we should be careful who we give responsibility to. If I am going to give a serious responsibility to somebody, I should know everything about you and trust that you will do your best, that you have no divided interests, that you are fully a Nigerian, that you are committed to Nigeria and not that you have a second home that you always fly to at short notice. So, it is a lesson to learn.

Since you declared your intention to contest the presidency, has your life ever been threatened by anybody?

Sure, in several ways. But you see, throughout my life, I have been threatened several times but I am not someone who shed tears because of threats. I deal with threats and intimidations in my own way. I don’t have to go crying to everyone that I have been threatened. I always rise up to the challenge, face it and deal with it in my own way

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