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As the then governor of Kaduna state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi was credited with maintaining peace in Kaduna state because of his fair mindedness in treating all the tendencies in the state. When the PDP was thrown into leadership crisis, he was the unanimous choice as the chairman of the Caretaker Committee because he is seen as bridge builder and gentleman. Despite the fact the crisis in the party still lingers, he is well respected by even those who do not agree with his choice as caretaker committee chairman.
In this interview with BEN AGANDE in Abuja, he speaks on a wide range of national issues, including the government’s fight against corruption. Excerpts.
You were the governor of Kaduna state for eight years and during that period, you were reputed to have maintained relative peace in that otherwise volatile state. In view of what is happening in Southern Kaduna at the moment, what do you think is responsible for this escalation of violence?
A number of reasons are responsible for what is happening now. The challenges that we had then were different from the challenge they have now. It is not as if there were no farmer/herdsmen clashes when we were in power. Even as a child, the problems were there but they were being managed at the community levels by the traditional rulers and the communities.
The problem has become magnified because of the trans-border nomadic culture of the cattle rearers. The growing activism of host communities, especially the younger generation who may have been told one story or the other is a factor. Joblessness is another.
But the problem became worse after the 2011 elections because there was election violence and reaction and counter reactions which reached the southern part of Kaduna state. The overwhelming numbers of the casualties then were the local Fulani people and their cattle. Most of them moved away. In my opinion, government was not too quick in addressing the matter.
Though there was a sheikh Lemu committee which did an excellent job, government should have moved very quickly to get all people that were adversely affected, irrespective of their ethnic, cultural or religious persuasion, to sit down to make peace. Where government could come in to help out those who had lost everything, it should have come in so that people can rebuild their lives. Government should have ensured that people sat down to make peace as a community, as a people. This was not done until very, very late. By the time things were done, so much water had passed under the bridge.
More mayhem here and there; attacks and counter attacks which made nonsense of the spirit of the recommendation of the Sheikh Lemu committee. It is only through round table sitting that multi-ethnic communities see wisdom. That way it may not be difficult in executing to execute recommendation of the Justice Lemu committee because there would be understanding.
Somehow, it is my opinion, based on what I hear and read, that there is this belief that government has taken side. I do not believe that it is government’s intention to take side when its citizens are being maimed and killed but of course, you can also send a wrong signal. It may not be what you intend to do but the body language and what you say can always create an impression. I believe a lot of things have gone in to the heart and minds of people to make them feel awkward.
In this kind of situation, it is not to make matters worse but to try to find a solution. In my opinion, the path to finding a solution is the Abdulsalami Peace Committee. It is a committee of people of integrity, religious leaders are there, traditional rulers are there, and people with different backgrounds are there. The committee helped this country to transit from PDP government to APC government peacefully. They have proved themselves. Government and the people should give the Abdulsalami committee chance to broker peace.
The only way they can broker peace is by bringing the communities together to talk amongst themselves. If you can make them sit around the table and look at each other and remember the good old days, I am absolutely sure they can come up with recommendations that can help government bring back peace and stability in that troubled area.
The country seems to be move divided now than it was a few years ago. What in your opinion is responsible for this divisiveness?
There are differences from place to place. If you take the issue in southern Kaduna, it is not the same with the issue in Zamfara because in Zamfara, it is purely criminal issue. In southern Kaduna, there is inter-ethnic, inter-religious and of course, there is economic reason also. So are the differences in Benue, Taraba, south East and South West. There are different reasons we have crises all over. It is a national problem and that is the reason we should not politicize everything. It is bringing the country down. Attempting to politicize every problem, the big and the small will make the government too relaxed thinking it is all politics.
It is just like the Boko Haram crisis. Initially people thought it was all political and the government was relaxed. By the time it realized it was serious, it got out of hand. I think the current government, irrespective of party, whether state or central has tried to politicize a number of problems thereby allowing them to grow from small issue to large issues. That is why I keep saying that we need to put politics aside and come together and tackle the problems of the country.
You were recently quoted as saying that the Peoples Democratic Party is a government in waiting. With the recent development in the party where several high level members of the party are defecting to the APC, do you still have confidence in your prediction?
Absolutely. Remember there was a time when the PDP was in power and almost every politician moved to PDP. We know those who are moving now. They are few. The real time for movement is by the end of this year. People like to move when they are sure of certain things and by that time, PDP would have come out of its problems and maybe, the problems of other political parties may just be beginning. Let no body be laughing at what is happening to us. It is painful even if we lose one person. But who tells you that we may not get ten or hundred more in a few months to come?
We will continue to urge all party men and women to be patient. We cannot guarantee that all of them will be patient but we also know that there are many more people that are talking to us from other parties and we will continue to talk with them. We believe the Tsunami movement will come and when they it comes, Nigerians will not be told what will happen in 2019.
Do you think PDP is still a marketable brand?
It is not for me to say. As chairman caretaker committee, I cannot have a personal opinion over such matter. There is the Jerry Gana committee, who are talking with people and even when they submit their report, there are still different organs that their report will go through. So, I cannot profess any personal opinion in respect of such matters. Whatever the party decides, I will go with it.
Going back to Kaduna state, another issue that is generating tension is the issue of Shiite versus the state government. There was no major incidence during your tenure with the movement. What did you do? How were you able to navigate it?
We engaged them. We were talking with them. They knew we had dos and donts. Of course you may find excesses sometimes but as a leader, it is not every excess that you take as an offence and begin to mete out punitive measures. You can end up making a mountain out of a molehill. That was the attitude we adopted and it worked. I cannot recall any major crisis we had with them throughout my eight years in office. I can’t also recall any major crisis they had with any group. We remained in constant talks and it served the purposes that we set out to achieve.
Do you think government’s decision to ban them is justified?
The matter is in court, so I would not want to comment on it. The court will determine whether the action of government was constitutional or not.
One of the major planks of this government is the fight against corruption. What is your rating of this?
We all subscribe to the principle of fighting corruption but we have kept on saying that it should be a fair fight. When you mention the $2.1Million Dasuki arms money which they say was diverted to PDP campaign, it about N800 Billion. If that is what it is, when you sum up from the charge sheet the figure you are charging them for diversion may not be up to one percent of the money for the purchase of arms. That means that 99% of the money was used appropriately.
And if it was not used appropriately, it was not politicians that used it. Maybe it was public servants or the armed forces. But all that you hear and read about is what has to do with the politicians. But even then, even if it was a kobo that was diverted it is wrong. But my problem, which I have stated repeatedly, is that 99%of those people who are being called could not have known the source of that money. After all, it was not in 2015 that the centre started sending money to the states for elections.
From 2003, money was being sent to states for each election. It was nothing new. It was the norm. None of these people were in a position to know where the person taking the money took it from. For anybody to then look at them as criminals, it is unfair. It is like leaving the master and going for the messenger. It is quite unfair.
If a wrong has been done, we should look at who has done the wrong and how to handle it. “Let by gone be by gone” is a common saying. For people who were innocent political actors to be getting the heat is not fair.
Secondly, those of us who are not in office, it is easy to say we are corrupt and should be prosecuted. But for those in office, it is almost impossible. It is just a matter of time. Everybody must leave office one day. Those in office now, even if there are allegations now they may be swept under the carpet. But matters like these never end. Look at the Halliburton case; look at the case involving Dan Ettete and co.
We should not politicize the fight against corruption. As a matter of fact, and this is my personal opinion: our PDP senators should not oppose the confirmation of Magu because continuing to oppose him will be over politicizing the case and injuring the institution. If they have reservation on some of his procedures, they should take up such issues with him so that he too can become a better person to do his work more professionally and in tune with the law. As chairman of the opposition party, I am saying that we should not politicize this matter.
But the senate decision was based on a report by the DSS which indicted him.
Who is superior between the president and the DSS? The president said he has had a second look at their report and that he wants the man. Will you say no because his messenger said he is a bad man?