…warns APC over intimidation of opposition
By Ben Agande, Kaduna
Former governor of Kaduna state and one of the presidential aspirants of the people Democratic Party, Ahmed Makarfi recently spoke with Journalists on the forthcoming presidential primaries of the party and his expectation from his party. He also spoke on the allegation by the governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike that the Opposition All Progressive Congress has planted some moles as presidential aspirants in the PDP.
Should your party, the PDP go for consensus in the choice of its presidential candidate or it should conduct primaries?
I have been asked this question before. Consensus may mean, everybody agreeing to one person, it may mean, a number of persons coming together to agree among themselves to form a block. The convention I conducted was not a universal consensus, but it was the consensus of the majority. Majority of members came together, settled among themselves and they went to the convention ground and elected some people. Some people say you don’t go to convention with a predetermined outcome but you can go to convention with a predetermined outcome, provided that it is an outcome you people willingly sat down and agreed upon. So 100 per cent consensus may be impossible but you can actualise a consensus of the majority. The fact that there is no clear position on the consensus now does not mean that, there will not be one tomorrow and I am not saying tomorrow there must be. It is a possibility but not an issue to be forced on anybody. There was never a time the party leadership mentioned that there will be forced consensus on anybody. Aspirants are encouraged to interact with each other to see if among themselves, they can come to some understanding. As aspirants, we are friends, we have been talking, we will continue talking. I wouldn’t rule out any particular thing happening before the convention.
Some of the aspirants have raised fears about moving the venue of the convention outside Abuja. Do you have such fears?
Personally, I have an open mind as to where the venue of the convention should be, but of course, some of the aspirants have spoken to me on the reservations they have about what other people have raised. It is not just aspirants but a lot of other people have also spoken to me and I said they should direct their observations to the appropriate quarters. I believe the party leadership will listen when observations are raised.
If I am comfortable with it someone else might not be comfortable with it. what we want is what is comfortable to everybody. The party should listen to everybody that has an interest in this matter. It is not a matter that should be left to a few people to decide. There should be unanimity of position as far as this matter is concerned, but we should not allow it become a matter that should divide us. Nobody should insist on any particular thing. I believe it is a matter we will get over. To me, even if the party wants to hold the convention in Makarfi, they will be welcomed.
One of the governors of the party has alleged that there could be moles among the presidential aspirants in your party. How do you react to this?
In politics, even when PDP was in power, I know that PDP tried to infiltrate other political parties. 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. If you are in the opposition, you try to infiltrate the party in power to at least have first hand information on what is going on, same way the government will try to infiltrate the opposition to know what the opposition is planning.
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, not to talk of 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 doing their politics; you don’t leave your flanks wide open.
How did APC come to power in 2015? Openly, key members of PDP left and joined them. But that was not the fatal blow. the fatal blow was from those who actually remained in PDP but worked for APC. So, don’t rule out that people can also remain in APC, not because they like it, but because they may wish to work for us. I 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 issue which can end up benefiting the party one way or the other. It all depends on how you look at it. PDP votes alone cannot make us win election, we need votes of everybody irrespective of political parties, including APC, and how we get the votes may not necessarily have to be a conventional way of politicking. I don’t want to go further than that, but winning election is not a clearly defined line, it is a way of politicking. If you really want to win election, especially to take away power from an incumbent in an African country, you need much more than conventional politics to achieve that. If you just stick to the conventional politics, you may never succeed in actually taking away that power.
So, we should not be worried about that. We should be concerned more about what is going to keep us together. What are we doing to avoid frictions? Although there must be frictions and difference of opinion, it must not be allowed to lead to rancour and cause internal injury within the party. It is up to the PDP.
Recently, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar visited you, after which he also visited former Jigawa state Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, where Atiku asked him to step down. Did Atiku also ask you to step down for him?
That question never came up between us. We only discussed as democrats, as people who started PDP together. There are lots at stake. we need to be comparing notes and working together in the interest of the country, democracy and our party. Nothing like that was actually discussed, but I believe he is eminently qualified, he also expressed that, that I am equally eminently qualified, but among several qualified people, it is only one person that will emerge. So, I don’t have problem if he emerges, and I believe if I emerge, he will willingly accept my candidature. Nobody made any specific request during our meeting.
It was in the news recently that you and the PDP governors had an agreement that they will support your candidature but they seem to be reneging on that agreement. How true is that?
First of all, 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 and I believe they will continue to do that. The governors are of course not the only people contributing to the party; everyone is contributing in his own way. But the governors cannot be wished away. We will continue to respect them, value them, because we need them now more than ever before if we have to win the election, as we need other people to come in.
Yes, I did a lot of legwork, reaching each and every one of them to try to bring them together, and finally I succeeded in bringing them all together, and that is how we succeeded in having a rancour-free convention. But I didn’t get any agreement or promise. But of course, you hear political statements from individuals saying, ‘your efforts will not be forgotten’. Time will tell if the statements were just statements or they meant what they said. But to assume that I sat down and reached some agreement, that is completely not true.
Are you satisfied with INEC and security agencies’ level of preparation towards the 2019 general elections?
I was shocked when I read in the news that the 2019 elections may be postponed, but thank God, I later saw INEC coming out to deny making such pronouncement. The denial not withstanding, 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.
When you see some moves like freezing of accounts, monitoring of opposition Governors, it gives room for concern. I have never heard where an APC Governor’s account has been frozen. If Governors do certain things, is it only PDP Governors? The APC Governors may be doing worse, but you never hear that anything happens to them. Our governors must be left alone to work, our aspirants must be left alone to do their politicking and campaigns unmolested like other aspirants.
From what I am seeing, I am not comfortable, and if Nigerians keep quiet, then it is like condoning what is wrong. People must speak out. 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. PDP and other political parties will do what is right.
I am cautioning APC, they should not be smiling and grinning, we must never burst this bubble. They should not be 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, be you PDP, APC or any other political party and especially INEC and security agencies and other agencies that are used to muscle down the opposition, and they must remember that the country comes first, not any government or political party.