PDP hasn’t changed but we’re the ones trying to outsmart one another, says Makarfi | The Guardian Nigeria News


Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, says the current crisis in PDP is a product of narrow political schemes, stressing that it is better to pursue reconciliation than draw a line.

• You don’t decide for a presidential candidate, says Makarfi
• Obi’s troubles were home-made, Kwankwaso was bent on quitting

As a founding member of PDP, how do you react to the perception that PDP has dropped the ball, as far as its original principles are involved?
For me to answer effectively, you have to explain what you mean by dropping the ball because one can interpret that differently, if you can tell me specifically what you mean by dropping the ball.

At foundation PDP factored zoning into its sharing of offices but of recent the issue of zoning received various interpretations…
PDP has not changed from what it has been since it was formed. The problem with all of us politicians is trying to play fast one on one another. Let me go back, the Constitution of the party provides for power rotation and zoning. “Power” means when you are elected not when you are nominated. A candidate has no power, he is seeking for the power, so if you go by power rotation, who was the last president under PDP? It was Jonathan and if you go strictly by that, it is power rotation and zoning.

That being the case, a committee was set up by the party to address the issue of zoning, for whatever reasons, most people assumed that the chairman was going to be zoned to Southwest. Then suddenly there was a shift. Some said, oh, let it be north and the argument adduced by those who were pushing for it was, we need somebody now in the north. We have more governors in the south, let’s have somebody in the north, after all until we get the power before you can address anything and let’s leave presidency open, we are not talking about presidency; whoever emerged presidential candidate, if he is from the south, then already chairman is in the north, no problem.

But, if somebody from the north emerges, then after winning, the party can hold a mini convention to rotate the whole thing. Those were what they professed.

Now, if you professed something and then probably some people have some other interests and that interest is not met, then you come and start going against what you professed. We should be careful as politicians, because when you are pushing for something, you don’t know whether it is going to affect you positively or negatively, but you assume that once something is in a particular manner, it basically suits you. Politics is not like that.

You see, somebody could be popular, almost at the brink of grabbing power, events will change. That is politics anywhere in this world. On that issue of power rotation and zoning, before the last convention to nominate our presidential candidate, I was very open. I said if the general consensus or the majority, let me use majority, because in politics, consensus is not about 100 percent, you can have consensus as a majority, there can be 51 percent, but if they meet together and say this is where we go, that is consensus of majority.

Then you have consensus of all; that is 100 percent, which is difficult to achieve in our kind of democracy. I had an open mind, many of us had open mind that if consensus of majority brings up a person from the South so be it.

If a consensus of majority favours somebody from the north, so be it and that was what happened. So, many of us were open, now it depends on who is able to build that consensus of majority and a lot of factors come into play in providing for people’s comfort and if you want to win people’s comfort, you also have to psychologically do a lot of things.

You can be the most qualified, if you don’t do the things that are necessary, you may be the most educated, you may be whatever, if you don’t do those things which will hold the consensus of majority for you, whether you are from the North or from the South, or wherever, you will have problems politically.

I am taking time to explain all these. It is some political gimmicks and game play, which started long before the convention to elect national offices. So, if you could convince everybody, let chairman come from north, we will decide the presidency when the time comes and it doesn’t matter whether north or south, after winning then we can now sit down before inauguration, hold a mini-convention and do ABCD; you can’t change the goal post in the middle of the game.

You see, in politics, when you say something, everybody is planning, no matter what your plans are, you come up with something, somebody may be ahead of you in terms of that planning, you wouldn’t know and that is why you see, all politicians irrespective of the party seeking power, they should know first of all, everything comes from God. Two, they should go about it in a manner that will enhance their chances of getting whatever they want. It all depends on how you play it.

So, as far I am concerned, it is not such a breach, there was understanding within the PDP that should Atiku win the presidential election- which we believe and are hoping that he will win- the agreement reached before will be realised. If somebody comes now to say he will go against that agreement, we will not support it. Because, we know that it was agreed in principle that if it happens that the winner of the presidential nomination happens to come from the North after winning, the President can accommodate whoever may be the national chairman in any position. Then the party can hold a mini-convention to make whatever necessary changes in its constitution and elect whoever is in line with the situation in hand.

But, some stakeholders recall that in 2014 some members left the PDP arguing that it was the turn of the north to produce Jonathan’s successor. How do you marry that revolt with the power rotation you are talking about?
You see, again, I was not part of whatever happened, but what we have been told by those who participated, the governors, was what we followed. That is the problem of breaching a gentleman’s agreement.

What I explained to you now about the current situation was the understanding and agreement amongst all of us. At that time what the governors were saying was that they also had agreement with Jonathan that having completed his full tenure and that remaining from Umaru Yar’ Adua, it would shift to the north. That was the agreement and that agreement was reneged upon.

So, whenever you renege on a certain understanding it creates problem. If that agreement they had, I was not in the position of the power brokers, because I was just a bloody Senator then, but they had that agreement just as we currently have this understanding right before the convention to elect party officials. There was a lot of struggle in trying to approve the zoning committee report until this understanding was reached.

And if it was reached and it didn’t suit whoever, how do you now challenge it? We knew it will create dislocation, but temporarily, because all these can be addressed. That was the understanding that whatever happens we should zero in, win the election, then, before even inauguration, sit down and do ABCD. If that agreement in principle was reached and a certain zoning issue was approved, for God’s sake, before God and man, how can you come and try to create it in a different narrative?

When some stakeholders that left the party came back, they blended fast and were reintegrated. You that blended the party, pacified frayed nerves were promised the party’s presidential ticket. How did you react to the defectors that came back, especially the promise made to you?
You see, that is why I said whatever we are doing we should have principles. At that time influential forces said it doesn’t matter even if the person comes back a day before the convention, you waive everything. Because they also had somebody in mind and people accepted it in the spirit of togetherness.

Yes, I may have been promised heaven and earth, but as I said, power comes from God. I have come near to power many other times, but since God said it was not my time or I will not do it, I am not going to kill myself over that. I should rather contribute my own quota, Nigeria is larger than I or my personal interest, and the interest of my party supersedes my personal interest. That’s my principle.

So, I hold nothing personal against whoever may have promised me any particular thing, it was no within his power, it is God that gives. And in politics, you win, you, lose, you can’t win all the time.

For some time now, PDP has been laying claims to the presidency, but with this internal discord and talks about reconciliation here and there, why was there no such effort to reconcile you specially before the 2019 election?
The party owes me nothing. I know what was promised me in 2007, even before the election. Even before the formal convention to nominate the presidential candidate, I was asked to choose whatever I wanted. Was I even offered anything? I wasn’t. Did I become sad, annoyed or refused to continue, no, because I have this deep belief that if it is not mine, it will not be mine. But, what is important is that we are all part of a team to make Nigeria a better place.

If we zero it to me, or you, we won’t get it. If I am not there, then what happens? I will make every effort to pursue such things, but when that is gone, I put it behind me and say, okay, what next? We move on. That is what I am telling you. In this career, from 2007 transition, I saw a lot, along the line, but I never took it personal.

The current polarisation in PDP between Waziri of Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; how do you think the party will come out of it?
My personal views have been known to everybody. First of all, Governor Wike, and indeed, every other person should know that everything comes from God. Life itself, it is God that gives and takes. Riches, it is God that gives and takes. Good health, no matter your money, it is in God’s hand. Of course your money can give you relief, but whether you are well or not, ultimately God decides when you leave this earth through whatever means.

Now, with that as a foundation, people should aspire to any particular thing, but when the outcome is known, they should accept the will of God and now take a breather and say how do we move ahead as a family?
The people who are successful should also know that it came from God and that a lot of people came together to make it so and should therefore reach out to those who may not have got it, indeed everybody. That is my principle.

I am not in a position to know the details of what was reached. But for me, knowing that politics is local, I have been based in my home state of Kaduna, working in all manners legal, for us to reclaim Kaduna, both at presidential and state elections. That is where 99 percent of my attention is. After all, if everybody should go back to his or her state, then we’ve won. It is not in Abuja that we will gather and be doing politics. It can’t work.

But, some people are better positioned, they need to know the happenings generally. I am still standing by my principle. I have said so before, reach out to everybody; you can’t zero it on Governor Wike alone. Other people contested, but everybody needs to be approached, needs to be accommodated. But if some individuals have been approached and accommodated and they are still not satisfied, then of course, you have to move forward.

What has happened or what has not happened in reality, I am not in the position to say, but be that as it may, I still believe that reconciliation is better than drawing a line. No matter what anybody has done wrong or right or whatever, reconciliation is better than drawing a line.

We haven’t won the election, we can win the election. Primary is an easier thing, general election is a completely different ball game. I can give you 100 percent delegates from Kaduna, when general election comes, I may not be able to give you 30 percent, I may be able to give you 70 percent, things change. So, approach to general elections should be different from approach to primaries. That is the truth of the matter.

No matter what anybody may have done to malign him (Wike), to insult him, after all, leaders are insulted, even prophets were insulted. So, who are we, if you do not want somebody to abuse or insult you, don’t be in public office. Whether you are a religious leader, political leader, rich man, successful person, people will abuse you for one reason or the other and you don’t take that too personal.

So I am still calling on him and any other persons aggrieved to still give peace a chance. I also will fully support that our party, our presidential candidate, in any way possible to listen, to accommodate not only Governor Wike, but any other aggrieved individual in our party. We need everybody. We should give it a try, if it works out fine, but if it doesn’t work out, I have told you what my state and I are busy doing, politics is local. Everybody should go home and work to turn in our states for PDP.

Some people claim that the presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and the party leadership haven’t done much to resolve the crisis…
First of all, the national chairman informed me he’s been talking to all groups, I am not in the position to know but we are not trying anybody here. The national chairman (Ayu) told me that he has been talking to those involved. I am not in the position to say, but I also have no reason to deny what he told me on his own, not through a third party. But, if it has not worked up till now then more efforts should be made.

I like history, it is relevant in the sense of making us do what we need to do now, not hanging on to it and not doing anything. If it was done and it hasn’t worked let’s do more. Our presidential candidate and by God’s grace our next President, Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, in 2019 he picked Peter Obi and you saw how the governors revolted, all kinds of abuses. They said there was no consultation. Now he consulted but maybe, some people thought that consultation means taking decision on his behalf, no; you never take decision on behalf of the principal. Now, he consulted, again it is a problem.

He has tried to be democratic by running away from what he did in 2019 and he immediately saw a revolt, making it through two tier committee consultations, and other consultations, other national leaders and then you blame him, no, you don’t. Maybe, it is the perception that a decision must be taken on his behalf. A decision is never taken on behalf of a candidate; you can only advice a candidate.

But, I don’t think those complaining, maybe those who lost out, may not have been hurt. If I am one of them I may be slightly hurt but I will push it away and say fine, which way forward? The thing is, nomination of a running mate, is the first step, while managing the aftermath is another.

So I don’t think also that those with issues are principally angry because they did not get running mate. How they were approached, how they were managed, what their level of comfort is, of course that may be the issue. I don’t know, I have not spoken with them, I have not asked. And to my thinking, that should be the issue but I may be wrong, but I may think that may be the issue.

And that is why I said if the efforts done in the past have not worked, let us redouble the efforts and then all those with grievances, let us know that it is not everything you want, you can get. But if you deserve something, you should not go empty handed without something, that is the way I look at it. Overall you don’t know what God has in store for each one of us down the line. Patience pays.

Now, in the entire gamut of all these injuries, Southwest claims that on several occasions they have been denied the chairmanship of the party.
It was Southwest that rejected it at the last convention. As a matter of fact, the power brokers in the Southwest had already adopted Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the issue was reconciling him with some people that had grievances regarding him. Suddenly, their political permutation changed; that is why I said when you change it, it doesn’t mean that what you are thinking will work out.

Maybe, if Southwest had taken the chairmanship, who knows maybe some of the things they are complaining now may not even be the issue. We should not be God to say what will happen tomorrow. We should just do things on the basis of beliefs and principles and knowing that things come from God.


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