Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi is the immediate past chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a presidential aspirant on the platform of the party. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the former governor of Kaduna state states that the PDP must present a candidate who is sincere, credible and with integrity to match President Buhari in the 2019 election. He also spoke on other issues.
What informed your decision to vie for the office of the President?
It’s not a new thing. I was in the race in 2007, a front runner for that matter. I was a Senator for some time. So it’s not something that happen overnight or opportunistic attitude of mine because I was the immediate past national chairman of the party, which automatically should give me the right to contest. No. Of course I have a record as governor where I did relatively well in terms of dealing with security challenges and creating harmony between different ethnic groups. I did well in dealing with people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in terms of rural and urban transformation, in terms of running a government that was fair and equitable to all, in terms of being democratic and running an open-door policy. I was also in the legislative arm for eight years and lastly, the position of managing a political party. I don’t think there is any aspirant that has the combination of all these issues. But it still doesn’t give me the right to ask for automatic ticket, there are equally competent aspirants. So we will do the needful and see what the outcome will be.
What is going to make your aspiration unique from others?
What is unique is that whatever experiences others might have, none had the experience of managing a political party like myself. It wasn’t just managing it but doing it at the times of crises. It was the success we recorded in managing it that made it a beautiful bride today. Yes it was a collective responsibility but you can’t take away the fact that I was the head of it.
Prominent party members have also indicated interest in the presidency. What strategy are you going to use to win the primaries?
The choice is really left for the delegates but they should remember that it doesn’t end with just choosing a candidate. The issue is about winning elections. Whether presidency, governorship or any elective office, if you don’t make the best choice that will resonates with the voters, no matter how qualified the person might be, the person might find it difficult to get elected. Our party men and women must remember this. It doesn’t end with just wining the primaries. The main job is winning elections. The voters will analyse all the candidates and if we as a party do not put ourselves in the position of the voters, we might get it wrong. The primaries is not the end of it, but we are talking and still analysing the situation. We know power comes from God but we also make choices, we shouldn’t be blaming God when things go wrong. We need to look at the experiences of each candidate and come up with a candidate that is well respected by the voters. When you look at each candidate, you must find one or two faults but the issue is that it should be as minimum as possible so that you don’t run into what will give you far more problem than you can contend with before the elections and we will end up creating a situation where we will be dealing with internal issues instead of facing the election proper.
Some people that once abandoned your party are now back and are aspiring for the same position. What is your take on this?
First of all, it is their constitutional rights and party constitution allows for that. Ultimately, the party men and women will have to make a choice. They should reflect very well before making that choice.
The PDP has been out of power for over 3 years now, what are the chances of the party in the forthcoming general elections?
It all depend on what we do or who we present. I don’t belong to the group which believes that whichever candidate we present, we will win. It’s not possible. If you present something exciting to voters, it will make it easier for us to win. Of course we need money to go through the electoral process, you cannot rule out the issue of money but it is not the quantum of money that will make us win. If it is the issue of money, we cannot match the incumbent, then we will just sit back because we cannot match the incumbent. I think we should dwell more on credibility and integrity in every sense of the word so that when voters look at your candidate, they will say he has integrity, is sincere and is credible. These are the issues we should put upfront and show voters. It will make it easier for us to win.
Some have advise the PDP to bring out a consensus candidate. Do you subscribe to the idea?
Consensus if agreeable to all is democratic but it still has to go through a convention so that delegates vote for the name you arrived at. For me, I will not go against anything that is generally acceptable to party men and women. But still, the Electoral Act and party constitution will have to be adhered to.
The PDP has gone into alliance with other opposition parties. Are they going to bring out their own flag bearers or they will adopt the PDP candidate?
We are bringing out our own candidate and other parties might bring out theirs. Even when they bring out their candidate, they might come and endorse a single candidate from any other party. I don’t have the details and specifics on the alliance.
If you were asked to list the criteria for the type of candidate that should fly the PDP flat at the presidential election, what will they be?
I only know of myself. As far back as 2007, I contested the primaries and I did very well based on my performance as governor. If people consider that in 2007, then the situation now will be better because I have acquired legislative experience, I have resuscitate a party that all hopes were almost lost that it will ever be resuscitated.
Still on the PDP, there are insinuations that the party is in the pocket of Governor Wike. How true is this assertion?
I have worked with him, he is a very committed party individual. There are many other party men and women, who contributed in different ways to making the party what is it today. PDP should be happy that we have him. But the issue is that, it is the party men and women that will make a final decision on what happens in the party, not an individual. He may have his preference and if his preference is what party men and women adjudged to be the best for the party, then so be it. But if they don’t like it and people become passive, and then it manifest itself, all of us will pay the price for that. Unilaterally, he has never attempt to say he will take a unilateral decision on behalf of everybody. No matter where the idea is coming from, whether it’s from him or any other governor or leader in the party, it is discussed and analysed to ensure it is the best way to go forward.
The PDP had high hopes during the last Ekiti governorship election, yet it lost to the APC. What is going to make Osun election different?
I believe we won the election in Ekiti. But what has happened has happened. I hope the judiciary will do the right thing. We should also learn something from it. It would have been much easier for us if we had ensure that disaffection was settled within the party. When we are united we are much stronger and can face the onslaught that the authorities will released on us but when we are divided, it is easy for authorities to come in and make nonsense of what we are doing.
Talking about defection, were you surprised when Senator Akpabio defected to the APC?
Yes and no, but I won’t say anything for now.
Are you worried about Nigeria’s debt profile?
I share the concern that people raised but government have been using that method for long, not just this government but successive governments in authority do take loan especially when they compere and see that our debt to GDP ratio is low. So we can borrow more money. The issue is that, when you borrow, what are you using the funds for? Are you consuming or you are using the funds in areas that will directly or indirectly generate profit that can help you repay the loan? How sustainable is your debt service? How is your revenue growth per capital? So there are a lot of other factors to look and if it is not positive, then you are better off not borrowing. (Leadership)