Many People Who Voted Buhari In 2015 Won’t Do So Again – Makarfi

Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a guest on Channels Television where he spoke on the party’s preparations for its forthcoming national convention in December and other issues. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI who monitored the session brings the excerpts:

If you look at what was said at the non-elective convention of your party in August, you particularly did say ‘we want President Muhammadu Buhari to be back alive. We want him on the seat. It is him that we want to defeat.  Now that he is back, is your party ready from your own standpoint?

We wanted him to return home alive; not just alive but well and fit.  Of course, we are ready. I just finished listening to what an APC chieftain has said about internal wranglings within the APC itself.  We have said before and we stand by what we have said that APC is an alliance of strange bedfellows.  We don’t see it last as a political party. We have come out of the legal issues that took a lot of our time and resources. Right now, we are rebuilding and we are bringing harmony, reconciliation and unity across the country.  We are more than ready, if we are go to polls today, we are confident that PDP will return elected.

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What was the major problem that your party faced that led to its defeat in 2015 and how did you fix that?

The major problems were three. One, there was a lot of propaganda against the PDP and we were not effective enough in countering that propaganda. Two, we also made mistakes. We were not communicating very well with the citizens.  The language was not something that could have been effective at that material time. Another reason was the feeling especially from the northern part of the country that the candidate should have come from the north. Okay, it didn’t come from the North but the language that was used in campaigning from that time and going forward was not one that could have made tempers to go down with the fact that the north did not get the ticket.

The major reason was the feeling and of course, a lot of propaganda brought into it that insecurity was so much especially in relation to Boko Haram.   A lot of negative complaints were made against the PDP and that resonated with a large part of voters in the north and we paid the price of losing that election.  Of course, Nigerians now know better. If we had not done reasonably well in dealing with the issue of Boko Haram, election could not have taken place  in the  north eastern part of the country.

Again, the propaganda by APC that we were an ineffective government also contributed.  Of course, we acknowledge our shortcomings but we can see from the performance of APC. Look at the level of the position of the naira, look at unemployment, look at crime and kidnapping is almost all over the country.  In most local governments and villages, you are not safe to drive, even inside Abuja, which is the federal capital, easily one can get kidnapped and of course, all kinds of agitations from right and centre.  Under PDP, we didn’t have that because we are a national party that believes in fairness, justice and equity. A party that gives equal opportunities to Nigerians no matter where they come from.

Would you say your party has the kind of substance or the kind of character that can stand face-to-face with the incumbent party , should for example if the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari runs in 2019 especially when considering the number of followership he has in the northern part of the country?

What is left for our party is to make sure that we bring out a credible and competent candidate that can give the APC candidate, whether it is the current president or any other candidate a run for their money.  Of course, he has followership but followership must live and live well.  With what they have been going through in the last two and half years, a substantial number of them must have changed their views and positions in voting APC again into power in the centre and in the states. So, it is really up to us in PDP to bring out a credible candidate.  And I assure Nigerians that the presidency having gone to the North,  and it is open to the North- East, North-West and North- Central, credible candidates will come up and at the end of the day, the party will make a good choice and we are not afraid of who the candidate of APC will be.

You were at the meeting when the president met with the leaders of APC and PDP on the 25th of August and he did said and I quote “opposition does not mean hostility. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible”.  How would you describe the PDP’s brand of opposition since you lost power in 2015?

I concur with what the president said and personally, that has been my philosophy and principle. Opposition does not mean that we should insult one another. I believe that we should talk on issues and our politics should be issue-based.  That is what I have been trying to do. Let me give you an example: when this issue of $25b contract came up in NNPC, we made a statement on the matter but we were fair.

We did not behave unfairly as APC behaved when the alleged $20b was missing in NNPC based on the letter by the then CBN governor. Holistically, it was assumed that that money was missing and we were bombarded.  But our statement was that those indicted should step aside while an independent investigation is conducted to ascertain the truth of the matter and that is because we didn’t want to jump into a judgment as to what must have happened as they did to us when we were in power.

Would you say your opposition right now considering a number of issues on the table? Is the opposition of PDP a dead one or is just sleeping?

No. We know how to oppose but remember, we just came out of a crisis and we are trying to reconcile our party men and women and thank God, we have succeeded largely because the crisis in the states have virtually died down. We have become united and we now have our programme that the Jerry Gana and Ike Ekweremadu committee recommended to the party which were adopted and that will invigorate our party. Of course, the APC is busy opposing itself. We thank God that they are opposing themselves but we are also opposing but doing so with decorum and not the way it was done to us by APC.

Where have you zoned the national chairmanship position ahead of the national convention in  December? South- West or South- South?

The convention zoned two positions north and south.  Presidency north, party chairmanship south. We didn’t micro-zone.  The  South can meet and micro-zone if they so wish as the north met last week and maintained the micro-zoning before the August convention in Port Harcourt.  It is actually up to the South to meet the three geo- political zones to consider the micro-zoning of the positions zoned to the South. If they do that, overwhelmingly, I believe party men and women will support whatever micro-zoning they come up with.

As it stands right now, are you afraid the issue of imposition and impunity will play out again at the forthcoming convention?

There cannot be imposition and impunity. If the South micro-zone, I believe the North will go by what they micro-zoned.  Even if any individual chooses to go against the micro-zoning, he may still get some support, but I don’t think such an individual will get the support that will make the individual to win the election that will take place at the convention in December.  So, nobody is going to force anybody to vote in any particular manner. We will make sure that the congresses to elect delegates are transparent and the results are not tampered with. And once you don’t tamper with the delegates list, there cannot be imposition because delegates will freely vote for whoever they want in the full glare of all for the offices to be contested for. So, I assure Nigerians that there will not be any kind of imposition of candidates into any particular office.

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Author: Temidayo Akinsuyi