‘PDP’s travail is a test for democracy in Nigeria’

PDP Secretariat, Abuja

Senator Ahmed Makarfi, chairman of the national caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), bared his mind on the party’s fate since the recent judgment of the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt; the alleged romance of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the purported plans to launch himself as PDP presidential candidate in 2019. He also voiced his views on President Muhammadu Buhari’s health and why absolute presidential powers should be transmitted to the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to save the nation’s polity and economy from nose-diving. The former governor of Kaduna State spoke with SAXONE AKHAINE of The Guardian in Kaduna. Excerpts:

PDP’s disrupted meeting in Abuja
FOR long we have been telling Nigerians that it is not really Sheriff, there are forces behind him. Not many people believed us. But, we anticipated that the authorities might attempt to prevent us. So, what we did was to virtually hold the real meeting the night before that day, and we exhaustively discussed from 8pm to about 1am. Alas it happened. So, having exhaustively and comfortably discussed. We arrived at a communiqué, which was read. We have to stand firm; we respect the judiciary. People were hurt; they may have uttered some words because they were hurt and disappointed. But, for me we should not take it personal against their lordships.

They have expressed their views, but not unanimous. We respect their views, though we don’t agree with the majority view and we have followed due process in challenging the majority views before the Supreme Court. Not just for the sake of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but for the sake of democracy. The judgment was just saying that everything we did was a nullity because we did not comply with court order. Which court order? We are aware of court orders. And the court orders were basically on tenure of national officers. And that election into national offices should not hold. Fine, we didn’t conduct election. No court orders stopped convention and convention is not all about election; convention can dissolve political parties, can promulgate a new constitution, can remove anybody, and can elect anybody. And since it was stopped from conducting election, the convention, which is the supreme decision-making organ of the party decided to relieve everybody of his or her appointment irrespective of tenure. Now, if you turn round to say that the supreme body of the party has no right to make decisions then it is unfortunate and that makes nonsense of political party activities and that makes nonsense of conventions.

It is even irrelevant going ahead about party convention again. And this is applicable to conventions of every political party. If it is PDP today it can be any party tomorrow. Lovers of democracy should not allow this to stand. It is against the tenets of democracy. And basically, it is like saying that an individual can hold an entire political party to ransom. So, we are doing what we are doing for the sake of democracy in our country and not just for the sake of PDP.

APC’s purported involvement
There are a number of reasons. Sheriff is not even in control of himself. Of course, he may have his own agenda. We have heard that he planned to zone chairmanship to South South, so that he gives somebody from Delta the chairmanship. We heard that he plans to zone the secretary position to North East, particularly Yobe so that he gives somebody National Secretary and other key offices to certain states, all with the intention to return him as presidential candidate come 2019. That is personal to him.

On the other side, you have some powerful elements in the APC, some are governors and some are ministers who are fighting two wars. One is even to do away with the President when the time for primary comes. But, you know their greatest challenge is the PDP, if we are not left to put our house in order; therefore they resorted to recruiting those whose stock in trade is to disintegrate the opposition.

So, they are financing them, they are deploying public institutions against the PDP. Very soon nemesis will catch up with them and by themselves they will expose themselves. What business has the APC governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha has with PDP that he has to issue a press release calling us names and condemning us and praising Sheriff. He said we are a set of vagabonds and that Sheriff is a saintly person. And another presidential aide came out and congratulated Sheriff. What business do they have with the PDP affairs? It is now clear and unambiguous that they are all behind what is happening. While Sheriff is doing his own political thing, those around him, whose interest are their geopolitical zone or states are saying that as long as they don’t get what they want in their states or geopolitical zones they will never allow him to make any deal or have peace. All these we know. So, when you are surrounded with people of self-centered interests and rely on them, it becomes extremely difficult to sit down and make deals with them because you don’t have the last word.

Sheriff’s olive branch for peaceful resolution
First of all, a genuine peaceful political solution is good and I respect it and I will support that any time. But, the underling word is genuine. Several times he has said so many things and done different things. Let us go back to the decision of the Court of Appeal that the status quo before the 21st of May should be respected.

What is status quo? Sheriff’s acting national chairmanship, which the national executive council (NEC) of the party can remove any time anyway. Even if the NEC has to meet under him; but who are the other national officers? (Uche) Secondus, Abubakar, Chema Chikwe, all of them. Note the kind of carrots he continued the dangle, note the people he continued to parade as so-called national officers. Because the same court did not recognized them since the status quo before 21st of May; is that what he is complying with? So, somebody who is not even respecting the court should be taken serious. And if this same court arrived at that decision on the basis of tenure and this tenure based on that order is talking of end of 2017 and some 2018, so, will he not be breaking the laws if he tells you that he wants to conduct elections in one or two months? Or he doesn’t know what he is talking about? Who is fooling who? Wouldn’t he be going now against what the Court of Appeal decided? Or is it another deception? And the right thing is to challenge the latest decision of the Court of Appeal, because we believe that we have a strong ground to challenge it. Anytime there is any genuine peace and reconciliation move it is welcome.

Lingering crisis and PDP fortunes in 2019 polls
The truth of the matter is that it is affecting us already. But, which other option do we have? When you are fighting for democracy based on conviction, it may take longer than you expected. The most important thing is the outcome; it is what you pray and hope for and it is an outcome that will either reinforce democracy or undermine it. And their Lordships and Nigerians citizens know what is going on and I believe they will put the national interest in giving expedited hearing to this matter so that the right decision is taken. The right decision in my opinion is to allow democracy to reign. That is by respecting the choice of the people and not by imposing any leadership on them because the consequences can be enormous.

Fifth columnists within the party
When you have dispute legitimately over the headship of the party then you cannot look at the issue you raised. Otherwise it will be like child’s play. Today one side will do it and tomorrow the other side will do same thing. But the first thing, let’s get this matter rested. Even when we get it rested, true and sincere reconciliation should be the first option. Thereafter, anybody that may still remain intransigent, the choice is that you either go to another party or if you chose to remain and not subject yourself to true and sincere reconciliation and you continue to undermine the party. May be then other options can be looked at. But, in my opinion true and sincere reconciliation should be the first priority.

PDP’s preparedness for elections
The APC came on board unprepared to capture power. We have been in government, of course we made our mistakes but we have learnt our lessons. We are not beginners. We will take off from where we left, but not making the mistakes that we made. So, we are prepared.
Buhari’s health issues

It is good to have adequate information, but even if we have the information we are not doctors. What are we going to do with it? The constitution is the answer. The constitution, at all times should be respected. But, pending the time the section of the constitution would be invoked I think what is required is the full and unhindered transfer of presidential powers to the acting president so that no vacuum is created. Because the problem in this kind of situation is that maybe you have pockets of some President’s men who may be undermining the acting President. I don’t know if that is going on. But, if it is the case, it is not healthy. You know the acting President needs the full and unhindered powers, so that the acting president doesn’t have limited power to act. He should go beyond accenting bills and the re-nomination of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria; he shouldn’t limit himself to that, he should go in full force to exercise presidential powers and make sure things remain intact and things are going well in the country. Where they are making mistakes, they should begin to correct them for the sake of all of us, irrespective of political parties. We are all Nigerians.

President’s men handling of the health condition
Well it happened during the time of (late president Umoru Musa) Yar’Adua. Health status of public officers in most cases in Africa and Nigeria is no exemption. Be that as it may, the answer as I said is to make sure that the acting President has full presidential powers to function. We continue to pray for the President Buhari to recover; and whenever he recovers he should come and continue where the acting President would have stopped.

This issue is too personal. And power is not personal. It is the office that is important. And once somebody is in that office he should exercise full presidential powers so that governance goes on.

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