Nigeria needs a credible, capable President in 2019 – Senator Ahmed Makarfi
A presidential aspirant on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is also a past Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, in this interview with Uhuru Times insisted that moneybags will lose out in the 2019 elections, arguing that what the average Nigerian want today is a credible president with capacity for governance
Question: Why has the Boko Haram insurgency persisted? And, what can Nigeria do urgently to contain it?
It is an issue that should concern each and every one of us. (What is happening) shouldn’t be the case. And, that is why people are kind of expressing concern that, it may be that some interests see it as an industry to make money rather than an issue to be dealt with once and for all. With the investments that have been made by the past administration and the current one, definitely, we should have contained it beyond where we are now. But you see the insurgency from time to time now, as if nothing has been done in the past, and as if nothing has been done by this administration. I believe, as many Nigerians do, that if our armed forces and political leaders are really really determined to bring this to an end, or almost to an end, because insurgency, a bit of it could still linger for some time, but it can reach a level, where we know that 98 per cent (victory is ours). I know that it is achievable. But it requires genuine determination by our political leaders and the executors of the fight against insurgency.
But what is actually responsible for the poor results we are seeing on the field …
As I mentioned earlier, you see, as pointed out earlier … Let me give you an example, I read in the newspapers recently that a Captain and some soldiers were tried for mutiny. And, what were they complaining about? They’ve stayed in the war front for too long and they were under-equipped. And, as much as we should condemn mutiny, but we should also not forget why the mutiny took place. It couldn’t have been an issue in isolation. It must be an issue pervading the entire fighting force. And, if that is the case, how can we achieve results? That is why I mentioned that we really need to look deeper, that the funds being invested (in the war) some people are not feeding fat on it.
The persistent economic hardship in Nigeria is not new. What can we do in the short and long terms to ease the pains of an average Nigerian?
First of all, our federation has some kind of challenges. There is what the Centre can do, and there is what the states have to do. And, it requires all hands to be on deck. The Centre and the states can evolve common programmes within the responsibilities given to them by the constitution, to simultaneously implement them in such a way that will create jobs, money circulating in the economy. And, once you create jobs and money is circulating, people will have a means to earn a living. And the best way in the short term to stimulate this kind of positive work is by higher public spending. Remember, when the United States went into serious recession it was what (President Barak) Obama did. And that is why the US (economy) now is booming. But the issue (in Nigeria) is that, our public expenditure must be targeted in such a way that it will have multiplier effects. It should not be in such a way that you are consuming and not putting in place infrastructure and services that will have positive impact on the lives of the people, and make life better for them. Again, value for money. Because if you are talking about public expenditure, it does not mean the money should be pocketed. So, if we really get value for money, and do as other nations do at short term, and raise public expenditure to immediately stimulate the economy … In the medium and long term, of course, it is to continue torun away from the kind of economy we have – monoeconomy, and rely on diversification of our economy. There is already a high yield in tax collection. (So), there is no need in raising taxes. The issue of corruption is also there, which should be fought, but not political fight against corruption. All these issues, in the medium and long terms, if you apply them, will expand the economy and we must have a sense of the whole that we are stimulating the economy.
The issue of stimulating the economy by increasing public expenditure is something some of us still do not understand. The last administration left a lot of debts. But the current one has debts that has tripled that …
You see, there is nominal value of debt. The nominal value of debt may not be the drawn down value of debt. Because, today China gives you $30 billion, it does not mean that China has handed $30 billion to you. It may be money that will come over a certain number of years. So, for each year, you have to know how much is drawn down from that. But, again, the book value of debt gives you a profile you have to manage because at the end of the day, you draw it down and you have to repay it. So, we shouldn’t be talking about the book value of debt now, as if all that money have actually come in. It is a commitment to lend Nigeria that sum of money. Maybe 10 per cent of it has been done, maybe five per cent. But the (Federal) Government of Nigeria has been lazy in coming out with the facts. (For instance), if in a year, the Federal and State Governments borrow say, $30 billion, they should be telling Nigerians how much has been drawn down. So people will be in a better position to know what is actually happening.
The PDP remains the biggest opposition party in Nigeria. Yet, there is a belief that, due to internal contradictions, the party may not be able to win next year’s general elections. Why does this belief persist?
The (2019 Presidential) election is ours to lose, and I am happy that more and more people are coming in today. But what we must watch out for is that people must also not leave PDP. You see, why APC succeeded was that, when it was formed, it was gaining people and not losing members. But if we don’t manage our own, such that as some people come in, (we don’t allow) some others to leave, the net effect will not be as what happened during the formation of APC. And it is a managerial issue. It is an issue we have to manage very well in such a way that, we marry the old and new with good managerial acumen. But if we don’t manage it well, of course, then we’ll be losing, and at the end of the day we may not have gained that much to be able to take out APC.
But are you optimistic that your party’ll be able to manage the situation well, given the number of ‘big fishes’ tat have joined the PDP …?
It is all about finding political solutions. In Kaduna, we were able to find political solution. I understand that in Sokoto, we are working out the same thing, and we don’t anticipate any problem. Unfortunately, in Kwara State, we lost much of the PDP members, when these people came in. . Kano State remains a problem, but we are working on it. I believe we can work out a political solution that can accommodate the two sides to it. So, as I mentioned earlier, it is a managerial issue. In some other places, we have recorded successes in terms of integration. In some places, it is work in progress. The party leadership and all of us we are supportive. We are doing all that have to be done in order to get it right.
You were almost the choice of PDP leaders towards the 2007 presidential election. But all of a sudden, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was picked. What actually happened?
First of all, no hard feelings, because I was not even thinking about it anyway. But there had to be a president to succeed President Olusegun Obasanjo. And, we knew it was going to be one of us, the (PDP) governors. But we didn’t know, who it was. I was happy when it looked like the consensus among key party leaders was me. But whatever issue that the leaders then considered that brought about the changes, that’s it. I never had any problem with it. But I did what was needful at the time, after that decision. I chaired the North-West campaign for the late president and we did wonderfully well. Of course, in Nigerian politics, and also in a lot of democracies, some key leaders determine the outcome of primaries. But, again, it is not just about primaries. When you are going for general election, you have to consider the person you are bringing out as a candidate and how can the person win election. I don’t believe that anybody you pick can just win an election.
On funding …
In Nigeria today, PDP cannot say it has more resources than the (current) government. And they have control of all the institutions (in charge of elections). So, the best we can actually come up with, is a matter of credibility and capacity (of PDP’s presidential candidate). The credibility and capacity of our candidate will attract legitimate funding. Any of us (PDP presidential aspirants that has credibility and is capable), not the money the person has personally, will attract funding from legitimate sources ahead of the election. If people believe in something, they will bring out funds and we’ll get there. But what Nigerians will not compromise now, in my opinion, is the issue of credibility and capacity.