I will retire from active politics, if I dont get PDP’s presidential ticket – Makarfi

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Former Kaduna State Governor and Presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, in this interview with select journalists in Kaduna said he can’t leave PDP even if he fails to get presidential ticket. He said he will go into semi retirement and not seek positions again. Abdulgafar Alabelewe was there.

There has been gale of defections from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How do you feel now?

I have long predicted these defections many months back. When we were going through difficulties and people were losing hopes, and I was asked similar question as far back as last year (2017), my reply was that the time for defection from APC and other parties to the PDP will be coming and it happened. I predicted it correctly and I am not surprised. Personally, I feel happy that it has taken place. It is also not the end of it (defection). We have seen the first wave and we expect more defections to follow, especially because of the reaction of the APC and its government. Some (defectors) will buy their time and do it at a later day. You know, it happened to us in the PDP. It happened to one and it will happen to the other. It is a matter of time. Personally, I am happy that we are getting returnees back and getting new party members, especially new people that have never been in the PDP before and the party should be prepared for a lot more to come in. Of course, every positive thing comes with challenges. The challenge will be integrating all the party men and women (the returnees and those they met in the party). But I am equally happy that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has set up machinery which has been working day and night to bring a smooth integration and harmonization of interests of party men and women in states that are more heavily affected by the defection. That is how politics is played – constructive engagement and that constructive engagement is still going on and I believe at the end of the day, people will accommodate each other in the overall interest of the party.

Talking about defectors, harmonization and integration of returnees is ongoing, how has it being, especially as one of them is already contemplating joining the presidential race?

Well, you see, it depends on the way you look at this particular issue. What I have been made to understand, which is the true position of the party, because I did discuss with the committee on the harmonization and I did discuss with the party leadership; that, where you have a sitting Governor coming into the party with all his apparatus of government, certain parameters of integration were agreed upon to do with the state, it’s not something to do with the nation. You get my point? And where he is a Senator, certain parameters to do with his Senatorial zone were agreed upon, or state assembly or even House of Representatives. But, I think some are misinterpreting this to be wider than what the intended purpose is. Because for example if you are in the House of Representatives, looking for Senate, it does not apply to your ambition for Senate, because it relates to your current position, it does not relate to any other position that you are looking for beyond your current position. And this is worth discussing dialoguing and ironing out issues with all involved.

Even here in Kaduna, later today, I have called for a meeting of key leaders of the party that are around, so that, we can see how politically we can bring about hitch-free integration of returnees into the party without causing any unnecessary disruption that can be counterproductive.

There are many presidential aspirants in the PDP and recently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin was talking about bringing all aspirants to a round table to discuss the possibility of a consensus candidate. How do you react to that?

You don’t rule out anything in politics. First of all I have not read that statement of BoT chairman, I have not even discussed it with him. Assuming he made the statement, politics requires discussion and dialoguing.

Such dialoguing and discussion may produce what the BoT chairman is alleged to have said. It may also just reduce the people in the field. I had also propagated the need for us to come together to talk to one another and see how we can bring unity among all of us because we are stronger united, divided we will become quite weak and we will just become picky dogs and that is something that we must avoid.

How we get there I can’t say, you have many ways you can get there. I am not asking or forcing anyone to pull out of the race, but I am of course for dialoguing amongst ourselves and other leaders and to see, irrespective of who emerges as the candidate, all others would rally around the eventual candidate to work as one.

If all of has to do primaries, let’s go with the understanding that we will all work together for the eventual winner. So it is good to talk, I will be prepared to talk in any discussion that will bring unity amongst us.

I can’t say what I will do or not do at this particular stage, but I have not been summoned for any particular meeting. May be it is just an idea that the BoT chairman is saying it loud for others to hear, but politics is full of a lot of things and in the next few days we will see what will happen.

What is your take on the claim that PDP should pick its presidential candidate from Katsina, Kano or Kaduna?

Well, that’s his personal view. One can only try to understand what his reason was. I have not discussed with him, but he may be thinking because of the high voters’ registration and large turnout usually seen in the zone. But that is not the position of the party. The position of the party is that the presidency is zoned to the 19 Northern States and FCT. So it is open to 19 Northern States and FCT aspirants from the zone. So whoever the party men and women find suitable from the zone as its presidential candidate, we will support him. It happens before when we see a presidential candidate comes from a small state and he was widely accepted, we supported him. So Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is expressing his personal opinion. It should not be construed to say that it is a right and only exclusively preserved for certain states. I don’t think he could have meant that but for me the position of the party is very clear.

Would you want a contest or settle for consensus?

I am open to either. It is not what I want but what is achievable. We should subject ourselves to anyone that is widely acceptable to all of us.

So far you have travelled to some states on consultation with stakeholders of your party over your presidential ambition, but what will you do, if you are not picked as the party’s candidate for the 2019 election?

It is not the first time that I haven’t realised this ambition. Whatever will be the outcome, I will accept it in good faith, whether I emerge as the candidate or not; I mean whatever is the outcome, I will accept it in good faith. Anyway, I can contribute to the success of the party, what I can do, I will do, but the question is, will I leave the party and go to another party? I have said it repeatedly that if I leave PDP, I will politically go into semi retirement, by semi retirement, it means that you won’t find me contesting for elective office. I may still be a political player, playing whatever role that I could play, but at my age if I don’t get nominated now, you can imagine what my age will be at another chance.

I don’t belong to those who think you should continue to seek electoral office irrespective of your age. What is the essence of Not-Too-Young-To-Run in this case? We should take every step to actualise laws that are good for our country. So definitely you may find me, not the active politics I am playing now, but definitely, not leaving the party that I am, but if I say I am leaving politics, I am leaving it for good. I won’t move to another party, for what?

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Samson Gbenga Salau [Editorial Board Adviser] Gbenga Samuel Salau is a professional journalist with over 17 years experience in journalism, he is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. On completion of his youth service, he joined The Guardian as a freelance journalist and was later absorbed as a staff. While in the University, he was a campus journalist reporting for the Independence Hall and Faculty of Arts Press Clubs. As a campus journalist, he won the following awards; Independence Hall Press Best News writer; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best News Reporter/Writer; First Runner-up, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism; Association of Faculty of Arts Students’ Press Best Reporter; University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Political Writer; Winner, Reuben Abati Award for Investigative Journalism, and University of Ibadan Union of Campus Journalists’ Best Interviewer. He served the Association of Communication and Language Arts Students, as the Public Relation Officer, the same year he was appointed the News Editor of the Association of Faculty of Arts Students Press. The following session, he was made the General Editor, and a member of the 13-man University of Ibadan Students’ Union Transition Committee. As a reporter in The Guardian, in 2014, he won the Promasidor Quill Award Best Report on Nutrition and DAME Business Reporting category. In the 2015 edition of the Promasidor Quill Award, he won the best Report on Nutrition and Brand Advocate Categories, while in 2016, he won the NMMA Print Journalist of the Year, first runner-up Golden Pen Reporter of the Year and SERAs CSR Awards. Gbenga Salau loves traveling, reading, and listening to songs with good lyrics no matter the genre.

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