Senator Ahmed Makarfi
Former Kaduna State governor and chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi spoke to Reuben Buhari on the crises within the Peoples Democratic Party and also proffers solutions to issues threatening the nation. Excerpts:
What is the way out of the problems in your party, the PDP?
Personally, I am not surprised about what is happening within the PDP. Years ago, I had foreseen some of the things happening. The problem with PDP is that we are not changing with time. When civilian administration was restored in 1999, we were just starting the party and there were no seniors in the system. The leaders at that time had a lot more leeway to do so many things in certain manners without anybody saying anything. But being in democracy, the party kept changing every two years or four years.
The party continued to produce former leaders and former leaders. Interest groups keep being produced but the party didn’t evolve ways to be flexible in accommodating all these powerful interest groups. The party can’t continue believing it is still 1999. It’s absolutely not possible and that is the price we are paying for all the hiccups.
So we must be creative enough to know that the party will continue to expand and produce so many people that will be in government at one level and out of government at another level. A mechanism has to be evolved to accommodate all these people so that there will be mutual respect. Failure to do this is to continue to have these types of crises. But I tell you, we have the capacity to call a spade a spade, tell ourselves the truth, sit down and do the needful
Some are saying the crises are basically because of 2015?
Just look back and you will see that each time we have a transition on our hand, we encountered new sets of crises, either at local, state or the federal level, and of course, all these issues will have a destination, which is the next round of elections. But where there is a feeling of sense of belonging and togetherness, there will still be differences but they will be less. People will still be able to sit down without sharp division.
As a founding member of PDP in Kaduna State, are you bothered that the APC has been taken more than a passing interest in the state, especially the Southern Kaduna?
I must be bothered, but then, I am telling you why these things are happening, and what is happening in Kaduna State cannot be different from what is happening at the center, and that is if we want to save our party, party men and women must close ranks. There must be mutual respect for each other, there must be give and take, there must be accommodation and we must restore the trust of the electorate in us.
How do we do that? By governing them well, giving them access and meeting their developmental needs. We need do the right thing because Kaduna State is a highly politically enlightened state. They can see beyond any political gimmick I or any other person may attempt to do. Our fate is in our own hands and it depends on what we do.
At what point did Nigeria get it wrong with security?
You know there are different types of insecurity in the county. We have in the north-east and parts of North-west, the Book Haram. In the north central parts of the country, we have mostly ethno-religious and ethno-communal conflicts. In the south-east it’s essentially kidnapping and armed robbery, even though armed robbery is also found in almost all parts of Nigeria, but I am talking in terms of preponderance. In the South-south, it’s similar to the South-east. All these types of insecurity have contributed to the deteriorating state we are in.
The reasons for all these differ, but there are also common issues that include high level of unemployment, economic issues, low agricultural productivity that result into low yield from the farms, storage and pricing problem.
The problem also includes our education system. We produce a lot more graduates now, but what is the quality of what we produce? The home training is also not as it used to be. We are now producing children into these world and not all of us take care of the children we bring into this world. Some become street boys and a number of them get easily indoctrinated into certain beliefs and practices that have heightened the state of insecurity that we have.
Before, religious teaching and preaching were regulated. Not anybody can just start teaching religious knowledge. Now, it is not the case. I doubt if government knows up to ten per cent of those who do religious teaching or preaching and that laisser-faire attitude has allowed some people to indoctrinate a lot of our young ones and vulnerable people into certain beliefs and that, in my opinion, is what has contributed to radicalism in both religions.
That is not what is happening in other countries. There is a developed curriculum for religious teaching and only qualified people are allowed to teach and preach. It is not to deny people their rights to their religion but to regulate and ensure that people do not subvert religious teaching for other purposes. Here in Nigeria, it used to be so but it’s no longer so.
Governance performance is also a reason for the insecurity. A lot of our citizens have high expectations from the government at all levels. Some are doing well, some are fair and it is also a known fact that some are just not meeting the expectations of the people. This lack of satisfaction by the citizens has detached people from the leaders and once people are detached from their leaders, they easily get to the other side and then government will not even have the moral basis of calling them to order.
When people control animals, it’s because they take care of them, but when you don’t care for your people, how can you control them? When your people respect and appreciate you, it becomes easier for you to tell them to be law abiding and when they are going astray it’s become easier for you to tell them to change. In my opinion, these are some of the reasons we are where we are in this country.
Taking it from there, how do you think the issue of the Almajiri should be handled, considering the fact that in your state, Kaduna, schools have been established for them?
First of all, it’s commendable that their education is being looked into, but in a way there is an element of stigmatization to say that there is a particular school for them; they should be fully integrated. A better policy will integrate these quranic schools into a formal school within the nearest vicinity where they live. It should also be a criminal offence for you to send them to beg, or turn them into child labourers. It’s not against the fact that your child can’t go to any place in search of either western or quranic education but sending them to go and beg should be stopped.
Do you also nurse the fear that this country could disintegrate before 2015 as predicted by some people?
All I can say is that we have problems, but these problems are not beyond resolving. They can be resolved but they are serious problems that we should not underrate their capacity to create decade old problems that could pull us back in terms of development. Since we have a problem in this country, this is the time to tell ourselves the truth, to put our hands on the deck. This is not the time to blame each other but a time to work together. To cooperate with everybody that can help solve the problem. Yes, the situation is dicey and could posed a problem to our nationhood, but we all need to tackle the economic issue, the criminal issue, the political issue, communal issues and all issues that are confronting us now.
Where do you stand: a single six-year-term or the normal four years?
I don’t have a personal opinion on it, if anybody has a position for or against it; it is to reach the people representing them to vote in a particular manner. It is not by all these media campaigns. Whatever position I take on the issue on the floor of the senate will be a reflection of what my constituency wants.