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2011 Presidency: I won’t run against Yar’Adua –Markafi

Posted by By ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna on 2009/01/08 | Views: 399 |

2011 Presidency: I won’t run against Yar’Adua –Markafi


Former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, has said that even though he knows that 2011 Presidency would be open to all, he was not ready to engage in unnecessary struggle for power, even as he said that by the party’s tradition and convention, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was entitled to a second term.

...says no pact with Southern Kaduna on governorship


Former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, has said that even though he knows that 2011 Presidency would be open to all, he was not ready to engage in unnecessary struggle for power, even as he said that by the party’s tradition and convention, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was entitled to a second term.

Speaking in exclusive interview with Daily Sun in Kaduna recently, Makarfi, who acknowledged that 2011 is not going to be easy, as it would certainly not be like "yesterday in all aspects and that's the process of development of democracy."

He further said that "If you are referring to the Presidential race, first of all, there was a clear difference because somebody had finished two terms and we were asked to show our interests and I did. Even when I did say, and I still believe that it was not a do or die affair.

But today, God would have it, we have a President, we are from the same geopolitical zone. Does it make any sense for me to now begin to nurture an ambition of running for the Presidency when we have the Presidency in our zone and we have an elected President?
"By the various principles of our party, accepted or not accepted, an incumbent tends to be favoured to have a second term. If they don’t want to have it, that's up to them. We have to respect leadership. Of course, it would be open, but I don't intend to engage myself in any unnecessary quest for power."
The former governor also laid to rest the speculation that he had an understanding as a governor then with the people of Southern Kaduna, that come 2011, they will produce the governor, saying though a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)do exist, it was only to rotate the position within the three senatorial districts of the state.

Hear him: "Yes, there exists a memorandum of understanding that governorship would rotate within the three senatorial zones. That's why when I served two terms from zone one, nobody from zone one aspired for it in 2007. Now, Central (zone two) is serving its first term. Of course, anybody from zone three (Southern Kaduna) has the right to go for it. But, like I said, the PDP like a party, except for a situation in Anambra in 2003, where an incumbent didn't get the party's ticket for second term, and may be future developments will determine that. But, naturally, you expect an incumbent to be favoured for a second term.

He also spoke on the need for the anti-corruption agencies to beam their searchlights on top civil servants, developments in Kaduna State, and the impasse between the Senate and the House on the 2009 budget and other issues of interest.

Excerpts:
How would you assess Nigeria’s democratic journey so far?
Well, there have been hiccups but it's the longest we have had and it is a good development that the military has accepted the authority of the civilians in power and we are acknowledging our errors and we are also making efforts to correct our errors. We should have gone a bit farther than where we are but all hopes are not lost. We are making progress. We should be optimistic and work together to get the electoral reform through before the next elections, so that the next elections would be a much improvement on the past elections and we should get there.

When you say we should have gone farther, how exactly do you mean?
It's not a hidden secret. At least, everybody acknowledges that we are confronted with numerous problems from 1999 to date in our march towards the enthronement of democracy, the electoral system, lack of political accommodation across the parties, which is not exclusive to one party and also that at the local, states and federal levels, we should have made more impacts than we now witness. But there are also many positive sides that you can point out. These are some of the issues that every Nigerian that makes comment is talking about.

Mostly, Nigerians blame the PDP for some of the hiccups that may have been recorded in our journey on the path of democracy. Do you sincerely feel the PDP has been fair to this country?
It is Nigerians and not PDP. PDP is made up of Nigerians. Whatever our situation, it is what Nigerians have made it. It's not every Nigerian but it's what Nigerians that participate in politics have made it to be.

In one of the interviews you granted while you were still governor some few months after the unfortunate 2000/2001 crisis, you said that Kaduna gives you nightmare. Do you still feel the same way today?
No. We had addressed some of those issues. It was like a time bomb which was sparking at the slightest strike and could bring expressions all over the place. We dealt with all those issues - social restructuring and re-engineering. Equally, we moved to quickly bridge the religious divide as result of the crisis in Kaduna and Jos and other events that happened after that time. At the end, People in Kaduna, without even government taking actions, came together to denounce the situations that threatened peace and, indeed, they've been working together because of the different institutions we established that bring people together to discuss from time to time. Of course, the little we were able to do in office in terms of development also has earned the confidence of the people in us and they have some dividends of democracy which they can point to.
Again, the current administration and subsequent administrations sure have foundations which to improve upon.

We are talking about constitutional review and, incidentally, people are still talking about state creation. As a governor, you once said you will support the genuine aspiration for the creation of Southern Kaduna State if it requires that it should be done at that time. Do you still feel the same way today?
I still feel the same way. If states are going to be created, I believe Kaduna qualifies and deserves to have one. But you can never create states on the basis of religion or ethnicity. It's impossible and everybody from the northern part or southern part of the state accepts that fact because even the south is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. The North is not predominantly one religion; you have substantial number of other religions and also some other ethnic groups. So, it's not about ethnicity or religion. It’s about development and it's in that line that I will only support the quest for creation of another state out of Kaduna.

When you were governor, some people refer to you as ‘Mr. John.’ How do you feel when you hear that?
Whatever name I was called or whatever name people will call me, I take it as one of those things. I don’t take it on the negative side. I was for everyone and, probably, some people thought I should have been a little bit away from what I was. If in their interpretation that qualifies me to have a different name and they gave me a nick name, so be it. The importance of a name is minimal. It's what you do as a person that is important.

Kaduna is gradually getting congested. I am sure it did not start today. What did your government try to do to arrest the situation?
That's why we thought of the concept of establishing and expanding the town, what we call the new Kaduna layout. It was a concept which, because of what we foresaw, we said that should be linked with the eastern bypass. It's a concept which is currently receiving lots of attention too by the current administration. At least, we foresaw it and we've initiated something. As a matter of fact, the first access road to that place and the bridge was commissioned by my administration before we left office. So, there was substantial work in pursuit of that before we left office.

Indeed, it was in view of our foresight that we said we have to massively improve on the township roads because you can imagine this level of traffic with terribly bad roads all over, the situation would have been worst. Of course we did so many other things because we knew the way Kaduna was likely to expand and how things could turn out if you don't have good access roads within the Kaduna metropolis.

You will agree with me that you couldn’t have done everything at a time. What were those things that if you look back, you feel should have been done but which you were unable to do?
As a matter of fact, whatever you do would be limited by resources. I'm proud of what we did with the resources available to us then. There was nothing in terms of development that I would say we would have stepped aside and done something else. Given more resources at that time, we would have done much more.

The Zaria water project, for example, was a project which the state could not have done alone. The Federal Government has a major aspect of the work to do. So, it would make no sense for us then to start the major aspect of the state work without the Federal Government’s involvement because the Federal Government was supposed to do the dam, the treatment plant and the state would do the distribution channels, even though now, I understand the Federal Government is no longer going to do the treatment plant. But it's a new development. It wasn't an understanding which was there when we were in office. You wouldn’t distribute when the water is not there.

But we knew that whatever government that takes over from us would continue that project because, already, the policy programme was there for Federal Government to do something and for the state to do something. Equally, the Kaduna Urban Water expansion, we had signed a facility with the World Bank before we left office to improve on the water supply in Kaduna. Of course, it's a project which is continuing, and I’m happy that the State government is currently going to source funds for not just mere improvement but how it can expand it, so that with this growth of Kaduna, you can have more sufficient water supply. S o, from where we left, I can see where the current government is making very serious efforts to get the resources necessary to provide the required expansion in terms of infrastructure.

Talking about the new Kaduna city, from the information available to us, we understand that it is planned for one million people, is that supposed to be the original plan?
I haven’t heard the government say so. Even the current Kaduna, as it is, cannot be more than one point one million. So, who are you going to bring to put there? So, it is really inconceivable to talk of planning a new city for one million people. Of course, maybe, in hundred years from now, we don’t know what the population in that particular area would be.

If you sit back now, do you feel fulfilled as an ex-governor of Kaduna State?
Yes, I'm fulfilled. I was not supposed to do everything and I was not supposed to be perfect. Of course, we made our mistakes, but I believe they were few and whatever they are, they must have been few and not with any malicious intent.

Would you want to share some of those mistakes with us?
When they are pointed them out and I saw that they were and accepted that they were. Usually, it's just out of human nature. I'm just saying that I surely could not have been perfect and nobody can be perfect.

Away from Kaduna, most Nigerians were taken aback by the haste in which the Senate passed the 2009 budget. Do you think it was proper to have passed that budget?
Before the President presented the budget, for more than six weeks, we were having constant meetings and dialogue, between the Joint Committees of Finance of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Executive over certain key parameters of the budget. The principal responsibility lies in the revenue, where the money comes from.

Is it properly captured? I don’t do allocation. Appropriation deals with the issue of allocation; look at what has been allocated in the various sectors and how they are allocated again to units. As a matter of fact, most of the revenue targets too arrived at the joint sittings with the Senate, the House and the Executive, and that was the key because you have to be timing the money before you start even planning how to spend it. So, if we had done all of that, and it was in order, when the budget comes, we don't have to start arguing over exchange rates, over benchmark, that's how it's supposed to be.

On the allocation side, because of also the interactive meetings between the Executive and leadership of the National Assembly, there was a general agreement that in that budget, we should concentrate on the ongoing projects. There should not be addition of any new project and we should not move to expand that budget. The parameters of expansion were agreed. The only thing is that the parameters of that expansion, the executive did not comprehensively cover it.

So, when they brought the budget proposal, what we did was very simple: to incorporate that because we knew by how much and where and it shouldn't take you more than two hours to do that. So, various committees were working. Before the budget was passed, our committee had meeting with the Ministry of Finance and other agencies to look at the details and we had no problem. So, the issue of all these details being printed out, probably, there might be minor exchanges in some places but within the same ceiling. The year has come to an end and we want to deal with the issue of constitutional conference. We want to deal with the issue of passage of some key legislations, which will accelerate the implementation of the budget, once we resume. So, that was the reason the budget was given accelerated passage.

But the House doesn't seem to be going with the Senate in that direction?
The approach may be different and the time the House takes to pass its version really makes no difference. If they are looking at within the first few weeks of January, that is fine. This budget will start January ending and the Constitution allows expenditure to be done up to 50 percent of the previous year's appropriation. If the House defers two weeks, for whatever reason within the beginning of the year, it doesn’t make any difference. What the House is saying is that the Senate seems not to have done its job properly because we hear that the Senate still plans to work on the details later. So, why the rush in passing the budget when you know that you will still work on the details later?

We had worked on the details. When you pass, you know the figures you have passed; you have to compile it and get it printed. We, on our own side, with the general understanding, the overwhelming majority agreed that we should move forward. I respect the position of the House and I’m not quarrelling with it. But that is not to mean that the Senate did not know what it was doing or what it did was wrong. A lot of discussions had taken place even before the budget was presented. So, why waste time. What we have been preaching is that we should be partners in the process, not for people to receive a finished product that we have no idea of how it was put together at all with our views not incorporated. Our views would be reflecting the views of our various constituencies and other interest groups that might have communicated their views over certain issues to us.

What is new that you are learning now as a legislator having spent about two years now?
Accommodation, even though I learnt that while I was governor here (in Kaduna). But the National Assembly is a place where you have to respect people's views. Their views may differ from yours, but the view of the majority will always prevail, once the majority view carries the day, it is the view of all, irrespective of your personal position.

Was there any time you either covertly or otherwise shown interest in becoming a minister?
No.
But I'm sure you must have been hearing the stories. Yet, they say there is no smoke without fire.
I hear all kinds of stories. Nigeria is a place where you hear all kinds of stories.

When you hear such stories, how do you feel?
That's Nigeria. Without such kinds of stories, it wouldn't be Nigeria; we need such stories to keep us going.

During the last PDP stakeholders meeting in Akwa Ibom, the former President did say that by 2009, politicking is likely to start and Nigeria, for what it is, we all know it has started already. As a governor, you nurtured some political associates and one of them appears not to be too favorably disposed to your way of doing things now. Do you feel betrayed by his actions?
Who?

Specifically, Husseini Jallo, the political adviser to the incumbent governor. Do you feel betrayed by his disposition towards you in recent times?
I don’t talk about individuals. Everybody is free to go and do what he likes to do and people also decide whatever they prefer to do.

2011 is two years from now, what are your projections?
Well, it's not going to be easy. It cannot be like yesterday in all aspects and that's the process of development of democracy.

Are you still likely to show interest in the position you showed interest in, in 2007?
If you are referring to the Presidential race, first of all, there was a clear difference because somebody had finished two terms and we were asked to show our interests and I did. Even when I did say, and I still believe that it was not a do or die affair.

But today, God would have it, we have a President, we are from the same geopolitical zone. Does it make any sense for me to now begin to nurture an ambition of running for the Presidency when we have the Presidency in our zone and we have an elected President?
By the various principles of our party, accepted or not accepted, an incumbent tends to be favoured to have a second term. If they don’t want to have it, that's up to them. We have to respect leadership. Of course it would be open, but I don't intend to engage myself in any unnecessary quest for power.

Still on 2011, we've been hearing that you had a pact with Southern Kaduna for 2011. Now that we’re face- to-face with the man who is supposed to have entered into the agreement, our readers would like to know if it was true that there was any understanding?
Yes, there exists a Memorandum of Understanding that governorship would rotate within the three senatorial zones. That's why when I served two terms from zone one, nobody from zone one aspired for it in 2007. Now, Central (zone two) is serving its first term. Of course, anybody from zone three (Southern Kaduna) has the right to go for it. But, like I said, the PDP like a party, except for a situation in Anambra, in 2003, where an incumbent didn't get the party's ticket for second term, and maybe future developments will determine that. But, naturally, you expect an incumbent to be favoured for a second term.

Are you satisfied with the current war against corruption in Nigeria?

It's not an easy exercise. If you talk of selective prosecution, it may not have been intentional but, maybe, the way the laws are cut can promote that. The fight has to be wholesome. It should not just be targeted at elected public officers or political appointees alone. When you look at what some civil servants have, some of the governors don’t even have it. But when you mention corruption in Nigeria, the first thing that comes to people's minds are governors.

Probably, a number of directors, serving or retired may even be much richer than so many governors. But nobody is talking about them, because there is this seeming classification of a group, as if that is the beginning and end of corruption. I'm not defending anybody. But I'm saying that to divert the attention and look at a particular group is doing a disservice even to the war against corruption. Probably, I mentioned that even the way we declare our assets should change.

It should be annual and when annual, it should be public so that somebody can even challenge it and take it up from there. If I declared that I have this and that, if I was corrupt, the money must be reflected in my assets. So, we begin from looking at that and see if I left anything out, I must have committed an offence. If I declare assets that you cannot relate to my tax returns, I also have committed another offence. There are different ways you can get people to be responsible, either in compliance to tax laws or in compliance to disclosure. If we take some of these wholesome ways, I’m sure it would improve the situation. But the most important thing really is that we have to pursue the issue of fighting corruption with a change, along side whatever litigation that may be in place; massive reorientation and attitudinal change. But it's not an easy exercise.

Are you saying that you can account for everything you have today?
I did that to the best of my knowledge, to the last kobo and every bit of account that I had and I did it when I was leaving office and the press were there. They accompanied me to the High Court where I did the signing and read it to them item by item. Outside what I declared, I don't own anything. But people just concoct something. If I don't like you politically, I just concoct something and say that is your own without providing a shade of evidence and then you find some time that the agencies would start looking at that kind of frivolous petition. Somebody who will bring you that should swear to an affidavit and there should be penalty for false affidavit.

What were the things that actually attracted you to politics?
When I was growing up, my parents and my guardians were all in politics. It was during the NPC, NEPU era. I saw the sufferings they went through for merely having different views, spending time in jail and all sorts of deprivation. That attracted me a little, but I said, okay, I will continue from where they stopped. But, maybe, I will do it differently from how they did it. I saw that they were weak and I felt that I should be myself and be sufficiently strong enough to do politics.

Nigeria today appears to be sliding towards a one party State…
(Cuts in) It is not possible. Before you can talk of that, let's wait for the 2011 elections before we can say Nigeria is a one party state.
Even with the way your party, the PDP is capturing every state and every politician?
Let’s wait for 2011.

Are you saying your party is not likely to capture all the states?
Let’s wait till 2011 before we draw any conclusions. And for Nigerians, I would say, be optimistic and let's love our country.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.