The National Caretaker committee Chairman of the of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi, spoke with MUHAMMAD SABIU about the forthcoming national convention of the party and how some of the aspirants tried to bribe him, among other things. Excerpts:
Your party is expected to hold its national convention in Abuja on Saturday. But, some of the party men, who are not satisfied with what is happening, are already calling for the postponement of the convention. What is your reaction to this development?
Well, as far as I am concerned, we are on course. Of course, we have funding gaps. But I believe relevant party men and women should be able to contribute, in good time, for the convention to go ahead. We have already served the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with notices, letters are being written to relevant agencies on issues of security and other things. Essential documents have been printed. The key ingredients required for convention to take place have been established. Elected delegates have emerged all over the country. I am not aware at the moment that there are appeals from anywhere in respect of the election of the national delegates. Even if there is any, I am sure we would be able to deal with that within a week. So, we are basically on course. 774 delegates were elected, the rest of over 2000 are statutory delegates. So, I just have to say that I believe we are fully on course and there is no reason that can lead to the postponement of the convention. The venue has been secured and has been paid for, what remains?
Looking at the arguments of Chief Bode George and Senator Buruji Kashamu on the allegations they raised, will you say that there are other issues beneath that are unknown which may have propelled those allegations against you?
Forget about Kashamu. What is it that he has not offered me? Not just myself alone but other people. He doesn’t have a moral basis to talk. But of course, acting under a court cover that he should not be punished, that is why he kept doing what he is doing. The court processes will deal with that. You saw the release from South West, they replied him. That he introduced franchises to PDP. Hold control of party structure and sell tickets to aspirants. And that is what we said must stop. So, to some people it is business and an enterprise.
For Bode George, I don’t think it is about money. To be fair, you can’t compare him to Senator Kashamu. I believe in his own case, he just wanted to be considered based on his contributions to the party. He has the right to be considered.
There has been outcry by some of the aspirants over your position as the chairman of the caretaker committee in handling the preparation for the convention. Some of the aspirants from the South-West are saying that you are favouring the emergence of a South-South candidate for the national chairmanship position and also nursing a presidential ambition.
Well, they were not fair comments against me. I think the issues arose because it was alleged that in constituting the committees, to go for the election of the national delegates, that a particular state and a candidate from that state seemed to be favoured. Five names were specifically mentioned as alleged to be key supporters. That is what precipitated the current issue. Then, the interview granted by Abdullahi Jallo alleging that I told him that I am going to contest for the presidency. I will take one after the other. Firstly, the issue of the members of the committees to supervise the election of the national delegates; actually, the election of national delegates is conducted by state chapters. This committee only receives the results, compiles them, listens to appeals and transmits that to national headquarters. So, if you want to talk about allegations, may be you can only talk of that based on the state chapters or make allegation that a particular committee has tampered with the result of the election. That is a specific complaints. Up till now, nobody has made these specific complaints. So, irrespective of who constituted a specific committee, no complaint has been lodged that the election of national delegates was irregular or biased from any state of the federation.
Secondly, in constituting those committees, states sent 20 names each. Some would participate in the election processes for the national delegates and some are to participate at the convention. And when we came to constitute them, we took five names from each state that had written. If we ask you to submit and you refused, it is your own business. But, states that made their submissions, we took five names from each. We must pick names from Rivers because they are part and parcel of PDP and Nigeria. For you to pick the names from Rivers and say that none should support somebody; it is a candidate from Rivers and it is natural that they will support their own candidate.
Also probably other states have candidates standing for secretary, chairman and other positions; people will pick and may be sympathetic for candidates from their states and standing for elections. Are you going to bring an angel that is not attached to any state who may have interest from somebody from his or her state? It is absolutely impossible. Even two of the five names that we picked and published, two, for personal reasons, did not go.
We have to substitute them with different people from different places. Again, these five names that are specifically mentioned are just five out of 216 members in the various committees. Are you going to say five names will fill the work of the 211 people? This analysis was not made by then and emotions crept in. One could understand that because the convention is near and there was apprehension; sometimes it is natural to become agitated; that is why we don’t take offence in some of these things. And you know, these complaints have 24 hours access to us for explanation. They decided to go to the press. But we have come out to explain. However, to further reassure all aspirants, when we collect all the list of delegates, we shall call the state chapters chairmen to come with their copies of the results.
So, that we compared with what the committees submitted. And any chairmanship aspirants who may want to come and witness it can come and do so. This is to further ensure that all the validly elected delegates are the ones that are submitted to us and they are the final lists of the delegates. We are doing all these for good conscience.
The interview granted by Jallo, though he has been supportive to the party at the time of the legal crisis, he was never and still is not my spokesman. How on earth will somebody say what I am going to do in far away Gombe. Everybody knows who my spokesman is, if I am not going to speak. But, again, he is also somebody facing disciplinary action because of misdeeds within the party. So, we don’t really know what influenced him making that statement. So, people don’t know the issues that are underground, they just seize upon a story without investigating it, and even to find out what might have even propelled somebody to make such allegation. And these complainants are not even being sincere. Which one of these complainants have not approached me to work with him, for his ambition and they work for me? During this time, all I kept on telling them was, look let us get the convention right first and what I will do, let time determine that. So, if you come and make an offer to me and I reply you in such way, supposing I took your offer, will you now make the same complaint?
It is hypocrisy of the highest order. Before now, most of them had come to me and made offers to work with them and for them to actualise my ambitions. That it is all about 2019 so that we can be in a comfortable position. I had always told them to allow us have and do the convention successfully. So, all these things are unfounded, we remain focused and transparent to do a good job for our party. A few days ago, I received messages, to micro-zone chairmanship position to South-West. Look, in the North, neither I nor the caretaker committee micro-zoned anything to anywhere or anybody.
When the northern leaders met, I was not invited; they only informed me that they met and they have micro-zoned to geopolitical zones and asked geopolitical zones to go and meet and micro-zone to the states. Well, I said okay, if that is generally acceptable to people and they have no objection, fine. I told them that the party will not exclude anybody who wants to buy form. But, it is a good political arrangement, if people will work and abide by it, we have no problem. But, we can as well not deny somebody who disagrees with the arrangement and comes to buy form.
It was also said that before the May convention, the South met and also micro-zoned. When they met and micro-zoned,+ was I there? If now, they failed to meet and micro-zone, should I be blame for it? I have told them the same way North met, if you want go and meet and do the same. If they fail to do that, how has that become my problem and they now accuse me of taking sides? So, people should be fair to us and where they fail they should not transfer their failure to me or the caretaker committee.
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