Senator Ahmed Markafi served as governor of Kaduna State between 1999 and 2007. He is also the current Senator representing Kaduna North in the Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance. In 2000, the state under his watch witnessed one of the most brutal bloodshed in Nigeria’s history beside the civil war.
Many Nigerians however lauded the way and manner Senator Markafi handled the fall out. Since then, the state has been engulfed in series of crisis which has now pitched the Christians against Muslims in the state.
In this interview with FRED ITUA, the Senator gave insights into the security challenges facing the country and the way forward, the executive-legislature face-off over 2013 oil benchmark, why he supports the creation of Southern Kaduna State, among other salient issues.
How would you assess the mood of the nation? Are we on the right path?
The mood of the nation should definitely be one of concern to everyone. It is not a matter for one person. All of us have to confront the issue as a people. We all have a role to play and I think things will improve with time. The controversy over the oil benchmark for the 2013 budget is still hanging in the balance.
How soon will both chambers harmonise and come up with a uniform benchmark?
There is a conference committee and I happen to chair that committee. We have started our meetings and discussions. There will not be any problem on the part of members of the National Assembly. Equally, we are also engaging the executive. We are all one, even though we have our own separate powers.
We are all working for the good of the nation. Not necessarily that the National Assembly will have to agree with what the executive will want. It is just democracy in place. In any case, the oil benchmark earmarked for the budget is not really $75 per barrel. If you look at the budget itself, particularly the revenue profile, you will see that there is the anticipated distribution of the excess crude. When you transpolate that with the oil benchmark, you are going to arrive at about $78 per barrel. So, the benchmark submitted by the executive is actually predicated on $78 and not $75 per barrel. You have to add the two variables contained in the budget to arrive at the true benchmark the executive has submitted. So, for me, what the Senate has adopted is what the executive has submitted. The House of Representatives might add additional $2 for certain purposes. As we discuss the budget, that will inform the National Assembly as to what the final decision will be. There is no division between the Senate and the House. We are also engaging the executive.
I don’t expect us to have any serious issue at the end of the day.
Looking back at your days in office as Governor of Kaduna State and the series of religious crises that claimed the lives of thousands of people, particularly in 2000, do you think you would have done anything differently to avert those crises if you had another chance?
It is difficult to say. You may take all the steps necessary, but in the end, something may erupt. The issue is how you deal with it. I am happy that we collectively responded well and achieved some level of stability. The recent happenings which are more territorial in nature are different from a localised ethno-religious fever as we used to witness in some parts of Nigeria.
People have attributed the ongoing crisis in the Kaduna State to the fall out in 2000 where thousands of lives were lost. Is there any element of truth in that?
First of all, there had been a number of crises and each with its own impact.
The continuous crisis has begun to create some insinuations in certain quarters. Some settlements are multi-ethnic and multi-religious. In terms of ethnicity, the settlements might be mixed, but in terms of religion, you know it could be followers of a particular faith even though they are multi-ethnic. There is no settlement that is ethnically-based which is an unfortunate event. When such sad events occur and people begin to shift to settle in certain areas for one reason or another, it is attributed to sentiments.
It is how the government and other non-governmental agencies work that will re-assure confidence. It is achievable. Up till now, Jerusalem is divided. Same thing with Beirut. It is not peculiar to Kaduna. It happens in some countries that have witnessed some serious upheaval. We must not see it as being peculiar only to Kaduna State.
What is the way forward on how to solve these crises in Kaduna State and across the nation?
Good governance, justice and equity remain the only recipe for peace. You cannot have peace without justice, good governance and fairness. The issue here is that, when sometimes people talk about insecurity, they only look at the central government. This is not proper. What are the state governments doing? Some problems are not as a result of what the federal government has done or has failed to do.
You can also attribute the problems to what the state governments have done or have refused to do. Some, you can attribute to what a local government has done or has failed to do. So, all the governments at all levels in the country have a responsibility to ensure good governance, equity and fairness.
Good governance is first on the list. If you are talking of employment and power generation, you need to have good governance to achieve these things. The security itself is a product of good governance. So, the solutions to the insecurity challenge in this country are to have good governance, justice and equity.
Power struggle by northern leaders for 2015 presidential elections and speculations that you might contest in 2015 Everybody has the right to aspire to be anything in this country. The fact that somebody from the North or the South says that he wants to aspire for any position is not a crime. Everybody has that inalienable right to seek what he wants. It should not be the case where anybody will be stopped from aspiring for any position. Ultimately, the choice is for Nigerians.
I don’t have any desire to run in 2015. I have never thought of it. Nigeria is full of speculations. I have a mandate. We have mentioned myriad of problems facing us. Why should I ignore them and begin to think of a period that has not come? Let us see what we need to do to ensure 2015 comes peacefully and goes. Nigerians are surprised that the Senate did not take a firm position on the implementation of the 2012 budget unlike the House of Representatives. Both chambers have the same stand. Hardly can you achieve 100 percent budget implementation because budget itself is a document. You have expected revenue and expenditure. You may have 100 percent revenue for one reason or the other.
But you cannot have 100 percent implementation. When you assess, you can then deduce, if we couldn’t have done better or if that is the best we could achieve. We have agreed that what we have is nowhere near the best we can achieve.
What is your take on the ongoing constitution review?
I don’t have any personal thing I want inputted into the constitution. I don’t represent myself; I represent my people. The people I represent cannot unilaterally have one thing that they want in the constitution. It depends on what the majority of Nigerians want and whatever they want will ultimately have the day.
At one point, you supported the creation of Southern Kaduna State. Do you still nurture that idea and why?
I support the creation of Southern Kaduna State if it is going to be practicable or economically viable.
Again, it is beyond personal support. You need to have the support of Nigerians to make that happen. The reason I support the creation of that state is because the people requesting for it have that right to do that, whether they get it or not is another issue. You shouldn’t deny anybody who aspires for anything.
There is a growing momentum in the opposition camp to form a merger party. This could pose a threat to the continuous dominance of the PDP in the North. Do you harbor any fear as a result of this? Anything is possible, but I don’t expect our party to go to sleep. Everybody is planning. So, let us see whose plans will work at the end of the day. The PDP can still keep power and it can be taken from us. There is no impossibility in politics. All I am saying is that we are not sleeping while the opposition is working.