We must sit down immediately we return to power and talk on how Nigeria can be good for everybody… It is the policy of the PDP anyway.

Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki

Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and ex-Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, was at the state secretariat of the PDP in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital recently. He came to brief the party faithful in the state on his presidential aspiration and to seek their support in order to actualise it.

He speaks on some issues of national concern one of which is restructuring. He said that restructuring is one of the policies of the PDP and that the party would implement it if it returns to power next year.

Many Nigerians, especially their leaders want the restructuring of the country and you just made case for it while you spoke earlier? How, in concrete terms, do you intend to implement it if given the opportunity to be President?

First of all, restructuring is not what a leader wants; it is what the people want. As I mentioned, I chaired the technical committee that set the agenda for the national conference under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo even though some items were removed from the agenda. More than 14 years ago, I proposed how this country would be restructured only that it was not followed through. So, we need to bring back Nigerians to dust those reports up; remove what is obsolete, bring in what is new and whatever Nigerians resolve, we implement.

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National cohesiveness; the trust that used to be between us is being eroded; the fabric that is holding us as one nation is becoming thinner and thinner and it is about to snap. We must reinforce it. Nigerians have been talking. They want to sit down and discuss the restructuring of this country. We cannot run away from it. We must sit down immediately we return to power and talk on how Nigeria can be good for everybody; for the good of each and every one of us. It is the policy of the PDP anyway. It is not an individual policy of an aspirant of the PDP.

When the APC National Chairman and a state governor came to a national television and told Nigerians that the APC and their government does not believe in restructuring; the very next day Channels called me and interviewed me on the policy of the PDP and I said that the policy of the PDP is that we believe in restructuring. And whoever that is standing election on the platform of the PDP must believe that the need for restructuring is a matter of fact we will have to face. I have a bit of experience to deal with that. Most of you may not be aware. The past national conference convened by President Obasanjo; before he convened it, he set up a technical committee which I headed. It was set up to prepare the background and agenda for the conference. I chaired the committee that prepared the background and agenda for the conference. It was my edited report; I said edited because some items were taken out by the federal government as no-go areas. But according to my own report we didn’t consider them as no-go areas. We took them as matters Nigerians should discuss so that whatever Nigerians resolve, we solve them once and for all so that it doesn’t keep reoccurring.

And because they did not address them, they continue to reoccur. So, if I played such a role way back, nobody should be left in doubt as to my belief, and principled life. As something I contributed to before, more than 14 years back, it is not a matter to which I can be in a state of denial over now. Secondly, in the issue of restructuring, I say we must include institutional restructuring. If you do not restructure the institutions, I tell you that you will regret it.

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What do you mean by institutional restructuring?

As long as you leave key apparatus, key government establishments under the control of the executive, there will always be a problem, which was why the National Assembly was invaded anyway. This is because somebody in the executive can just deploy the security men to go and stop the assembly whether state or federal. But when you restructure the institutions such that they become apolitical, they take no political directive from anybody, they provide for all irrespective of their political persuasion.

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With that, you are going to stop every abuses of office that is drawing us backward. If you don’t restructure the electoral body so that they are truly independent; free, fair, and just to everybody, you will not be able to win through a free and fair election; they can go and write result. So, we must not forget about this institutional restructuring and make them better and more accountable. That is what you will get from me if you give me the opportunity to be your candidate and if Nigerians give me opportunity to be their president.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has been accusing the PDP of misruling Nigeria for the 16 years it ruled. What would you make of those accusations especially when compared with their rule so far?

Look, who are those talking about the PDP misruling Nigeria for 16 years? 90 percent of the people who speak that way were PDP people that were in the position of authority. So, they were the ones who misruled and then ran into the APC. And that is why the APC is not ruling well. What remains in the PDP is the good PDP. So, Nigerians should better take note.

Today, you’re in the South East to solicit the support of your fellow PDP members in view of the upcoming convention of your party. What has been your experience?

As a matter of fact, I am happy that since yesterday I have been in the South-East where I call home because when I first came to the zone for my secondary school, it was only one single state; East Central. I can say that I came to one single South Eastern State in Nigeria as a young boy and I got moulded into whatever I have become in life. Academically I did well; business wise, I started trading when I was in secondary school in Enugu. So, I learnt business in Igbo land and I have remained in private business ever since. So, I have been cultured, positively. And all glory goes to God and also the host community, that is, the Igbo land that moulded me into what Nigerians have come to know of menow.

There is reportedly high level of discrimination in Nigeria at the moment. How do you think you can reunite Nigeria if given the opportunity to lead as President?

First of all, you have to go back to my history. You discriminate when you have not associated with people; you don’t know the value of others. My starting life was in Enugu where I did my secondary education. I only know Nigerians and not about their religion or where they come from. So, with
that background and the opportunity I had in Kaduna State; a very difficult state that has multi-ethnic and multi religious groups, I met on ground the same problem that Nigeria is now going through. But with good intentions and God, by the time I left office I addressed those issues such that the issue of discrimination, favouritism, or whatever vice of that kind were matter of history over the time I governed Kaduna. So, I did it before. It was something that God put me in a place for me to see how to handle such issue and I did.

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And I did extremely well. I was the first governor in Nigeria to appoint the Yoruba, Igbo, and other ethnic groups into various positions of my government before others followed suit. When I was governor, an Igbo man was elected as member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly. I think that has never happened since then in the north. So, these are matters that my history will tell Nigerians about me. It is not about promising what I will do but what I have done. That’s why I said that people should go back to what people have done. You will know us by the history of what we have done.

People say that you are a gentleman; too gentle to lead this country that is tough. What would you make of that?

People said that I was too gentle to defeat Sheriff. What happened thereafter? You see, don’t be deceived by physical looks. It is action that counts. And in Kaduna State people saw my action. People said that I was too gentle and young to handle the Kaduna mafia. What happened thereafter? People said that I was too gentle to face Sheriff and those backing him. Not just Sheriff but the federal government behind him. What happened thereafter? So, those who mistake my gentle look for weakness will be shocked when Nigerians will be happy.