Time for ECOWAS leaders to discuss herdsmen crises, says Makarfi

Ahmed Makarfi

Senator Ahmed Makarfi was governor of Kaduna State and until last December, the Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he shares his insights with LEO SOBECHI on prevailing herdsmen menace and reforms in PDP.

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History of crises in Kaduna State  
Before I became the governor, for three years I was commissioner for finance and economic development in 1994 till 1997 under the administration of Col. Lawal Jafaru Isa and partly in the administration of Col. Hamidu Ali. It was not long after the Zangon Kataf palaver. One of the issues the administration of Col. Isa was confronted with was addressing the fallout of the crisis, which was very ugly. I participated in most, if not all the meetings to restore peace. In the special committee, we tried to find lasting peace in the area, and of course, by extension the rest of the state. I traversed the length and breadth of the state under the administration. I knew what the state was like then, the deficiencies in infrastructure, and differences between ethnic and religious groups.

By the time I got elected, a few weeks before I was sworn in as the governor, the Kafanchan crisis came up, Emir of Jama’a passed away. And even as governor-elect I had to play a reconciliatory role. I went to Kanfanchan and tried to talk to different sides involved in the crisis. I got to know what the issues were, on top of what I knew in the preceding three years I was commissioner. Unfortunately again, when I was sworn in, the Sharia riot broke out. To cap it up, the Miss World riot cropped up as we were trying to recover from the Sharia riots.

Before the Sharia riots, our mindset was to address all these age-long issues that were contributing to the breakdown of law and order, mutual suspicion between one community and another, as well as, the underdevelopment of the state. The Sharia riot was terrible. Over 5,000 lives were lost in a very short time. So when you look at the Boko Haram issue, which took long and compare with the Kaduna crises where over 5,000 lives were lost within a few days, you can imagine how severe it could have been.

I was determined and got support needed to address all the issues. I will also give credit to President (Olusegun) Obasanjo for the moral support he gave us as president and security agencies that worked day and night. But, it was not a question of force. You cannot always use force to solve problems.

What were the issues?
We found out that the colonial masters collapsed a lot of established traditional institutions into one larger governance institution. Some of these problems were centuries old. The people were not giving up, because they wanted to preserve their self-identity. Some of them were mixed by religion, but ethnic background was different. And the idea of being subjected to a single traditional rulership authority or another was tolerated, but simmering.

So we set up a committee to hear these people out. The committee made recommendations based on what the people wanted and we gave it to them by restoring those traditional institutions collapsed by the colonial masters. We also created new ones that were necessary such that responsibilities were shared. For emirs and chiefs, their responsibilities lie with the state government, while for district heads, it was state government and community. For village heads, local government and community. We structured it that way to ensure community involvement and to reduce the burden on the state government except if it deemed it fit to intervene in some issues. Besides addressing the issue of emancipation, we set up the Kaduna Leaders’ of Thought Forum, co-chaired by a leader from the north and one from the south.

They were there to advice the government on what Kaduna State wanted, including the issue of chiefdoms. The committee also came up with a tripartite legal system, including customary, sharia and English common law courts with provision for appeals up to the apex court. They made recommendations such as fair representation, equitable distribution of amenities in the state. They drew up a roadmap for the development of the state, mentioning key infrastructure in the communities.

All those recommendations were implemented one after the other. Everyone was happy with the tripartite legal system. We also mapped out the troubled spots in the state and set up resident strike forces. The strike forces were to quell any kind of problem. All these we embarked on and implemented, people were happy with it.

If you meet people’s expectations they are bound to follow you. You have to establish some level of trust and confidence. What moral ground can you stand on when you refuse to fulfill the promise you made to the people? You need to establish confidence with them for you to be able to tell them what and what not to do. We ran an open government; there was security and access for the community to visit us and for us to explain things to them. We also established a religious harmony committee, to ensure peace and stability. There was this feedback mechanism in place. People had no need to take laws into their hands.

Kaduna seems analogous to Nigeria in terms of diversity. Is it true that a person from outside cannot govern without breaches and did you achieve peace because you were a homeboy? 
My training contributed. I had a broad understanding of how people live and interact. I was born in Makarfi and went to school there. I attended a unity school, which was mini-Nigeria, Federal Government College, Enugu. That helped me a lot to reform issues of justice and equity. When I came into public office, it impacted on how I relate with people. I was also part of the student activism in my university years. All these added to my experience. I was open and broad-minded.

With all the constant killings and misunderstanding, is Kaduna beyond harmony? 
No, when the Zangon Kataf crisis broke out people thought that was the end of the state. When sharia riot broke out, over 5, 000 lives were lost within days, but we were able to arrest the situations.

During this period, I personally went to some of the troubled regions, even when some of the members of the Security Council said it’s not safe to go there, I told them I was the governor and chief security officer of my state. They followed me and that is how we were able to solve the problems, for me reaching these areas at the height of the crises was not trivial.

If you did it then, what is different now?
The issue is that confidence of the people would have to be regained, because from what is happening now, there is loss of confidence between the people and those governing them. We need a mediator that will do well in trying to restore the confidence. Once you erode confidence to a certain level, it becomes very hard to assist. You can still make efforts. When the Abdusalami and Father (Bishop Matthew Hassan) Kukah committee came to Kaduna, I thought they would have been given the opportunity to be effective mediators. Something like that can go a long way in restoring confidence.

With a complex mix of politics, culture, religion and historical background, can these issues be harmonised? 
That is why I said we need mediators, the government has its policies on what to be done or not. The people also have their mindset; they are also ready for one showdown or the other. A mediator will be able to calm them down and if the government is ready to listen would be able to tell the government to do the right things. The situation would be suitable for communication between both parties. You don’t listen to political sycophants; they would rather make things worse.

Herdsmen violence
It was not as severe as it is now, very minimal. When I was growing up in the sixties, it used to happen in my village. Now, it has gone into areas where it was not happening before and become more vicious and ferocious. The cattle routes have been occupied by people, built upon, some turned into farms, so domestic (Nigerian) herdsmen find it difficult.

Basically, you hardly can trace the old cattle routes. We are signatories to ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) policy of free movement. What the problem is now is that we have some herdsmen who have refused to obey our laws coming in and getting out at will. In spite of ECOWAS, our internal security is critical. The ECOWAS leaders have to put their heads together to find how to solve this menace. We can dialogue with the herdsmen in Nigeria. We will go along in dealing with the situation, but those that are not Nigerians have nothing to lose, they can kill and get out of the border. At the end of the day the reaction will be on the locals who may or may not have participated in the killings.

Whoever may be responsible, I don’t support it. The issue is getting more complicated by the day and must be dealt with. Treat the trans-border ones and the domestic ones separately. Ultimately, we must modernize, but not by force, because these are a set of non-literate people, who at the slightest sign of force, react with force. Much suspicion has occurred in the land. What works for one state may not work for another, but over time when people see that peace and tranquility have been restored, modernization will succeed. At the height of suspicions and insecurity, what you succeed doing in Kano, you cannot go to Anambra or Oyo States to do.

It has to be gradual; we need to communicate effectively with all sides. But again, criminality must not be tolerated. We must fish out those who kill and maim innocent citizens, whoever they may be, whether local herdsmen or foreigners. The law must be visited expeditiously on those responsible for the killings. There is too much bloodshed in the land. This has to stop. While talking is going on, there should be measures like reforms and reorientation programmes. But in the immediate is stopping the killings, arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators; medium is reorientation.

The division between ranching, colony and so on 
That is what I mentioned. Firstly the threat and encumbrances to the herdsmen and rustling must be addressed. Some of the rustlers may be Fulanis or not, but that is a crime visited on them. It is also possible that some elements from the security may be behind some of the issues. There are few in the security that work mainly for the benefit of the country, but the security institution must fish out the criminals among them who cooperate with criminals. That will bring a semblance of security to the herdsmen.

Wherever such a crime occurs should be cordoned off, perpetrators must be apprehended. There must be dialogue on both sides. Government must be talking to all sides and not be seen to be siding any one. Some kind of communication I’m sure will make headways. Settlements can occur in some places now without any rancour. In some places if you go to establish settlement (colony) the level of suspicion is so high that it will become practically impossible.

Over time, any part of the country could have the settlement for economic development as far as there is peace. Once there is peace the Fulani’s will see how good it is and the locals will appreciate it too. In Kaduna there is Laduga, which during my administration we converted to a district. You find primary and secondary schools there. It is a settlement that secures the Fulanis, because apart from cattle rearing they farm there.

Restructuring and future of Nigeria 
When I was chairman, I stated at a press conference that restructuring means different things to different people. There is the need to talk and understand restructuring. Some refer to political restructuring, some with mixed feelings. There is the need for us to talk, not running away from reality. The key restructuring should be about the institutions. If the public service, judiciary, security are not working well, where are we going?

Concerns about 2019 and assessment of APC
We have the capacity to survive. We would survive. I can speak for PDP; we are a nationalist party. We are not an amalgamation of different interest groups. We are up to the task; we seek a positive change for the country. None of us is blinded by power.

The past three years have revealed APC as a disjointed, disorganised party and government. And in a diverse country like Nigeria, with all the myriad of problems that we have, you must have unity of purpose at home before you can lead the nation and the only place you can have that is in PDP.

PDP’s fall in 2015 and perceived unpreparedness of the ruling party 
The errors started when we transited in 2007. We share in that collective failure. Maybe we did not allow the true choices of the people to emerge and we are paying the price for that. It contributed to the failure of PDP ultimately. The main agenda of APC (All Progressives Congress) was just to get PDP out, nothing more. They succeeded, then they are confused not knowing what to do with the chance they have. No internal cooperation, they started with problems in the National Assembly, it is continuing. Within the government you have different cells, each trying to exert its will. It is like a mafia, every don with his own territory. I pity government institutions, because they don’t know who to listen to and who to obey. In order to survive they do what ordinarily they will not do, because they don’t know who is in charge. The problem is that there is no central coordination of the government. This did not happen during PDP.
PDP, 2019 and national convention mistakes

Convention is different from nomination process. The majority of us share the same concern, and our resolve is to improve on things to the satisfaction of our party men and women. Let’s do the right thing no matter the disenchanted parts. Don’t forget at the last convention, the first thing we did was amending the constitution and by so doing we broadened membership participation in the nomination process. Thousands of people who, based on the previous constitution do not partake in the nomination process, from the councillors to the president, now have that right.

You don’t pocket a few people to nominate you into elective offices. It (constitution review) was done to broaden the democratic base. It is not the same as before and a lot of these people are statutory delegates that can’t be easily bought. They are on their own and want a better place for the country.

This was done deliberately in order to give power back to the people. It is effort to remove the power to impose. That does not mean that interest groups will not arise. In politics like-minds come together, if one group is in the majority, if it goes to an election, it wins. That is democracy, you cannot say people should not go and form groups. I’m sure our party leadership is at work for us to regain power. We should all work together. Once you regain power, if you lost out of something you may even regain more than what you’ve lost. We have learnt our lessons and a reform programme is on to address some of the issues that affected us negatively.

Issue of micro zoning  
Well, I felt for the southwest, but if they had acted as one, it would have improved their chances right from the beginning. You don’t leave it (consensus building) until it is too late. As chairman then, I got to know that some of the aspirants wanted the offices micro-zoned to them, especially those in the southwest. When you introduce something at a particular time to aid personal interests people will not really be pleased.

If the Southwest had met and agreed on one person, nobody would have argued. People wanted me as the chairman to micro zone. I didn’t, because micro zoning came in terms of what a group or majority agreed upon. There were two lists, unity list and another that had a different name. One list triumphed over the other. We did our best. All these issues of litigation also emanated from the southwest among few people. We should address this internally not by going to court every time. The vast majority of people in the Southwest have contributed majorly to the growth of PDP. I respect all of them, but I couldn’t do the impossible. The votes were a reflection of the wishes of the entire Nigeria, not a region. Some people were able to negotiate across Nigeria to have the majority.

There have been efforts to institutionalise internal democracy through online membership registration. Why is PDP and internal democracy like strange bedfellows, and money is always involved? 
Which party does not use money? Money is relative. APC used much more money than PDP. Even in subsequent elections. If we want to stop money politics, it should involve all of us. We have to meet and agree to have that changed. The party amendment recognised the e-voting recommendations. Both the (Senator Ike) Ekweremadu and (Prof) Jerry Gana committees recommended that and we are implementing them. Overtime, the party leadership will kick off e-registration. If parties have e-registration, you can stop using delegates and say every card-carrying member should vote during nomination, then we can have the best internal democracy. We will get there. It is a progression and that we have amended our constitution is part of that progression.

Issue of waivers and party discipline
It has now been reduced to one month in our amended constitution. You only need one month of joining or participation to be granted the right to contest in an election. This is also to broaden the participation in the party. You can see how far the reform has gone. It would not encourage indiscipline, rather it is to show that we don’t take people for granted. If you do the right thing you will be granted your rights to be nominated.

Democracy is better when you broaden participation. Power comes from God and ultimately people would decide, people make their decision based on the confidence they have in a candidate to deliver. Let’s play all the politics, but at the end of the day what the people want will happen. I think PDP will be preoccupied with coming back to power; it is not all about the money. We all have records that people can go back and assess. We are now in a different world.

Challenge faced during party crisis 
I didn’t expect it to be easy. I will rather want to praise the people for the perseverance. The governors, state chairmen and everyone with their moral support helped to stand our ground. We must also give credit to the judicial system for serving democracy right.

I have not spoken to (Senator Ali Amodu) Sheriff. But we were not pally-pally before the squabble. He did not participate in party activities when I was still there. I don’t know if he is still a member and am not in a position to say which party he belongs to.



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