Why we should rethink presidential system – Makarfi
The National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Muhammad Makarfi, recently spoke to newsmen on the state of the nation, his eyes on the presidency, and his college days, among other issues. E
Daily Trust: First, as a man very versatile, some people have difficulty addressing you appropriately. How would you rather be addressed - a former teacher, banker, lecturer, governor or senator? Senator Ahmed Muhammad Makarfi: Well, I’m not particular about titles. Whatever name or nomenclature anybody gives me as long it is one that I have earned and my name is attached to it, I will answer. People are free to address me by whichever one they choose.
DT: You are advocating for the abolition of the presidential system of government, why is this so, and what’s your option?
Makarfi: I still stand on that. Maybe not parliamentary, but quasi-presidential system, because the presidential system gives absolute power to one person at either the centre or state, as such, dialogue is eroded. In the parliamentary system, you must negotiate and if you don’t, even your party can kick you out as the leader in one sitting, and transition from one head of government to another is easy with just a vote in the parliament rather than a general election. Nigeria has been finding it very challenging transiting from one government to the other because it has to be through general elections or natural courses like death or impeachment. And we witnessed death in one instance, we are not praying for that for anybody in office or even out of office, though we all must die one day. I maintain that we have to consider if it is wise to deal with the presidential system of government, the parliamentary or quasi-presidential system. In the parliamentary system, majority, if not all of the cabinet members are also elected, so if you sack somebody he simply goes back to his parliament. He can even stand his or her ground because he or she was elected before being appointed to head a ministry, unlike in the presidential system where it seems as if the president is doing them a favour. So, let us consider the option.
DT: Observers say you have a good record as Kaduna State governor, and many admire your role in the PDP, do you have any ambition to become the president of Nigeria? Makarfi: This is a developing situation, it has not reached the end, so nobody can say who is in and who is out. I believe everybody is consulting appropriately and has a calendar and agenda.
DT: You were a seasoned banker before entering politics, and still lectured in the university, how did you cope with bank work and lecturing? Makarfi: When we were in the university, we were given part-time
teaching jobs in the then newly established day-schools and when I was working in the bank, I taught ‘Practice of Banking’ and ‘Finance of International Trade’ to diploma in banking students from 1987 to 1993 in the department of accounting at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. DT: We learnt you have many traditional titles, but actually how many? Makarfi: I am sure I have more than 35 traditional titles which were conferred on me across the country.
DT: You attended the Federal Government College Enugu, how did you get there? Makarfi: When additional Federal Government Colleges were established, those that passed the common entrance examination up to a certain grade were invited for interview in 1973. It was a normal school admission, nothing special. DT: Were you the only one from your area? Makarfi: I was the only one from Zaria Emirate, but there were many from Southern Kaduna. And those from the North were more than those from the western part of the country.
DT: How did you feel about your first day in school and your stay in the college entirely?
Makarfi: My first day in school was memorable because the pioneer head boy, now Engr. Bill Anaka, welcomed me and accommodated me in his outer room. His accommodation was like a room and parlour. He now lives in Makurdi. We are still in touch. Some wondered what was so special about this young man who was being taking care of by the head boy. Though I come from Makarfi town and local government, I had been visiting cities in my primary school like Zaria and Kaduna. I was not disoriented by the size of Enugu or the mix-up of people because there were Igbos and Yorubas in my primary school in Makarfi, but it was difficult getting used to the food but as a child, if you are hungry, you eat, I didn’t find it difficult assimilating. DT: And how about your understanding of the Igbo language, how did you cope? Makarfi: It was an offence in the school to communicate in vernacular. Any language other than English was unacceptable and that was to foster unity. However, when we got to the market in Enugu, we picked Igbo words, phrases and sentences, but it is a long time now and I am poor in languages otherwise I would have learnt several national and international languages. DT: You had classmates, can you remember some of them? Makarfi: I remember all my classmates from primary, college and university
and I am in touch with majority of them, but I will not name any, so I don’t offend the others. DT: Has your legacy in the PDP been developed and sustained? Makarfi: Absolutely, but everyone has his or her own style. However, what confronted us is not the same thing confronting the current leadership and I believe they are doing what needs to be done, as a number of things may not be open to the naked eye, but I believe sooner than later, people will see the result and the hard work put into it.
DT: You must have helped many people, how do you feel when those you assisted abuse your character and legacies?
Makarfi: I don’t expect the people I assisted to power to give me anything back in return. I tolerate people, and it is up to people to look at me with respect. In life, we reap what we sow. All the actions I took in respect of assisting any individual in the past, I did in good faith and I don’t want to start looking back to say this or that person has done something negative to me. It is hard but it is part of life and it has happened.
DT: Sometime past, the ABU Teaching Hospital was closed and relocated to Zaria from Kaduna, as a former governor of the state, how do you see it? Makarfi: Universities have one teaching hospital and Kaduna has the Nigerian Air force (NAF) Base Hospital, 44 Military Hospital, National Psychiatric Hospital, National Eye Centre, National Ear Care Centre (NECC) and Barau Dikko is for Kaduna State University (KASU). Kaduna has not lost anything.
DT: When you were governor, you experienced crises in Kaduna State and crises are still recurring in the state and nation generally. What do you think about this?
Makarfi: It is unfortunate, we have lost many lives and property but the federal government must make sure that the killings stop, as it is its responsibility. Nigerians need to live peacefully with one another, government must create, enforce and sustain peace. It beats my imagination why these killings are continuing but it is government’s responsibility to stop it. It should provide an enabling environment for the economy to grow so that people can find jobs to do. If people find jobs, crime will reduce. DT: You must be a very busy man. How do you unwind? Makarfi: I am a very busy person in deed, so I try as much as possible to organize my programs. I schedule adequate time for politics, business, family, friends and social events. I like relaxing with my family to talk and update one other.
DT: People say you have maintained one telephone number despite holding several positions, why do you choose to do so? Makarfi: I have nothing to hide, which is why I keep my number. If I am free, I pick your call, if I am not, I cannot pick and I reply when I am free. I am not running from anybody. DT: Does any of your children follow your footstep as a politician? Makarfi: I don’t know, time will tell, but they are all young and enterprising boys and girls, and I am proud of them.
Sen. Ahmed Makarfi