- Affirms Makarfi’s leadership, tenure to end in December
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Wale Ajimotokan, James Emejo in Abuja and Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Smarting from a prolonged leadership tussle that was resolved by the Supreme Court, the Peoples Democratic Party saturday held its non-elective National Convention, signaling its readiness to take on the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2019.
The convention, held at Eagle Square Abuja, attracted a huge crowd of party supporters from all the states.
Most of the prominent leaders of the party who spoke at the convention expressed optimism that PDP was on its way back to power. The gathering was also an opportunity for some party leaders to hint members of their presidential bids.
From one speaker to the other, their speeches were greeted with loud ovation from an enthusiastic crowd made up of delegates and party stakeholders that thronged the Eagles Square for the convention.
At the convention, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi committee was affirmed as the national leadership of the party for another four months, when an elective convention would be held in December.
In what seemed like a calculated attempt to remind Nigerians of what live was like under PDP government, former President Goodluck Jonathan, reeled out key achievements of his party in the period it was in charge of affairs of Nigeria and called on party faithful and delegates to brace up to reclaim power in 2019, when general elections will hold.
Responding specifically to claims by the APC that the economy would have been worse if PDP had remained in office, Jonathan, who spoke for about 20 minutes, said it was not true and couldn’t have been the case. He said, “We had a sound economic team in place managing the economy. Let us not forget that the great floods of 2012 were a major calamity that damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and Benue. But despite the devastating effect of this natural disaster, there were no food shortages or arbitrary increase in prices, because of what we were able to accomplish with our Agriculture Transformation Agenda, which considerably boosted food production.
“If we say that we rekindled hope in our people and regained international goodwill, it is because we pursued a number of policies and programmes that were not only richly rewarding for our people, but were also being copied by many countries across the globe, a few of which I will mention here,” he boasted.
He said the PDP administration provided focused leadership through institutional and sectoral reforms, which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years that he was in power.
According to him, the result was that, “The administration was able to keep inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, grew the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars, and the number one foreign direct investment destination on the continent”.
Specifically talking about the exploits of his administration in agricultural transformation, he claimed the initiative rapidly transformed key agricultural value chains, boosted local production, and created a new generation of young commercial farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs.
He said one of the very remarkable achievements of the reform in the Agricultural sector was the end to decades of fertiliser corruption, which it achieved through electronic wallet system, adding that the initiative has continued to resonate outside the shores of Nigeria and that it was not only being scaled up by the African Development Bank, but it’s already being replicated in close to 20 African countries.
Jonathan also said the PDP government introduced an entrepreneur scheme known as You-Win, which he said has won the admiration and acceptability of other countries around the world.
On corruption, Jonathan said though the approach adopted by his administration to fight the hydra-headed problem may not have plugged all the leakages in the system, it no doubt laid a sustainable foundation for tackling the scourge.
“But we went about it in a sustainable and measurable manner, among other measures, creating institutional tools like bank verification number (BVN), the treasury single account (TSA) designed to block leakages, as well as the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS), which eliminated tens of thousands of ghost workers, during our time.”
The former President said Nigerians were in a better position to compare what the PDP and the APC had been able to do to improve their well-being.
“We should always celebrate the fact that the PDP introduced key policies that improved governance, enhanced welfare, boosted and stabilised the economy of our great country, and above all, gave our people hope.”
Against this backdrop, the former president declared: “Let it be known, in all nooks and crannies of our country, that the PDP is back to claim its rightful place in the affairs of the nation. As we have always done, we are ready to return Nigeria to the path of unity, peace and prosperity.”
In his speech, Makarfi commended the patriotic zeal displayed by party faithful whom he said had sacrificed a lot in the ongoing efforts to reposition the PDP after its protracted leadership crisis.
On PDP’s resolve to win back the presidency in 2019, he said they would work hard to replace the APC government come 2019 election.
“We wish our president well and will continue to pray for his full recovery. We want him to be fit and well when we’ll defeat the APC in the next general election. We will continue to pray for him, but that does not mean we will go to sleep. We will work hard to replace the APC government come 2019 election,” he said.
Makarfi, who dedicated the convention to the youths of the country, also assured them that one of the things PDP would consider if it regained power was to see how to institute students’ loan scheme that would enable indigent students attain their ambition in education.
Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee and Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, said there was no doubt that the last two years had been the greatest test PDP had faced. He however noted that the fact that the party survived its baptism of fire was a testimony to the resilience of its grassroots structure, organisation and appeal.
“Let it be known, today, to all Nigerians, who prayed for us during our time of travail that the PDP is back with a bang. We shall not disappoint you. We are back. We must realise that there is a champion in each and everyone of us in the party, and that a collective leadership and partnership, resolve to do things right is all that we need to build the strength to recapture power,” he said.
Meanwhile, the race for the presidency might have taken off with the successful outcome of yesterday’s PDP convention as presidential hopefuls thronged the venue with their supporters. Among them were former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido; his Sokoto and Kano State counterparts, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and Mallam Ibrahim Shakaru, as well as the Gombe State governor, Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Dankwambo. Also, some youths were sighted dancing round the convention ground with posters of Makarfi.
In his short remark, former Vice-President Namadi Sambo, said the gathering was a statement to all Nigerians that PDP was back and alive.
Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, said the gathering was a testimony of what is happening in Nigeria at the moment.
He said the APC-led government could be described as “power miss road” for their inability to get a grasp of governance and to deliver on their campaign promises to the people.
“PDP is now a religion in Nigeria. PDP made a mistake and it is ready to correct it. This party will overcome its challenges,” Fayose stated.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi was more forceful in his criticism, when he said “PDP has a Board of Trustees (BoT) but APC has no Board of Trustees, cannot hold NEC meeting nor convention.”
One of the founding fathers of the party and former governor of the old Gongola State, Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, also said the party had the ability and capacity to win the 2019 general election and form a government without alliance with any political party.
He said as the largest political party in Africa, which had ruled the country for 16 years, and with former and present elected members at both national and state levels, the PDP had the ability to wrest power from the APC almost unaided.
“It’s our duty now to try to reshape the party and form a new PDP in a way by trying to do away with some of the shortcomings that brought our downfall and to make sure we have a party for a good future so that we recapture government again and that’s what we are doing.”
Meanwhile, some of the key resolutions passed at the convention included the extension of the tenure of its National Caretaker Committee by four months. By this arrangement, the tenure of the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee would now end on December 12.
Also, the party ratified the dissolution of its executive committees in Anambra, Adamawa, Borno, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States. The dissolution of the executive committees, according to the party, was informed by the failure of the different warring camps to agree and have one executive committee in each of the states.