• Launches mission on nation building

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

With the 2019 general election a year away, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Monday apologised to Nigerians for its past mistakes, even as it urged the people to support its efforts to rescue the country from maladministration.

Under a new campaign slogan, “Rescue Nigeria”, the PDP, which after 16 years in power was ousted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, said it would act as a rallying point in the effort to rescue the country from inept leadership under the APC-led administration.

Speaking at the opening of the public discourse on nation building organised in Abuja Monday, the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, said that his party would seek the support of Nigerians to retake power so as to rescue the economy and put a stop to the wanton killings of innocent Nigerians.

He promised that the party will come up with an economic blueprint that would highlight interventions in areas such as healthcare and education.
While speaking on the theme, “Nation Building – Resetting the Agenda,” Secondus said the time had come for a public conversation on the state of the nation in order to arrest the dwindling fortunes of the country and stop the slide into anarchy.

Also in a rare show of remorse, Secondus said he and his National Working Committee (NWC) were apologising to Nigerians for the party’s many mistakes during its reign.
He said the new PDP leadership has decided to toe the path of honour and humility by accepting its shortcomings and was making a commitment to chart a new course for the development and progress of the country.
“PDP made many mistakes and we accept that there may have been impunity and imposition in the past, this is human. But the ability to admit making mistakes is one of the best ways to make amends and progress.

“Let me use this opportunity to apologise to Nigerians for our past mistakes. This is the best way forward and we want to set a precedent that if one makes mistakes it is wise to apologise and to move forward on a new note.
“We do not want to behave like the APC which would rather tell lies. On behalf of members of my NWC I apologise to Nigerians and ask for your support in seeking to rebuild the country. This is a clear departure from what the APC is known for because the party believes in using lies,” he said.

While welcoming participants, Secondus said the reason for the discourse was to undertake a review of the state of the nation, saying it was like “physical surgery”.
According to him, Nigeria may not be at war in the conventional sense, or was just gaining independence, however the economy, he noted, had taken a downturn in the three years of APC rule that warrants serious introspection and resetting of the agenda for nation building.

He said the country was also more divided than at any time in the nation’s history, adding: “Recent events in the country have shown that the propaganda which the All Progressives Congress came to power with is not enough to deliver the kind of governance needed to make progress in the lives of the people.”
Going forward, Secondus said: “The party does not and will not condone corruption in any manner. We wholesomely condemn it in its entirety.”

He said it was on record that it is only PDP that has willingly given up for prosecution its members accused of corruption, noting that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) were all anti-corruption organs established by PDP-led administrations.
“We insist and demand that the fight against corruption cannot and must not be selective. After all, he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands.”

On security, the PDP chairman said that Boko Haram was still alive despite several claims by APC of having decimated the terrorists, adding that insecurity had even spread under a new name and nomenclature called herdsmen.
According to Secondus, “These herdsmen have been tormenting, maiming and killing hundreds of children, women and men across the country with the government of the day offering feeble responses.”

He said the climax of the APC government politicking with security was the recent abduction of over 100 schoolgirls from their college premises in Dapchi, Yobe State, “with government, the military and the police authorities contradicting each other as to who did and didn’t do what”.

“Everyday our media is awash with the staggering number of wanton killings, raising questions about the value of human life in Nigeria. It is an endless stream of bloodletting directly or indirectly fueled by incompetent leadership.
“Only recently the federal government tried to arm twist state governors to take from the common purse, the sum of $1 billion, about N306 billion, for tackling Boko Haram that they claimed they had defeated two years ago,” he further recalled.

On the state of the economy, Secondus said the story was equally unpalatable, adding that government had through incoherent and inconsistent policies and actions, dragged Nigeria into an unnecessary recession.
Secondus said the ruling party has shown that it was incapable of delivering good governance to the people.

He said whereas the PDP administration only borrowed N6 trillion in all its 16 years, with a lot of projects to show for it, the APC-led government has borrowed N11 trillion in just three years with nothing to show for it.
“N6 trillion borrowed in 16 years and N11 trillion in just three years, which one is more corrupt?” Secondus asked.
“The hardship currently faced by Nigerians is unprecedented. Across the length and breadth of this nation, citizens are faced with abject poverty with no clear path of alleviation.

“Our currency has been recklessly devalued from N199 in 2015 to nearly N500 a dollar before it rose to about N365 only due to an increase in oil prices and not any significant thing done by this government.
“Fuel prices rose from N97 to N145, yet the nation experiences unabated scarcity with its attendant long queues and suffering by the Nigerian citizens,” he said.
The high point of the event was when the former PDP national vice chairman, Chief Bode George, stood up to express solidarity with the Secondus-led leadership.

There was a loud ovation from the PDP supporters who filled the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
George, who was one of the aspirants from the South-west geopolitical zone that contested for the post of national chairman of the party ahead of its convention last December, praised the new leadership of the party and urged it to rise to the occasion and lead the way forward in returning PDP to power in 2019.

“I want to assure members of the National Working Committee of my absolute loyalty and I pray that God will grant you the wisdom to lead the party because I believe that we don’t have a second chance to make an impression.
“The rest of the world is watching us. After the convention, this is the first outing because it looked as if we had taken an overdose of sleeping tablets. This is a period of elections, so let the people know the difference that this is a party that can make the difference,

“To err is human, to forgive is divine. You have done the talk, let our people go and walk the talk. We will ensure that it will be the message we will carry to the local leaders,” he said.
A former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, also advised the party to be mindful of the need to communicate its messages effectively to the people.

The discussion by panelists at the interactive sessions that followed provided an opportunity for hard truths and reprimands, with most of the speakers charging the PDP to do away with its past shortcomings.
Apart from being broadcast live on television and social media platforms, the PDP chairman took questions from Nigerians who called in by telephone.
In pointing the way forward, speakers sounded a note of caution that the calibre of candidates in the 2019 elections will probably determine the fortunes of the party.

Secondus assured Nigerians that under the new thinking, PDP will always tell the truth and be accountable, adding that in the 2019 elections, Nigerians will demand to know the truth about the country and nothing less.
He also assured Nigerians that the party will insist on fielding popular candidates for the election and that money will not be a deciding factor any longer.

As part of the new thinking, he said the party was developing an initiative to use the social media, in order to connect to the youths going forward.
Former Governor Peter Obi said part of the strategies for wining back power should be for the PDP to identify new ideas on how to do things better than the APC.

He said the party should be ready to tell Nigerians the facts about the dwindling economy and the lies being told about the country’s exit from the recession by the APC-led administration.
Two former vice-presidents, Atiku Abubakar and Namadi Sambo, as well as former governors, lawmakers, ministers and key leaders of the party were in attendance in solidarity with the party’s drive to return to power.