By Segun James
Former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, at the weekend gave reasons for his low visibility in political circles in Nigeria.
Jonathan said in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital that he was shifting away from partisan politics to focus more attention on his foundation so that the realisation of its goals would not be marred by partisanship.
He spoke at the inauguration of the state executive council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Governor, Senator Douye Diri.
The former president, who holds the record of the first sitting president to concede defeat even before the official announcement of the poll winner in 2015, had shortly after his exit from power, set up the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, (GJF).
The foundation, with head office in Yenagoa and a subsidiary office in Abuja, was set up “to serve as a platform to champion and catalyse the positive social and economic progress being experienced across Africa, by focusing on promoting peace and stability, and enterprise development,” two key issues which Jonathan believes can yield far-reaching positive outcomes at scale across the continent.
His low-key participation in political activities had stirred rumours, especially during the 2019 electioneering and the last governorship election in Bayelsa State that he was no longer in the PDP.
His absence at a rally on November 7, 2019 at the Oxbow Lake Pavilion in Bayelsa, to kick off the party’s campaign ahead of the governorship election in the state and hosting the candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. David Lyon, at his country home in Otuoke had fuelled rumours of his alleged disenchantment with the PDP.
Jonathan, who said he was actually moving away from being “an effective partisan politician,” however, noted that his absence from political activities was being misunderstood.
“Don’t be discouraged if you do not see me in most party activities in the state. I decided to appear in this event so that I will not be misunderstood.
“I’m shifting away from being an effective partisan politician because of my foundation. People who want to partner with me felt that if you are a partisan leader in the country, they will eat with you with a long spoon.
“I felt that after serving as president of this country, I should go to some other areas where my services would be required. Through that process, I would be able to support the nation and the state in one way or the other,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Diri’s acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Dan Alabrah.
The former president called on the new state executive council to run an all-inclusive administration, to promote peace, unity and stability in achieving more successes for the party.
According to him, the survival of the party in the state depends on its capacity to effectively manage its affairs.
“You have an enormous responsibility before you. You must work with the governor and not at cross purposes.
“No matter how strong a party is, if the people don’t appreciate you, you would be struggling to have them on your side. I know you will work harmoniously with members and carry everyone along,” he added.
Jonathan also applauded the exemplary leadership exhibited by Diri within a short period in office.
The governor urged the new party leadership to reach out to all those who had left and to bring them back into the fold towards sustaining the party’s dominance in the state.
He also tasked them on loyalty to the party and for them to eschew divisive tendencies because “we are all brothers and sisters of Ijawland.”
Diri, who noted the forthcoming senatorial bye-elections would be a litmus test for the new council, challenged the leadership to work towards winning the west and central senatorial seats.
“As a result of our divine emergence, we should not be vindictive. Let us forgive one another and bring everyone on board because we want to sustain our party’s dominance in the state.
“It seems like a tall order but you have the capacity to do so. We are all brothers and sisters of Ijawland. So let us not split ourselves. When we are united, we will be stronger and bring development closer to our people,” he said.
PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, represented by the National Vice Chairman of the South-south zone, Mr. Emmanuel Ogidi, congratulated the new state executive council and implored them to work as a team.
While commending Diri on his reconciliatory efforts, he said the move would strengthen the party towards achieving victory in future elections.
Diri’s predecessor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, expressed satisfaction with his successor for recording successes in piloting the affairs of the party so far, as evident in the smooth election and successful inauguration of the new leadership.
Represented by the Sagbama PDP Caucus Chairman, Chief Francis Doukpola, Dickson thanked the immediate past chairman for his loyalty to the party and the winning streak during his leadership while congratulating the newly inaugurated executive.
In his acceptance speech, the new chairman, Mr. Solomon Agwanana, thanked Jonathan and Diri for their leadership role in strengthening the party.
He said his watchword would be repositioning the party and consolidating the gains achieved by past leaders.
Agwanana also called for clear direction from the governor as the leader of the party, to give the right instrument and synergy needed to record more victories as the leading party in the state.
The highpoint of the event was a minute silence in honour of the late Pastor Keniebi Okoko, a former governorship aspirant who passed on a few weeks ago.