By Emmanuel Aziken, Henry Umoru, Ben Agande and Dapo Akinrefon
President Goodluck Jonathan,yesterday, described the 14-year-rule of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as a blessing to the country. In a speech to the Special National Convention of the ruling party, Jonathan noted the strides in various sectors of the polity including communication, power, education and transportation as progressive developments that only those in the critical segment of the opposition have refused to acknowledge. The President, in a speech covering 3,735 words, said the task before the party was “difficult, thankless but ultimately rewarding.”
His speech to rouse the party faithful nonetheless did not stop six governors present at the occasion to walk out to form for the first time, a parallel faction of the ruling party.
Before him, senior party officials, including the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Obong Godswill Akpabio, had, in remarks at the Convention floor, reiterated the need for unity and determination to rally round the President. Anenih, while noting what he described as the seeming grievances among party men, pledged to redouble his efforts in reconciliation. Tukur, as he if in anticipation of the walk-out, called on the faithful to remain vigilant as he noted that troubles against the party were not yet over.
Jonathan, in his speech, narrated how the PDP had since it came to power at the federal level in 1999 posted several successes in the different sectors in the polity. He also took out time to subtly poke the opposition, noting that the PDP had remained one without changing identity, flag, or name. In a subtle dig at the Lagos State government, he also said the PDP governor would focus on attacking destitution instead of attacking destitute persons. Commending members of the former National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party who resigned to allow the regularisation of the election of members of the NEC, he said their action was in conformity with the party’s inclination to the rule of law.
“They are patriotic party members unlike others who drag the party to unnecessary litigation. We commend them and promise that the party will reward them. We are here fellow delegates in obedience to due process. We are confident that all those who will. be elected today into positions of responsibility entrusted with the mantle of leadership within the party will work diligently as one team. The party has provided a level playing field for all contestants to demonstrate their readiness for this call to service.”
Noting how the party has survived because of its inclination towards internal democracy, he
said: “Of the three political parties registered in 1998, and I want you to listen, only PDP has retained its singular identify and core vision as a political movement till date while others have been imploded along the way or subsumed their identity in search of political direction and relevance. The PDP has remained a strong fortress of hope for our people but remained focused on building a greater Nigeria, one that can afford this generation and the generation to come better life.”
The President started his narration of PDP’s delivery of democracy dividends with the multiplication of telephone penetration which, he said, progressed from “400,000 in 1999 before the PDP came on board to over 120 million today. Our telecom sector has grown to be the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world providing jobs for millions of Nigerians and creating a new generation of successful entrepreneurs and industrialists.”
Jonathan also cited developments in the banking industry which, he said, has flourished and the education sector developments “critics never want to acknowledge”. Besides what he claimed as progressive revival in primary education, he noted the construction of over 120 Almajiri primary schools and the establishment of nine federal universities.
The President also chided those arriving the federal capital for failing to acknowledge what he described as the state of the art road network leading into the city saying: “Our belief is that our critics don’t come into Abuja through our airport, (otherwise) they would see the airport road. If they drive round Abuja, they would have seen the outer lanes and others. We have changed the face of Abuja”, he said. “Under the PDP government we have embarked on massive infrastructural development that all the
geo-political zones are being linked up and people are acknowledging that driving across the country is now less painful. Though we are yet to get to where we want to, surely PDP will lead Nigeria to where we want to go.”
In what could be interpreted as a dig at the recent removal of some destitute persons from the All Progressive Congress, APC, controlled Lagos to Anambra State, Jonathan said:
“We recognise Nigeria as one indivisible entity, we deplore ethnic distrust among our great people. For we are one people under one umbrella in this republic. In the PDP, we fight against poverty not the poor. In the PDP, we attack destitution, not the destitute. “In the PDP, we believe in the tenet of democracy and development. This is who we are. We must remain a party of national unity, we must insist on justice and equity. We must insist on defending Nigeria from those who threaten her in words and deeds. We are a nation in God’s hands and we must keep it so.”
In his own speech, Tukur said: “This is the first time this is happening in the annals of Nigeria to repeat the entire process of an electoral process of any political party. PDP is indeed showing a good example for other political parties to follow. Apart from this, the Special Convention is also coming on a very official and significant date which coincides with the birthday of our party which was launched on August 31 1998,that is 15 years ago.”
Anenih, also addressing the PDP Convention, said: “As you all probably knows, a lot has been written about conflicts and crises in our party, almost on a continuous basis. Let me assure you that a great deal of what is published is exaggerated. While it cannot be denied that there are differences and disagreements, now and again, our party has a very effective arrangement for conflict resolution.
I want to take this opportunity to assure you that the PDP is one great family and appeal to all those who have one reason or the other to be aggrieved to take advantage of the abundant opportunities for conflict resolution in the party.” “As Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, my focus has always been on reconciliation, party cohesion and discipline. It is true that given the enormous size and spread of the party, there are bound to be challenges in his organization.
However ,you will agree with me that recent challenges problems of indiscipline are weighing heavily and affecting the smooth operations of the party in nearly all of its chapters. We have a strategic obligation to put our house in order to retain our dominant position in the Nigerian political system and continue to be a stabilizing force in the Nigerian democracy.”
Meanwhile, voting commenced at the PDP convention ground shortly before 3.00 p.m. after the chairman of the electoral panel, Senator Ken Nnamani, addressed delegates on the voting pattern. Delegates from all 36 states voted for the different positions on the ballot according to their states and each state was led by the highest political office holder.
Jonathan led delegates from Bayelsa State, Vice President Namadi Sambo led delegates from Kaduna, while the president of the Senate, Senator David Mark led delegates from Benue .However, voting was restricted to statutory delegates from Anambra and Adamawa States as elected delegates from the different factions were barred from voting.Voting ended around 4.30 pm following which the long process of counting the votes commenced. As at press time, counting was ongoing.