Being an address delivered by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the non-elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday
Let me start by paying tributes to the founding fathers of our great party and all others who had laboured so hard over these past months to restore peace and tranquility in our party. The PDP like every successful human organization has gone through a momentous time in the last one and half years.
As a party that heralded Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the PDP had become so accustomed to success in its 16 years in power that the first time our fortunes changed at the polls, it was obvious that the party would suffer the aftershocks of the loss. It was in deed a most trying period for us as a political party.
However, it is not an experience that is peculiar to us. This because all over the world, any party that loses election at the centre as we did, will first of all, struggle to hold together, before regaining its composure to effectively present the strong voice of the opposition, and resume the contestation to return to office.
But we thank God that the worst is over for our party. It is to His grace that we were able to emerge from this unsavoury experience, from which some political parties in other emerging democracies hardly recover, to become even stronger, within a short period of time.
The PDP is in deed back to reclaim its prime position as the party to lead Nigeria to greatness. As a human institution we cannot claim perfection, but obviously as a political party, our accomplishments as at 2015, far outweigh our shortfalls.
Our giant developmental strides are there for all Nigerians to see. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that PDP has indeed proved to be a party of vision and accomplishments.
As I said when I addressed our members in April during the stakeholders’ forum which I convened; the 2011, 2015 general elections and other polls conducted by our administration were accepted globally to have met the international standards for free, fair and transparent elections. There is no gainsaying the fact that our disposition in freely handing over power to the opposition, after the 2015 polls, helped to deepen our democracy, and project our country as one of the world’s stable democracies.
This wouldn’t have been possible if our Government did not reform the electoral and political process, by giving the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the autonomy it requires, to enable it to conduct free and fair elections.
On the economic front, we provided focused leadership, through institutional and sectoral reforms which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years of our time in power. The effect was that we tamed 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.
I learnt that some people said that if PDP had remained in power beyond 2015, the economy would have performed worse. This couldn’t have been the case, because we had a sound economic team in place, managing the economy. Let us not forget that the great floods of 2012 was 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 was 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.
We can all recall that our agricultural transformation agenda rapidly transformed key agricultural value chains, boosted local production, and created a new generation of young commercial farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs we proudly identified as Nagropreneurs.
One very remarkable achievements of the reform we introduced was that it ended decades of fertiliser sector corruption through electronic wallet system. Since then, its success has continued to resonate outside our shores. The programme is not only being scaled up by the African Development Bank, but is already being replicated in close to 20 African countries.
In fact, three days ago, my attention was drawn to The Guardian newspaper publication about a contract that has just been awarded to a Nigerian IT solutions firm, Cellulant, to export the e-wallet system which we conceived, to Afghanistan. This is in deed, a good development for our country.
I understand that the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in Afghanistan, which contracted them in their bid to establish a market-based input distribution technology, might have been inspired by our own experience, in successfully deploying the e-wallet technology to increase food production.
In the same vein, Our Youth Enterprises with Innovation (YouWin) designed to turn thousands of youths into entrepreneurs and employers of labour, has been endorsed by the World Bank for replication in other developing countries.
The ECOWAS Commission has since expressed interest in partnering with Nigeria with a view to establishing an automotive policy for the sub-region, in line with our administration’s auto industry development policy, which led to the establishment of many vehicle assembly plants, including indigenous companies.
Our approach to fighting corruption may not have plugged all the leaks in the system; in fact, no nation has ever been successful in eradicating the cankerworm of corruption.
But we went about it in a sustainable and measurable manner, by, 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.
I have just pointed out these few programmes, out of our other numerous great achievements in such sectors as roads infrastructure, rail services, communications, public financial management and social services, for you to know that our records, as members of Nigeria’s biggest party, still speak for us and we should be proud of them.
We should always celebrate the fact that the PDP introduced key policies that improved governance, enhanced welfare, boosted and stabilized the economy of our great country, and above all, gave our people hope.
In closing, I wish to remind all of us that as politicians, we are bound to have differences. It is important we manage our differences responsibly, with an eye on the divine role of the PDP to lead Nigeria to greatness. Let us rededicate ourselves to playing by the rules.
Let us all ensure that the PDP is renewed in vigour to deliver on its divine responsibility to Nigerians. Let us forget the grievances of the past, and look to the future with confidence and optimism.
While I congratulate all delegates to this convention, I urge you to go back to your respective constituencies to promote the ideals of our great party. Let it be known that our party has been born anew, committed to the best ideals of democracy.
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.
I congratulate the Caretaker Committee, our relentless Governors, the Board of Trustees, National Assembly caucuses, former Governors, the ex Ministers’ Forum, our teeming youths and women for your steadfastness and dogged contributions to the sustenance of this great party.
My appreciation also goes to all PDP members and supporters, both at home and in the Diaspora.