…As President says opposition doesn’t mean hostility
…Babatope, Osuntokun speak
BY DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU&JONBOSCO AGBAKWURU
THE Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, referring to the 2019 elections and its activities as the opposition party yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari that it would give him a good run for his money, noting that the party had vowed to keep the President on his toes.
It also urged the President to prioritise the culture of respecting judicial pronouncements, adding that the present administration should encourage the independence of anti-corruption agencies.
These came as the President urged the party not to use its status as the leading opposition platform to antagonise or become hostile in the discharge of its responsibilities.
These were the outcome of a courtesy call on the President yesterday in Abuja by the Sen Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the PDP.
At the forum, which marked a departure from the frostiness that had defined the inter-party relationship between the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Buhari said the visit by the PDP was significant to Nigeria’s unity.
Buhari said: ‘’ I thank you sincerely, collectively and individually for finding time from your busy schedules to come all the way to Abuja and welcome me back home.
“This visit signifies the unity of Nigeria. It is not a party occasion. It is not a political gathering. It is a symbol of our national unity. It is also an expression of the maturity of our democracy.
“Multi-party democracy is a very tried and tested form of government. Opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible.
“I am very pleased to see you assemble here. Please convey to our countrymen and women in your respective states my deep gratitude for praying for my recovery. I am imploring all Nigerians to continue praying for peace and prosperity in Nigeria.”
Exhibit greater respect to judicial pronouncements—Makarfi
In his remarks, Makarfi said: “This PDP firmly believes that opposition is no madness. It will therefore, never wish ill of anybody, let alone the person saddled with the responsibility of leading our country.
“Mr. President, you will agree that the PDP has more than a fair knowledge and experience of the weight of that responsibility. Having welcomed you back and prayed for you, let me seize this opportunity to assure you, and the entire country, that the PDP having assumed the leadership of the opposition in this country, is poised to play that role energetically, vibrantly, but very decently and with all sense of responsibility.
“This we shall do by giving you a good run for your money and constantly keeping you on your toes as we all strive to make this country better. We also offer our support for the fight against corruption and appeal that the institutions saddled with this onerous task be given the necessary encouragement and independence to do the right thing.
“This will help in strengthening our institutions and insulating them from undue political interferences. It will also help give them a more credible outlook in the eyes of the public.
“There is no way we can have a respectable voice in the comity of civilised nations until we rebuild our institutions and imbue them with the necessary independence and confidence that will improve both their visage and standing with the citizenry.
“The government should lead the charge in this regard by exhibiting greater respect to judicial pronouncements as well as respecting the fundamental rights of all Nigerians. The government should lead the charge in this regard by exhibiting greater respect to judicial pronouncements as well as respecting the fundamental rights of all Nigerians.”
The Chairman of APC, Chief John Oyegun and some of his party chieftains were also at the gathering, which was the first time the President, was meeting with a large delegation of PDP members.
Oyegun, however, said it was quite instructive that the two major parties attended the forum which he said was initiated by the President.
APC did more than hostility as opposition party—Babatope
However, the President’s admonition on what he considered the role of the opposition, attracted mixed reactions.
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said: “The visit by our party leadership showed that the PDP is truly concerned about Nigeria. We wish the President well like we have always done.
What the President said that opposition does not mean enmity, hostility, and antagonism, were what they did to us while we were in power. The APC is guilty of that. There was nothing they did not do to us.
‘’ They told lies against us and tried so much to distract us. But we will not rock the boat and will not abdicate our responsibilities to Nigerians. We have learnt our lessons and will continue to promote the interest of the country. What I can assure you is that we will not antagonise the government and will continue to be the conscience of Nigerians by holding the ruling party accountable.”
Problems of Nigeria more fundamental than party behaviour—Osuntokun
On his part, former Political Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, said: “It is political correctness but you have to weigh what a man says against what he does. He was the same President who saw nothing wrong in addressing Nigerians in Hausa language. If President Buhari really wants to help Nigeria, he should know that the problem of the country goes beyond the present political party system.
The political problem of Nigeria is more fundamental than the behaviour of the political parties. There is the prior challenge of the constitutional engineering of Nigeria towards fostering genuine nationhood from the imploding political status quo. Fortunately, the APC made this commitment in its manifesto and the PDP has been canvassing the same commitment. Nonetheless, it is a good development .”