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At PDP’s non-elective convention, Jonathan, Makarfi, Okowa, others send signal to APC

…….Vow to take over Aso Rock in 2019
……..Say we have leant our lesson

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, over 3,000 delegates, leaders and chieftains of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, converged at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the nation’s capital, for the party’s special non-elective convention.

At the end of the convention, the tenure of the National Caretaker Committee, NCC, of the party, under the chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Makarfi, was extended by a period of four months among others by the delegates through popular affirmation among others.

Our Group Politics Editor, Lateef Ibrahim, who was on ground at the convention, captures what took place there.

Days before its saturday’s special non-elective convention held at the Eagles Square in Abuja, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had assured that the exercise will be carnival-like. It indeed turned out to be so.

The setting was perfect. The attendance was not only impressive, it was equally qualitative judging from the calibre of those present. From former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, his deputy Architect Namadi Sambo, to former Senate Presidents, serving and former Governors, former Ministers, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and lawmakers from State Houses of Assembly. The security arrangement was equally superb following the great efforts put into the convention by its planning committee, chaired by the serving Governor of Delta State and former Senator, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa.

The convention provided a golden opportunity for the opposition party, which was until few weeks ago embroiled in a major leadership crisis among two factions, to announce to the world that it has staged a powerful come back in the nation’s political turf and, to a very large extent, put its crisis behind it. The weather was equally very clement at the convention which attracted over 3,000 delegates, observers (foreign and local) ,officials of the of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and many other party members. This must have been taken into consideration by former President Jonathan when he openly said that God himself is in support of the PDP.
Many others further used the opportunity of the convention to sign post their campaigns for various political offices ahead of the the forthcoming 2019 general elections. Several speeches were delivered at the convention ground by those who have been saddled with one form of responsibility or the other, while four motions were moved, seconded and overwhelmingly voted for. Chief among the four motions, which were the main business of the convention was that which sought for and got a four-month period of extension for the SenatornAhmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, NCC, of the party and another one that ensured the dissolution of the executives of the party in four different states.
All those that spoke at the convention, virtually made it pointedly clear that the PDP was out for a serious business of sending the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, packing from the Aso Rock presidential villa in 2019. The party had occupied the Aso Rock villa for sixteen years between 1999 and 2015 before losing out to the APC and its presidential candidate at the election, President Muhammadu Buhari..
In his address at the convention ground, former President Jonathan, who first thanked God that the worst is over for PDP, stressed that it was to His grace that the party was 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.
Jonathan declared that the PDP is in deed back to reclaim its prime position as the party to lead Nigeria to greatness.
Saying that the party’s giant developmental strides are there for all Nigerians to see, the former President pointed out that there is ample evidence to demonstrate that PDP has indeed proved to be a party of vision and accomplishments.
In the words of the Otuoke in Bayelsa State born former President, “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 is 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”, he said.
In his address, the Chairman of the NCC of the party and former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi prayed for quick recovery for ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that the party wanted him to be fit and on seat to be defeated in 2019.
Makarfi contended that PDP was already the government in waiting.
According to him, “We mean well for our President. We continue to pray for his full recovery. We want him to be fit and on seat when we will defeat the APC government come 2019.
“We will continue to pray for him but that doesn’t mean we will go to sleep. We will work hard to replace the APC government come 2019 God willing”, he said.
The CaretakerChairman stated that PDP, not being an alliance but a party with strong bond among its members, has much experience and has much to offer the country.
The PDP, he said, was a truthful party to Nigerians which would not engage in deception, adding that Saturday’s event was an affirmation that the PDP was poised to recapture power in 2019.
Makarfi lamented that the APC -led government has brought hunger and starvation to the country while insecurity has increased many foods.
Facing the mammoth crowd of delegates and other observers, Makarfi said, “Nigerians may wonder, what has PDP got. Well, what are you getting now? Are you not hungry? Are you not jobless? Are you not insecure? My God. Pray for PDP to come back.

“Kidnapping is part of insecurity and it has spread across the length and breadth of the this country and it’s because of joblessness”, stressing that students were crying over hike in tuition fees even when money was scarce.

He thus promised that when the PDP returns to power, it would consider a Students Loan Scheme to alleviate their sufferings.
His words, “There will be no hunger because there will be plenty to eat. There may be plenty in the market but you have zero cash in your pocket. Under PDP, there will be cash in your pocket because you have earned the cash”.

He thanked the delegates for funding their ways to the convention and not expecting any refund of their money.
The Chairman, planning committee of the convention and Governor of Delta State, Senator Okowa, in his address, thanked all the Nigerians who are desirous for the PDP to get its act together and play the role of a strong and vibrant opposition that is critical for sustainable democracy in the country. The prayers of these Nigerians, Okowa categorically said, were answered with the heart-warming Supreme Court judgement that thankfully halted the drift into chaos and bifurcation of the PDP, stressing, “let it be known to all Nigerians who prayed for us during our time of travail that the PDP is back with a bang. We shall NOT disappoint you”

According to him, “No doubt, the last two years have been the greatest test that our great party has faced. The loss of the 2015 presidential election, the gale of defections that ensued and the leadership crisis that factionalised the party were enough to sink the PDP ship.

“That the party survived this baptism of fire is an eloquent testimony to the resiliency of its grassroots structure, organisation and appeal. Ours is a party firmly anchored to the grassroots, connected to the people in a unique way that recognises that power truly belongs to the people.

“We are rebounding back. We must realise that there is a champion in each and everyone of us in the party, and that a collective leadership and partnership, resolved to do things right is all that we need to build the strength to recapture power.
“We cannot shy away from the fact that there are lessons to be learnt also. For with our defeat at the presidential election, the loss of many States at the governorship election, and the slide into minority in the National Assembly came the sobering lesson that the PDP had become a victim of its own success.
“Internal democracy took a backstage, aggrieved party members were disregarded and impunity became the order of the day at various leadership levels in the party. In short, we cut short the hopes of Nigerians with our failure to manage our success. The travail of the last two years, I am persuaded, is our divinely ordained chastisement for this pitfall.
“I am convinced that our wilderness experience may well be a blessing in disguise, for two reasons. First, it afforded us the rare opportunity to look inwards and do some soul searching. In life, you do not always have the opportunity for a second chance. But to God be the glory, we have had the marvellous opportunity of understanding ourselves better, identifying our mistakes, suffering the painful consequences of defeat and learning the lesson of a lifetime.
” The wilderness experience has refined us, sharpened us and made us stronger. Like the saying goes, “sometimes you have to go through the wilderness before you get to the Promised Land.

“The second advantage of our wilderness experience is that Nigerians have had the opportunity of experiencing another party govern at the national level. They can now compare and contrast.

“As leaders we must read the times and take responsibility. We must condition our hearts for a new beginning. We must root out the past mistakes and model the right attitudes. It is time for self re-examination and a return to what is right.

“To build a solid team, we must be warm and inviting; the love for impunity and exclusion must cease. There must be integrity and discipline in our democratic system at all levels of party governance, and we must put to fore those things that add value to the growth of our party.

“As we gather here today to chart a new course for our great party, we shall do well to stay true to the vision and mission of the founding fathers of our great party.

“On this day, we need to reaffirm our commitment to the democratic ideals of internal party democracy, sovereignty of the people, majority rule and minority rights, the rule of law and good governance, respect for civil and political rights, and inclusive participation of all in party administration.

“On this day, we must understand that our nation is at a cross road. Therefore, our emphasis must be about building a party focussed on fashioning a better society founded on the principles of fairness, equity and justice. We must commit to making the needs – and aspirations – of the Nigerian people the centrepiece of our party’s democratic agenda.

“On this day, we must call for a paradigm shift in our party leadership style. Too often, we have demanded service – and worship – from the very people we have been called to serve. That must change. We need leaders, sincere leaders, strong leaders who understand that power is held in trust for the people and, therefore, must be administered for their good and advancement.

“Finally, on this day, we call on all true PDP faithfuls to return home. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to heal the wounds of the past. It’s time to get over the hurts of the past. It’s time to embrace love and reconciliation. It’s time, brothers and sisters, to come back home”, he said.

Prominent among those who stayed away from the special non-elective convention were former Governor of Borno State and former National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh as well as the Governor of Bayelsa State and one time Chairman of the reconciliation committee of the party, Mr Seriake Dickson.

Now that the party’s special non-elective convention has been successfully held, the PDP, no doubt, still has some hurdles to cross. These include the task of reconciling other members of the party still aggrieved with a view to bringing them back into the fold, effective organization of some of its states’ chapters presently going through one crisis or the other, raising of enough funds for the running of the party as well as conducting its elective convention in December, this year, which certainly is going to be an acid test for the party. The way the party is able to successfully and effectively deal with these issues among others will determine whether the party has, truly, come back powerfully in the nation’s political arena as being claimed by its chieftains.

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