Opening Remarks by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, on the occasion of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Stakeholders’ Meeting holding at Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on Thursday 6th April 2017
My dear party members, on behalf of the leaders of our great party, I welcome you all to this meeting of stakeholders. Thank you for finding time to attend, even at such a short notice.
2. I specially welcome our State Governors and deputy Governors, our members of the National Assembly who are competently flying our party flag, as well as Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi who are our eminent party leaders.
3. Let me appreciate the presence of the former National chairmen of our great Party and remind ourselves of the commendable services these Chairmen and Acting Chairmen had rendered towards improving the fortunes of our party.
4. We remember the services of Chief Solomon Lar of blessed memory, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Haliru Bello, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alhaji Adamu Muazu and Prince Uche Secondus.
5. Permit me to also acknowledge the efforts of our founding fathers who played key roles in moving the country from dictatorship to a constitutional democracy. We remember the services of the former Vice President Chief Alex Ekwueme, Mallam Adamu Chiroma, and others. We are proud to state that the PDP had propelled this country into a functional democracy and creditably managed the affairs of the nation for 16 years, from 1999 to 2015.
6. I will like to note at this point that, although I had been working with some of our leaders backstage, this is the very first major meeting of our Great party that I will be attending, since I left office almost two years ago. So permit me to describe this meeting as a joyous family reunion. I am really very pleased with the enthusiasm shown by our party members to attend this meeting.
7. There is no doubt that our party has in the last two years gone through some difficulties. However, in a democracy, this is not strange in the life of a political party, especially after losing power to the opposition, like we did.
8. I should note that the situation is similar, albeit milder, even in advanced democracies. We should not forget that the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and the Democratic Party in the United States, both of which lost power at different times, have also been making efforts to reunite, reconcile and re-energise to become stronger, before the next general elections.
9. I will like to point out that every election cycle throws up a challenge as well as opportunities for a political party; a test to re-evaluate its performance, and an opportunity to reform its processes and programmes, towards rediscovering itself to become even more appealing to the electorates, in its next outing.
10. That is how evolution happens in a functional democracy: as parties continue to retool and reform in the bid to regain political power, governance improves and the people and society become better.
11. It is obvious that some of our people see this development as not only disappointing but discouraging for our great party. Although I can understand this sense of loss, I always prefer to align myself with those who choose to see it differently, given the positive impact our conduct and disposition has had in deepening our democracy.
12. All over the world, political parties lose elections, not because they have entirely failed, but because, in most cases, the people who gave them power in the first place, have decided to hand it over to another party, in order to experience a different kind of leadership. In Africa and other emerging democracies, the challenge had always been with the disposition of the party in power to allow the people the opportunity to freely exercise this right.
13. This obviously is the area where we have excelled. The fact that we allowed this process to take place peacefully, and freely handed over power to the opposition did not only lift the profile of our party, but also elevated our country to the status of one of the world’s stable and reliable democracies. For this gesture alone, the whole world has continued to applaud our party and its leaders as icons of democracy on the continent.
14. We were able to achieve this because our Government really reformed the electoral and political process, by giving the electoral bodies their true independence which subsequently opened up the political space for free and fair elections.
15. We may have had shortcomings while in power, but we also recorded significant achievements and great milestones. Through purposeful leadership, we reformed our institutions, rebuilt the nation’s confidence, regained international goodwill and rekindled hope in our people.
16. This is not a forum for chest-thumping but it is important we highlight some relevant initiatives of past PDP administrations. Our ideological commitment towards a private sector-led and people-oriented economy manifested in the great achievements we recorded in various sectors including communications, agriculture, public financial management and financial reforms, the financial services, rail and roads infrastructure, as well as in the social services.
17. In agriculture, we revolutionized the sector by introducing programmes that encouraged more people, including the youths to embrace farming as a thriving business. We also boosted local capacity for food production, thereby drastically reducing the prize of food stuff and food import bill.
18. Our Youth Enterprises with Innovation (YouWin) and the Nagropreneur programmes not only encouraged young people to go into such difficult business areas as agriculture, it also helped them to become entrepreneurs and acquire the capacity to employ other people.
19. That the PDP Government improved communication in Nigeria through the introduction of Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) and the expansion of the nation’s information and communication technology architecture needs no gainsay.
20. We equally expanded our educational horizon by implementing reforms in the sector and establishing 14 new Federal Government-owned Universities while three colleges of education were upgraded to degree awarding institutions.
21. We transformed the entertainment industry, especially Nollywood, by not only boosting its capacities and international prominence but also turning it into an attractive and viable sector that became an important contributor to the growth of our economy.
22. We built the Kaduna-Abuja rail, the first modern rail in the country. We also pursued a successful automotive policy and established a promising industrial revolution plan.
23. We equally enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in order to give the people unfettered access to information on the activities of Government.
24. The last four years of our time in office as a party was indeed quite momentous as we fully restored confidence in our economy by not only steadying the fundamentals for growth and growing the economy to become the largest in Africa but also repositioning it to become the number one foreign direct investment destination in Africa.
25. There is no doubt that the PDP is a leading light in constitutional democracy and this is why we cannot allow the party to continue to drift. This meeting of today is therefore designed to stem the drift.
26. I have to state clearly that today is not a day to blame ourselves. We have blamed ourselves enough in the media. Today is not a day to insult ourselves, we have also done enough of that in the media. Today is the day our great party men and women will come up with suggestions and solutions to our problems. We will surely overcome the current challenge. The PDP will definitely rise again.
27. The meeting of today is noticeably unique and it is aimed at achieving two key objectives:
To reassure our party members and all Nigerians that the PDP is united and still remains the largest party in Nigeria and one that has all it takes to win key elections. That without prejudice to the ongoing litigation over some issues, the party leaders are out to develop a mechanism towards achieving a lasting and enduring political settlement of our differences.
28. Great and committed members of our Great Party, you will all agree with me that this house as presently constituted is too large to fine tune details of our reconciliation plans and for the intended final political settlement out of court. Permit me to, therefore, recommend that the meeting be conducted in two tiers viz: The larger body of stakeholders as we are now. This body will come up with suggestions on the way forward for resolving the differences that we currently face.
A smaller committee of not more than 40 members will be constituted to fine-tune the suggestions of the larger body, to finally resolve all the outstanding issues.
29. In closing, I charge our great party leaders to make personal and general sacrifices to ensure the quick resolution of the problems in our party. The PDP is a symbol of democracy. If you believe in the PDP, there is no sacrifice too big for you to make.
30. As politicians, with the zeal to lead our people, we must aspire to higher offices or identify the people we believe have leadership qualities and encourage them to aspire to those positions. But one thing is very clear: You cannot, as the polity is configured today, be elected into a higher office on the platform of a weak party.
31. We must all, therefore, work to rebuild the PDP and strengthen the party in line with the vision of our founding fathers, and the mission to continue to provide for the good of the people of our great country, valuable leadership in a stable democracy rooted in the rule of law.
32. We have to remind ourselves that the prolongation of the crisis in our party may have cost us so much in election fortunes, in recent time. The loss of Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections is still fresh in our memory. It goes without saying that we cannot afford to have a repeat of that in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
33. It is high time we buried the hatchet, suppressed our ego and prepared to make sacrifices in the interest of our party and, indeed the country.
34. Our ambitions, therefore, must come second, otherwise, we will only be building castles on quicksand. We must realize that as they say, everybody is nobody without a platform. So, why destroy the platform?
35. I urge our teeming members to remain steadfast and continue to believe in the PDP. As I said earlier, it is true that we suffered a setback in 2015, but the fact remains that the PDP is still the largest party in our dear country.
36. There is no doubt that the PDP will emerge from this moment of trial to regain its position as the greatest party on our continent.
My great party men and women, thank you for coming.
God bless the People’s Democratic Party!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!