The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Thursday held the maiden edition of its national conference in Abuja with party faithfuls, past and present governors, lawmakers, political appointees from the six geopolitical zones converging at Thisday Dome, venue of the conference.
The conference with the theme “PDP and the Sustenance of Democratic Ideals in Nigeria,” was a family reunion of sort as the conviviality that characterised the event revived the faith of the PDP members in the party after the loss of the presidency to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The objectives of the conference included, “to take stock of the party’s performance at the 2015 Presidential and general elections and to reflect on the future of the party with a view to providing better options for the Nigerian electorate.
Apart from soul-searching self-appraisal, PDP delegates did not forget to use the opportunity to pat themselves at the back for their steadfastness, loyalty and perseverance in the face of the onslaught against their members by the ruling party.
When concerned elders of the party initially muted the idea of the national conference, the move was initially resisted by members of the National Working Committee, NWC, who understandably, felt the idea behind the conference was to kick them out of office for superintending over the worst outing of the party since 1999.
The NWC tactically shifted the date for the conference to buy time to sort out their differences with the arrow points of the National Conference, more so since the Board of Trustees and the PDP Governors Forum were in total support of the convening of the conference.
After the grey areas were resolved, the NWC finally gave its blessing for the conference in keeping with Article 33 (5, 8) of the constitution of the party.
In his welcome address the chairman of the conference organising committee, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi spoke the minds of the delegates when he declared that as far as they are concerned “PDP is not dead, it is not dying and it will not die.”
The party’s acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, told the delegates, “the conference is laudable and auspicious having consideration to the trajectory of our party’s history, 17 years after its formation.
He commended the organising committee and stressed that “this initiative is part of the soul-searching; it is part of the reconciliation process.”
According to him, “It is also a forum for reliving the ideals, values and the inspiration of the founding fathers of this Party. It is the ideal platform for articulating and marketing the roadmap for the way forward for our Party.”
Various speakers at the conference used the rare opportunity to ventilate their feelings on what led to the misfortune of the party during the last general election, especially the issue of imposition of candidates and godfatherism in the party.
Apart from goodwill messages, four major papers were presented at the conference. They include “Re-igniting the fundamental ideals, core values and directive principles of the PDP” by a founding member of the party and former Minister of Health, Prof. ABC Nwosu.
In the paper Prof Nwosu went down memory lane to shed light on how the founding fathers of the party met several times to give birth to the party and their meetings with like-minds like late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Late Bola Ige, former vice president Alex Ehweme and former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, amongst others.
Prof. Nwosu emphasised severally in the paper that “all-inclusiveness” was one of their major watchword when they were forming PDP, as they wanted a political party that will include all Nigerians “to give them a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project.
He said PDP was founded on the noblest of ideals viz: “(1) To restore democracy and rule of law in Nigeria, and usher in the third republic in 1999.(2) To reaffirm federalism bequeathed to us by the founding fathers of the country at independence in 1960 remains the only acceptable form of government for Nigeria and (3) To accelerate national development and protect the basic freedoms and fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens.”
Prof. Nwosu declared that the journey to found PDP was long and the struggle painful and recounted the All Politicians Summit at the Eko Meridien in Lagos in 1998 chaired by Dr. Ekweme and late Pa Adesanya where they were attacked by thugs when they broke into the venue to disrupt the meeting.
The former minister used the opportunity to fault the claims of the APC that they are having financial challenges over falling oil prices and that is why they are finding it difficult to fulfil their campaign promises. He said the PDP government at inauguration in 1999 inherited low oil price of $16.56 per barrel rising to $27.69 in 2003.
He reiterated that PDP inherited a crushing and debilitating foreign debt overhang and that Nigeria’s annual budget was at the mercy of the London and Paris Clubs.
He said unlike the incumbent APC administration “the PDP government did not dwell on blaming the outgoing military government for all these but diligently set forth to serve the people.” The elder statesman went ahead to reel out the achievements of PDP for the 16 years it superintendent over the affairs of the country.
Other papers delivered at the conference are, “Upholding and deepening gender affirmative action in party politics” by Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo; “Upholding respect for the Party constitution and Upholding the Manifesto” by Kabiru Taminu Turaki and “Youth participation and Party leadership succession” by Prof. Dakas Dakas (SAN) of University of Jos.
Apart from brainstorming of how to reinvent the PDP, leaders of the party that spoke at the conference also used the opportunity to x-ray and pass verdict on the six months administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
One of the leaders of the party and Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu did not mince words in reminding the All Progressives Congress, APC administration that, so far, the party has failed to fulfil any of its campaign promises, emphasising that the party upstaged PDP through propaganda and promises it had no intention of fulfilling.
According to him, “As could be seen from the events of the past few months, it is evident that while a party may ride to power on the wings of propaganda, it takes more than propaganda to govern well and retain goodwill.
“The APC won by promising much more than they could deliver. They promised to scale up the exchange rate of our currency to a Naira to one US Dollar. Have they kept this promise?
“They promised to bring back the Chibok girls in less than three months. Have they brought back the Chibok Girls?
“They promised to pay N5, 000 to unemployed youths. Have they paid a kobo to any youth?
“They promised free meals to our children in the schools. Have they given any?
“They recently promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency in December 2015. We earnestly hope and pray that this particular promise is kept in the overall interest of our nation”.
Ekweremadu faulted the management of the economy since May 2015, saying the country lacked economic direction.
Senator Ekweremadu expressed worry that the dark days are gradually returning to the country as the APC-led government continues to clams down on their perceived opponents.
“Looking at the way our country is being run by the APC-led Federal Government today, it is safe to say that we are back in the trenches for democracy because credible and responsible opposition is an essential, indeed indispensable component of thriving democracy and good governance,” Ekweremadu added.
He called on the international community to call the APC to order over what he termed, “fast-narrowing political freedom” cautioning the ruling party not to “turn government into a bonfire of bitterness and a cavalcade of recrimination.
“An anti-corruption trap that catches only those who have axe to grind with powerful political forces will appear compromised and leaves so much to be desired and does not represent a blueprint for change”, Senator Ekweremadu said.
In his own remark, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, advised President Muhammadu Buhari, “to quickly get down to work and stop making excuses,” stressing thatt he people of Nigeria have had enough of their excuses.
So far, all what they call their achievements are based on the foundation laid by the PDP governments in the past, yet at every point we hear that the government has failed to fulfill this or that campaign promise because of what PDP did or did not do.
“At the beginning we learnt that our government left an empty treasury but revenues continue to be generated in the last six months, Federation Account Allocation Committee continue to hold and money shared between Federal, States and Local governments. Have we seen any change?
“The APC was aware of the state of treasury when they made the promise that the naira will rise and be equivalent to the dollar. What is happening now? The naira has continued to depreciate beyond what they inherited. Tragically, instead of saving the naira, we can say they are killing the naira.
“They promised free education and free meals for school children, among other hollow promises. Where are the schools, where are the meals? Where is Baba Go Slow that our innocent children are asking for?
The BoT chairman applauded the idea behind the PDP national conference, adding that the BoT gave every support to the organisers
Prince Uche Secondus, used the opportunity of the conference to warn that PDP will not allow the federal government to sweep under the carpet the controversy over the payment of over N25 billion to a company in the process of implementation of TSA.
“Just yesterday the Senate commenced the investigation of an allegation involving the payment of commission to a company allegedly owned by a Northern APC Governor and a South-Western APC Leader for collecting monies meant for the Single Treasury Account in violation of the BIOFA Act.
“This is an unprecedented rip-off of our common wealth. We urge a thorough investigation of this allegation and the transparent prosecution of anybody indicted in this fraudulent deal no matter how highly placed.”
Prince Secondus also decried the systematic attack on members of PDP by agents of the federal government and warned that enough is enough.
He listed some of the sins of the Buhari administration, including “Their interferences in the judicial processes that have led to the unjustifiable judgements at the lower courts in the Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Taraba States post election petitions; the virtual degeneration of Nigeria into a police state exemplified in the invasion of Akwa Ibom government house by security agents and the flagrant abuse of the fundamental rights of members of the opposition and the obvious selective implementation of the ordinarily well received anti-corruption fight.
“Again, we need to use this medium to call on the APC government to put a stop to these indiscretions in the interest of the survival of our hard-won democracy. Enough is enough!
“Let it be clear that the people of Nigeria and PDP members would stand resolutely against any attempt to constrain our cherished freedoms under the rule of law.”
In the communiqué issued at the end of the conference, which was signed by the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, the delegates resolved, amomg other things, that “the PDP at all levels shall continue to ensure credible, robust and issue-based opposition, while promoting harmonious relationship among all people and ensuring that citizens’ confidence in democracy does not wane.
“Called for the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the PDP Post Election Review Committee Report, especially those relating to zoning, internal democracy, e-registration and the restructuring of the party at all levels with a view to giving the Party back to the rightful owners- the people.
“Condemned in strongest terms the growing authoritarianism of the APC-led Federal Government which has been characterised by gross violation of human rights, constitutional infractions, invasion of a governor’s lodge and private homes, deliberate interference and instigation of crisis in the legislature, arm-twisting of the judiciary, undermining of democratic institutions like INEC, nepotism in appointments, abuse of power and clamp down on opposition elements.
“Denounced the prevailing selective application in the fight against corruption targeted at opposition elements and perceived opponents of the regime, while APC members with corruption charges are being rewarded with ministerial positions and other juicy appointments as well as APC tickets in the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
“Resolved to further expand the inclusion and the role of youths in Party programmes and policies, and take steps to guarantee representation in party organs, develop roadmap for vibrant youth participation and support concession for electoral contests.
“Called on the international community to note the growing impunity, abuse of power, constitution infractions, violation of human rights, selective war against corruption, clamp down on the opposition, divisiveness and overall high-handedness; tendencies that pose great threat to our democracy and unity as a nation.”
Political observers are of the view that the PDP national conference came at the right time but the job is not yet done as the benefit from the conference can come if the party leaders and members sustain the present tempo.
Some have also suggested that the party leaders organise similar conference at the zonal and state level to ensure all members of the party at the grassroots are carried along in the task to reinvent the party that prides itself as the largest political party in the black world.

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