For the first time, former President Goodluck Jonathan said in Abuja on Saturday that his administration did not plug all loopholes in its bid to end corruption in the country.
But he said it was wrong to assume or say that the economy would have been in a worse shape if his administration had not been voted out of power in 2015.
The former president spoke at the Peoples Democratic Party non-elective national convention, which was held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Jonathan, who was accompanied to the podium by his former deputy, Mr. Namadi Sambo, some serving and former governors, including chieftains of the party, also delved into the achievements which he said were recorded during his administration.
Though he was armed with a prepared speech, the former president appeared to be angry, especially when he made some statements outside his prepared text.
Apparently not satisfied with the bashing his government has been receiving from Nigerians, especially over the looting of the treasury by some of the officials who served in his government, the former president promised to talk soon.
He said even though there was a major flood disaster in the country in 2012, his government made sure that the prices of agricultural products did not go up.
Jonathan said, “Though we didn’t completely plug the loopholes in the fight against corruption, but we did well.
“I learnt that some people said that if the PDP had remained in power beyond 2015, the economy would have been worse. This couldn’t have been the case, because we had a sound economic team in place.
“Let us not forget that the great floods of 2012 were a major calamity that damaged homes and farmlands on the plains of River Niger and Benue.
“But despite the devastating effects of this natural disaster, there were 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.”
On the economic front, he said his government provided focused leadership through institutional and sectoral reforms which he said impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years of his time in power.
He said the effect was that his government was able to reduce inflation to a single digit, maintain price stability, grow 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.
He expressed hope that the party would regain power in 2019, but begged its members to close ranks and remain committed. He also asked them not to be jittery or allow anyone to intimidate them, saying that God loves the former ruling party.
“The PDP is indeed 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 of 2015 far outweigh our shortfalls,” he said.
Jonathan added, “Nobody should intimidate the PDP. I believe in the PDP; even God Himself believes in the PDP. Today is August 12, look at the weather.
“God wants us to celebrate in the PDP, that’s why there is no rain. We are ready to take over the state houses of assembly, the National Assembly, the states as governors and the Presidency.
“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.
“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.”
He called on members of the party to pronounce the rebirth of the party in every part of the country, adding 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.”
Makarfi committee gets four extra months
During the convention, the PDP extended the tenure of the party’s national caretaker committee, which is headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
The committee, whose tenure expired on Saturday, was given another four months within which to organise a national convention where new national officers would be elected.
This was one of the resolutions passed and adopted by members of the party on Saturday.
Apart from organising a fresh election, the caretaker committee is also expected to settle all grievances by members of the party before leaving office.
With this extension, the tenure of the committee is expected to end on December 12, 2017.
A former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, moved the motion for the extension of the tenure and was supported by a former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, moved the motion for the dissolution and confirmation of the appointment of caretaker committee for Anambra State. His motion was supported by a former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Ina Ciroma.
The national caretaker committee had earlier given the sack to two factions of the state executive committee and appointed a former Minister of Health, Prof. ABC Nwosu, as the chairman of the caretaker committee.
Also, the party removed its executive committees in seven states where it said there were either rancorous delegates elections or where there were none at all.
The states affected are Lagos, Adamawa, Kebbi, Osun, Ogun, Borno and Kwara. The caretaker committee was given three months to conduct fresh elections in the states.
Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, moved the motion for the sacking of the state executives and was supported by his Abia State counterpart, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
A former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, also moved a motion for the confirmation of officers of the party in six geo-political zones of the country.
His motion, which was supported by a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, affected North-Central, North-East, North-West, South-West, North-Central and South-South.
With this, the party seemed to have resolved the crisis in the affected zones, especially in the South-West where two factions recently held different meetings in the name of the party.
While Mr. Makanjuola Ogundipe claims he remains the party’s authentic chairman in the zone, the convention on Saturday crowned Mr. Eddy Oyefeso from Ondo State as the recognised chairman.
Speaking, Makarfi insisted that there were five failed attempts to stop the convention.
Makarfi paid glowing tribute to the Supreme Court, which he said bailed the party out of the 12-months crisis that affected its fortunes.
He said the party was getting ready to assume power in 2019, and wished ailing President Muhammadu Buhari quick recovery, adding that the PDP would like to defeat him and his party.
“We mean well for President Buhari and we pray that he comes back (from London) fit and resume work. We want to defeat him and the APC in good health come 2019,” the former governor of Kaduna State added.
He said the convention was dedicated to the Nigerian youths who he said “are hungry and their parents have no money to pay for their school fees.”
Also speaking, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, said the PDP had recovered and returned to restore vibrancy and integrity to Nigeria’s democracy, and urged Nigerians to partner the party.
Okowa, who was the chairman of the convention committee, said that the past two years presented great challenges to the party.
He said the loss of presidential election and the gale of defections were enough to sink the party’s ship, but expressed delight that the party had overcome its challenges.
Describing the PDP’s travails as “baptism of fire,” Okowa said that the party had survived an untimely death and this was a testimony to the resilience of its grass-roots’ structure, organisation and appeal.
He said, “Ours is a party firmly anchored on the grass-roots, connected to the people in a unique way that recognises that power truly belongs to the people.
“We are rebounding, realising that there is a champion in each of us in the party. A collective leadership and partnership, resolved to do things right, is all that we need to build the strength to recapture power.”
The committee chairman said the fact that the party became a victim of its own success was one of the sobering lessons that it learnt from its defeat.
Also, the Chairman of the party’s Senate Caucus, Akpabio, assured Nigerians that the party would not support any separatist agenda in the country.
The lawmaker, who is also the Minority Leader of the Senate, condemned hate speeches in some parts of the country, adding that the unity of the country was non-negotiable.
He assured Nigerians of the PDP’s support for policies of the present administration, which are aimed at taking the country out of recession.
He, however, said the party would not support any policy that would plunge the country into depression.
Pressure mounts on PDP to jettison zoning
Meanwhile, there are indications that the national leadership of the PDP is under intense pressure to jettison its already adopted zoning for the national offices, we learnt on Saturday.
The pressure, it was gathered, was being mounted by those who have interest in some offices.
The said offices are considered strategic as the party prepares for 2019 general elections.
Our correspondent gathered that the zoning of the offices was one of the issues discussed by the governors of the party and some party leaders at a meeting in Abuja on Friday night.
It was gathered that when arguments for and against the zoning formula originally adopted by the party became intense, the party leaders decided to suspend it and opted for setting up a committee on the matter later.
Before now, the party had zoned the office or its national chairman to the South-West. Also zoned to the region were the positions of National Treasurer and Deputy National Publicity Secretary.
The party zoned the positions of First Deputy National Chairman, National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Woman Leader and Deputy National Auditor to the South-South.
The South-East got the offices of the National Organising Secretary, National Youth Leader and Deputy National Financial Secretary.
Spokesperson for the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, told our correspondent that the party would set up a committee on the matter.
“It is one of the issues that we would handle as soon as we settle down now. The committee will evaluate the zoning and come up with what is imperative,” he said.
Meanwhile, our correspondent gathered that some governors prevailed on the party not to suspend members loyal to Ali Modu Sheriff, with the decision reached at the last minute.