Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the loss of the 2015 general elections was a temporary setback for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). PDP lost the 2015 presidential and general elections to the All Progressives Congress (APC) after 16 years in government. Since then, the party has been factionalised with most members, including members of the National Assembly, defecting to the APC.
But Jonathan, who spoke yesterday in Abuja, said the PDP still remained the strongest political party in Nigeria. Former Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, also said those who defected from PDP to APC are ingrates. Jonathan and Anenih spoke after they were presented with the report of the Strategy Review and Inter-party Affairs Committee set up by the PDP leadership.
The committee, headed by former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, was set up last year to look for possible political alliance with other political parties to win the 2019 presidential election. The committee submitted its report to the National Caretaker Committee last week, and was mandated to visit PDP founding fathers and present the report to them as well.
Apart from Jonathan and Anenih, the Gana committee yesterday, visited former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and presented a copy each to him. The former president expressed the hope that PDP would bounce back in 2019, describing the outcome of the last general elections as a minor setback, which did not diminish the party.
“Yes, we lost the presidential election, but that doesn’t diminish us. Every other party still knows that PDP is a leading party. “Losing the presidency is something temporary. We should be able to get that position back as long as we are able to get our acts together,” the former president said. He advocated for the strengthening of institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). “I am among the persons who believe that for a nation to grow, the institutions must be very strong.
There is no way a nation will grow with weak institutions because everything about politics is about the people, not about the individuals. “And as long you are interested in the people, you are interested in growth of the society, the development of the nation,” Jonathan said, and cited the case of the United States of America where the court refused to grant President Donald Trump’s request for travel ban to nationals of some countries.
Jonathan also supported the use of direct primaries to elect PDP candidates during elections, describing it as the ultimate and best way of selecting candidates for elections. “The best way to stop imposition is to make sure that people don’t control the delegates.
“How to select delegates is that at least 70 per cent of the delegates should not be under the control of anybody,” he advised. Jonathan, however, advised that if direct primaries could not be possible, the number of statutory delegates should increase to include “people who have held offices in the party at different levels, even if it is the level of councillors.”
He also supported the alliance talks with other political parties. PDP had, last week, teamed up with six other political parties to form the United Forum of Democrats (UFD). Anenih, on his part, accused PDP leaders of promoting their selfish interest.
The former BoT Chairman, who announced his retirement from partisan politics last year, regretted that: “PDP is where it is today because of the selfishness on the part of its leaders, a vast majority of whom want to be either presidential candidate or national chairman of the party.”
He slammed those who defected to the APC after benefiting so much from PDP, noting that it was not the best way of rewarding a party that offered them platform to actualise their ambitions.
“I believe in consistency. I joined party politics in 1978 and since then, I have never left any party that I joined for another. It is very shameful that people would do that, particularly those who had benefitted so much from the PDP,” he said.
Anenih, who expressed the belief that PDP would bounce back, said he was happy that Jonathan, whom he said he advised a long time ago to help strengthen the party, but was reluctant to do so, has now expressed readiness to take up the challenge.
He advised party leaders to support Jonathan in the task of reorganising and strengthening the party. Tukur, who also left partisan politics, expressed happiness that PDP is rebranding to regain power in 2019.
“To me, this is a very interesting day to see that you are now keeping faith with democracy because PDP as a party is involved in rebranding to give back the party to the people just like its slogan says Power to the People,” Tukur said. He advised the group not to relent in its effort to rebuild the PDP. “It is very encouraging that in spite of all the difficulties, you are still keeping faith. Some people are jumping the boat.
“I thank you most sincerely for keeping faith with what we all believe in ‑ democracy.
“PDP is not just a Nigerian party; it is a global entity. We will make sure that our party, right from the homes, inculcate in our members the responsibility and the virtue of nation-building,” he added. Gana, while addressing the party leaders, decried what he described as the oppressive tendencies of the APC-led Federal Government.
He stated that the PDP is set to organise an international summit on the defence of human rights. “Under your (Jonathan) watch, we can say that no one was imprisoned because of ideas. Your leaders were abused every day and no one was incarcerated. No one was abused. Basic human rights are being eroded. The best form of government is democracy.
We must retain it in Nigeria,” Gana said. Among those that accompanied Gana to the consultative visits, were two former governors, Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Achike Udenwa (Imo); former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Prof. Rufai Alkali, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Hon. Shehu Garbam, and Senator Stella Omu, among others.