ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, SENATOR IKE EKWEREMADU, PhD, CFR AT THE PDP NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD AT THE THISDAY DOME ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2015
“Let us hold the government accountable”
1. It is with immense humility that I join our party leaders in welcoming all of us to this very important National Conference of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It has indeed been a long time we congregated this way to share ideas and discuss our national challenges. I therefore align myself fully with the ideals and theme of the conference. The theme “PDP and the Sustenance of Democratic Ideals in Nigeria”is no doubt a clarion awakening to our role as the main opposition on whose shoulders rests the responsibility of ensuring the sustenance and furtherance of democratic gains of the last sixteen years.
2. Although it must be admitted that we have been in power since the birth of the current democratic dispensation until recently, it needs to be stressed that we are not totally new to opposition. Looking at the way our country is being run by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government today, we are only going back to where we started from. Recall that our founding fathers, under the aegis of G34 led by His Excellency, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, courageously looked tyranny in the face and demanded a return to democratic rule. Our great party men and women stood up when it mattered most to oppose anti-democratic forces, human rights abuses, inequity, injustice, and despotism.
It is safe, therefore, 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.
3. Meanwhile, 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, hoping to deliver less. Unfortunately, the chicken has come home to roost sooner than anticipated. No campaign promise, I repeat, no promise made by the present APC administration has been kept.
4. 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 three months. Have they brought back the Chibok Girls? They promised to pay N5,000 to 25 million 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.
Dear party faithful,
5. It is worthy of note that despite the promised Eldorado, the APC-led administration has driven our economy to the point where they confess that the nation is broke. Inflation has nearly hit double digits high, rising to 9.4 percent in October from 9.3 per cent in September. Unemployment rate has hit the rooftop since May 2015, with the construction industry laying off tens of thousands of workers. There is massive job loss in the banking sector. Many businesses are being grounded because they can no longer buy spare parts or restock from Europe, China, Dubai, among others. The system is locked down. The capital market has lost over N400 billion in recent months. This nosedive is due mainly to the free fall of the Naira, absence of clear economic direction, delay in the appointment of ministers, the cramping monetary policy of the administration, and the exclusion of Nigeria from the J.P Morgan Bond Index. Indeed, recession stares us in the face.
Dear party faithful,
6. Equally worrisome are the fast-narrowing political freedom and inequity in the country today. It is on record that the PDP spearheaded the electoral reforms and expansion of democratic freedoms that ultimately gave birth to the ruling party and its victory in the last general elections.
It is on record that former Presidents of PDP extractions such as late President Musa Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan were always the first to congratulate the opposition each time they won elections. It is further on record that former President Jonathan called and congratulated the winner of the 2015 presidential election even before the end of vote count. He equally ensured a smooth handover. PDP governorship candidates, including incumbent governors, also followed his footstep in congratulating their victorious APC opponents. These have earned Nigeria accolades the world over.
7. Sadly, rather than reciprocate and build on these democratic gestures and precedence, there is clear design and desperation by the ruling party to takeover, by hook or crook, states won by the PDP. Our party has variously cried out over the blatant misuse of security agencies to hound INEC staff and intervene in election petition matters. It does appear that to be a PDP governor, especially in an oil rich state, is to be an endangered political specie. The judiciary must not only do justice, it must be seen to be just. The international community must speak up now and intervene against this reckless reign of impunity and manipulation of critical institutions of democracy.
8. Furthermore, at no time throughout PDP’s sixteen-years in power did any part of this great country complain of total exclusion or brazen lopsidedness in appointments. Every part of Nigeria was given a sense of belonging despite its political choices. Today, a panorama of nepotism pervades the country.
9. In a country that is just recovering from a most divisive and bitterly fought presidential election in her history; in a country where a presidential election believed to have been won by a patriotic Nigerian was annulled; in a country which has deteriorated from one that citizens held high political and civil service offices outside their places of origin to one in which they can hardly do so anymore; and indeed in a country where there has been consistent outbreaks of militancy, restiveness, and protests by people who believe they have been short-changed, maltreated, and therefore better off outside the Nigerian commonwealth, I firmly believe from the depth of my heart and conscience that a leader does not even need a soothsayer or compulsion of the Constitution to know that he or she must necessarily carry every part of the country along. It is an indisputable imperative because our strength as a nation is in our unity.
My party leaders and faithful,
10. Our party has also joined Nigerians in raising concerns over the manner and coloration of the current anti-corruption war. No doubt, corruption is one of the greatest enemies of our nation and the PDP will stand by this government all the way to win the war. But, we must diligently guide against the politicisation of the anti-corruption war because that, in itself, constitutes a heavy moral burden. It taints the war with witch-hunt and fixates people’s minds on the politics of the anti-corruption drive rather than on whether the accused persons are guilty as charged.
An anti-corruption drive trap that catches only those who have axe to grind with powerful political forces will appear compromised and leaves so much to be desired. Vindictiveness and selective targeting of perceived political enemies do not represent a blueprint for change. We cannot turn government into a bonfire of bitterness and a cavalcade of recrimination and expect to make headway in this time of clear economic challenges. It is akin to a man who goes chasing rats while his house is on fire.
11. In conclusion, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we must not deter in holding the APC-led Federal Government accountable. The ruling party must always be put at the mercy of the truth. That is the job of the opposition: to confront errors with the truth; to stand up for what is right; to offer constructive criticisms of the follies and errors of the ruling party; and to proffer better ideas for moving the nation forward. We need to urgently set up a Shadow Cabinet to benchmark the APC-led Federal Government on its promises. It is the greatest service we can offer to Nigeria and her democracy at this time. That is our task. Citizens and indeed posterity will not be kind to us if we fail in these laudable goals.
12. I also call on the media and Civil Society organizations to join hands with us in this regard in the interest of our nation.
13. It is on this note, dear party faithful, that I, once more, commend the organisers of this conference for their immense efforts and sacrifices to make this conference a success. I thank you all for your kind audience and wish us a fruitful conference as we prepare to return to power come 2019.
God bless you all.