As the race to elect the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate got underway yesterday in Port Harcourt, with 12 candidates vying for the ticket, former President Goodluck Jonathan predicted that whoever emerged as the party’s standard-bearer would eventually become the next president of Nigeria. Jonathan declared this in his remarks at the National Convention of PDP, where delegates voted to pick a candidate who would square up with President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in next year’s general election. “I have worked with all the aspirants at one time or the other. They are all eminently qualified to be president of this country. I am also certain that among them is the next president of this federal republic,” the former president stated. As at 6.15am today, all 36 states had voted. Sorting and counting had just commenced. Akwa Ibom with 151 had the largest contigent delegates, while Ogun had the smallest number with 51. Some of the number were small because of ongoing litigations in various states. The PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had earlier echoed a similar sentiment at the convention, when he spoke on the theme, “Nigerians Take Back Your Country,” issuing a quit notice to Buhari and telling him, it is time to go home. Jonathan said the overriding criteria for the choice of the candidate should be the ability to reunite the country following the worsening divisions. He expressed satisfaction that the glorious days of the party were being reborn. “One thing that makes me happy is that today, I can see the good old days of PDP,” he stated. “Today, we have the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and many more governors. This shows that the PDP is coming back.” Jonathan added, “I am also happy with the commitment of all the aspirants to support whoever emerges candidate and work with him. This is healthy for our party and for our country.” Secondus said his party, which had controlled power at the centre for 16 years since 1999, was poised to regain power in the 2019 general election, encouraged by the yearnings of Nigerians who were disappointed by the failure of the Buhari administration. Opening the elective national convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, Secondus said it was time for Nigerians to take back their country from the misrule of APC. He said the APC had failed in its three key promises to Nigerians, namely security, fight against corruption, and economic restoration. He emphasised that the security situation in the country was at its lowest while the fight against corruption was only targeted at the opposition and perceived enemies of the government. According to the national chairman, “Unfortunately, the anti-graft agencies, like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), set up by the PDP to fight graft are now a willing tool in the hands of the APC.” He added, “They said they want to fight corruption but under the APC, corruption is now monumental. Our nation has never been so divided.” He said having learned from its past mistakes, the PDP had improved and was prepared to move from opposition to the ruling party in waiting. The party was on its way to transforming from an electoral vehicle to an agenda setting institution fit for the challenges of the 21st century, he stated. Secondus said PDP was not only a Special Purpose Vehicle for grabbing power, but also one with institutional memory owned by Nigerians. He said that assumption was on the verge of being realised. The pointer to this, in his estimation, was the return of the leadership of the National Assembly to the PDP. Secondus was confident that his party was poised to uphold the honour and glory of the nation. “We will stop the bloodletting and instill law and order,” Secondus stated, referring to the worsening security situation in the country. While stating that the PDP was ready for the 2019 election, he expressed fears that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies were not working to enhance democracy in the country. His words: “What happened in Ekiti and Osun states merely corroborated our assertion that INEC and the security agencies are working to scuttle democracy in Nigeria. “Our fear is that the disposition of Buhari and his party is that free and fair election is not in their agenda for 2019. “But we should work together to ensure that democracy survives in Nigeria. PDP is not a violent party and we will use legal means to recover our stolen mandates in Ekiti and Osun states.” Explaining why the convention started behind time, the chairman of the convention planning committee and governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said, “You are aware that our party had congresses at different strata all over the country. Many of our delegates travelled by road from all over the country and arrived Port Harcourt this evening.” He, however, said his committee had put in place an effective process they were very proud of, “despite obvious challenges.” A member of the party’s Board of Trustees and former President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wabara, appealed to aspirants who will not get the ticket to join hands with the winner. In his own remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said the problem of Nigeria was leadership. Dogara said, “We live in a country of decayed infrastructure. With right leadership, Nigeria will be a pride to the black man and the whole world.” The Aspirants and Their Agenda Atiku Abubakar This election is one of the most important in the history of this nation since the return of democracy in 1999. Four years ago, Nigerians voted for change. But today they are not happy with the kind of change they see. The economy is in recession; there is hunger, farmers are struggling, businesses are closing and there are job losses. We need jobs. I will work with you to restructure all infrastructure needed to grow our economy. With your support, we can fully get Nigeria working again. Attahiru Bafarawa I am willing to serve, not to be served. I started politics since 1976 and have served this country in different capacities. I served as governor for eight years and did not collect salaries and did not live in government house. I want to be a Nigerian president and not a sectional or religion president. I went round the country by road just to see things for myself. We cannot develop the economy without good roads. Ibrahim Dankwambo Going round the country, I see that Nigerians are looking for security, whether we should belong to one country or not, and food on their table. The solution lies in the people PDP has trained since 1999 who can take up the challenge. I am one of those. I am offering myself for service and I have the qualifications, having read to Ph.D and worked with one of the best accounting firms, Central Bank and also become the Accountant General of the Federation, now governor and remained in the PDP when others ran away. At the age of 56, I’m not too young to run, and not too old to retire. Datti Ahmed This convention is about our great party doing the right thing. It is about PDP proving to the world that it is reformed and positioned to lead the country. In real politics, if you stand for something there are things you cannot stand for. I stand for security and sanctity of life and that is why I cannot stand for wanton killings…. The choice you make today will make the difference between war and peace; between progress and retrogression. I invite you to realise that 2019 election is ours for the taking if we make the right choice. David Jonah Jang As a military officer, I fought in the Civil War. I was also a member of NADECO and fought for democracy. Having served also as a senator and also governor for eight years, I have the experience to lead this country. Many left the PDP when it had challenges and when their new party failed, they returned. I am not discriminating but this opportunity should be given to those of us who remained to build and keep the party. I will push for restructuring. I will build good foundation for the youth. As a Middle Belter who is committed to the unity of this nation, please give me the chance. Rabiu Kwakwanso We thought we had seen the worst government before but now we are seeing the worst government in Nigeria. To PDP National Chairman, please anytime you want to give an award, give it to Buhari for ensuring the success of PDP because of his bad governance. All those who left the PDP are now back to the fold. I have experience, having served in several levels and arms of government. Vote for a candidate who will not only ensure the success of the party but who can also run the government. We have seen the situation where people who cannot run a government. The result is bad economy, division between Christians and Moslems, and so on. I’m in the race to bring a government that will unite our people. We will do appropriate restructuring, work on the economy, reform institutions like the police etc. Sule Lamido I have been with PDP through thick and thin. We have been able to build and rebrand the party and today it has become a beautiful damsel. Delegates should follow their conscience and do the right thing. I am the candidate. Ahmed Markarfi When we took over the leadership of PDP, nobody gave us a chance. But today, we are happy that we have brought back the party to be not just an effective opposition but a government in waiting. We (aspirants) are all talking about restructuring. It is not a programme of any aspirant. It is an official stand of PDP. It is the policy of PDP that Nigeria should be restructured for the benefit of all. I was governor of a very difficult state: multi-ethnic, multi-religious. We governed well until the APC took over and crisis came. David Mark I’m the only aspirant that has a female as Director General of his campaign organisation. That is because I am gender friendly. I will unite this country across ethnic and religious lines. Once there is unity, there will be peace: peace based on equity and justice. This country has never been so divided. I will reorganise and reappraise the security architecture of the nation so that it will be in line with modern trends. Having come from a security background, I have the experience and courage to tackle the security challenge facing the country. We have a blueprint that will turn around the economy in 730 days. It is do-able. Bukola Saraki Today, this country is not only more divided, there is poverty everywhere and we must put an end to it. We must move away from the past. We must vote for who is capable to move the country forward. If you are looking for a 21st Century leader, a leader who will unite this country, I am the one. Let us vote for today and tomorrow. I will give a youth-driven government.
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