Coming short of saying it turned former key officials that later became vocal critics to super stars, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Monday, took a jab at former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy, Atiku Abubakar; Senator Barnabas Gemade, Professor Iyorchia Ayu, Audu Ogbe, Rotimi Amaechi, among others, accusing them of dumping the party for fear of competition.
The PDP said apart from Obasanjo and Atiku, who led the country from the onset of the Fourth Republic, the rest held very senior positions, including chairmen and members of its National Working Committee (NWC) and Board of Trustees (BoT).
The party said the big wigs became uncomfortable because it thrived on offering a level playing ground and accommodating various shades of Nigeria’s national spread.
Other party stalwarts that defected from PDP include Yaya Kwande, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (former Speaker of the House of Representatives, now Sokoto State Governor), Aliyu Wamakko, Mutala Nyako, Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso, ex-governors of Sokoto, Adamawa and Kano states respectively, among others.
Fielding questions at a press conference in Abuja on why top guns of the PDP were defecting to the opposition in droves, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, said: “Majority of the top party members who defected from our party are those who cannot handle competition while some members felt that they were not well-protected when they sought assistance, others left because we lost election, others for selfish reason, while some others left when they felt they were honestly not properly accommodated in the party.”
The press conference was called to mark the 17th Anniversary of the institution that once prided itself as the largest party in Africa, which lost power at the federal level after spending 16 years in government.
Metuh said the PDP had nurtured democracy in the last 16 years and strengthened the political space through creating enabling environment for various entrepreneurial spirits to bloom.
The last 16 years of the PDP, Metuh said, has been good to the nation economically with a large number of billionaires emerging in the country because of “good economic policies” of its administration while in power.
On why the party was rejected at the polls during the last general elections in view of the achievements it claimed, he said only Nigerians were in a position to explain.
He said that the party was still surprised that despite its achievements recorded in the last 16 years it was in control of the Federal Government, majority of Nigerians rejected it at the polls.
“Only the electorate can say why we were rejected. We must have made our mistakes and some of the issues that affected the election had to do with the people.
“In those 16 years, we did our best. We created a system where merits were recognised. We created a lot of super rich Nigerians like Dangote, Oando and other companies. Nigerian companies now compete with foreign companies in the oil and gas sector,” Metuh stated.
He said that it was wrong for anyone to associate the party with corruption, a tag the current government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is trying to portray about the party, stressing that for the first time after over 35 years of military rule in Nigeria, the emergence of the PDP in the political scene created an enabling environment where public fund oiled the economy for entrepreneurs to bloom.
Metuh said the PDP attracted Nigerians in the Diaspora to return home, believing in the system even as it stuck to the rule of law and ensured the democratic ethos.
He insisted that anti-corruption war was part of the achievements of the PDP as demonstrated in the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He said the PDP which championed the anti-graft campaign in the country followed it with due respect to the fundamental human rights of the people without propaganda that de-market Nigeria by celebrating corruption.
The PDP, he maintained, did internal cleansing by investigating its members with due respect to fundamental rights of the people without propaganda and undue celebration of fights against corruption.
“When the PDP took office in 1999, it quickly formed government and calmly, but vigorously applied itself to service, initiating reforms, and facing the challenges inherited from past military regimes, without resorting to blames, blackmail and propaganda.
“At the time PDP came to power, Nigeria’s image internationally was in a deplorable state, with very poor human rights records. The onus of restoring it from its pariah status then rested squarely on the PDP-led government, which it successfully executed, returning the nation to its pride of place in the comity of nations.
“The PDP-led government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo went further to work assiduously to settle foreign debts accumulated by previous administrations and extricated the nation’s economy from burdens of the London and Paris Clubs debt overhang.
“Furthermore, in line with the determination to establish a moral and ethical society guided by such core values as honesty, integrity and justice, as contained in its manifesto, the PDP administration set up the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit, otherwise known as Due Process Unit, which ensured transparency in government procurements and spending.
“The PDP government, in the same vein, immediately established the two major anti-corruption agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), with strict establishment and operation of laws to ensure effectiveness and immunity from executive interferences.
“Down the years, SERVICOM desks were opened in ministries and agencies to further ensure ethical standards in government businesses.
“As a result of these deliberate policies, human rights and business friendly environment were created and it saw to the massive return of Nigerians in the Diaspora and the influx of direct foreign investments into the country.
“Also, in keeping with the vision of our founding fathers to build a qualitative democratic society, successive PDP administrations for 16 years nurtured and sustained national unity and cohesion through strict application of the principles of federal character and social justice, for equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities,” Metuh said.
He also said that the party initiated series of amendments to the constitution to make it more responsive to the wishes and aspirations of the people; reformed the electoral system to allow for greater political participation, granted operational independence to INEC and enacted the Freedom of Information Law, while upholding the sanctity of the rule of law in all sectors of the polity.
“To reposition the economy for greater productivity, successive PDP administrations applied an economic policy, which enhanced a dynamic economy, in which market forces are combined with the forces of partnership, solidarity and cooperation to boost private sector participation and emergence of an empowered middle class system in the country.
“As you are aware, the hallmark of the PDP administration was anchored on the policy of transfer of wealth from the public sector to hardworking and enterprising Nigerians. This resulted in the rapid expansion of the nation’s economic frontiers with an unprecedented growth in small and medium scale enterprises, which helped in providing employment for millions of our citizens across the country.
“It is incontrovertible that within the 16 years of successive PDP administrations, more businesses opened in the country in all sectors of the economy; in telecommunication (with one the world fastest GSM and Internet penetrations), transport, aviation, hospitality, education, agriculture, the media, automobile, real estate, oil and gas, food processing, among others, than in any other period in the nation’s history.
“In the same vein, hitherto weak banking sector was repositioned and strengthened, thereby providing support for businesses and restoring investors’ confidence in our system. By 2015, the PDP has grown our nation’s economy to the largest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world.
“Under the PDP administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, our nation witnessed the successful unbundling of the power sector with massive investments, resulting in the construction and rehabilitation of various power projects.
“This is in addition to investments in oil and gas sector including the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of our oil refineries, whose dividends, the nation is now enjoying,” the party added.