On Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, 2018, close to 4,000 delegates as well as supporters and leaders of the leading opposition political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gathered at the Adokiye Amesiamaka Sports Complex, Igwurita-Ali, Port Harcourt, for the party’s 2018 special national convention. Addressing the delegates before the commencement of voting at the convention, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who predicted that the PDP will win the 2019 elections, advised the presidential aspirants to abide by their earlier pledge to support whoever emerges as the presidential candidate of the party. Jonathan said: “Of course, we are here because 12 people just spoke to us and one of them will be the next President of this country. For me, I am so confused on the one to vote for because all of them have seen me privately, seen me publicly and spoke to you today. “There is no one person that knows all of them except myself. I started interacting with most of them from 1998 and 1999 till date. I have worked with all of them and I know them left right and centre.
“I can say that all of them are qualified to rule this country. But among these 12 qualified gentleman, we are going to select one based on some key criteria. I have always said that the greatest problem we face today in Nigeria is unity. To a point some people ask whether they belong to this country. “We must select a leader; we must select the next President, a person who can bring Nigerians together. Let’s first save our Nigeria, then, others will follow. They are all qualified. We have to look at it critically. “One thing that make me happy is when I remember the good days of the PDP. Yes, we are in the opposition, but today, we have the Senate President. Yes, we are in the opposition, but today, we have the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is an achievement. “The number of governors has also increased. It shows that PDP is preparing the pact to takeover power. I thank God for seeing us through. I have had discussions with all of them. I know that if we select one of them, we will help this country to move forward.
“I am glad that almost all of them in the cause of their speeches, they promised to support whoever wins today. They all agreed that once we select that person peacefully, they will all support him and I thank them for that determination in joining us to move the party forward.” At the end of the day, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged the PDP presidential candidate, having beaten 11 other presidential aspirants, which included Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and former Senate President, Senator David Mark, amongst others.
According to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State Governor and Chairman, PDP National Convention Planning Committee, the former Vice President emerged the party’s presidential candidate, having polled a total of 1,532 votes. In his acceptance speech, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who described the convention as the most credible, transparent and fair in the history of the party, lauded other aspirants for displaying sense of unity, purpose and commitment. Atiku said: “Today, we are witnessing a landmark event. A landmark event in the sense that since the rebranding of our great party, the PDP; in fact, I dare say, that since the return of democratic rule of governance in this country, we have witnessed the most credible, transparent and fair primaries. “Let me also commend my fellow compatriots or aspirants for displaying a sense of unity, a sense of purpose and a sense of commitment. This is a very rare event. My fellow compatriots have clearly shown that the interest of the party and that of the people of this country is paramount and more important than individual interests. “I want to pay tribute to each and everyone of them and to assure them that I am ever ready to work with each and everyone of them for the realization of the victory of our party in the forthcoming elections. I cannot do it alone. I need your support, I need your assistance, I need your understanding and I need your participation. It is not a one-man’s job. It is a collective responsibility. “And I am prepared to listen to you, to take your advice, to consult with you, to work with you and together we succeed and after we succeed, we shall all be partners in that success.
“Mr. Chairman, let me also again pay much tribute to the Convention Planning Committee. This is as I said, one of the most innovative electoral process this party has ever taken or undertaken since the inception of this party in 1998.
“I believe we have learnt quite a lot from the conduct of this exercise and I also believe that we can continue to improve on what has been achieved in the last few days in Port Harcourt. “Let me also use this opportunity to pay tribute to the Governor of Rivers State, the government of Rivers State and the entire people of Rivers State for hosting this historic event. “This event has gone without a hitch and this event has been very successful and all these would not have been possible without the commitment, maximum commitment of Governor Wike, the government of Rivers State and the entire people of Rivers State.
“We thank you very much indeed; we appreciate you and We look forward to working with you so that our party can be returned to power in the next elections. “Your Excellences, we cannot afford to shame Nigerians at this very historic moment because Nigerians are yearning for the return of PDP to power because they have now compared the administration of PDP and that of the APC. “They know that under PDP, they had years of prosperity, of unity, of security and of development. And they have seen the gross mismanagement of the government by the APC. “Therefore, we have a wonderful opportunity to return PDP to power in this country. History has beckoned on all of us at this point in time to make sure that the PDP is returned to power.” Speaking during a thank-you visit to Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike at Government House, Port Harcourt, the PDP presidential candidate, stated that the entire country must work towards ending the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government in 2019.
He was accompanied on the thank-you visit by former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi, PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Senator Sam Anyanwu, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Austin Opara and Edo State PDP Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih.
The PDP presidential candidate said: “The entire country needs a new government. Definitely, we don’t need APC to return to power in 2019.” Atiku said the country has gone through challenges ranging from recession, unemployment, insecurity and lack of unity. He said the country needs to chart a new direction in the interest of the people. The former Vice President stated that it is time for the people of Rivers State to consolidate their support for the PDP in the state, saying: “I came to personally congratulate the Governor, people and Government of Rivers State and also thank him for hosting a most successful convention.”
Addressing journalists after the visit of the PDP presidential candidate, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, declared that all Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation must rise up to sack the most inefficient Federal Government since the country gained independence. Wike said that all PDP leaders and well-meaning Nigerians have a duty to form a united front to sack the APC-led Federal Government.
He said though different party leaders supported different aspirants, with the emergence of former Vice President as PDP presidential candidate, all hands must be on deck for the good of the country.
The governor said: “We have no party that will salvage the country other than the PDP. A candidate has emerged and we owe it a duty to see that the party takes over from the most inefficient and ineffective party in control of the Federal Government. “We are one family. You may support aspirant A or B, but once a candidate emerges, you owe it a duty to make sure your party returns to power. We are doing everything we can to ensure that we don’t give APC any gap. They have failed Nigerians and we will take over in 2019.”
He stated that the successful hosting of the national convention in Port Harcourt has once again shown that Port Harcourt is a peaceful location for national events. Wike said: “My happiness today is that the convention was successful and it went on without hitches.” To Chief Felix Obuah, Chairman of PDP in Rivers State, the 2018 special national convention, which produced the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections, was the best in the history of Nigeria. According to Obuah, the large turn-out and peaceful conduct of the keenly contested presidential primary is a political statement that the PDP is truly democratic and places very high premium on democratic principles of fairness, credible and transparent elections as the panacea for political bitterness and rancor. He stated the successful presidential primary has further proved that effective and resourceful democratic leadership in Nigeria is still possible under a determined political party with a vision like the PDP, which he noted has systematically and meticulously taken time to purge its membership of bag eggs who now flood the ruling APC. The PDP chairman, while congratulating the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for his well-deserved victory, commended all the other aspirants for exhibiting an enviable spirit of sportsmanship throughout the election period. Obuah said: “With the caliber of the party’s presidential candidate and support of the indefatigable aspirants and other party chieftains, the PDP is now poised to end politics of impunity, intimidation and liquidation of dissent voices in Nigeria which the APC-led federal government represents.”