*FULL TEXT OF A WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESSED BY THE NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF THE PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY, PRINCE UCHE SECONDUS, AT THE NATIONAL SECRETARIAT, ABUJA ON MAY 3, 2021*
NIGERIA MUST NOT FAIL
Following series of meetings in the last one week by various organs of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the National Working Committee (NWC), the National Caucus, the Board of Trustees and the National Executive Committee – the PDP as a political party, has come to the conclusion that the ship of state is adrift and requires help.
We have therefore called this world press conference to brief you and share with you the outcome of our deliberations.
THE STATE OF OUR NATION
As the wise saying goes, the goat does not suffer parturition in tethers while the elders are at home. Thus, the leadership of the PDP come to you today with a very heavy heart regarding the state of our union. It is very clear that Nigeria is on the precipice with arms-bearing non-state actors menacingly overrunning our state and its institutions and daily eroding our sovereignty.
These perilous situations have manifested through terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, arson, and inexplicable murderous rampage across our nation. Government’s monopoly over legitimate coercive powers has been compromised and torpedoed, with criminal gangs let loose across our nation.
It is unimaginable that terrorists, who had been pushed out to the fringes by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, leading to the successful elections of 2015, have since boldly reasserted themselves and are now taking territories in five local governments of Niger State, which is only two hours from Abuja. It is also important to note that the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who by his position, is armed with credible intelligence, raised the alarm that terrorists and bandits were making inroads into the towns in Kaduna state. Also, noteworthy is the alarm raised by the Governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Sule Abdullhahi, that the Boko Haram were occupying territories in his State. A strategic and intelligent interpretation of these is that Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is surrounded. Presently, the nation has witnessed an upsurge of kidnapping in the FCT, further giving vent to the assertions of the Governors.
In addition to this, is the escalation of killings, arson, bloodletting, and kidnappings of Nigerians, including our men and women in uniforms across the nation.
Between January and now, no fewer than 741 Nigerians have been murdered by bandits and terrorists; dozens of police formations and security checkpoints, have been attacked, leaving scores dead. An attack on a correctional facility in Owerri, Imo State, led to the release of 1,844 inmates.
Furthermore, from the kidnap of 110 Dapchi school girls, to the kidnap of 344 students from Government Science School in Kankara, Katsina State, kidnap of 42 travellers between Kotangora and Minna, Niger State; abduction of another 27 students in Niger State; kidnap of about 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State; abduction in March this year of about 30 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna, who are still being held in captivity; and the abduction of the students of the Greenfield University, who were intermittently slain without any response from government. Nigeria has become an expansive field of mass kidnapping and murder under the watch of the APC-led Federal Government.
This government has been completely rudderless regarding the economy. We remember that prior to the emergence of this administration, Nigeria’s debt profile stood at less than $9.4 billion, (N1.8 trillion) having benefitted from the efforts of a previous PDP administration led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a debt relief of over $18 billion. Presently, Nigeria’s debt burden has since risen to N32.9 trillion. It is curious that the only economic management tool known by this government is just mind-boggling borrowing. This includes borrowing for recurrent expenditure as well as for consumption.
The incompetence and absence of a clear policy for the economy is fast leading us into the woods of insolvency, which was recently confirmed by NNPC’s confession that it would not be able to make remittances to FAAC for the month of April as well as the confusing response of government regarding the appropriate use of Ways and Means (printing money) to address our mounting economic challenges.
It is also very clear that despite the whimsical closure and reopening of borders, the supposed consumption of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) alone has increased from about 30 million litres in 2015 to over 60 million litres even when the production capacity of the economy has seriously diminished. Many companies and businesses have dumped Nigeria for neighbouring countries because of an apparent inclement operational environment. Therefore, your guess is as good as ours as to whether the subsidy is for us, the citizens, or for the pockets of privileged few in government.
Further source of worry is the exchange rate that was at N180 to a dollar in 2014, now stands at nearly N500 to a dollar contrary to the APC’s propaganda-laden promise of matching a dollar to one naira.
Inflation has been on the rise. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the consumer price index, which measures inflation increased, stood at 18.17 per cent (year-on-year) in March 2021. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the world; and while one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is to end extreme poverty by 2050, APC has continued to lead the nation in the opposite direction. With over 86.9 million citizens living in extreme poverty, Nigeria overtook India as the poverty of the world in 2018, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution. Nigeria’s corruption rating has been consistently worse under the APC-led administration.
These and more clearly shows that the APC-led government has left the economy more than 100 per cent worse than they met it.
MISMANAGEMENT OF THE NATION’S DIVERSITY AND THE REFUSAL TO ENGAGE
In its formation, character, modus operandi, and belief in the eternal destiny of this country to succeed, the PDP, while not claiming perfection, has always taken deliberate steps to engage Nigerians and take constructive approach to nation-building. In this vein, the PDP in June 12, 2014 organised an all-party conference aimed at de-politicisation of the war against insurgency, which the incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as well as General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) attended.
In January 14, 2015, a peace accord was encouraged and endorsed by all political parties, which led to a successful 2015 election. The PDP also initiated a standing National Peace Committee, which is still in existence. And of course, the PDP initiated and successfully hosted the 2014 National Conference to deescalate tension and chart a trajectory for the social, economic, and political stability and prosperity for our nation.
Having done all these, we are worried that the APC government, in its character, formation, and modus operandi, has successfully mismanaged our diversity. It is clear that the core philosophy of the APC is to run a government of exclusion. They do not constructively engage Nigerians, except for erratic statements by Malam Garba Shehu, which further fans the embers of disaffection. Its sheer arrogance coupled with an aloof President is a disaster waiting to happen.
Increasingly, Mr. President is absent from duty. The symbol of authority of the Executive is simply not there, leading to various centres of power in the Executive, which affect the economy, security and manifest in lack of coordination and synergy in government operation.
The apparent nepotism in the appointment of the top echelon of the security forces, and the commanding heights of the institutions of government further fuel agitations across the country. In fact, winning elections has been reduced by the APC to more of sharing the spoils of war than running a government to the benefit of all citizens. This could be the only discernable reason for the President to appoint and still retains, as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that has access to the sensitive data of Nigerians, a self-confessed bigot, who had voluntarily expressed happiness at the killing of people of other faith. It is also curious that such an individual like Isa Pantami, scaled through the vetting by Department of State Security (DSS) ahead of confirmation by the Senate.
Granted that he may have changed in his views, is it possible that millions of youth radicalised by his preaching have also repented from extreme views and concomitant violent conducts? The PDP holds that our present circumstance is attributable to Dr. Isa Pantami and people who share and preach his views.
The very first step is for Pantami to be immediately relieved of his office and handed over for investigation, and if found wanting, he should be prosecuted.
THE WAY FORWARD
Dear compatriots, we come to you today to reassert our confidence in the future of our union, cognisant of the spirit and letters of our Constitution, and believing that we are all better together; that we are one nation under God, determined to build a formidable nation state. We have not come to play politics, but to work in concert with our compatriots to rescue of our nation from these avoidable perilous circumstances.
1. Demand for the immediate up-scaling of the personnel strength of our men and women in uniform and make adequate provisions of kinetic instruments of war and law enforcement. Our armed forces should be adequately equipped and their welfare a top priority.
In addition, efforts should be made towards partnership with foreign governments and miscellaneous entities for the war efforts. The situation in our country is not normal and exceptional steps should be taken to restore it to normalcy. The PDP, as a body, is willing to give a helping hand in this direction.
2. Call for the establishment of a State Police: We call on all citizens to support the quest for state police as is the tradition in other federations. Mindful of the current plethora of vigilante in various parts of the country, which have not been enabled to carry out all the elements of effective policing, we call on the governors of the 36 states, the leadership and members of the National Assembly, the Speakers of the State Assemblies, relevant agencies of government, to occasion a summit for a one-stop shop regarding the creation, structure, and management of state police. In spite of the concerns over state police, it is doubtful that 36 state police services can be easily overwhelmed, as is the case now with the unitary police. Besides, any challenges can be addressed through legislative framework to make abuse extremely difficult, if not impossible.
3. We also call for the deployment of technology in the fight against terror, banditry, and other crimes. The PDP demands that all culprits should be brought to book. The apparent failure of intelligence to track attacks by bandits and follow up on them is a clear failure of the intelligence community. The Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited NIGCOMSAT, established many years ago by a PDP administration, is designed for this purpose and others.
4. States where matters of national security challenges originate or exist should be invited to the National Security Council Meeting for deliberation and problem-solving interactions.
5. We call for the creation of National Boarders Protection Force to secure our borders. This will include an integrated border protection system that will draw personnel and equipment from existing armed service and Immigration
We cannot continue to watch while terrorist and bandits continue to levy war on our nation, through our porous borders. This borders force should be equipped with reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, prevention, and enforcement. It should therefore have air, sea, and land capability.
6. There must be a synergy and cooperation among the armed services, strategically and operationally. There is no reason a theatre Commander should not have within his control the deployment of the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy in his operational area.
7. All culprits, who have levied war on Nigeria, should be brought to book. It is unfathomable that several mass kidnappings have been successfully staged with the culprits not being held to account. It is a shameful irony that a few bandit leaders that have been taken out were killed by rival gangs and not our security agencies.
If Sheik Gumi could detect and engage the bandits, we do not understand why our security agencies cannot track, arrest, and prosecute them.
8. The administration of President Buhari should completely shed weight on arrogance, lack of respect for Nigerians and its pretences of being an island of integrity.
He should begin to engage the citizens directly. He should address the nation on the various issues escalating tension in the land and pushing the nation farther to the tips of precipice.
It is serious political malpractice, for Mr. President to stand aloof, say nothing, do nothing and simply wish that the problems will somehow go away. It is a great disservice to the Nigerian people for Mr. President to abandon his presidential duties to two media handlers who resort to issuing meaningless and annoying PRESS STATEMENTS in the name of an amorphous and questionable organisation called “THE PRESIDENCY”. Enough of trivialising governance and trifling with the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of the Nigerian people.
Furthermore, Mr President needs to convince Nigerians that his government is not shielding or protecting terrorists.
RESCUING THE ECONOMY
1. We hold that our government should stop borrowing. Our future generations are being mortgaged and railroaded into avoidable debt trap. APC should do away with their nepotism and hire experts that will help creatively navigate the nation through the dire economic challenges they have led the nation into.
2. We also believe that the management of the economy, including the management of Ways and Means should be done in a more professional manner to avert a collapse of the economy. The country is bleeding economically and the operations of the NNPC must be investigated and oversighted by the parliament. The topsy-turvy situation where Mr. President, who is the Minister of Petroleum, approves oil wells only to reverse himself in a matter of weeks as demonstrated in the case of Addax and Kaztech/Slavic consortium (OMLs 123, 124, 126 and 137) and others like that should be investigated.
TURNING THE PAGE ON DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT
1. The tension and current separatist agitations threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria owe their origins to the perfunctory management of diversity by the APC-led Federal Government, as every action of this administration goes to confirm the fears of the victims and legitimises the agitations of the separatist groups.
Worse still, instead of engaging Nigerians, this administration resorts to harassment and intimidation of voices of dissent. They clamp down on democratic expressions against exclusion as well as political opposition, weaponising critical institutions like the armed forces, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and even regulatory agencies like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), etc. Even an appearance on a national television or radio could warrant a clampdown by the NBC or invitation by the EFCC or ICPC. We fear that this, if not checked, could soon graduate to assassination of political opponents and voices of dissent.
All calls and entreaties on the Federal Government to accommodate the South East in the headship of the nation’s armed forces and security agencies have fallen on deaf ears to the chagrin of nation-building.
Therefore, we call on the APC-led government to live up to the spirit and letters of our constitution to ensure that all sections of the country are equitably represented in all agencies and organs of government, including the armed forces. This will build loyalty and enhance security both in strategic and real terms. It will give every part of the country a sense of belonging and will be very helpful in intelligence gathering. As known world over, no victim of injustice is ever interested in peace. In this wise, we strongly subscribe to an all stakeholders Security and Solution Summit that will deescalate the current situation. This will now further collaborate the efforts of the leaders of the National Assembly, the state governors, Speakers of Assemblies, and relevant government agencies and other stakeholders in putting together a one-stop summit to find solutions to the menacing security situation in the country.
DEVOLUTION OF POWERS
1. We call for the devolution of more powers to the states and local governments. From our experience since the first military regime in 1966, the Federal Government has increasingly bitten more than it can chew and the nation is crumbling under the weight of a behemoth Federal Government. Items like Railway, Aviation, Power, Police, among others should immediately devolve to trigger productivity and creative leadership that will enable the constituent parts to develop. Such new responsibilities should also come with consequential increment in the resources available to the states.
1. It is worrisome that the report of the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC, which finished its work since February 2021 is yet to be laid in the two chambers of the National Assembly. We are aware that the work of the Committee, which also benefitted from the Joint Technical Committee on the Repeal and Re-enactment of the Electoral Act comprising select members of the National Assembly, INEC, the Civil Society, and other experts made far-reaching recommendations that would benefit our electoral system and democracy. This includes early primaries, such that if approved by the National Assembly and signed by the President, INEC is expected to call for nominations in February 2022, while political parties will have until July 2022 to conduct primaries and submit a list of their candidates.
Importantly, we understand that the report comprises proposals for extensive use of technology in our elections, including electronic transmission of results.
These are critical moves at repositioning our elections by allowing INEC enough time to prepare for elections and reduce the logistical challenges; allow political parties enough time to conduct primaries and handle the contestations; and reduce election malpractices that occur during result collation.
We are therefore alarmed at the decision of the APC-led leadership of the National Assembly to sit on such an important report, contrary to their promise to pass the Electoral Act by March, which has now been shifted to June. It is imperative to state that INEC and government of the United Kingdom have equally raised concerns over these undue delays, as it appears this current amendment is going the way of the Electoral Act amendment in the 8th National Assembly that was ultimately not signed by Mr. President.
We therefore invite well-meaning Nigerians, the international community, the CSOs and stakeholders to apply pressure on the leadership of the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the APC to immediately have the report laid, considered, passed, and signed by President Buhari.
Gentlemen of the press, with the tension in the land, it is very clear to us that leadership is made of sterner stuff, not propaganda. From every indication, from the actions and body language of the APC-led administration, it is very clear that there is a mission to deconstruct our country, Nigeria. All men and women of goodwill must not allow this to happen.
We are supremely confident in the words of John Maxwell that some people, in this case, the APC and this administration, could stop the nation and set us back temporarily, but we, the citizens, are the only ones that can stop ourselves permanently.
We therefore believe in the manifest destiny of this nation to succeed because we are one nation under God. But all hands must be on deck. Let us come together and pull the nation from the brink. It is time for all Nigerians to stand up and be counted as we commence the journey to rescue our nation from the current misrule by the APC.
The commitment of the PDP to the Nigerian people is to lead the charge towards the restoration of normalcy to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. PDP will be engaging the international community and friends of Nigeria regarding the volatile situation in Nigeria. We hope they will lend their voices henceforth, knowing the implications of an implosion of Nigeria, God forbids, for the rest of the world. But on the whole, the penchant to emasculate, muscle and intimidate opposition figures will not deter us from this noble cause.
God bless Nigeria.
*Prince Uche Secondus*
PDP National Chairman.