1. Distinguished founding leaders of our great party, fellow party faithful, delegates and workers, it gives me immense joy to welcome you, to this Special National Convention of our great party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This great occasion provides us an opportunity to renew our faith in our political platform that was formed to engender national identity, promote integration and bring development to our dear Nation.
2. Your Excellencies, fellow compatriots, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the process of building enduring political institutions is a difficult, complex but ultimately rewarding exercise.
3. We are gathered here at the Eagle Square to uphold old and tested values of our party’s internal democratic culture, as well as chart a new course and way forward for our Party.
4. Our great party, which is widely acclaimed as the biggest in Africa, is the only Nigerian party that has been growing in leaps and bounds. It is the only Nigerian party that is not aligned to any ethnic, religious or regional interests. It is the only party that is collectively owned by Nigerians. We are very proud of our heritage and we will never betray the trust that the majority of Nigerians repose in us.
5. You will recall that in March 2012, our great party held its regular national convention, during which a new national party leadership was elected. That process was preceded by meticulous planning and was executed with commendable efficiency to popular acclaim.
6. However, that exercise contained a procedural flaw to which the attention of the party was drawn by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Rather than engage in a protracted legal argument about the merit or otherwise of such an observation, we opted to respect the pronouncement of such a key national institution as an example to other political players about the meaning and purpose of the rule of law and constitutional democracy.
7. Thus, rather than being a setback to the steady building of our party’s political and organisational infrastructure, it is a golden opportunity for us to showcase our formidable political will, that has seen us through many obstacles and challenges since our great party was founded by visionary and selfless Nigerians in 1998.
8. We are here today to reaffirm our faith in Nigeria, our commitment to internal democracy and our belief in the rule of law.
9. The PDP is one big family and we are here for a family meeting. We must utilize our strength for the benefit of our immense followership and the generality of Nigerians that look up to us with pride for inspiration and guidance. We cannot afford to let them down.
10. Let me specially appreciate the Planning Committee that has worked tirelessly to make this Special Convention possible.
11. I also commend all those who took the pains to make the sacrifice and demonstrate maturity and loyalty to the Party to bring us to this moment.
12. We are here, fellow delegates, in obedience to due process. We are confident that all those who will be elected today into positions of responsibility, and entrusted with the mantle of leadership within the Party, will work diligently as one team. The party has provided a level playing field for all contestants to demonstrate their readiness for this call to service.
13. Those who will be elected here, must serve with honour, integrity and dignity. They must work relentlessly to bring about the much needed cohesion, discipline and supremacy of the Party to enable it face, without distraction, the pressing national challenges and tasks ahead.
14. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to remain strong and successful, we must not only continue to be a Party of internal democracy, but also of internal discipline.
15. Our Party structures and rules are clearly defined. They provide a clear guide for our actions and programmes. To undermine them is to compromise our strength and goals.
16. I would like to remind us all here, how far we have come. Of the three political parties registered in 1998, only the PDP has retained its singular identity and core vision as a political movement till date.
17. While others have imploded along the way or subsumed their identity in search of political direction and relevance, the PDP has remained a strong fortress of hope for our people. We must remain focussed on building a greater Nigeria, one that will afford this generation and the generations to come a better life.
18. As we approach the 2015 general elections, many doomsday scenarios are being propagated. Ladies and Gentlemen, the PDP will continue to grow bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger.
19. The visible vibrancy that our party has encouraged from 1998 helps to strengthen our party, and support the growth of internal democracy. We will foster greater democracy in our party. We believe in the freedom of speech. We believe in the freedom of association. We believe in the freedom of aspiration. The PDP is the party for patriots.
20. For those who for partisan reasons continue to deny or feign ignorance of the progress Nigeria has made under the PDP, listen to me:
Telephone penetration has gone from 400,000 lines in 1999 to over 120 million today. Our telecoms sector has grown to be the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world; providing jobs for millions of Nigerians and creating a new generation of successful entrepreneurs and industrialists.
The reforms in our communications sector are now fuelling a boom in new media and supporting the development of our country. These are facts our critics never wish to acknowledge.
21. Under the PDP, our banking sector has flourished. The branch network has grown tremendously. More branches mean more access to financial services and more jobs. The capitalisation has grown in phenomenal proportions, and so have the assets and loan portfolios.
22. The systemic crisis that used to consume banks and depress depositors in the past has been well managed. We now have a stable and healthy banking sector. Our banks are establishing branches all over the world. Global markets are now very receptive to them. The crisis that rocked the capital market has been effectively addressed. The market is booming again!
These are facts our critics never wish to acknowledge.
23. Under the PDP, our education system has been undergoing a progressive revival after decades of neglect. Primary school enrolment figures are growing, a clear indication of the success of the Universal Basic Education Programme initiated by the Federal Government.
24. We have built over 100 Almajiri schools to take our children off the streets and give them a future. We are building 300 more of such schools. We have launched back-to-school programmes that are returning children to schools all over our country.
25. The number of private and public universities has increased, providing opportunities for millions of young Nigerians who would have been deprived of university education owing to limited spaces in existing ones.
26. To deepen our federalism and ensure access to quality education, we established nine new universities in the North and three in the South, in states where no Federal University previously existed. We have kept our promise. These are facts our critics never wish to acknowledge
27. Our Federal Capital City, Abuja is undergoing transformation with the provision of improved infrastructure and services. The impressive road networks, new districts, and the coming Mono-Rail line, all add to make Abuja a source of pride to all Nigerians, while earning government the commendation of foreign and local visitors. These are facts our critics never wish to acknowledge.
28. Under the PDP, we have embarked on massive infrastructural development that is there for everyone to see. We have embarked on massive road construction across the country, with a view to keeping our promise to link the six geopolitical zones with dual carriageways.
29. Great progress has been made in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Kano-Maiduguri Expressway; Abuja-Lokoja Expressway; Onitsha-Owerri Expressway; and the Benin-Shagamu Expressway, among others. We have also flagged off the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
30. In our determination to construct two new bridges across Nigeria’s two great rivers, preliminary works have commenced at the site of the Second Niger Bridge while appreciable progress has been achieved on the new Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States.
31. Before the advent of the PDP, Nigerian children learnt about railways in cartoons and pictures. Today, the trains are back on track and our children are riding in them. With containers and goods now being hauled from Lagos port to Kano, our hope is that by the end of the year, the Eastern flank, from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri will be open for business.
32. The construction of the standard-gauge lines from Abuja to Kaduna and Ajaokuta-Warri has reached 68% and 77% completion respectively; in addition to other routes that are yet to commence. This will no doubt greatly boost mass transit.
33. The PDP administration has resurrected the aviation sector and in the process, recorded unprecedented landmark achievements. For the first time in 35 years, we have remodelled and expanded all 22 federally-owned airport terminals to international standards; constructed 5 new International airport terminals spread across the country.
34. We have also upgraded air safety infrastructure and equipment, bringing them up to internationally acceptable standards. The result is that Nigeria is now highly rated in terms of air safety.
35. We have also opened the South-East to the world, with the commencement of International flights into Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
36. Our planned 13 Perishable Cargo Terminals will have the effect of growing the rural economy holistically from bottom-up by providing access for our perishable agricultural products to international markets.
37. We are developing our water resources extensively and have brought new water works on stream across the country. The multi-purpose Kashimbila and Gurara Dams are nearing completion with direct potential impact for electricity power generation, irrigation, and water supply. Beyond these, 9 dams and reservoirs have been completed, while 19 others have been assessed with a potential of generating 190 mega watts of electricity.
38. Land developed for irrigated agriculture has risen from 90,000 hectares to 175,000 hectares with a potential for generating 870,000 metric tonnes of grains and vegetable. This has had the effect of creating 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs for young Nigerians.
39. Under the PDP, our agriculture is being rapidly transformed into a business. We have implemented major reforms to unlock the potential of agriculture, to ensure food security, create jobs and make agriculture the fulcrum for Nigeria’s industrialisation. Corruption has been eliminated from the fertilizer distribution system. Today, using mobile phone, we reach millions of farmers directly with the fertilizers and seeds.
40. Nigeria is the first in Africa to do this. A major Rice revolution has been unleashed across our country and we are well on our way to attaining self-sufficiency in rice production.
41. We are reaching millions of farmers with free, high quality seeds and seedlings for cocoa, oil-palm and cotton. We are unlocking the potential of cassava to produce starch, sweeteners and even ethanol. Our goal is to be the largest processor and producer of cassava in the world, and create millions of jobs for our youth.
42. We have made concerted efforts to diversify and strengthen our economy away from over-dependence on oil exports. Our non-oil exports have more than doubled in the last 14 years. Nigeria has moved from a net importer of cement to a net exporter of the product as part of our industrialisation policy.
43. We have further created the Sovereign Wealth Fund and built our external reserves as a buffer. This has helped us in the face of oil price volatility. These are facts our critics never wish to acknowledge.
44. In the Petroleum Sector, the PDP-led Government is building sustainable industries and creating Oil and Gas Institutions of the future, through the Petroleum Industry Bill currently awaiting passage into Law by the National Assembly.
45. We have ensured that our Downstream sub-sector has witnessed a continued, stable supply of petroleum products as well as efficient administration of the subsidy programme, at reduced costs. No longer are unending queues and jerry-cans, seen at the petrol stations.
46. We have sustained Oil and Gas production through projects in the deep-offshore, like the USAN field and the recently awarded Engina project.
47. Our Gas Commercialization and Infrastructure implementation programme is on-stream, as part of the Gas-for-Industrialization scheme. Mobilization has begun for a new free trade zone in Ogidigben, Delta State, with world-class petrochemical and fertilizer plants to be built, creating over five million jobs across the value chain.
48. Our Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) programme is in full progress with two thousand cars already converted in Benin. This innovative and aggressive programme will be extended to other parts of the country.
49. PDP’s vision for job and wealth creation, has ensured, that for the first time, Nigeria has a Local Content law, which has robustly improved local capacity and indigenous participation, in infrastructure investments.
50. Nigerians now own crude oil transportation tankers, flying Nigerian flags. Nigerian-owned marine vessels have increased from 54 to 388, creating employment for over 30,000 Nigerians. Domestic gas supply to support the power sector has increased by 72% as part of the emergency gas supply programme.
51. We introduced the Power Sector Reform in 2005 and I launched the Power Road Map in 2010. We have been very faithful to the liberalisation agenda. We are approaching the final stage of the privatisation, which has being adjudged by experts as meeting international best practice.
52. I am happy with the transparent manner in which the power sector privatisation process was carried out. With the enormous investment we have put into power generation, transmission and distribution, we are very confident of delivering steady power supply to Nigerians in no distant time, as we did in the communication sector.
53. The PDP administration is the first ever to establish a clear, credible performance management system by setting up ministerial scorecards and performance contracts.
54. This system is being used, to measure and track performance, and report it in a transparent and accountable manner to the Nigerian people as exemplified in our mid-term report. We will continue to report to Nigerians who elected us.
55. My dear party faithful, we are determined to continue to expand the frontiers of reform to consolidate the successes that we have so far recorded.
56. Let me assure you that in the weeks, months and years ahead, we shall continue to work intensively and inclusively to achieve even greater results. Clearly, the Transformation Agenda is moving Nigeria to new levels of development excellence. Let us move forward together!
57. Our Party is committed to the empowerment of women and gender inclusion. We believe that women must have a voice and opportunities to grow and fulfil their potential if we are to have social equality and order in our country. The PDP-led government has given more opportunities to women and youths than ever before in the history of our country.
58. We demonstrated our commitment to gender equality by actively promoting women in leadership positions as players and contributors to national development. Indeed, Nigerian women can now aspire to any position in our country including the military.
59. We are proud of our accomplishments in this area and we are poised to do more. We celebrate our women. Without women, there will be no nation. We will continue to encourage our women.
60. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have faced, in the recent past, security challenges that were hampering and even rolling back socio-economic development as well as undermining the peace and stability of our country. As a result of bold and decisive action that we have taken, normalcy is returning gradually to the affected areas. Our people are reclaiming their right to live in peace once again.
61. We will protect all Nigerians, wherever they may be, so that they can go about their lawful business without fear or molestation. There will be no sanctuary for all those who seek to impose their ideology of hate and violence on the good people of this country.
62. We commend our law enforcement and security agencies for the admirable work that they continue to do to safeguard and protect the lives and properties of our citizens.
63. We will continue to support our security services to build a modern security infrastructure that will tackle modern challenges. Much of the security infrastructure that the PDP inherited were built decades ago when crime was not as sophisticated as it is today. The defence and protection of our citizens, remains our number one priority.
64. To all members of our party at home and abroad, I charge you to remain steadfast and committed to the progress of our party and the progress of the nation. I salute you all, brothers and sisters, for your unwavering devotion.
65. We are bound together by the love of God and the love of our country. We have very promising years ahead of us as we continue to transform our great nation. We must continue to do this as we walk in one accord and unity.
66. Ladies and Gentlemen, as we settle down to business at this Special National Convention, I urge us all to work together and chart a new course to become a stronger and renewed party; one that will continue to inspire hope for our people. Ours is not only the party of the present, it is the party of the future.
67. It is very clear that we are the party destined to take Nigeria to greatness. We are the party that holds the interest of Nigeria dearly at heart. We do not pursue divisive policies. We do not preach hate. We reject violence. We reject killings. We recognise Nigeria as one, indivisible entity. We deplore ethnic distrust among our great people, for we are one people under one umbrella in this Republic!
68. In the PDP, we fight against poverty, not the poor. In the PDP, we attack destitution, not the destitute. In the PDP, we believe in the tenets of democracy and development. This is who we are.
69. We must remain the party of national unity. We must insist on justice and equity. We must insist on defending Nigeria from those who threaten her in words and deeds. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are a Nation in God’s hands and we must keep it so!
70. I thank you all for your attention.
71. God bless the People’s Democratic Party!
72. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!