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JONATHAN'S JUDICIAL VICTORY IS A VINDICATION TO THE PDP -WIKE

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Minister of State for Education, Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, who testified as a Principal Witness during the hearing of the Presidential Election petition and also served as chairman of the Adamawa State PDP Governorship Primary Committee in this interview, spoke on the Appeal Court Judgment that confirmed the victory of President Goodluck Jonathan at the April election, the conduct of Adamawa State PDP Governorship Primary and efforts at developing the nation's educational sector through international collaborations. The minister also comments on the strength of the PDP in Nigeria.

Excerpts:
As one of the principal witnesses of President Goodluck Jonathan at Presidential Election Tribunal, how would you react to the judgment delivered by the Appeal Court on the petition filed by the Congress for Progress Change (CPC)?

The judgment was well considered, erudite and in consonance with what transpired on election day. The position of the court is a vindication of Nigerians, the Nigerian media, the general electorate and the international monitors who participated in the electoral process. Everyone at the close of the election applauded the umpires and congratulated Nigerians for the feat they achieved. This was not the case in recent past. With that election, we made strategic progress towards deepening and strengthening our democracy.

For those of us who played key roles in coordinating the election for President Jonathan, we are happy that a seal of judicialy approval has been given to a most transparent and well conducted Presidential election. Like I said when I testified at the court, the elections were free, fair and transparent and the data which we received from all over the country on Election Day proved our position. If you carefully analyse the results, you will see that President Jonathan was accepted across the six geo-political zones and in some areas where he lost, he made great showing. The Judiciary has again proved that they remain the bastion of hope for the sustenance and strengthening of our democracy.

What would you say about the critics of the electoral process and the judiciary?

We must continue to keep faith with our electoral process. It has continued to grow from one stage to another. After my testimony at the Presidential Election Tribunal I told journalists outside the courtroom that as politicians, we must learn to accept the verdict of the people and that of the courts, whether they are palatable or not. It is not in the interest of our democracy to eulogise the electoral process where it favours us and turn around to attempt to discredit it where the people vote against us. We must realise that the people have the final say in every electoral contest. In the extant case, the Nigerian people chose President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, bearing in mind the quality programmes laid out on the table by the President during his campaigns. For the Judiciary, they have looked at the facts presented before them dispassionately and have arrived at an informed judgment that has been hailed by the vast majority of Nigerians, including some objective members of the opposition.

Recently, you conducted the PDP Governorship Primary in Adamawa State. What is your impression of the exercise?

Without sounding immodest, I want to score the primary that we conducted in Adamawa State very high. As chairman of the committee that conducted the primary, I ensured that everything was done transparently. Right from the very beginning, I made sure that the two aspirants, Dr Umaru Ardo and Governor Murtala Nyako were carried along in the process. I met with the two aspirants separately alongside members of the committee and met the two of them together at the Adamawa State PDP Secretariat in the presence of the media. At that open meeting with the media in attendance, we discussed everything pertaining to the election and both aspirants raised whatever concerns they had and they were addressed within the mandate of the committee. On the day of the primary, we insisted that beginning from accreditation of voters to the actual voting; everything must be done in the full glare of the public. The primary was broadcast live on national television and it was done transparently. For us, we insisted that the right thing was done and the members of the party are satisfied.

You were part of the leadership of the Nigerian delegation to the 36th Conference of UNESCO to Paris, what message did you put across to the international community?

The Nigerian delegation participated in all critical meetings to help develop our education, science and culture. In the educational sector, we presented before the international community our efforts aimed at addressing issues of access to quality education and developing critical infrastructure to enhance the sector.

I had interactions with different international stakeholders and we reached consensus on areas of interventions to assist the basic education sector that I oversee. But the most important message that I put across to the international community through the international media was that the present administration under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan has placed education on the front-burner, and our nation is working extremely hard to ensure that we achieve the Education for All (EFA), goals by 2015. Only recently, I visited some project sites for girl-child education schools in parts of the North, while the construction of almajiri schools is to commence in no distant future with the mobilization of contractors.

Our President and the Federal Ministry of Education are committed to enhancing quality access to education in our country. Our commitment to addressing the challenges of education is borne out of the desire to develop a highly literate society that would eliminate growing insecurity and poverty through an enhanced capacity for our people. We have in the last three months trained over 500,000 teachers in intense capacity building programmes across the 36 states through key parastatals in the education sector.

We have also developed critical curricula relevant for our nation for the basic education and states are already keying into this curriculum.

As you can see everyone has appreciated the renewed commitment to the tackling of the education challenges facing the nation and we assure Nigerians that we will strive for the best international practice.

Aside the UNESCO conference, you have in the last three weeks engaged the Taiwanese and South Koreans on efforts to improve basic education in Nigeria. Any positive results?

Yes, there are positive results. The international community has seen our commitment to improving the basic education sector and they are prepared to key in. That is why we are collaborating with different countries and agencies to change our educational landscape.

The truth remains that once we get the basic education right, the other levels of education would follow suit. I have held discussions with the representatives of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and they have agreed to invest in the development of the Science and Technical aspects of our basic education. On behalf of the Federal Government, I also placed before them, the need to start their investments in the development of science laboratories in our Federal Unity Schools.

We are developing a concrete programme alongside the Taiwanese to help build our education. I was in South Korea recently, and our interactions centred on the development of basic education for the country. We are collaborating with Canadians and Danes also with the aim of developing basic education. The fruits of our efforts will soon take shape. Even at present, things are now being done differently at the parastatals and the schools because of the effort being put at the level of supervision from the Ministry.

How would you rate the PDP in the country in view of present circumstances?

It is still the most widely accepted political party in the country. It has the widest reach across the 774 local government councils and the 36 states of the federation and it remains committed to transparency in the conduct of its affairs as we displayed during our primaries in Adamawa State. It is still the only political party where every Nigerian is a stakeholder because it is not the exclusive preserve of any particular group of persons. I believe that the PDP will continue to grow stronger by the day because of the self evolving mechanisms in the party.

We also have a strong conflict resolution system that has enabled the party to remain strong despite the ever present political challenges all political institutions face. The PDP will continue to promote national interest and unity. The party will also continue work for the good of Nigerians as being displayed by President Goodluck Jonathan and members of his government.