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AS PDP MARKS ITS 14TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY

By NBF News
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Friday last week, marked the 14th anniversary of the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) incursion into and subsequent dominance of Nigeria's political landscape. STANLEY NKWOCHA reviews the scorecard presented by the party to mark the anniversary.

Chief Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a founding member of the party and a power broker in the party, especially in the South-East, where he has been known to call the shots so long as the party is concerned.

Last Friday, however, it became not a forum to measure his political prowess or suavity but the onerous task of explaining to Nigerians why, despite its challenges and internal crises, they should celebrate the PDP.

Faced with over 50 newshounds on the day, for Chief Metuh, it seemed he was on the dock as the opportunity afforded the media to throw in the punches and it came in different styles, patterns and colors. For the image maker of the PDP, however, nothing could be farther than saying even though the PDP has had its fair share of criticisms and troubles, the truth remains that the blessings the party has brought to Nigerians has been enormous. But is this the case?

At every given opportunity, some outspoken Nigerians as well as opposition parties led by the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, have never wasted any time to throw jabs at the ruling party, no thanks to the internal party wrangling, cases of fraud, insecurity and inconsistent policies that the nation, under the party, has had to grapple with. The ACN, through its national publicity secretary, Alh Lai Mohammed, in particular, has made sure the party paid dearly for its mistakes.

As the party celebrates its 14th year however, like a lion roaring out of a cage, Chief Metuh has bared the fangs of the party, challenging critics on the party's performance as according to him, compared to the past years under the military, the PDP, has progressed the nation in every facet of life.

Said Metuh: 'The visions of the founding fathers of our party, the critical elements of its manifesto centres on re-building Nigeria into a pride in the comity of nations. Its untrammeled credibility as a truly national political party has been providing a platform for all Nigerians to realize their political aspirations irrespective of religious, ethnic or cultural affiliations differentiate the PDP from its contemporaries, indeed, any other political party in the history of Nigeria. This unique character of our party has been the major reason for its preference by Nigerians who have continued to renew our mandate as seen in 1999, 2003, 2007 and in 2011.

'After fourteen years of the formation of the PDP and thirteen years in leadership of our dear nation, we are happy to express our deep satisfaction at the roles we have so far played in the course of the development of Nigeria. Nigeria has moved from a pariah nation which it once was, to an influential global player since the inception of the PDP Government. Our status as a regional, continental and global power has been enhanced,' the PDP's spokesman stated.

Metuh argues that while it is easy for political opponents to cast aspersion on the party and its leadership, politicians of that taste have chosen to play blind at the conducive atmosphere provided by the ruling party for such democracy to thrive insisting that the party has laid a new, solid foundation for socio-economic prosperity.

The PDP Chieftain resolved that the 'PDP is the major catalyst for the unity of Nigeria through its strong leadership and all embracing membership whose centripetal pull has succeeded in relegating the barriers of race, religion and ideological persuasions. We all know that these are at the core of issues that have kept Nigeria down since independence. There is no gain saying that the PDP is the only truly national political party in Nigeria. It is the only political party not owned by any individual or group or associated with any tribal or religious group. It is a melting pot that has given adequate expression to the aspirations of all Nigerians irrespective of class, tribe or religion'.

Not done with buttressing the achievements of the party, Chief Metuh is quick to add that the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has in line with the manifesto of the PDP, shown resolve and determination of the Party to institute a legacy of credible polls that has eluded the nation for ages as according to him, free and fair election is fundamental to democracy.

Added Metuh: 'Within fourteen years, the nation has gradually advanced to a stage where free and fair election is taken as guaranteed. The 2011 presidential election, in which President Goodluck Jonathan contested as an incumbent was adjudged locally and internationally as free, fair and most credible in the nation's recent history. The number of litigations attendant upon the 2011 general elections was drastically reduced as a consequence of its credible nature. The gains of that successful election reflected in the subsequent governorship elections in Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Cross River, Bayelsa, Kebbi and Edo States'.

Still wanting to drive the nail to the head, Chief Metuh submits that while the opposition parties, for the sake of politics, would be all out in the castigation of the ruling party, it remains to be denied that under the PDP, there has been a progressive strengthening of institutions of democracy, asserting that the PDP has further enhanced the nation's economy.

'The strengthening of the institutions of democracy is also another area that the PDP has achieved quite a lot in the last fourteen years. The separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary has grown over the years under the PDP leadership. The three arms of government especially at the centre currently operate with least interference, having mastered the institutional checks and balances among them. This maturity developed over the years is instrumental in eliminating the friction that marked the executive - legislature relationship in the first five years of the dispensation. The Independent National Electoral Commission has through reforms and amendments of relevant portions of the Electoral Acts by the National Assembly been strengthened to properly play its role as an unbiased electoral umpire. In the same vein, rule of law which became a cardinal article of governance under late President Yar'Adua has remained same under President Jonathan while there is also the freedom of information Act which bolsters in no small measure, transparency and accountability without which good governance cannot be.

'Economically, the PDP leadership has fast-tracked Nigeria into the digital world of information and communication technology. The mobile telecom market in Nigeria which started in 2001 is rated as the fastest growing in the world. The PDP government indeed provided the enabling environment and gave the push for investments in this sector to thrive.

'Our Party has also steadied the ship of the Nigerian economy which was hitherto threatened by activities of militants in the Niger Delta region. Through a well articulated amnesty programme, aggrieved insurgents have been re-integrated into the Nigerian society and now productively engaged in fruitful activities.

'Similarly, the Party has also embarked on a massive revamping of infrastructures with improvement in various sectors. The massive investment in the railways is gradually yielding dividends as intra and intercity rail transport has commenced in some major cities in the country. Thousands of kilo metres of roads, which were hitherto death-traps are witnessing massive rehabilitation while some are completed. The Benin-Lagos road, Onitsha-Owerri Road, the East-West road, Kano-Maiduguri Road among others are examples of previously abandoned projects which have received needed attention under the PDP led Federal Government. The dredging of River Niger to create a vibrant inland water ways system and the creation of River Ports and inland container depots are one of the most innovative and revolutionary measures ever undertaken in Nigeria's history.

'One of the biggest impediments to the timely delivery of goods and services in Nigeria was congestion at the ports, but the PDP Federal Government has effectively tackled this with our ports now offering 24 hour service and goods cleared in record time. Besides, our government recognizes that no meaningful development can be achieved without strong financial institutions in place. The bank reforms instituted across the years by the PDP led Federal Government did not only strengthen the banks but ensured they withstood the economic meltdown that pulled down financial institutions across the globe. The bottom line is that creating a vibrant private sector driven economy is a principal economic policy of the PDP. This is behind the privatization programme of the government which has so far achieved moderate degree of success. Under the PDP Government, the private sector has been on the rise, contributing millions of jobs and the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country which today stands at over $500 Billion from $170 Billion in 2005,' Chief Metuh posited.

He stated that the accountability and probity in public life is a vexed issue but the PDP led government over the years has taken the bull by the horns and created two anti-corruption institutions, namely the EFCC and ICPC. The effectiveness of these agencies, he said  is evident in the various trials and convictions where even high ranking members of the PDP who were found wanting were not spared, submitting further that the reforms in the power sector have also achieved a remarkable improvement in the generation and distribution of electricity round the nation. Massive investments into the sector have kept the hope of realizing 15,000 megawatts by 2015 intact.

But is this the case? Politicians like General Muhammadu Buhari disagree with the ruling party's spokesman, asserting that the nation has rather gone bad under the PDP, stipulating that the degree of corruption and electoral malfeasance being coordinated under the PDP-led government is absolutely devastating. Some other stakeholders are quick to point out the deteriorating security situation in the country, for which the ruling party says it is tackling and would soon come to an end. Whether the PDP has achieved much in the past 14 years remains a subject for public discussion. Credit must, however, be given to the party as since its August 31, 1998 formation, it is still the most visible of all political parties in the country with little or no opposition that is set to push it aside. Perhaps beyond the criticisms and lamentations by opposition parties, it is time to plan to cut short the ruling party's victory songs as like a stallion, the PDP, fourteen years after still remains the party to beat.