“History will not judge us kindly if this country fails as a result of our actions and inactions.”
President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday warned Nigeria’s political class that history would not forgive them if the country fails.
Mr. Jonathan urged the political class to ask their supporters and followers across the country to focus on saving the nation’s democracy.
The president was speaking at a summit of all political parties held at the International Conference Center, Abuja.
“We must reinforce and recommit our various supporters across the nation to the Nigerian project irrespective of party affiliation, ideological differences and alliances,” Mr. Jonathan said. “History will not judge us kindly if this country fails as a result of our actions and inactions.
“Let us bear in mind that no advantage or benefit can be gained by any political party over the other if our democracy fails. We have no choice but to work together and the time is now.”
Reviewing the nation’s political outlook, Mr. Jonathan said he noted with regrets the comments and conducts of leading politicians, stating that they were heightening the tensions. He said collaboration among the various political parties have been less than salutary.
“Dear compatriots, the current national political outlook with regards to inter-party collaboration is less than salutary. Indeed, the conduct and utterances of leading politicians at home and abroad are rapidly creating and spreading unnecessary tension in the country,” he said.
The President, who was flanked by former head of state, Muhammadu Buhari; ex-Vice President, Alex Ekwueme; ex-military dictator, Abdulsalami Abubakar; and others further noted that unguarded utterances fester the embers of discord, bitterness, and rancour in the country. He added that such unfortunate development play into the hands of extremist elements waging a vicious campaign of terror against the state.
Mr. Jonathan said the increased activities of armed groups and insurgents are better addressed by a political class united in its commitment to defend the polity irrespective of political differences.
He cited the recent bombings in Abuja and Jos leading to death of scores of people; as well as the continuous killings in Adamawa and Borno; and the abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok in Borno State, saying the political class needs to work together.
“We must never politicize the fundamentals and core imperatives of defending the state; as to do so can only embolden the terrorists and other enemies of our republic who will seek to employ any perceived political and social division for their nefarious ends,” he said.
He also appealed to political parties in the country to relate with one another and conduct themselves with responsibility and statesmanship, with a focus on positive inputs into governance whether they are in power at present or not.
“Inter party relations and collaborations make it incumbent on the party in power to govern in recognition of beneficial voices and views of political party and vice versa for the parties out of government to proffer issue based engagement towards improved performance in governance and service delivery to the people,” he said.
The president noted that all these could only be possible through a rancour free relationship amongst political parties in their conducts, acts and utterances.
He also traced Nigeria’s political history since independence, stating that it “is replete with examples of viable collaborations amongst political parties in and out of government”
“Of course, listening to the speech from former President Shagari made reference to such cases,” he said.
“In the First Republic, the ruling Northern Peoples Congress NPC had an alliance with the national council of Nigerian Citizens NCNC, which allowed the leader of the latter, the late Rt Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, to become the President of Nigeria. In the Second Republic, a unique alliance between the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN and the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, made it possible for the NPP which did not have a majority in the House to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives”
“At the commencement of the Fourth Republic, on the invitation by the ruling PDP, members of the opposition parties were appointed Ministers and Special Advisers to the President and other positions in the government. Indeed, the first Special Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs, the late Senator Mahmud Waziri, was the founding chairman of the then opposition All Peoples Party, APP, later All Nigeria’s Peoples Party. ANPP”
“In furtherance of this role, the Inter Party office has continued to promote cordial and positive relationship amongst all political parties which culminated in the establishment of an inter party advisory council, IPAC, a structure recognized by INEC. Consequently, in 2011 all political parties agreed and committed themselves to a code of conduct for political behaviour”.
Mr. Jonathan said Article 7 of the code states that ” No political Party or candidate shall during campaign, resort to the use of inflammatory language, provocative actions, images or manifestation that incite violence, hatred, contempt, or intimidation against another party or candidate, or any person or group of persons on grounds of ethnicity, gender or for any other reason. Accordingly, no political party or candidate shall issue any poster pamphlet, leaflet or any other publication that contains any such incitement.”
He, however, warned that” Nigeria’s social stability and democratic consolidation will be greatly undermined if by complacent and indifferent attitude, by critical national political stakeholders, it is wrongly presumed that the nation’s democratic system has become invisible and can therefore be taken for granted without constant and careful monitoring”
“We must never give them such opportunity. Our political parties must remain positive and constructive in their engagements as we seek to build virile and stable nation that can compete with other states in the world.”
The summit, he said, offers opportunities for political parties and indeed politicians to reflect and review the possible consequences their actions, conducts and utterances in the recent past have had and will have on Nigeria’s polity and corporate existence.
“This summit must be an occasion for political rejuvenation and re-orientation. Its outcome must be a common stand against all and any anti-democratic forces that are currently waging vicious and mindless war against the state,” he said.
He also charged them on the need to first build a nation before engaging on arguments on how best to run it, adding that “the system is not yet so shock proof to withstand all unguarded and careless political statements and action.”
“If our state enterprise fails, no political party or politician that can stand it. Hence at a time such as this, when our existence as a nation is threatened by anti-democratic forces, we politicians and political parties must rise to the higher moral grounds in defence and protection of our existence as one nation and one people.
“Our roles should not be limited to the struggle to win elections and acquire political powers but also to handling…patriotism and statesmanship and restoring hope to the Nigerian people,” he said.
“In all these, it is pertinent that the act, conducts and utterances of all political stakeholders reflect the highest level of commitment to the defense and preservation of our social cohesion, our political stability and our sovereignty as a nation.”
Tracing the history of Nigeria’s modest achievements in the last 15 years, the President noted that Nigeria, during the military era, “found itself at the cross road of political determination, instability and progress threatened and pushed to the limits. Fear, uncertainty and a near total loss of hope took over the minds of our people. They were close to losing our way in the struggle of building a united, prosperous and democratic nation. At that time, it was the political class that rose to the challenge of rescuing the nation and steering it back to the part of state building and productive enterprise.”
He said this “courageous struggle for our democracy was fought across ethnic and religious divide by politicians and statesmen, who put everything at stake including their lives to bring back hope to Nigerians and the Nigerian state.”
“Nigerians will still recollect the courageous struggles waged by various political associations and pressure groups notably the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, the Eastern Mandate Union, the Afenifere and the G34 amongst others.”
He noted that “although different in style and ideological inclinations, these political associations advocated and converged on one central objective, that is – relaunching the country on the path of true democracy and the preservation of its cooperate existence.”
“These they did irrespective of tribal, ethnic, ideological and political differences. In the process, quite a number of these gallant men and women paid the ultimate price in restoring the nation to the democratic path. This marked the birth of the fourth Republic.”
“Thus on the 29th of May, 1999, we did not only celebrate our newly own democracy, but also the labour and struggles of these heroes -living and dead in the struggle for the restoration of our democracy. We also celebrated the rebirth of a nation and then renewal of our collective commitments towards a stable and self sustaining statehood,” he said.
According to him, “in the past 15 years of the Nigerian Fourth Republic, several milestones have been recorded in our political development. Our electoral processes have been transformed, strengthened and subjected to a guiding principle of universal electoral standards with greater election credibility.
“Our democratic image has been enhanced and the culture of separation of
Powers and the respect for the rule of law deepened. Perhaps, unsung is the fact that Nigeria has operated and maintained one of the most robust, effective and decisive electoral justices system anywhere in the world. Provisions and procedures for seeking judicial redress have always and fully utilized by politicians and political parties before, during, and after elections.
“Till date, every court or election tribunal, decision have been respected and obeyed by government to the letter and I believe all the parties obey court decisions. With the growth of our institutions and the rightful positioning of our ombudsman and the proper interface in public governance and service delivery, political parties and party politics have become entrenched as the anchor and basis of democracy in Nigeria.”
“The media as the Fourth Estate of the realm has also continued to play its role unhindered as the watch dog. But it is not in doubt that Nigeria has one of the freest media in the whole world operating within fundamental freedom and rights unrestricted by the state,” the president said without mentioning the recent attacks on newspapers by soldiers.
“Lately, however, this freedom of expression has also been robustly and exuberantly embraced by the social media.
“The freedom of Association and assembly and expression within constitutional provision, is largely taken for granted. Our democracy has witnessed unbroken political transition and successful session of government from 1999 to date,” he said.