When the National Chairman of our Party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), decided to call the emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), I decided to alter my long-standing programme to be able to address you and, through you, members of our great Party and, of course, by extension, the nation.
The National Assembly as the constitutional and legitimate body for making laws for this country including the supreme law of the land - the Constitution - has just concluded as it deemed fit, especially the Senate, the exercise on the amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The outcome is victory for democracy. There is no absolute right and absolute truth except God. And in any argument or debate, there is bound to be an element of right and wrong or truth and untruth on either side. And we must respect each other no matter the human verdict and human foibles. Respect, of course, begets respect.
At the last NEC meeting, our Party took a position as a major stakeholder in the Constitutional Amendment debate, as normal in a democracy. And again, as a democratic Party, it did not impose its decision on its members in this respect; no matter what office they hold. Members were allowed to discuss freely and to act or vote according to the dictate of their conscience. That is democracy at work. And it must be hailed in spite of alleged imperfections.
Many derogatory statements and unfounded allegations have been made about me and my position concerning the so-called third term in the National Assembly and in the media which are false, incorrect and uncalled for. Of course, that is part of burden of leadership in our own type of society. However, I believe that in all situations, decorum must be maintained and different arms of Government must perform their functions with mutual respect and dignity.
Just as the National Assembly and the Distinguished and Honourable Members should be respected, they too must learn to respect others and other institutions. Tolerance is a mark of maturity.
Throughout the period, I resisted the invitation to be drawn on either side and I maintained studied silence. I was maligned, insulted and wrongly accused but I remained where I am and what I am and I remained focused. However, one thing is clear from the exercise, the Constitution has been operated and it stood the test of democracy. There are some regrettable reports from all accounts that I received, and that is the threat of, or actual use of blackmail, intimidation and violence on both sides.
Once debate and discourse are being substituted by intimidation, blackmail, threats and violence, then democracy is in great danger. I have also received allegations of bribery which EFCC is investigating. Apart from these unsavoury allegations, the exercise is another process in the operation of our Constitution. The Constitution should hopefully be strengthened by the process and the exercise that have just been concluded. As a political Party, we should accept the verdict of the National Assembly even though the two Chambers initially concluded differently. The Constitution must be held hallowed and sacred. And, on the basis of the Constitution in hand, we must start to plan for the next elections.
I have no doubt in my mind that the acrimony, threats and media excesses that accompanied the Constitutional Amendment exercise, must have created or deepened conflicts and divisions within our Party. As a matter of urgency, Mr. Chairman and members of NEC, I believe that we must embark on fence-mending, soothing of relationships, closing gaps and reconciling and ensuring inclusion wherever possible. Setting up a team of three eminent men and women of great maturity and integrity to carry out the exercise in each zone with the Zonal Vice-Chairman accompanying may be the way to deal with the issues expeditiously within the next two weeks.
Again, I want to congratulate the proponents and the opponents in our Party of the Constitution Amendment exercise that the National Assembly has just concluded. As a Party, we should put the issue behind us, heal the wound of acrimony and together march forward. Once again, it was democracy at work and it was victory for democracy. And all Nigerian democrats are winners.
At this juncture, I want to reiterate that as the Leader of this great Party, I will continue to defend the Constitution and protect democracy. My track record speaks for itself in this regard and having been a victim of a ruthless undemocratic regime, I cannot be anything but a guardian of democracy. Under no excuse or guise should democracy and its practice be supplanted with any substitution whatsoever.
Let me, at this juncture, commend and thank our loyal members and supporters who have commitedly entrusted the running of the affairs of this country to our great Party, the PDP. As a political party, we have performed and we will continue to perform. Nigerians know us and they have trusted us and they can continue to trust us. We will not betray their trust. I personally, once again, thank our Party loyalists and our Nigerian supporters for the confidence reposed in me. Let me also assure you and let me assure Nigerians that the PDP will continue to be well led. Let me, in a special way, commend the National Chairman of our Party and his team for their hard work, loyalty and commitment and Chairman of Board of Trustees and his team of loyal and steadfast trustees for same. I will not leave out, of course, our foot soldiers at the State, Local Government and ward levels for appreciation and commendation. They have done us proud.
We must never give way to detractors, predators, dividers, and destroyers. We must remain strong.
As democrats, we must move ahead to put our houses at every level in order so as to prepare us to focus on continuously repositioning Nigeria for unity, security, stability, democracy, transparency, accountability, economic development and growth and good governance in its broadest sense and a place in the global division of labour and decision-making. No God-fearing human being should consider fellow human beings as expendable to achieve political position and office or any position for that matter. Let us, together, stand tough and tall as the glorious future beckons to us. We cannot afford another misstep. God forbid.
May God bless you, May God bless our great Party. May God continue to bless Nigeria. Forward ever.