IN what appears to be an attempt at breaking the ice, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, met with leaders of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) together with their All Progressive Congress (APC) counterparts at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The meeting, which was the first of such since his assumption of office, was couched as a welcome visit for the president following his recent return from the United Kingdom (UK)
after about 105 days away on medical vacation.
Buhari in his address, stressed the imperative of a viable opposition in a democracy, noting that it was not hostility, enmity or antagonism.
“Multi-party democracy is a very tried and tested form of government. Opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible,” he said.
The president thanked the party leaders for taking out time from their busy schedules to welcome him back home, observing that the meeting signified national unity.
“This visit signifies the unity of Nigeria. It is not a party occasion. It is not a political gathering. It is a symbol of our national unity. It is also an expression of the maturity of our democracy,” he stated.
He expressed delight in seeing the politicians together and urged them to convey his good wishes to their members.
He added: “I am very pleased to see you assembled here, all shades of opinion in Nigeria. Please convey to our countrymen and women in your respective states my deep gratitude to all those who prayed for my recovery.
“I am imploring all Nigerians to continue praying for peace and prosperity in Nigeria.”
In his address at the occasion, Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said the party had continued to pray for Buhari’s good health when he was away, saying that now that he has recovered, the opposition would give him ‘a run for his money’.
Makarfi said: “In any case, this PDP firmly believes that opposition is no madness; it will therefore never wish ill of anybody, let alone the person saddled with the responsibility of leading our country.
“Mr President, you will agree with me that the PDP has more than a fair knowledge and experience of the weight of that responsibility.
“Mr President, having welcomed you back and prayed for you, let me seize this opportunity to assure you, and through you, the entire country, that the PDP having assumed the leadership of the opposition in this country, is poised to play that role energetically, vibrantly, but very decently and with all sense of responsibility.
“This we shall do by giving you a good run for your money and constantly keeping you on your toes as we all strive to make this country better.”
While pledging opposition’s support for government’s fight against terrorism, cattle herdsmen/farmers clashes, among other, Makarfi said such vices have slowed down the nation’s wheels of progress.
On the war against corruption, the party boss offered PDP’s cooperation but admonished government to grant anti-corruption agencies the needed independence and be sure to obey judicial pronouncements.
Makarfi stated: “We also offer our support for the fight against corruption and appeal that the institutions saddled with this onerous task be given all necessary encouragement and independence to do the right thing.
“This will help in further strengthening our institutions and insulating them from undue political interferences. It will also help give them a more credible outlook in the eyes of the public.
“There is no way we can have a respectable voice in the comity of civilized nations until we rebuild our institutions and imbue them with the necessary independence and confidence that will improve both their visage and standing with the citizenry.
“The government should lead the charge in this regard by, especially, exhibiting greater respect to judicial pronouncements as well as respecting the fundamental rights of all Nigerians.
“The PDP as a great believer in the unity of this country will also partner with the government in any way(s) that will strengthen our historic bond and rebuild bridges of our beautiful relationships that seem to be cracking at the moment.”
In his remark, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, praised the idea behind the meeting, saying that it was an indication that Buhari was president of all.