President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with the national executive of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the presidential villa, Abuja.
This is the first time in this political dispensation that a president will be meeting with his party and the opposition together.
At the meeting, President Buhari told members of the opposition PDP that their job was not to be hostile, antagonise or make enemy of the government.
He however admitted that democracy needs vibrant but responsible opposition.
The PDP delegation was led by the chairman of its national caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, while that of the APC was led by the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Both leaders addressed the president on behalf of their delegations.
Buhari said, “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.
“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”.
The President thanked the party leaders for the visit and their prayers for his quick recovery, adding that Nigerians should continue to pray for peace and prosperity of the country.
In his remarks, Makarfi told Buhari that the PDP was relentless in their prayers for his sound health in spite of party differences, noting that it was a thing of joy that God had answered their prayers.
While pledging loyalty of the major opposition party to government, the PDP leader enjoined President Buhari should demonstrate respect for judicial pronouncements and the fundamental human rights of citizens.
He said, “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 for 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 that will strengthen our historic bond and rebuild bridges of our beautiful relationship that seems to be cracking at the moment.
Speaking on behalf of the APC delegation, Odigie-Oyegun noted that people will be surprised to see APC and PDP in a joint welcome visit to the president.
He commended the president for initiating the meeting to show that he is president of all Nigerians, party affiliations notwithstanding.
Oyegun also noted that by convening the meeting, Buhari has shown that there were more important issues than pouring invectives on one another.