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Secondus wobbles under PDP’s unfinished leadership crisis

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Uche Secondus

It was expected to unfold during the December 2020 national convention. But the current trouble with the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is neither a storm in a teacup nor the result of sudden vexation among some of its national leaders.

Within the past one month, it was evident that, on its way to seeking another opportunity to preside over the affairs of the country, PDP seems to be bogged by serious internal controversies, including echoes from the last presidential primary in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2018 and the 2019 general elections.
   
Shortly after the 2019 general elections, which it narrowly lost, the second time to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), the national leadership of PDP set up a presidential election review committee. The committee chaired by the Bauchi State governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, received memoranda from PDP stakeholders across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
 

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Although the committee, among other issues, looked into how to improve the administration of the party with a view to recalibrating its systems to enhance its electoral fortunes, a lot of concerns were thrown up that revolved around the loss of the 2019 poll, particularly what disposed stakeholders to play aloof as well as engage in
anti-party activities.
   
But, while the committee made recommendations on how to fund the party and make it the property of ordinary members, it was accused of failing to expose the various complaints and subdued grief among some prominent stakeholders.
 
Some of these concerns include, failure to speak on the cost of litigations during the Senators Ahmed Makarfi versus Ali Modu Sheriff contestation for the leadership of the party and funding the maintenance of staff of the national headquarters secretariat of the party.
   
It was gathered that some state governors who were angry at the way Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his former Ekiti counterpart, Ayo Fayose, brought Sheriff into the headship of PDP, decided to turn away from funding the party after the Rivers State governor insisted on Prince Uche Secondus as the party’s national
chairman.
   
The governors, most of who complained of financial challenges in their domains, were said to have expressed some misgivings that Wike appropriated the national chairmanship as reward for funding the party.
   
According to a former state governor, some of the grievances within the party, particularly the NWC, also included the way the party’s presidential ticket was surrendered to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and are not happy that he stayed away for long thereafter, by not providing direction as opposition leader.
   
The indifference of second term governors regarding future prospects of the party, were among reasons the seven mutineers in the National Working Committee (NWC) cited.

Fighting for 2023 opening

Atiku. Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar

THEN, there is the issue of 2023 calculations and the ambition of some state governors to seek the presidential nomination of the party. The thinking among the gladiators in the fight for the soul of PDP is that after being propelled by Wike to become chairman, Secondus shifted his loyalty to the 2019 Presidential candidate of the party and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
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Said a source close to the former Vice President, “Those who are fighting Secondus are not happy that he aligned his aspiration to seek a second term with Atiku, who is also banking on the notion of right of first refusal to re-contest the presidency in 2023.
   
“If you look closely into the misunderstanding, you will see that it has much to do with 2023, because those who are currently advocating for balance in NWC through accommodation of Southwest were the same people that ensured the zone did not clinch the chairmanship during the 2017 national convention.”
   
As at the time signs of the impending cataclysm in PDP emerged, the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, told The Guardian that even though some people wanted to contest for certain positions, it would not be right to stop anybody from seeking the mandate of the party to contest the Presidential ticket or for the office of PDP national chairman.
 
Although Prince Secondus has not formally indicated his preparedness to seek another term, it is believed by some prominent leaders of the party that his continued stay in office could jeopardise their chances of achieving relevance or political positions in 2023.
   
Some of the incumbent and former state governors throwing their weights around the national chairman are being propelled by two major considerations, namely getting back at Wike and ensuring that Atiku Abubakar flies the party’s flag in 2023.
   
Sources disclosed that it was the perception that Secondus’ continued stay in office beyond December this year has been tied to Atiku’s ambition.
   
In a bid to reconcile the contending issues between the two Rivers State politicians, Benue State governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, reportedly invited Wike and Secondus to Makurdi. Although Governor Ortom informed journalists after the two-hour meeting that the meeting was part of the efforts aimed at regaining the confidence of Nigerians and winning the 2023 general elections, it was learnt that the two former allies were not forthcoming.
 
But, while the state governors seem divided unevenly between Wike and Secondus, the general mood in the party is that a change in the party’s leadership is a must if PDP desires to compete effectively in the 2023 poll.
   
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For instance, not long after Governor Ortom’s reconciliation efforts in Makurdi, a member of the House of Representatives, Rimamnde Kwewum, disclosed that PDP would have to do away with Secondus’ leadership for the party to win the 2023 poll. According to Kwewum, who represents Donga/Takum/Yangtu Federal Constituency, “For PDP to be competitive in the next election, there has to be a change in the leadership of the party.”
   
While contending that what was happening within PDP is not a crisis, Kwewum observed that all over the world, the standard has been that “when a party leadership leads it to a defeat, it gives way for new ideas to take over.”
   
“It is wrong to say there is crisis in the PDP; what we face now is that some members, including the governor of Rivers State and some people at the National Assembly and a greater majority of members of the party think that the national chairman has done enough, even though his tenure will not elapse until November.”
   
Kwewum noted that since there are court cases in some state chapters, the popular view in the party is that Secondus should leave for the party to use the remaining three months of his tenure to reorganise and reconcile members of the party.

Hitting Wike, seconding Secondus
THE plot to evict Secondus from office has become a new window of hyper, but counter-productive activity within the main opposition party. The Guardian was told that those who had one grudge or another against the Rivers State governor, Wike, have been demonstrating affected solidarity for the embattled national chairman, when in
essence all they are intent on was just to irritate Wike.
   
On the other hand, immediate past Bayelsa State governor and Senator representing Bayelsa West, Henry Seriake Dickson, came out to argue against the moves to excuse Secondus from the NWC before his full term. He is of the view that all matters, including sacking or otherwise of Secondus should be resolved at the national convention. Doing otherwise, he says would create more trouble for the party.
   

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In a statement, Dickson, who chaired PDP Reconciliation Committee from 2013 to 2020, said an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting was urgent to address the contending issues, stressing that those creating friction within the NWC want to cause implosion in the party.
       

Seriake Dickson

The Senator, who was also a one-time chairman PDP Governors’ Forum, urged “the BOT, the National Assembly Caucus, elders and leaders of the party across the country to stand with the national chairman and the NWC to prevent the party from this avoidable crisis.”
   
He cautioned, “If the PDP shrinks from a party for all to a party for a few, it would lose its selling point and many members and leaders will have no option than to review their membership.
   
“We are not a ruling party at the centre. We don’t have the time, resources and mechanisms to resolve problems that will arise from a caretaker committee, which will throw up more problems before the party convention and primaries at the centre and across the states.
   
“I caution all those behind this crisis not to leave any opening to the APC to exploit with their control of the resources and machinery of government.”
   
While warning the party against contemplating a caretaker committee, Dickson reminded PDP stakeholders to “learn from the challenge the APC has found itself with the appointment of a caretaker committee, which is still unfolding. With only four months to the end of the tenure of the current working committee, it does not make sense to either push for and force a resignation, or to force the appointment of a caretaker committee on a party with officers, who have a constitutionally guaranteed tenure.”
   
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“Furthermore, with only about a year to the nomination of candidates in the light of the ongoing electoral acts amendments bill, it again does not make sense to push a divisive agenda that the party may not have the time resources and mechanism to resolve before the nomination processes and primaries, which by their nature are
divisive.”
   
But, pushing back on Dickson’s suasion, the national youth leader, Comrade S. K.E Ude-Okoye, who sparked the crisis in a television appearance, explained that the major aim of calling for Secondus’ resignation was to save the party from reinforcing failure.
   
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Okah Ewah Edede, Ude-Okoye noted that since Prince Uche Secondus came on board as the national chairman, he (Secondus) has not gone to any PDP or non-PDP state on a membership drive.
   
“Prince Uche Secondus has also failed to astutely and wisely manage the internal conflicts and contradictions rocking the PDP. This inability to manage conflict has led to mass defection of PDP leaders to the ruling APC, thereby weakening the opposition. He has also adamantly refused to listen to advise from well-meaning party leaders
on how to steer the affairs of the PDP.
   
“The PDP governors, party leaders, members of the NWC, NEC, and BOT have all tried to manage Prince Uche Secondus and his abysmal leadership style in the hope that he will harken to the voice of reason and change his style, but unfortunately, this seems not to be the case as he seems entrenched in his destructive style of leadership that has driven the PDP into a hole of despondency, dismay, disillusionment, and despair,” Ude-Okoye stated.
   
Ude-Okoye further alleged that “with a corruption case in the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) hanging over his head, it is morally and ethically wrong for Prince Uche Secondus to continue as the national chairman of the main opposition party, because such a baggage can and will mortgage the chances of the party at the polls.”
   
But, peeved by the affront of the PDP national youth leader, Secondus pleaded with Ude-Okoye to take instructions from his paymasters and leave him (Secondus) alone.
   
In a statement through his Special Assistant on Media, Ike Abonyi, the national chairman accused Ude-Okoye of being a hireling, stressing that those who sent him (Ude-Okoye) on the destructive errand are disgruntled politicians working for another party with eyes on the 2023 general election.
   
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‘’The statement from the Party’s National Youth leader calling on the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to resign from his position, is unfortunate. We wonder why it took the National Youth leader three and half years before realising that the National Chairman is incompetent or that he is enriching himself. The agenda of Hon. Udo Okoye and his sponsors are to take this party back to Egypt, but they have failed, because the party is focused and unwilling to look back as they match towards regaining power.
 

‘’The party structure is intact and anybody who allows him or herself to fall to the inducement for an interim administration in the party will be disappointed because the stakeholders are not ready to go backwards any longer,’’ the statement added.

Caretaker kite
IT would be recalled that the idea of setting up a caretaker committee was mooted shortly after the Governor Mohammed Bala committee submitted its report, where the recommendation for a moratorium was suggested.
   
Insiders disclosed that since funding of the party’s activities by a prominent stakeholder provided him the avenue for excesses, it was suggested a caretaker committee headed by the immediate past President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, should be put in place.
   
A source in the party explained that the idea was to elevate the Saraki reconciliation committee into a caretaker committee to smoothen all the rough edges concerning zoning of national offices, funding and planning for the November national convention.
   

Wike. Photo/TWITTER/GOVWIKE

Member of the House of Representatives, Kwewum, who hinted at the necessity of a caretaker committee, also noted that challenges posed in some state chapters that were yet to conclude their congresses made it hard to pursue a genuine reconciliation of party members.
   
Kwewum remarked: “We think that it will be good to have somebody that is not part of the crisis to manage the process of reconciliation and the process of reorganising the party to be able to fight effectively during the 2023 general elections.
   
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“Some people may feel offended that such a call is coming but I am of the view that this call should have come even before now. But it is clear that there are frictions, there are some challenges and it will be better for the party for a new leadership to resolve.”
   
With the forces arrayed against Secondus, amid calls for the Southwest to be pacified with the office of national chairman, it is obvious that PDP’s attempt to jettison zoning might make it vulnerable once again at the general election. That depends on where the APC stands on zoning.
 
Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, Chief Dave Umahi, while announcing his defection to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) last year, accused the party of neglecting his zone in the 2023 presidential calculations.
   
Umahi also hinted that both Secondus and the 2019 presidential running mate of the party, Mr. Peter Obi, may not be considered to retain their positions due to the machinations of an unnamed powerful figure in the party. Even though Umahi’s postulation is self-serving and his expectations could be cut short in his new abode, it is expected that the PDP will find a grain of wisdom in it.
 
With barely three months to the PDP national convention, whether Secondus stays or leaves before November would determine the structural health of the main opposition party going forward to the 2023 election year.

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