Twists, turns as PDP’s feuding camps plot survival strategies ahead convention
•Suspicion Trails Akinwonmi’s Push For New NWC
•Secondus Woos Mark’s Peace Panel
Barely 16 months to the 2023 general elections, desperation for the control of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) structure is pushing its leaders to adopt extreme measures and strategies to outwit one another.
The pervading distrust, suspicion, display of political wits and machinations as well as deployment of mercenaries within party ranks, according to sources, is now reducing the confidence earlier reposed in the acting chairman, Yemi Akinwonmi, who was confirmed to act for embattled party chairman, Uche Secondus, pending the resolution of cases in and outside the court.
Both parties in the crisis, the anti and pro-Secondus camps, are however relating with the Akinwonmi leadership with utmost caution because of the circumstances that threw Akinwonmi up.
The anti-Secondus group had in the wake of the Rivers State High Court order, which restrained Secondus from parading himself as member and chairman of the party, tipped the party’s deputy national chairman (North), Senator Suleiman Nazif, as acting chairman because of the suspicion that Akinwonmi had allegedly been reached by those supporting Secondus.
But after some hostile exchanges, Nazif was persuaded to step down for Akinwonmi who is originally empowered by the party’s constitution to act in the absence of the national chairman, a development hailed by allies and supporters of Secondus.
However, the joy in the Secondus camp was short-lived following what some leading members of the group described as ‘highly suspicious actions and remarks’ by Akinwonmi.
At the meeting of the party’s National caucus, which preceded the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, Akinwonmi had not only promised to ensure speedy convening of party faithful for the October convention, he stated that the convention would produce a “brand new” members of National Working Committee (NWC) for the PDP next month.
“This statement is pregnant with meanings because you know that some persons including influential governors do not want the present members of the NWC, including Secondus to seek re-election in that October convention. That is one of the knotty issues in this crisis,” said an NWC member.
While the statement has made some party members uncomfortable, their fear and suspicion has been heightened by the speed with which the first meeting of the Akinwonmi-led NWC reversed earlier decisions of the Secondus leadership to shift the convention from October to the end of November, 2021, because of already lined up party activities in September and October, including state congresses in some zones.
The NWC member also provided further information on how the party will conduct all affairs relating to the convention in addition to already scheduled activities.
“What I can tell you is that we all, including those against Secondus, are working for the success of the PDP in spite of the reversal of that decision. There was nothing personal in seeking to shift the convention from October to November. The party will now have to make serious adjustments in planning for those activities. Apart from congresses in some states and even zones, we have an election to plan and campaign for in Anambra State slated for November; preparation for elections in Ekiti, Osun are there too. Our fears were that campaigns and preparations for the convention could negatively affect preparations for those other political activities.”
Meanwhile, as Secondus explores survival strategies, more plots to tighten the noose on his neck are being hatched by his transducers who have gone beyond political wits to judicial warfare. But to boost his survival strategies, Secondus had acted swiftly in meeting with the David Mark-led committee set up to meet all parties in the crisis and explore opportunities and possibilities of withdrawing cases from the law courts.
In the meeting, which took place the very day the committee was set up, Secondus expressed his readiness not to ask his supporters to withdraw cases from court but pledged to comply with all other conditions that might help in halting the crisis in the party.
However, shortly after the meeting, a worse court order was issued by the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar. The order went beyond barring Secondus from parading himself as member and chairman of the PDP; it stopped him from contesting in the October convention and seeking re-election.
The latest order, coupled with the pressure on him by previous political manoeuvres and machinations, resulted in his inability to show up at the NEC meeting that held penultimate Saturday. The development dashed hopes of his supporters about his return as helmsman of the party.
As the crisis lingers, revelations have emerged that directly or indirectly, Secondus might have played roles in the political upheavals he is currently undergoing.
The Guardian learnt from key party stakeholders that Secondus and his estranged godfather, Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State had a political understanding long before his emergence as the national chairman. But that Secondus reneged on that agreement.
Secondus was also reported to have advised that in 2023, it is better that the governor be allowed to emerge from another zone different from Wike’s interest. Again, this was alleged to have attracted Wike’s anger.
To prove his political might and superiority, Wike was said to have activated the anti-Secondus war. So far, the governor is believed to have been able to remove Secondus’ name from the political map of Rivers State as the embattled PDP chairman failed to produce even a Ward Councillor in the Rivers State Local government elections that held in April, 2021.
How South West Politics Increased Secondus’ Enemies
IN what later became a serious political undoing, the role Secondus is believed to have played in the election of the Southwest Vice Chairman of the PDP earlier in the year, is playing a role in his current political problems.
He is believed to have supported the immediate past national vice chairman (Southwest), Eddy Olafeso who was defeated in the election by a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja. That election pitched Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State against former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose. Expectedly, Makinde, Arapaja and a host of other PDP leaders in the Southwest are playing against Secondus in this crisis.
Recall that Arapaja was among those who called for Secondus’ resignation before the court cases emerged. Those who made the call included the National Vice Chairman from Southwest zone, Ambassador Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja; South-South zone, Chief Dan Osi; Southeast, Chief Ali Odefa and North-Central, Dankas Shau.
In a joint statement after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Sunday, August 8, 2021, they said that to avert further crisis in the party, the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, should resign and save the party from further disintegration. They alluded that the resignation of its national officers was as a result of the inert leadership of the national chairman, and as well the movement of governors of the party to the failed ruling party.
Secondus’ Survival Strategies, Chances
BEFORE the political battle became fierce, Secondus was believed to have had a strong relationship with leaders of the party, including governors from the North and a few others from the South. Among these are those opposed to Wike’s politics.
Secondus was also believed to have established good relationship with serving chairman of state chapters of the PDP, particularly where the party has no governor. But the extent to which he will deploy this support base into good use depends on the political dynamics that will play out as the crisis lingers.
Speaking on the chances of surviving the crisis, some leaders expressed the belief that the David Mark-led peace committee could play a key role. They noted that having pledged to comply with all conditions given by the panel, Secondus should maintain that position and avoid further media war. They also opined that the respect for Mark across all quarters in Nigeria could sway support for whatever it recommends.
The committee was set up to ensure that cases are withdrawn from court. If it achieves this feat before the October convention, Secondus may regain his position and stay till December 9 when his tenure ends.
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