By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Andrew Essien, Abuja and Tope Fayehun, Akure –
The newly sworn in national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, has expressed apprehension and uncertainty about the party’s return to power in 2019, saying it is going to be herculean a task.
He however noted that it is achievable, just as he assured that he would ensure internal democracy is enthroned in the party.
Secondus, a former deputy national chairman of the PDP was sworn in as the new chairman of the party in the early hours of yesterday after defeating all the aspirants who contested the coveted position with him in the party’s national elective convention held at Eagle Square, Abuja.
Protests had trailed his victory, with two aspirants, Prof Tunde Adeniran, former minister of Education, and media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi, rejecting the outcome of the contest.
Before then, former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George; former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje and Olusegun Aderemi had withdrawn from the race for different reasons.
But Secondus, while making his acceptance speech, extended his hand of fellowship to other chairmanship aspirants, urging them to join hands with him to rebuild the party.
Noting that returning PDP to power in 2019 will not be easy, he said, “By my understanding, the mandate you have given us today is clear and unambiguous. It is to return our party to power come 2019. As Herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable. My campaign pillars for this election are ‘To Rebuild, Reposition and Regain’.
“Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice.
“This has to be immediate in order to save our beloved country from disintegration. We are all witnesses to how the unity of this country has been shaken to its very foundation under the watch of the rudderless and clueless APC. We therefore have a gigantic task of retrieving this country from APC’s clear lack of direction and confusion starting with the Presidency”.
He continued: “I stand before you this day, humbled by the mandate you just given to my colleagues and I to lead this great party at this time in Nigeria’s political history. We wholeheartedly accept it with extreme gratitude.
“Eighteen years ago specifically February 14, 1999, this party made history with its first ever national convention in Jos, Plateau State and since then, has grown to become undisputedly, the largest political party on the African continent.
“I recall that before that, precisely on the 19th of August, 1998, our founding fathers gathered here in Abuja to give birth to this party whose aims and objectives were patriotic, with lofty and visionary dreams”.
Secondus further said it had become crystal clear to all Nigerians that APC is not a political party, but a body hurriedly assembled to seize power without a clear cut plan for governance.
He noted that PDP was founded on ideals, which are totally in tandem with those of the founding fathers of this great country.
His words: “Those founding fathers had in mind a prosperous and lasting democracy as captured in the preamble of our constitution clearly stating their desire for a free and egalitarian society. Even in our perceived failure of 2015, we chose to abide by our strong faith in democracy, willingly conceding power to opposition, thereby elevating the democratic status of Nigeria. We are the true democrats!
“I can therefore say, without an iota of doubt, that PDP’s contributions to the growth and sustenance of democracy in this country in the last 18 years remain unequalled. The best way to celebrate the memories of these founding fathers is to ensure that the ideals are continuously engaged.
“With your mandate, I assure you that all necessary steps will be taken to avoid a repeat of our past mistakes. Indeed we have learnt our lessons and by this convention, we are now set to forge a new path for our great party and Nigeria. Under my watch, Internal democracy will be strictly adhered to, with a deliberate policy to return ‘real’ power to the people.
“No more imposition, no more impunity. Every member of this party can from this moment consider him or herself an equal shareholder in our common destiny. I call on all Nigerians of all creed and class to embrace this new PDP and join in this quest for a new Nigeria. Particularly, I reach out to our old members, who for one reason or the other have left the party, to please come back home”.
Acknowledging that his co-contestants for the chairmanship position, Secondus said any one of them is eminently qualified to lead the party.
‘I thank you for a worthy contest and being part of history as this marks the first time such a highly competitive contest to produce the leadership of a political party has been held in Nigeria. You have every cause to stand tall and I now extend my hand of fellowship to you all. Let ‘US’ Rebuild, Reposition & Regain”, he added.
You’re Wasting Your Time, APC Tells PDP
But in a swift reaction to the just concluded national elective convention of the PDP, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday picked holes in the process, saying the opposition party is wasting its time.
APC said the brazen display of votes buying indicated that the PDP has not changed its ways.
Likening the party to a leopard that cannot change its spot, the APC said the party had once again exposed itself to Nigerians that it was a “regional party” with a DNA deeply rooted in corruption.
In a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, APC called members of the PDP with integrity to come and join its ranks.
The statement reads: “In reacting to revelations of how money-for-votes and systematic rigging was brazenly perpetuated during the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) is mindful of the popular axiom: ‘A leopard cannot change its spot’.
“The abnormalities that trailed the PDP National Convention have further exposed the PDP as a Party not ready and willing to change. Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a Party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.
“Again, it is tragic that the PDP which used to pride itself as the biggest political Party in Africa has now been reduced to a regional party. By frustrating South West Chairmanship candidates, it is unfortunate that the PDP has decided to punish the South West for not voting for the Party in 2015.
“We urge members of the PDP that can pass the integrity test to join the APC so that we can together bring about the much-needed Change the country deserves”.
But hitting back immediately, PDP said it is embarrassing APC has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and convention in the last three years, which is a breach of its constitutional obligation.
The PDP, while upbraiding the ruling party for criticising its last Saturday’s national convention in Abuja, claimed that APC had plans to obstruct the gathering.
A statement by the new national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, added that the APC is jittery because it has lost control and only clutching on straws for survival, having been outrightly rejected by Nigerians.
The PDP spokesman said, “It is indeed laughable that the APC which has roundly failed in not only managing the affairs of the country but also its own internal issues would recourse to panic mode just because the PDP has succeeded in uniting its fronts by conducting a very credible elective National Convention.
“We were very much aware of the plots by the APC to scuttle the convention and failing, it has resorted to a failed attempt to discredit an elective convention that has been adjudged as creditable, novel and laudable by political stakeholders and lovers of democracy across the nation.
“This unwarranted attack is only symptomatic of a party that has lost control and only clutching on straws for survival having been outrightly rejected by Nigerians.
“Is it not disgusting, reprehensible and embarrassing that the APC that has repeatedly failed to hold meetings, congresses and convention in the last three years and has flagrantly continued to violate its own constitution is questioning our party’s rights to perform her legitimate and constitutional obligation?
“Perhaps APC leaders have never read Article 25 (A)(i) of their party’s Constitution which stipulates that ‘the National Convention of the party (APC) shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee (NWC) and approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC) subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.
“Which impunity could be higher than APC violating its constitution? It is strange that APC could be moralizing on the principles of social justice whereas its actions against Nigerians are a complete departure from the norms.
“It is important for this spokesman of a failed party and his pack of incompetent members to reminisce on the needless pains and suffering they have inflicted on Nigerians rather than being jittery over the successful outcome of the PDP’s elective national convention”.
APC Govs Will Stand With PMB – Okorocha
Meanwhile, chairman of APC governors’ forum and Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, has said the statement credited to the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 election by the governors came to him as surprise.
Okorocha who stated this while fielding questions from journalists after he was conferred with a doctorate degree from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, at the weekend said nothing will change the endorsement of the president by the governors for the election.
Tinubu had in Akure during a private visit to the leader of the Pan Yoruba Socio- Political Group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, ruled out automatic ticket for President Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
Tinubu said “no governor can appropriate the power of endorsement to themselves, adding that an individual opinions ‘does not matter at this stage”.
But Okorocha who noted that he endorsed the president on behalf of the governors said since he endorsed Buhari, none of the governors has said something contrary.
He said, “The statement credited to our national leader came to me as a surprise. Come to think of it, I never referred to him. I refer to the governors of Nigeria, including the PDP and I said only one or two of them have not joined yet.
“Since I made the statement, no governor has said something contrary to what I said. I am surprised that Asiwaju will now be speaking for the governors. He looks like somebody crying more than the bereaved.
“I did not see reason for the statement actually, but he commands my respect and I don’t want to join issue with the national leader of my party. What I mentioned was for the governors and secondly what I said is support. The word I used is ‘support’; that does not mean there will not be primaries.
“Governors can only contribute only 37 votes; we still have over 5,000 votes up there. What I was talking about were governors. I was not talking about other party members. Governors alone do not determine the flag-bearer of a party.
“If you recall, I said if not for Buhari I would have run for presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But I found in him a man credible and he still has four years term to do. I will allow him to complete and I will go back to my political trenches because I will still run for presidency anyhow.
“I consider myself young enough to wait till 2023 and I don’t hide my stand on any issue. But for now, my support goes to President Muhammadu Buhari”.
Speaking on the defection of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from APC, Okorocha said, “I have taken holistic view of our party; it is not the best because no matter how anybody thinks, Atiku carries some political weight. His leaving our party is not the best.
“But all said and done, since he has forged ahead by going to another political party, we will make amends and his place will be filled up accordingly.
“There is nothing to be jittery about the outcome of the PDP’s convention. We are very confident that our presidential candidate to be, President Muhammadu Buhari, is up to the task.
“He has impeccable track record that it would take an unusual presidential candidate of a rival political party to match him. This is the strength of our party couple with the fact that APC governors are performing, we are sure we will deliver 2019”.