Ahead of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the search for the next national chairman of the party has begun.
Consultations and alignment of interest within the party has intensified following Monday’s order of interim injunction by a High Court in Rivers State restraining Prince Uche Secondus from parading himself as national chairman and member of the party.
So far, the party has produced not less than 14 national chairmen since its inception in 1998. They are Dr Alex Ekwueme; Chief Solomon Lar; Chief Barnabas Gemade; Chief Audu Ogbeh; Col Ahmadu Ali; Prince Vincent Ogbulafor; Dr Okwesileze Nwodo.
Others Dr Haliru Mohammed; Alhaji Kawu Baraje; Dr Bamanga Tukur; Adamu Mu’azu; Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; Ahmed Makarfi; and Prince Uche Secondus.
In the build up to the contentious national convention, some prominent names have been mentioned in the race for the top seat, including former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George; media mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje.
However, George and Dokpesi have since distanced themselves from eyeing the party’s top seat.
Although speculations still trail the intention of the incumbent national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to seek a second term, moves to ensure he does not return is said to be behind the campaign for his immediate stepping aside, spearheaded by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
However, former governors on the party’s platform are angling for the next national chairman to emerge from within their ranks, LEADERSHIP learnt.
This was the outcome of their meeting last week in Abuja where they deliberated on the need for the next party chairman to emerge from a state that does not have a PDP governor in order to avoid the recurrent incident where the party national chairman and an incumbent governor are locked in a supremacy battle.
It was learnt that the former governors reflected not just on the recent incident between Rivers State governor and the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, but on the history of such occurrences in the party.
A party source who spoke with LEADERSHIP on the matter said the former governors argued that the next governor should emerge from a state that is not controlled by PDP.
The source disclosed that the former governors proposed the emergence of a bold and outspoken national chairman that won’t be tossed around by powerful interests.
“The former governors after much deliberation nominated two former governors, one from the North West and the other from the South West.
“But the former governor from the South West declined interest in the national chairmanship because he was more interested in the forthcoming election in his state next year. The former governors however settled for their counterpart in the North West, who incidently is a founding member of the party.
“They are however aware that there position is not automatic and binding on all power blocs or members of the party. They are merely pushing their influence much like other power blocs in the party,” the source who did not want his name in print said.
Reacting however, former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Murtakr Shagari, said he was not aware of any search for the next chairman of the party, noting that what is top on the minds of most party members is how to resolve the current party issue.
Shagari who spoke with LEADERSHIP yesterday recalled that the recent expanded BoT meeting mandated the party to begin plans for the next convention by October.
He however said the party has not discussed where it will zone party offices, even as he expressed confidence that the party has the dynamism and experience to overcome the current challenges it is facing at the moment.
Shagari said, “I am not aware of any search for a new chairman. All I know is that there will be a national convention where a new chairman will be elected.
“But I think that at the moment, what is on the mind of every PDP member is to find a laying solution to the problem of leadership that we have at the moment.
“I am confident that at the end of the day we will go to the negotiating table and the issues will be thoroughly discussed. And we will have an understanding and at the end of the day it will be decided where the chairmanship will come from, either north or south.”
Speaking also with LEADERSHIP, former national vice chairman of PDP, Eddy Olafeso noted that from the calendar of the party it is either the current chairman decides to run for a second term or the party will pick one of its men to continue the journey.
“As far as the party constitution is concerned the December 9 deadline remains when the party is to choose a chairman. Either the current one is running again or we have a new one coming up,” he pointed out.
He said the skirmishes in the party won’t degrade the party in any way, even though it is a bad image for the party which should be preparing for the next election, adding that the party can still take over power in 2023.
Meanwhile, the crisis rocking the PDP, assumed a new dimension yesterday as the two deputy national chairmen of the party simultaneously assumed leadership of the party in acting capacity.
The deputy national chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, assumed leadership of the party and postponed all party meetings till further notice, while the deputy national chairman (North), Suleiman Nazif, also paraded himself as chairman, calleing for the convening of a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Friday.
The development was sequel to Monday’s order of a High Court of Rivers State, which issued an interim injunction restraining Prince Uche Secondus from parading himself as the national chairman and member of the PDP.
Despite the provisions of Section 45 of PDP the constitution which allowed Akinwonmi to take over from the embattled chairman, Senator Nazif claimed that the deputy national C
chairman (South) is incapacitated, had not attended NWC meeting in the last 10 months and as such cannot act in that capacity.
In a statement on yesterday morning, Akinwonmi, who cited 45 (2) of the PDP Constitution to back his action, suspended the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting of the party scheduled to hold yesterdayay (Tuesday).
In a statement, titled, “PDP suspends National Working Committee, NWC meeting indefinitely”, he said, ” The deputy National Chairman (South)of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Elder Yemi Akinwomi has suspended the scheduled National Working Committee, NWC, meeting of the party till further notice.
“Following the Port Harcourt Court restraining order against the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the Deputy National Chairman, South, Elder Akinwomi acting on section 45 (2) of the PDP constitution took over the presiding over of the activities of the party and issued the directive.
“The Constitutional section says that in absence of the National Chairman, the Deputy National Chairman South takes over the running of the party.”
Akinwomi who said has been recuperating from a protracted illness, noted that he had to sign his public announcement with a thumb print publicly videoed.
In the statement, Elder Akinwomi said “Our attention was drawn yesterday evening to court order which purports to restrain our National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus from summoning and presiding over the meetings of the organs of the party
“In the foregoing circumstance, as the deputy National Chairman South of the Peoples Democratic Party, after due consultations and in exercise of the aforesaid powers, hereby deem it fit and proper to postpone the National Working Committee, NWC, meeting earlier scheduled for today till further notice to allow for broader consultations in the overall interest of our party.”
However, Senator Nazif Suleiman, deputy national chairman (North), convened an emergency meeting of some factions of the NWC at the party’s secretariat, claiming that he was the rightful person for the position of the Acting Chairman.
Suleiman pointed out that Elder Akinwonmi is incapacitated and has not attended NWC meeting in the last ten months.
Addressing a meeting of a faction of the NWC yesterday, he said, “Members of the NWC, we will recall that this morning (Tuesday) we are in possession of a valid court order, from a high court in Degema, Rivers State, issuing an order removing Secondus as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as National Chairman of our great party.
“A court has also ordered that from the 23rd of August 2021, Prince Uche Secondus should stop parading himself as a National Chairman. NWC hereby comply fully with the court order.
“Consequently, the NWC hereby call for an emergency NEC meeting on Friday, 27th August 2021, at 10 am prompt to deliberate on matters affecting the party.
“You are all aware that PDP is a law abiding party, the party that follows due process. So we have received this order and this is it.
“And in line with the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, and I quote “functions of a Deputy National Chairman: there shall be two Deputy National Chairmen, one shall come from the northern part, while the other from the southern part of the country.
“Deputy National Chairman shall perform the following functions: assist the national chairman in the discharge of his duty and perform such other functions as may be assigned them.
“As a result of resignation, removal, death, incapacitation or absence of the national chairman, a Deputy National Chairman from the region, part of the country where the national chairman originates from, shall assume office as the National Chairman in acting capacity without prejudice to section 47 (6) of the party Constitution.
“In the absence of the National Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman from the regional part of the country where the National chairman originates from, the other Deputy National Chairman shall act as National Chairman without prejudice to 47 (6) of this Constitution.
“On this note, distinguish NWC members, I hereby take full charge of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Chairman in an acting capacity.
“We have waited this morning for the Deputy National Chairman (south), who has been incapacitated, who has not been attending NWC meeting in the last 9 months and I believe there was a communication between the Deputy National Chairman (south). Like you know, in the absence of the Deputy Chairman South, I take full charge.
“So, I am hereby calling for an emergency NEC meeting on the 27th August, 2021, 10 am prompt to deliberate.
“And I believe all the leaders of this party, the owners of this party, will be in attendance and our governors, former presiding officers will be part of the NEC meeting to deliberate all pending issues”, he said .
When asked if there was a faction in the NWC he replied: “Let me make this very clear that this meeting was called for 2pm and like I said, the Deputy National Chairman south has been incapacitated and did not attend any meeting in the last 9 to 10 months. As far as the NWC is concerned, he has not been in communication with any member of the NWC for the last 10 months. And like I said, this party must continue its process.
“And if I am not available, someone else will take over. If National Chairman is not available someone will take over, if Deputy National Chairman South is not available, the Deputy Chairman North will take charge.
“This is the resolution that was passed by the expanded caucus. And this was the resolution passed by the NWC in our last meeting and we all agreed that there will be a meeting today (yesterday), meeting that was supposed to be presided over by the National Chairman, unfortunately the court order came from a competent court and stop the chairman from acting as chairman of the party”, he said.
Barely few hours after the departure of Nazif from the national secretariat of the PDP, Elder Akinwonmi arrived the Wadata Plaza, national secretariat of the PDP.
Accompanied by the 2019 governorship candidate of the party in Ogun state, Ladi Adebutu, Akinwonmi said providence has bestowed on him the leadership of the party.
While declaring that there is no victor, no vanquish,. Akinwonmi called on party faithful to join hands with him in piloting the affairs of the party.
His words, “I am a man of peace, not a man of crisis. PDP has a good succession order. There is order here. “The chairman is followed by the deputy national chairman one (South), followed by the deputy national chairman two (north),” he said.
While making reference to the meeting earlier presided over by deputy national chairman (North) of the party, Senator Sulaiman Nazif, Elder Akinwonmi said, “everything conducted while I was not here is null and void. At the appropriate time, we will call for a meeting of National Executive Committee, NEC and the Board of Trustees, BoT”.
He added that he played no part in the fate that befell Secondus.
When told that Nazif had, in his absence, described him as incapacitated, Akinwonmi pointed out that “Sickness is not a friend of anybody. I was on my way to Wadata Plaza when I had stroke in my car. I was at the Cidacrest hospital for three months. Anybody can be sick but I am getting back and better.
“It was not my making to be sick. In the past, I could not stand up but I stoop up singing the national anthem here this afternoon.
“It is wrong for people to start making reference to my ill health. Anybody can be sick but I am getting better now,” he said.
Also speaking, national secretary of the party, Ibrahim Tsauri said no faction exist in the NWC, adding that Nazif only presided over the meeting of the working committee earlier because Akinwonmi was not present at the time.
Tsauri said, “NWC was one under Secondus and there was no division. We are here to adopt the doctrine of necessity. PDP is a law abiding party, with people of integrity and respect. “PDP is the only political party in Nigeria today. We never changed our name, we never changed our logo.
“Yesterday (Monday), we were faced with something very challenging, which we never expected. We have no other option but to accept the order of the court.
“There are people that took this matter to court. We have given the judgement to our lawyers to study,” he stated.