The leaders of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday intensified moves to stop the party from imminent implosion over the crisis of confidence that split its National Working Committee (NWC).
LEADERSHIP gathered that after the shock resignation of seven NWC deputies and the call for the national chairman’s resignation on Tuesday, members of the NWC held a late meeting same day over the issues raised.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the embattled national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, met with some NWC members yesterday at the party’s annex office, popularly called Legacy House, in Abuja.
A source privy to the meeting said the gathering was meant to “mend the cracks within the ranks and allow for all grievances and interests to be addressed.”
The source noted that the meeting which started at about 10pm was “frank and a precursor to today’s meeting with the deputies.”
It was however gathered that governors of the party were perturbed by the embarrassing turn out of events just as their chairman and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, who was out of the country, had to place calls to interested parties over the matter.
Top party leaders, especially from the North, were also said to be displeased with the “plot to remove the current party leadership before the expiration of its tenure,” another party source confided in LEADERSHIP.
Although he confirmed the meeting at Legacy House, the national publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, however, refused to give details of the meeting, saying “it was an in-house matter of NWC members.”
While the PDP governors have fixed a meeting for Monday over the matter, the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), barring any change of plans, will hold a meeting today and take a position.
However, following a meeting between the NWC and the seven deputies who resigned their positions, the aggrieved party executives have declared that they are reconsidering their decision to quit the party over unfair treatment by the Secondus leadership. They had tendered their resignation on Tuesday.
Rising from a meeting with the Secondus-led NWC at the party’s Wadata Plaza Headquarters, the deputies declared that they were urged by the NWC to reconsider their resignation in the interest of the party.
Speaking exclusively as a guest on the Big Issue programme on LEADERSHIP podcast, the deputy national publicity secretary of PDP, Diran Odeyemi, said the deputies would soon come up with a resolution on the reconsideration of their resignation.
Odeyemi, who doubles as chairman of the deputy NWC members, said, “Our people just met with NWC now and they called to give me a report. It is purely internal. They appealed to us to withdraw our letter and to be part of the resolution and let’s see what we can make out of this.
“We have done something and they have heard us; the whole Nigeria has known and, as a result, what is now left for us is to come together again. The resolution cannot be in our absence. We just have to withdraw our letter; that is the essence of the meeting.
“So we will meet again in our usual manner, and we will take a decision whether to maintain our stand or withdraw in the interest of the party,” he said.
Party spokesman Ologbondiyan also confirmed to LEADERSHIP that Secondus met with the aggrieved deputies and that they resolved to hold their meeting to deliberate on the proposal to reconsider their resignation.
Meanwhile, Secondus has warned against plots to hijack the party through the imposition of a caretaker arrangement by a powerful party chieftain.
Secondus, who stated this through his media aide, Ike Abonyi, wondered why few months to a national convention of the party, somebody is rooting for a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party.
He said, “The media office of the national chairman is privy to an intelligence that the strong party chieftain bent on hijacking the party structure for destruction is still on the loose with the main agenda of denting the image of Prince Uche Secondus, the national chairman.
“Reports reaching this office show clearly that this character is deploying all devious means to try and diminish the person and character of the national chairman with a view to having his way of ultimately hijacking the structure for his disproportionately large ambition.
“We, therefore, wish to alert the general public, particularly media houses and party stakeholders, to look out for strange deployment of luring gifts from this destructive ‘Father Christmas’ all aimed at having a grip on the soul of our party by having a caretaker committee.
“What continues to shock many party observers is the real reason behind the desperation of this man to get at the National Chairman and the quantum of public funds being expended to achieve this illicit goal few months to the national convention.”
The statement added that, with few months to a national convention, anybody who means well for the party and who is a true democrat, should respect the constitution of the party and approach issues dispassionately.
“Prince Secondus, through the media office, however, wishes to assure all critical stakeholders of our great party that every reasonable step is being taken to ensure that the image and status of the party is not injured by all this needless noise and scheming by desperadoes,” it said.
On his part, former vice president Atiku Abubakar has distanced himself from the unfolding crisis rocking the PDP.
Reacting to the crisis in the party, head of Atiku’s media office, Paul Ibe said, “It is a beer parlour talk, it is also mischief. Why will a former vice president be behind the plot to sack PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus? What will be is interest? Someone who has commenced the process of having conversations with stakeholders of the party on reconciliation. A man who has encouraged processes aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the party.
“The trip he made to Port Harcourt, and a similar one to Delta. And he has more in the coffers. Why will he promote peace and stability in the party and be behind moves to sack Secondus? It’s ridiculous for anyone to talk about this.
“Atiku understands the constitution of the PDP and what the party stated about tenure for party leadership. So he cannot be working against something that he understands and promotes. That is not how democrats behave; this is anti-democratic behaviour and that is not who he is. Whoever is saying this, should know it is beer parlour talk and unnecessary mischief.”
On the effort Atiku is making to resolve the crisis, Ibe said, “The crisis is related, we cannot isolate one from the other. He recognizes that there are issues, like in every party administration. When you have more than two persons, people will have different positions, so the important thing is how to resolve them. And he has commenced the movement to resolve the issues.
“Atiku is an individual, yes, a major stakeholder in the party, and he has taken steps to bring everybody together to see how these issues can be peacefully resolved. They are all related. They are all part of the larger problem facing the party.”
Similarly, former governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Seriake Dickson, has kicked against plans to hijack the party. While he condemned the resignation of the deputies, he pushed for the convening of an emergency NEC meeting which should take appropriate decisions to stabilise the party.
Dickson said he had refrained from making statements because he believed the party had internal mechanisms and levels of leadership that would handle the crisis within.
He warned that the window of opportunity for the party to take over power in 2023 is fast receding as a result of self-inflicted challenges.
“The hope that Nigerians have in us as an alternative is fast dimming, too, unless we pull back from the brinks and do so quickly,” he said.
“I was in fact aware that BOT members, governors and other elders, reconciliation committee, collectively and individually, have been making efforts to resolve some of these disputes and challenges affecting the stability of the party.
“As we are all aware, some officers of our party resigned yesterday and we should thank them for their services but if their resignation is aimed at causing crisis in the party, then we should all condemn it and those behind it.”
He former Bayelsa State governor pointed at the party constitution as the way out.
“By the party’s constitution, the appropriate authority, the NWC, is empowered to make replacements. I therefore call on the national chairman and other members of the NWC, in accordance with the constitution of the party, to immediately make appropriate consultations from the states and zones from which these officers have resigned, and forthwith make those replacements subject to ratification by the NEC.
“An emergency NEC meeting should be convened which should take appropriate decisions to stabilise the party. And if there is any member of the working committee who wants to resign, such a person should consider the overall interest of the party and have a rethink. If, however, any NWC members goes ahead to resign, the resignation should be accepted and consultations made by the chairman and NWC to fill those positions as temporary vacancies subject to ratification.
He called on the national chairman and NWC members to “utilise their powers under the constitution to discipline erring members involved in the nefarious plot to destroy the party.
“PDP is bigger than any individual and should no longer tolerate people with inordinate ambitions to destroy the party which belongs to all Nigerians. People with ambition must know that unless the party is stabilised and strengthened, their ambition will be of no consequence even if they pocket it.”
He cautioned that 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 All Progressives Congress (APC) to exploit with their control of the resources and machinery of government.
“We should all 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 or force a resignation, or to force the appointment of a caretaker committee on a party with officers who have a constitutionally guaranteed tenure.
“Furthermore, with only about a year to the nomination of candidates in the light of the ongoing electoral act 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.”
Senator Seriake Dickson further stated that the singular target and focus of the party at the moment should be to stabilize and strengthen the NWC by supporting it and correcting whatever may be wrong in-house quietly “while putting our effort wholly on the task of identifying and selecting credible candidates and ensuring fair primaries.
“Our window of opportunity to take over power in 2023 is fast receding as a result of these self-inflicted challenges and the hope that Nigerians have in us as an alternative is fast dimming too unless we pull back from the brinks and do so quickly.”
He called on PDP governors to close ranks and stop the unnecessary battles amongst themselves, support one another and work with other leaders to strengthen and support the party, rather than weaken it.
“It is a good thing that our governors are all doing well but they should pay the necessary attention to the need consolidate their states in order to be able defeat the APC challenge in 2023,” he added.
Dickson called on the BOT, the National Assembly Caucus of the party, 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.
Also, the PDP State Chairmen’s Forum has called on deputies who resigned to have a rethink and embrace dialogue towards solving the problems they feel are mitigating against the progress of wthe party.
The Forum also called on the NWC to close ranks and put in place an all-inclusive plan of action for the smooth conduct of the forthcoming national convention, which is the only legally authorised platform for electing national officers of the party.
A statement by the publicity secretary PDP State Chairmen’s Forum, Hon Francis Orogu, who doubles as the PDP state chairman in Nasarawa State, said while it is the right of any member to resign, he or she should utilise the party’s strong internal mechanisms for dispute resolution.
“Moreover, aggrieved members have always been encouraged to take advantage of these mechanisms in the overall interest of the party and the public as a whole.
“In the overall interest of the arty, the Forum calls on all those who resigned to have a rethink and embrace dialogue.
“In the event of their inability to have a rethink of their actions, the NWC of the party should call for an immediate replacement of such officers from their respective states to ensure a smooth conduct of future party activities.
“The Forum also calls on all organs of the party to engage and interact effectively with each other to bring up a smooth and robust plan of action for the conduct of the next national convention in a free and fair manner.”
The Forum appealed for calm and restraint from all the actors in the crisis in order to avoid an escalation of the situation.