Is the tussle for the soul of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over? CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes.
There is no better indication of how intense the race for who flies the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (2023) can be than the events that played out within the main opposition party in the past two weeks.
The move by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, to remove the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, his erstwhile political ally, sent shockwaves through the PDP.
Secondus emerged chairman through the influence of PDP governors, sparehead by Wike, who, like Secondus, hails from Rivers State.
But Wike criticised Secondus for mismanaging the party, blaming him for the defection of governors. Not long after, seven deputy national working committee members tendered their resignation on grounds that the Secondus-led NWC had not cared for their welfare.
While Senator Seriake Dickson rejected moves to sack Secondus, the forum of PDP chairmen, across the states, backed his leadership.
Also party chieftains were worried that the moves to sack Secondus before his December tenure could lead to a legal slugfest much like the long and winding court cases that characterised the Sen Ali Modu-Sheriff and Sen Ahmed Makarfi leadership tussle in 2016.
Secondus also enjoyed the sympathy of those who are weary of the overbearing influence of governors in the affairs of the party. For them, the NWC was able to secure electoral victories in many states by 2019.
They also argued that the defection of three governors had nothing to do with incompetence but pressure from the governing APC on them to dump PDP. It will be recalled that Wike had also made this claim shortly after the defections of the governors.
Despite the intervention of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and governors, party stakeholders remained divided on Secondus’ sack.
The PDP Caucus in the House of Representatives led by Hon Kingsley Chinda, called for Secondus’ sack, while the House minority Leader, Hon Kingsley Elumelu, said at no time did PDP members in the lower chamber discuss the national chairman’s sack.
Secondus however denied the allegations against him, insisting he will not resign because he had done nothing wrong.
After a series of meetings by the governors and an expanded meeting of the BoT, the party found a middle ground for the two camps.
While they moved the convention forward, technically cutting short the tenure of Secondus, they also refused to endorse the sack of the national chairman.
They however resolved that a national convention planning committee be immediately set up to begin the process of the convention by October.
The committee will be ratified by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party this week.
Evidently, the internal wrangling in the party reflects the battle of party powerblocs. The tussle intensified with the agitation for the southern presidency within the party.
It was learnt that the recent declaration by Southern governors that the presidency must be zoned to their region heightened tension within the party.
Before the call by the southern governors, southern and middlebelt leaders had also asked for the presidency to be zoned to the region.
The leaders had also mandated APC and PDP members from the South not to accept national chairmanship positions and vice presidential slots.
But the agitation is being met by resistance from another powerbloc which believes under the party’s zoning arrangement the presidential ticket should remain in the North despite the outcome of the 2019 election.
Members of the party who argue that the party’s presidential ticket should remain in the North in 2023, said the region has not served it’s term under the party’s rotation arrangement.
Party sources revealed that consultations are still ongoing as to who will be chairman of the convention committee.
Recall that the post 2019 election review panel headed by Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, had recommended that the party throw it’s ticket open to competent members.
While the recommendation drew backlash from some regional groups, the national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, explained that the party has not taken a final position.
Still some party members believe that Secondus is just a victim of power play. For party members who share this view, the claims of party mismanagement and defection against the Secondus-led NWC were amplified to demarket the party leadership enough to effect his removal.
However, according to those who want Secondus out, he has not performed well. Comrade Tamunotonye Inioribo accused Secondus of polarizing the party for his own selfish interest, saying he is to blame “for the defection of three governors and dozens of Senators from the party.”
But a party chieftain, Salisu Mohammed said, “The fight against Secondus is principally fanned by forces hoping to get the presidential ticket of the party, and who see Secondus as an obstruction to their parochial ambition.
“Those politicians who are not happy with Secondus for insisting on free and fair democratic processes and not allowing the party structure to go to the so-called godfathers of the party.
“Having instituted the acknowledged culture of fairness as witnessed in the 2018 National Convention, such ambitious individuals fear that they cannot realize their aspirations if Secondus is remain as chairman
“They want him to reserve the 2023 presidential ticket to a particular bloc. Such persons see themselves as having a deep vault capable of buying up the structure of the party. So when they felt slighted that Secondus-led NWC rejected inducements to compromise the processes and allow them to have exclusive control of party processes ahead of 2023.
“Such individuals redirected their financial war chest to the Secondus must go agenda so as to install a pliable national chairman that will do their bidding. That is why the allegations of financial impropriety against the Secondus-led NWC did not feature in the discussions during the reconciliation processes. They tried to penetrate and divide the NWC in order to force Secondus to resign,” he said.
However, former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, had also criticised Secondus administration over the recent events. Although he commended the party leadership for resolving the crisis, he said the party cannot be pocket-bought by one individual even as he urged party leaders to ensure that the convention committee is neutral and works for the party’s progress.
His criticism however came after the resolution of the crisis by the expanded BoT Caucus meeting which drew flak from some party members.
They argued that it was wrong for him being a Board member to have revisited the crisis particularly after party leaders had struck a reconciliation. Recall that George contested against Secondus in 2017 for the party national chairmanship seat.
However, the PDP NEC is expected to meet this week to ratify the resolutions reached at the truce meeting of last week. Indications that the meeting would be rumbustious emerged as Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, on Friday, said the resolution of the internal crisis had allayed his initial fear of possible implosion in the party.
He noted that the convivial manner in which PDP governors and the party’s Board of Trustees members resolved the crisis had given Nigerians hope that the party was prepared to take over power in 2023.