All is not well in the camp of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the misunderstanding between the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and his chief sponsor, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, gets messier
Wike wants Secondus sacked as soon as possible, party sources said on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Observers see the misunderstanding as a big threat to the party’s plan to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2023.
Sources also confirmed that the development is creating anxiety within the party ahead of its congress in December.
An investigation by The Nation indicates the emergence of at least two tendencies over the fate of Secondus and the National Working Committee, NWC, which he leads.
On one side is Wike, backed by some governors and PDP leaders, to sack Secondus and the NWC before their official exit date in December.
There is also Secondus leading his own supporters comprising some governors, members of the PDP Board of Trustees, and some party leaders. This group is all out for his retention in office.
Secondus’ supporters brand him the “most transparent national chairman in the history of PDP, who does not take bribes from aspirants or candidates standing for any elective post.”
Sources told The Nation that it has been difficult to reconcile the anti-Secondus group with Wike as the arrowhead, and other interest groups within the party.
It was learnt that intra-party politics in the Rivers State chapter of PDP has “complicated” the relationship between Wike and Secondus.
While Wike is said to be scheming to hand over to a candidate from the upland area of the state which has been governing since 1999, Secondus prefers a riverine area.
The alleged presidential or vice presidential ambition of Wike in 2023 is another factor that has deepened the political cleavages between godfather and his godson. Secondus is said to be “not too keen on Wike’s ambition.”
Genesis of cold war
Sources traced the cold war between the duo to December 2020 when NWC members met with Wike in Port Harcourt during which he told the party executives that all of them would be sacked by January 2021.
Secondus and the NWC members worked round the clock to foil the plot.
It was gathered that efforts by some church and party leaders to reconcile the two sides have failed to yield any meaningful result, with Wike unrelenting in writing off Secondus and the NWC.
Although some party leaders have been hatching plans for an early national convention of the party, most leaders, including members of the National Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees, have opted for December.
A source in the NWC said: “At a time the PDP should be consolidating for 2023, there is a plot to remove all party executives before December when our National Convention ought to elect new leaders for the party.
“Those behind the sack of the National Chairman and the NWC have the full backing of Governor Wike who has some differences with Secondus.
“It is a carryover from the 2018 presidential primaries when Secondus refused to do the bidding of Wike.
“Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who was Wike’s favourite, lost out to ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
“Even some elders of the party and church leaders have tried to broker peace between Wike and Secondus but the governor insisted that the NWC must go.
“He does not want to wait till December when party executives will be democratically elected.
‘It is however going to be a fight-to-the-finish because PDP leaders in the North and South East are solidly behind Secondus and his team, whose tenure expires in December.
“It is not the first time that the governor will demand the exit of the NWC. Last December when Secondus led NWC members to him, he told all of us that we would be removed by January 2021.
“We are now in July. It shows that some forces in the party are greater than him.”
Wike, allies rally state chairmen
The Nation also gathered that in their bid to remove Secondus as party chairman before December or prevent his re-election at the congress, Wike and other PDP chieftains in his camp have been reaching out to state chairmen of the party.
According to party sources, some PDP governors opposed to Secondus’ continued stay in office have told the chairmen of the party in their various states to be prepared to work against the national chairman.
The governor is said to be particularly unhappy with Secondus for allowing the All Progressives Congress, APC, which according to him has governance challenge, to keep poaching PDP governors.
Three PDP governors –Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Ben Ayade (Cross Rivers), and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) have all dumped the PDP for the APC.
A state chairman in the south, who does not want to be named, confirmed to our reporter that delegates from his state would not support the national chairman should his case be up for discussion or at the congress in December.
He was quick to add that the decision is not his but that of the governor of his state.
Recalling some recent incidents in his zonal chapter of the party, the politician explained that Secondus lost the respect of his governor with his roles in the crisis.
He said: “I don’t need to pretend; the answer to your question is a capital NO. We will not support Secondus anywhere; neither at NEC meeting nor at the Congress in December.
“And you should understand this. My governor will not agree that we support him. You know the roles he played in the recent leadership crisis in our zone, don’t you?”
Another chairman from the Northcentral confirmed that governors of the party are unhappy with the national chairman, and this is creating confusion within the PDP.
While urging Secondus to reach out to the aggrieved governors before it is too late, the state party boss revealed that himself and his colleagues have been approached by some leaders of the party to support them in sacking the NWC of the party.
According to the former federal legislator, Secondus has been a good leader of the party. “That is why I went to him and told him when I was approached to join those plotting his removal. But he must act fast in the interest of the party.
“He cannot fight the governors. They control the party in their states and at the zonal level to a large extent.
“In my opinion, the number of governors against the national chairman is growing by the day.
“Yes, the majority of party elders are with Secondus because they like his independence and fairness in handling party affairs. But majority of our frontline governors are not in his camp, and this is not good for him or the party,” he explained.
Wike, in the run up to last year’s governorship primaries of the PDP in Edo State, had labeled some members of the party’s NWC as tax collectors.
The governor, who was reacting to suggestions that he was responsible for a court order restraining Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo Sate from participating in the PDP primaries, said such people would never tell the truth.
The governor said some members of the NWC were blackmailing him, and for that reason, he had to pull out of reconciliatory efforts in the Edo chapter of the PDP.
“I told them that in Edo State, we must handle the issue carefully and carry everybody along. They must respect human beings and not behave like tax collectors,” he said.
“I have had sleepless nights to resolve the issue in Edo State. The Governors of Edo, Adamawa, and Delta states know what I have done to resolve the issues in Edo State.
“As a result of this senseless accusation, I have pulled out of Edo State settlement. My integrity matters.
“Nobody will rubbish me by raising false accusations against me. I will fight back.”
Pro-Secondus group fights back
Another source in the party said: “Some governors, BOT and NEC members are mounting pressure on Secondus to go for a second term in December.
“They said since Secondus took over, corruption associated with bribery from either aspirants or candidates has reduced. He does not auction elective offices.”
The source claimed that Rivers State politics has ‘complicated’ the problem between Wike and Secondus.
The source added: “There are signs that there may be no power shift in Rivers State in 2023. Wike has been accused of planning to retain the governorship ticket in the upland axis and Secondus believes the ticket should go to the riverine axis.
“Since 1999, the upland has been producing the governor in the state. The calculation of the All Progressives Congress is to cede its ticket to the riverine axis.
“It is also clear that Wike is not favourably disposed to Secondus as his successor. And Secondus will certainly not hawk the presidential or vice presidential ticket to Wike. He wants a level-playing field.”
A third highly-placed source in the know of the tension in the party, who responded in writing to our correspondent, raised what he described as 10 “ifs” for Wike. The source said: “If Secondus had allowed Wike to extend his rule to PDP, would he be angry? No.
“If Secondus had allowed Wike to govern Rivers and oversee Bayelsa, Edo and Cross River, would he be angry? No.
“If Secondus had allowed Wike to manipulate the 2018 presidential primaries the way he wanted, would he be angry? No.
“If Secondus is not seen by Wike as blocking his presidential ambition, will he be angry? No.
“If Secondus had allowed Wike to dictate to the NWC on all issues about the party, would he be angry? No.
“If Wike had no hidden agenda in his succession plan in Rivers State for 2023, would he be afraid of Secondus? No.
“If Wike has genuine points against Secondus, why can’t he convince his colleagues to buy into it?
“If Wike genuinely loves PDP, why attack its leadership constantly in public when he has the Governors’ Forum, NEC and BOT platforms to bare his mind?
“If Wike is still interested in PDP, why is he dragging the party image in public?
If Wike is genuinely a true leader, should he be behaving like this?”
The Nation also gathered that a former presidential aspirant of the party recently met with some party leaders and charged them to do everything possible to retain Secondus as chairman beyond December.
According to reliable sources, the PDP chieftain, who is said to be eyeing the party’s 2023 presidential ticket, fears that Secondus’ sack will threaten his chances of contesting the next presidential election on the platform of the PDP.
“What the governors want to do is to pocket the party ahead of 2023 with the sole intention of dashing the presidential ticket of the PDP to one of them during the next general election.
“They know that with Secondus in charge, such plans may not work. He has done it to them before and they are yet to forgive him. Moreover, they don’t want to take any chance as the 2023 general election draws closer.
“Even those hoping to install their successors are up against him for the same reason of his fairness and transparency,” our source claimed.
The Ortom factor
The escalating tension made Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to meet with Wike and Secondus last week.
The session in Makurdi however did not achieve much.
According to a source, “the meeting in Makurdi only ameliorated the situation to reduce tension in the public space.
“At the session, Wike stated his own side and Secondus came up with his own version of how their relationship turned sour.
“Ortom only succeeded in bringing the two leaders to the table. What the meeting achieved was to lay the foundation for reconciliation.
“It was obvious after the meeting that there is hope for peace. At least, all the parties can jaw-jaw. It is left to other party leaders to build on the foundation laid by Ortom.”
Secondus currently enjoys the backing of at least two thirds of NWC members, including the Chairman of the BOT, Sen. Walid Jibrin, ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki (who is also the chairman of PDP Reconciliation Committee), ex-Governor Peter Obi, ex-Governor Henry Seriake Dickson (the immediate past chairman of the PDP Reconciliation Committee), South-East governors, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, most former governors of the PDP, including Ahmed Makarfi, Babangida Aliyu, about 70 per cent of PDP Senators and members of the House of Representatives and NEC members.
A former governor said: “For those of backing Secondus and allowing him to run his full term, we have decided to place the survival of the party above personal desires.
“With less than two years to a general election, we cannot afford a repeat of Modu Ali Sheriff – Ahmed Makarfi’s crisis.
“We are not die-hard fans of Secondus but removing him can lead to many litigations in the court and at the end of the day, we will have no party called PDP.
“Don’t forget that each of the NWC members came from one godfather or the other. So, asking them to go will create deeper cracks.
“For instance, ex-Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State produced the National Secretary. How do you sack the NWC without offending him?
“The terrain is slippery. We are biding time to resolve all issues at the convention. By then, we would have been fair to Secondus and his team.
“For Wike, he has the support of his ally, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, a former National Secretary of PDP Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (who wants to be a national chairman), some NWC members like the National Vice Chairman South-South Chief Dan Orbih, Governor Godwin Obaseki, Governor Bala Mohammed (who does not hide his admiration for Wike for settling the row between him and Ortom) and one more governor.
“Also, as the initial main financier of the party, he is being backed by some senators, some members of the House of Representatives, a few NWC members (about a quarter).
“He has successfully used invitation of influential PDP leaders for project commissioning to win them to his side. He has a heavy war chest to turn the table at the convention.
“For always deferring to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and celebrating his achievements, Wike has earned the sympathy of the former first family.
“No one has stood by Jonathan more than Wike. Most of the ex-ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet identify with Wike.
“Those who are indifferent or yet to declare their positions are ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Vice President Namadi Sambo, ex-Presidents of the Senate, (David Mark, Anyim Pius Anyim and Adolphus Wabara) most former PDP national chairmen, Governor Emmanuel Udom and a few ex-governors and aged members of BOT.
“I think they are watching the situation. They know that after all the key actors have exhausted themselves, they will use their wisdom and experiences to resolve the crisis,” a source said.
Wike denies it all
Governor Nyesom Wike, however, denied any rift with Secondus.
Contacted on Saturday, July 24, 2021, the governor, who spoke through his Special Assistant Media, Kelvin Ebiri, insisted that there was no group he was leading in the PDP to oust Secondus.
He simply said: “There is no such thing”.
Asked recently about the alleged rift between him and Secondus, Wike said: “We must always disagree. Is that what people see as crisis?
“When we got to the local government, we said look, we can’t continue to be this way; there is need to go the other way in order to carry everybody along.
“You may agree, you may also disagree. If I have a problem with you, you and I know that I will not hide my feelings; I will tell you.
“If there is anything tomorrow that Secondus is not doing well, I will tell him. Is he God? Everybody who knows me knows that I don’t need to use another person to fight anybody.
“There is no one born of a woman that I cannot say that before him. So you don’t need to insinuate, you know me very well.
“I am not in the category of Aliyu Babangida. He knows that very well. If he is telling me that I have problem with Secondus, well Secondus has not come to the state to tell us that we have problem. If we have problem, we say yes.”
Source: The Nation