The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, is battling to retain his position as opposition to his chairmanship mounts, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered on Wednesday that Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and other party chieftains opposed to Secondus were bent on removing him before the National Executive Committee meeting of the party, which would hold anytime from now.
It was learnt that the plot to remove the chairman before the NEC meeting was part of moves to thwart his re-election at the party’s national convention, which would hold in November.
As the plot to sack Secondus thickened on Wednesday, The PUNCH gathered that the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, had started mobilising support for him.
But sources in the PDP told one of our correspondents that Secondus’s opponents feared that if the chairman was allowed to convene the NEC meeting, where members of the convention/election committee would be chosen, he would plant his loyalists in the committee thus paving the way for his re-election.
Recall there were reports on Tuesday that a crisis had hit the PDP National Working Committee following the resignation of seven members.
It was gathered that the anti-Secondus forces thought the mass resignation would force the chairman out of the office or lead to the setting up of a caretaker committee to replace the NWC before the national convention where new national officers would emerge.
A member of the NWC, who confided in one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said, “The crisis is about the control of the party ahead of the 2023 elections. Wike and others, who are opposed to Secondus strongly believe that if he is allowed to convene and preside over the NEC meeting, where the national convention/election committee members will be chosen, he will ensure that his supporters are members, thus his re-emergence as the national chairman will be easy. They believe that Secondus should not preside over his re-election.”
Wike, Rivers PDP chairman keep mum
The Rivers State governor and the state Chairman of the PDP, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, were on Wednesday silent on allegations that the governor was behind the move to remove Secondus.
Although our correspondent in the state could not reach the governor directly, several calls and a text/WhatsApp message sent to his Personal Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.
Similarly, Akawor neither responded to several calls put across to him by the correspondent nor replied to a text message sent to his phone as of 8:40pm when our reporter filed this report.
But Wike in a recent parley with journalists in Port Harcourt dismissed claims that he and Secondus were not in good terms.
A couple of weeks ago, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State hosted Wike and Secondus in what was widely believed to be a move to reconcile the two political leaders from Rivers State.
Though the outcome of the meeting was not made public, it was reported that Ortom reconciled Wike and Secondus.
But Tambuwal on Wednesday started rallying support for the embattled chairman.
One of our correspondents gathered that Tambuwal cut short his visit to Ghana to rush down to Abuja for an emergency session with some of his colleagues.
As Tambuwal moves to save the embattled chairman heightened, the Chairman of the party Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jubin, summoned an emergency meeting of the board which would be held today.
It was learnt that Tambuwal, who started reaching out to his colleagues on Tuesday night was being supported by Senator Seriake Dickson ,who was coordinating members of the party in the National Assembly.
A high-ranking member of the party’s leadership, who confided in one of our correspondents, said contrary to reports on Wednesday, those who resigned were not members of the NWC.
He stated, “In all honesty, no member of the National Working Committee has resigned yet, yes there are threats but no one has resigned.
“The seven deputies who resigned yesterday were members of the National Executive Committee not the NWC.
“However, their decision also makes the party look bad. We know an individual who is hell bent on causing chaos in the party because of a personal ambition. But he will soon realise that the PDP is bigger than any individual. We have survived the worst. I know Tambuwal and Dickson are mobilising support for Secondus.”
In what appears to be worsening of the situation, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Senator Joy Emordi, also dumped the party to join the APC. The decision was announced by the Director General Media to the APC National Chairman, Mamman Mohammed, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Emordi’s decision came barely 24 hours after seven members of the party’s NEC resigned from the committee.
Secondus fingers unnamed party leader over travails
Commenting on the move to sack him, Secondus alleged that an unnamed party leader was behind his travails.
Secondus said this in a statement titled “Who is after Secondus and Why is somebody in love with a caretaker?” signed by his Media Adviser, Ike Abonyi, in Abuja.
He alleged that the disquiet within the PDP barely four months to the national convention of the party was because “somebody is rooting for a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party.”
The statement further read, “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.”
Secondus assured all stakeholders in the party that steps were being taken to ensure that the image of the party was not injured.
Atiku denies links to moves to oust Secondus
Also on Wednesday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar denied speculations linking him to moves against the party chairman.
His media aide, Paul Ibe, described those spreading such rumours as mischief makers.
He said, “Why will a former Vice-President be behind the plot to sack the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus? What will be his 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, he had a similar one to Delta. And he has more in the offing. 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.Whoever is saying this, should know it is ‘beer parlour’ talk and unnecessary mischief.”
Dickson defends Secondus, warns against caretaker committee
On his part, in a statement on Wednesday, Dickson, a former Governor of Bayelsa State and lawmaker representing Bayelsa West, defended Secondus.
He said rather calling for the setting up of a caretaker committee for the party, members of NEC, who resigned should be replaced.
He stated, “ 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.”
According to him, if the PDP shrinks from a party for all to a party for a few, it will lose its selling point and many members and leaders will have no option but to review their membership.
“ We don’t have the time, resources and mechanism 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 APC to exploit with its 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 and force a resignation, or to force the appointment of a caretaker committee on a party with officers who have a constitutionally guaranteed tenure.”
BoT worried, to meet today, says Chairman
When contacted the Chairman of the PDP board of trustees told The PUNCH, that an emergency meeting of the board would hold today (Thursday).
He said, “The BoT will meet tomorrow to bring unity among our members. The defecting of members of our party, especially the governors, some former senators, our BoT members, senators Grace Bent and Joy Emordi, is a matter of concern.
“We are going to do everything possible to find out why they are leaving; why they have left. Anybody, who left, we are trying to ensure we bring him or her back.
“We will not leave them like that. We will talk to them. I have been a member of the PDP since it was formed in 1998. I have not left. I will never leave the party by the grace of God no matter what happens.
“No member of the NWC has left yet. The youth leader who addressed a press conference yesterday is being talked to. The NWC met and has adjourned till Sunday.”
However, our correspondent gathered that apart from the National Youth Leader, Ude Okoye, and the National Auditor, Adamu Mustapha, also threatened to leave the party.
Mustapha earlier issued a damning audit report in which he accused Secondus of failing to account for billions of naira belonging to the party.