Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
After meeting for over 40 minutes behind closed doors on Monday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors and the embattled National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, appeared to have reached a new deal as part of efforts to resolve the crisis which engulfed its leadership and ensure lasting peace in the main opposition party.
The deal involved consideration of an early date for the party’s national convention, as against the initial date of December 9.
With the new deal, widely believed to be in the overall interest of the party, THISDAY gathered that the December convention might be brought forward to either October or November.
However, Secondus, in an earlier statement from his media office, said he would not succumb to pressure to resign. “I can confirm to you that I will not resign,” he was quoted as saying. He added that he remained focused in his determination to move the party forward.
Meanwhile, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, and his House of Representatives counterpart, Ndudi Elumelu, yesterday, supported the move by the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) to resolve the crisis in the party. Abaribe and Elumelu denied reports that PDP members in the House had passed a resolution that Secondus should resign. The clarification was in reaction to a statement by a House of Representatives member from Rivers State, Kingsley Chinda, asking the party chairman to resign.
On his part, a former governor of Bayelsa State and member of the upper chamber, Senator Seriake Dickson, faulted calls for Secondus to resign, saying only the national convention is empowered to remove him.
The PDP governors had met for over seven hours between 10am and 5pm at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge. But about 4.10pm, Secondus was invited to the meeting, which held till 4.50pm
After meeting with the PDP governors, Secondus was seen off by the governors of Sokoto and Akwa Ibom states, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Udom Emmanuel, respectively.
“I can confirm to you that I will not resign”, Secondus told reporters as he made to leave the venue.
Although a deal to bring the convention backward had been struck, it was not clear if it included the eligibility of Secondus to contest. But the details of the deal’s implementation would depend on the governors’ meeting today with a committee set up by the BoT to interface.
Tambuwal told newsmen that the governors had resolved to back the party in its march towards greater unification.
Tambuwal, who is Chairman, PDP Governors Forum, said, “We have resolved to work together as a forum on the side of our party and the meeting continues tomorrow.” He added, “Very soon, Nigerians will know that our party is united.”
The Monday meeting, held at the Akwa Ibom Liaison Office in Asokoro, Abuja, was attended by all the PDP governors, with the exception of Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Barrister Mahdi Aliyu Gusau.
Before the forum adjourned, Secondus, who made a brief appearance, said he would not resign from his position.
A short statement from his media office, signed by Ike Abonye, said nothing so far warranted his resignation from the party’s highest position. It said a tiny minority calling for the national chairman’s resignation should come clean and tell other members his offence and why he should resign. Secondus promised to remain focussed and committed to the ideals of the party, which he swore to protect and defend upon his election as chairman 44 months ago.
Elumelu, who spoke on behalf of the House caucus said, in a statement, “The attention of the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, has been drawn to false and misleading publications, purporting that the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives met online and resolved that the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, should resign.
“The publication is, indeed, embarrassing to PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives, as no such meeting took place. For the avoidance of doubt, no online meeting or any meeting in any form whatsoever of PDP members in the House of Representatives was held, to discuss, let alone arrive at any decision regarding the national chairman or any issue related to the disagreements in the PDP.
“Our caucus in the House of Representatives is fully aligned with the intervention and decisions of the Board of Trustees (BoT), the elders and leaders of our party, in finding solutions to the leadership challenges confronting our great party and we await the outcome of their intervention.
“While we caution those behind this false and misleading publication to retrace their steps and desist from such, we also urge our party leaders, critical stakeholders, PDP members, teeming supporters, and the general public to completely disregard the said publication.
“We call on all PDP members to remain calm and focused as the elders and leaders of the party will come out with solutions at this critical time.”
Supporting the House caucus position, their counterparts in the Senate also backed the steps taken by the BoT to resolve the crisis rocking the party.
The Senate PDP Caucus, on Monday, stated that it was in full support of whatever steps being taken by the party’s BoT to resolve the issues at stake.
The Senate Minority Leader, who doubles as Chairman of the PDP Senate Caucus, Abaribe, told THISDAY that though the PDP senators were on annual vacation, they backed the current move by the BoT to restore peace and sanity to the opposition party.
Abaribe said, “We are on vacation and support the BoT effort at getting a solution.”
Chinda and Deputy Leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, had made their online resolution available to journalists yesterday, after they deliberated extensively but specifically on the current charge of “inept leadership” against Secondus.
They noted that while PDP and millions of Nigerians nationwide anticipated vigorous and well-coordinated issue-based national opposition, preparations towards a national convention as well as the 2023 general election, confusion, finger-pointing and needless noise around the party’s national headquarters had complicated the noble objectives and lofty ideals of the PDP and democratic opposition politics in Nigeria.
They alleged that Secondus seemed content with occupying the office and preoccupied with holding on to his position rather than preparing for the next elections. This, they claimed, explained why Secondus inexplicably continued to miss endless opportunities that ought to have been utilised for consolidating a viable opposition, skewing party congresses to favour personal future ambition, and frustrating genuine party members across states, which has resulted in mass exit of party members at the National Assembly.
Chinda and Onyema lamented that there was no clear roadmap, blueprint or policy programme for the PDP by the chairman, thus, the party was allowed to flow with the tide, only showing up with weak press releases once in a while without commensurate sustainable action.
They expressed concern that a further three months under the leadership of Secondus could do grave harm to the party and put its members in a precarious situation.
They, therefore, urged Secondus “to consider making the necessary personal sacrifice worthy of a leader in the party’s current and future interest with a firm assurance of honourable regard and appreciation by the party leadership now and in years to come, by honourably resigning his position as party chairman immediately, to allow the party an early start.”
Yesterday also, an unsigned statement by some PDP National Working Committee (NWC) members said, “Sequel to the meeting held on the 3rd of August 2021, at Legacy House, where members of the National Working Committee (NWC) sat and decided that a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) should be held on the 8th of August 2021 at Hilton to further deliberate on the matter bedevilling the party, the meeting held and extensively deliberated, nine members of the National Working Committee (NWC) agreed that the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has grossly mismanaged the party, highly incompetent, factionalised the party and has lost the confidence of members of the party.
“The matter of his resignation was put to vote, six members voted that he should resign and three members abstained from voting. Therefore, the meeting resolved to forward the resolution taken on the 8th day of August to the governors forum, the BoT, the National Assembly caucus of both House of Representatives and the Senate.
“We call on all members of the party to remain calm as the party leadership is working tirelessly to resolve the leadership crisis.
“In attendance were Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Suleiman Nazif; National Secretary, Senator Umar Ibrahim Tsauri; National Auditor, Mai Adamu Mustapha; National Financial Secretary, Abdulahi Maibasira; National Youth Leader, Hon. S.K.E. Udeh-Okoye; National Vice Chairman (SW), Taofiq Arapaja; National Vice Chairman (SE), Chief Dr. Ali Odefa; National Vice Chairman (SS), Chief Dan Osi Orbih and National vice chairman (NC), Chief Theophilus Dakas.”
The statement further said those who voted for the resignation of Secondus were Nazif, Adamu Udeh-Okoye, Arapaja, Orbih and Odefa.
But National Legal Adviser of PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem, disclaimed the meeting of the said members of the NWC, describing it as illegal.
In a statement, Enoidem said, “I just saw the above somewhere and as a committed member of this party and by the special grace of God, a member of NWC, I have the following points to make.
“By Section 29 (3) of the constitution of our party, it is the national chairman or a summon backed by 2/3 members of the NWC that can validly convene a meeting of the NWC.Subsection (4) provides for 2/3 members of NWC to form a quorum for a meeting of the NWC.
“As a bona fide member of the NWC, to the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any meeting of the NWC summoned by the National chairman or in the manner provided aforesaid.
“It is therefore of grave concern, and indeed, very sad to read the above position purportedly taken by some distinguished members of NWC in utter disdain and violation of clear extant provisions of our constitution.”
Enoidem maintained that the power to remove any member of the NWC and, indeed, any national officer was reserved for the national convention, which was earlier slated for December 2021.
Speaking, too, Dickson, in a release issued on Monday, flayed the purported meeting by some members of the party’s NWC, whom he said went outside the constitution of the party to convene a meeting in a hotel room without the knowledge, consent and presence of the national chairman. He drew the attention of PDP leaders, members as well as Nigerians to the fact that the meeting was the action of a few party officers and did not represent a valid resolution or decision of the NWC known to the PDP constitution.
Dickson stated, “The purported meeting and the outcome therefore are part of the plot to contrive a needless crisis in the PDP. It is part of the scheme to call a dog a bad name to hang it. The general public should note that the statement signed by some members: three members of the working committee and three vice chairmen of the party (as indicated in the press release) does not constitute a valid resolution of the National Working Committee.
“By the way, the NWC has 19 members and only six of them signed the statement, leaving out the majority of 13, who were not at the meeting and the chairman, who was not aware, who did not attend, who did not authorise and who did not preside over the said meeting and therefore, it is not only a nullity but an act of gross misconduct.
“It is all an effort to contrive a crisis in the party to further the ulterior objective of those who are funding it, the intent of which is to cause a major crisis in the PDP.”
While puncturing a purported statement by the PDP caucus in the House, which asked Secondus to resign, Dickson said, “All this is to create a media frenzy backed up with the sponsored demonstrations at the party secretariat on Monday, which are designed to force the chairman to resign in order to set up a caretaker committee, which is illegal.
“Happily, the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has issued a statement a short while ago that he will not resign. I support this decision fully as it is backed by the PDP constitution.
“By the PDP constitution, a vote of no confidence even by a duly constituted NWC or other organs of the party does not remove a Chairman. The chairman is voted for and can only be removed by the National Convention unless on his own volition, he chooses to resign.”
Party Commences Membership Registration
Meanwhile, PDP has commenced online membership registration and revalidation in soe states. The states piloting the initiative in the first phase of the programme are Anambra, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Adamawa, and Sokoto.
Speaking on Monday in Abuja while launching the project, Secondus stated that the “country must at this point in time migrate from analogue to digital.
“Data is the key to development; data is the key to proper planning and data is the way a country would be able to attract development from the global community. We as a party cannot do otherwise. We are operating in social media space, so, PDP cannot do without data.”
Secondus explained that by offering online registration, the party was providing Nigerians with a transparent platform to harness their democratic potential.
He stated, “The project will deepen the process of membership registration and also deepen the process of democracy in attracting development. Usually, in the analogue time, they have to bring the register and if they don’t like your face, you will not be a member. Some people will take the register away. All that has been eliminated.”
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, said the e-registration was a demonstration of PDP’s readiness for the 2023 general election. Jibrin assured members that the crisis rocking the party would soon be a thing of the past.
“We have spent so many sleepless nights in ensuring that we resolved the crisis within our party in order to make PDP great again and also take advantage of the failures of the APC,” he stated.
National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, revealed that when the logo of the party was put online during the test-running period, in less than 24 hours, over one million Nigerians indicated interest to join the party.
National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), also said intensified sensitisation had commenced in order to create awareness on the e-registration programme down to the ward level.