by ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor/ Bisi Oladele/ Segun Showunmi, Ibadan/ Mike Odiegwu,
•Chairmanship contest set to be all-Southerners affair
•North positioned to produce 2023 presidential candidate
•Party must challenge Ayade, Umahi defections in court – Wike
At least six prominent members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are being tipped to replace the party’s embattled national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, at the October national convention, The Nation gathered yesterday.
Five of the aspirants are southerners like Secondus, the only northerner being the immediate past governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo.
Party sources named the aspirants as former national secretary of the party and ex-governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; a former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George; a former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Liyel Imoke; the immediate past deputy governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd); and the party’s former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.
Observers said yesterday that the preponderance of southerners in the race was an indication that the party was preparing the ground for the emergence of its presidential candidate from the north.
More aspirants may signal their interest before the convention.
Sources told The Nation that the convention would be a make-or -break affair because it will define the future of the party.
Groups and concerned members are holding consultations to ensure that the party comes out stronger after the current National Working Committee (NWC) quits.
Although the convention is statutorily scheduled for December, governors elected on the platform of the party at a recent meeting, which also had in attendance some other stakeholders, recommended that the convention be held in October as part of the peace deal struck to resolve the crisis rocking the PDP.
The crisis stemmed from the disagreement between Secondus and his erstwhile political godfather, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
There are indications that all parties to the crisis may have accepted the option of Secondus not seeking re-election as a way out of the imbroglio. The Nation gathered that the outcome of last Tuesday’s meeting by the governors will be endorsed by other organs of the party in the days to come.
“The next thing being planned is a meeting of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC). All things being equal, it will take place very soon and the decisions reached at last Tuesday’s meeting are most likely to be endorsed by all the organs of the party during the NEC,” a highly placed source said.
The source added: “As at today, the popular opinion is that Secondus should stay till the convention and leave.”
With Secondus most unlikely to seek re-election, some governors, ex-governors, former presidential hopefuls and other influential leaders of the PDP have started the search for his successor.
Involved in the search are both the anti and pro Secondus forces in the party.
A pro-Secondus source said: “Even if they succeed in stopping Secondus from re-contesting, they are not going to succeed in hijacking the PDP.
“That is their intention all in their blind struggle to illegally corner the presidential ticket in 2023. We are ready for them.
“With or without Secondus, the PDP will remain the free, orderly and law abiding political party that it has become under the current leadership.”
Although majority of the anti- Secondus forces led by Governor Wike are said to be rooting for a southerner as the next party chairman, some others, including Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, are making a strong case for the position to be zoned to the north to ensure that the party’s zoning arrangement is not distorted in 2023.
A source said Makinde keeps reminding his colleagues and other stakeholders in the group of the need to consider the zoning arrangement in their decision on the position of national chairman.
“He wants to be sure the emergence of a national chairman from the south will not be used as a reason to cede the presidential ticket to the north,” the source said.
“He is not keeping quiet. He is talking. He is asking questions and he is making suggestions.
“But unfortunately, he appears to be the only one showing concern. Many of our people are busy negotiating for one position or the other, not minding the implication of their aspiration on the larger picture of 2023.
“Some of our National Assembly members from the south are with him on this.”
One of the names being touted to replace Secondus by those opposed to his continued stay in office is Chief Bode George, a former military governor of old Ondo State.
He is an unrelenting critic of Secondus and had shown interest in the position of national chairman in 2017 but withdrew along the line.
While he is yet to publicly declare interest in the job ahead of the October convention, sources close to him told The Nation that “chief is ever ready to take up any assignment that will make PDP a better party.
“He is one politician you can rest assured he will remain in the party even if he is the only one remaining there. He is eminently qualified and prepared for the job.”
George is said to have the backing of some prominent BoT members of the party as a middle way option in the event that PDP governors and other stakeholders fail to agree on who the next chairman of the party should be.
It was however gathered that his candidature is not popular within the Southwest zone of the party.
A party chieftain, Dr. Laji Aderopo, said: “In the Southwest, majority of us want the presidential ticket of the PDP to be zoned to the south in 2023. That is why we are not rooting for the chairmanship to be given to us.
“This is politics and we understand the game well. This is why we may not support George or any other southwest candidate at the convention.”
Aderopo was zonal Secretary of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) before he joined the PDP.
Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola has already openly declared his intention to run for the office of the national chairman of the party. Currently, he is an ally of Governor Makinde of Oyo State.
Last May, ex-Ekiti State governor Segun Oni said PDP chieftains and members in the Southwest zone were rooting for Oyinlola for the national chairmanship position.
“The person that all of us are setting our eyes on is Prince Oyinlola, and he has not yet told us that he’s not going to do it. That’s the man we all want to support for the position of national chairman,” Oni told reporters.
The Nation however learnt that former governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, is being considered as a possible replacement for Secondus by those who want the position to go to the north as part of political permutations ahead of the 2023 presidential contest.
He is yet to declare interest in the race, but those promoting his candidature are said to be urging him to run.
With reality dawning on them that Secondus may not be seeking re-election, supporters of the embattled national chairman are not about to be caught unawares in the race to produce his successor.
The Nation learnt that the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the predominant group supporting Secondus, is already considering some party stalwarts for the job.
“Now that the governors have succeeded in convincing the party leaders that preventing Secondus from returning as chairman is in the interest of the party, presenting him as a candidate at the convention will be ill advised,” a source said.
“Consequently, we will consider supporting another worthy party man for the job at the convention in the interest of the party and because we want to ensure we are not caught napping at the convention.”
It was also gathered that the Atiku camp wants the national chairmanship of the party to remain in the southern part of the country to enhance his (Atiku’s) chances of clinching the PDP presidential ticket.
What remains for the group is to decide who to pick for the chairmanship race and from which of the three geo-political zones in the south.
While some allies of the former vice president prefer Secondus’ replacement to be sought from the South-south to appease the zone for his ouster, others feel the next man for the job should come from the Southwest for certain political reasons.
“The only agreement for now is that there is need to replace Secondus with another candidate from the south,” our source said.
A source said former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke looks like a credible candidate.
Some PDP elders are of the view that Imoke has what it takes to stabilise the party and unite all warring factions ahead of the 2023 elections.
“While Imoke enjoys the trust and confidence of former Vice President Atiku, he is also a good friend of Governor Wike,” a source said.
“What is more, he is seen as a very capable hand by most PDP elders who are desirous of a national chairman that will use his experience and connections to end the various disagreements bedeviling the party.
“His candidacy is being touted by moderates within the party who want an end to the infightings.”
There is also Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd), the immediate past deputy governor of Bayelsa State.
Jonah too has not announced his interest in the race, promoters of his candidacy are already doing a lot to advance his chances.
A source said: “His choice emanated from a school of thought that believes the core Niger-Delta should not be deprived of the slot in the event that Secondus is dropped.
“They feel a candidate from neighboring Bayelsa State will still be acceptable to the party chieftains and members in Rivers State where the current chairman hails from. Besides, he is said to enjoy the friendship of Atiku even before he joined politics and became deputy governor.”
His emergence is also said to be enjoying the support of allies of former Governor Seriake Dickson, who has stood solidly behind Secondus in his face-off with Wike. “He served as Dickson’s deputy for eight years and their relationship remains cordial even now.
“He is one man many of the leaders of the pro-Secondus camp can trust to remain loyal to the cause of the group while leading the PDP out of muddy waters ahead of the 2023 general elections,” the source added.
Also being touted as a likely contender for the plum job is Jimi Agbaje, PDP’s gubernatorial candidate during the last gubernatorial election in Lagos State.
Agbaje is not a new comer in the contest for the national chairmanship of the party. In 2015, he emerged as the PDP joker, whom some of the governors wanted to succeed the former National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, at the botched May 21, 2015 national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Sources close to him claimed his national chairmanship ambition remains alive and he will definitely jump at any opportunity to contest the position again.
“He is one candidate many of us will not waste time to describe as capable. He is in the good books of most of our leaders across the country except in his native Lagos State where he has been having a running battle with Chief Bode George’s group,” our source said.
Why we want Secondus out, by PDP national vice chairman
The National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alh. Taofeek Arapaja, yesterday explained that he joined others to call for the resignation of the National Chairman Uche Secondus because the party is crumbling under his leadership while he does not feel disturbed.
Arapaja stated this while featuring on Southwest Political Circuit, an interview programme on Ibadan-based radio, Fresh FM.
The PDP leader was among those that were calling for Secondus’ resignation, which led to the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC), governors and members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) last week.
The meeting prevailed on members to stop the move to force out Secondus and fixed the national convention of the party for October during which a new executive members will be elected.
Arapaja, who was recently elected, said he added his voice because the national chairman was not showing signs that he wanted PDP to win future elections, adding that he was also not running the party in a way that it would provide virile opposition to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
Arapaja, who was the deputy governor of Oyo State from 2007 to 2011, explained that Secondus did not give a damn that three governors defected to the APC within three months.
Rather than agonise over such defections, he said, the PDP boss retorted on occasions that each of them has only one vote to contribute.
He described such attitude as selfish, stressing that he could not be comfortable with a leader who does not seek the progress of the party.
Rather than make genuine moves to resolve the crises rocking the party in states and regions, Arapaja said, Secondus was completely nonchalant, which he said gave him out as a selfish leader who is not interested in protecting the interest of the party he is serving.
He said: “You would not like to change a winning team. But if a team is not winning and your objective is to win, because I’m committed to winning and I don’t understand any other language apart from winning, then I will be spared for calling for his resignation.
“Somebody is in a place and he is not doing well. The party is shrinking, everything is going haywire and he is not mobilizing for the party. The man is not doing well. There is defection everywhere.
“Three governors left within three months and the chairman is coming out to tell everybody that every governor has only one vote. He is not perturbed. He is not worried at all.
“National Assembly members are defecting and he is not harmonising the party. He is not reaching out to anybody. So, the party is not doing well.
“We are not playing the role of a very strategic opposition party. So, for those of us who believe in winning, repositioning the party, we had to stand up before the party collapses.
“If you are committed to the party, if you are not PDP in the morning but APC in the night, you will be worried. That is why I said he is working for the opposition. That is my own observation.
“As a member of the National Working Committee, I know what is going on in Abuja.”
Arapaja said he does not have anything against Secondus as an individual, but he said that what the National Chairman was doing was affecting the fortunes of the party. “That’s why some of us cannot keep quiet,” he said.
He further revealed that the NEC meeting will hold this week, adding that national and zonal convention committees would be established as a way of ensuring that Secondus does not dictate for the party again.
He said the call for his resignation represented the popular belief of party leaders across Nigeria that Secondus’ exit was necessary for PDP to move forward.
Party must challenge Ayade, Umahi defections in court – Wike
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday asked the PDP to drag the governors of Ebonyi and Cross River states, David Umahi and Ben Ayade, to court following their defections to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The governor also called on the PDP to challenge the defections of former PDP federal and state lawmakers from both states to the APC.
Wike, who spoke in Port Harcourt, stressed that the time had come for the judiciary to make a final pronouncement on the incessant defections of governors and lawmakers from one political party to another to save the country from becoming a one party state.
He said: “The time has come that the judiciary must have to rise to the occasion to make a final pronouncement of this issue of defection and that will go a long way to strengthen our democracy. Because if we do not take action, you will find a situation where you will have a one party State and that will not be good for our democracy.
“And so, I have encouraged the PDP, they must file a suit against the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi and the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade for defecting to the All Progressives Congress without any reason provided in the constitution or any other enabling law.
“What PDP is looking for is not just that they want to reclaim the seats, but that a pronouncement must be made by the judiciary on this incessant defection without no reasons at all, in order to enhance and strength our democracy.”
Wike said it was unacceptable for governors and federal and state lawmakers who had been elected on the platform of a particular party without any proof of division in the party that brought them to power.
He said: “Let it be on record that the party (PDP) has been able to challenge it and let us await the outcome of the decision of the court, because the court has a role to strengthen our democracy. And part of the role the court must play is to make a final pronouncement on this issue of defection from one party to the other.”
Wike described the Court of Appeal reconfirmation of Jarigbe Agom as the Senator-elect of Cross River North Senatorial District as a victory for democracy and the PDP.
The Rivers state governor, who congratulated Agom for his perseverance, also commended the judiciary for standing up to the antics of desperate politicians and some lawyers who would want to ridicule the judiciary.
He said: “People must understand there is an end to litigation. This is a matter from my knowledge was a pre-election matter and went up to the tribunal. And I do know that the Court of Appeal tribunal sitting in Calabar sometime in July gave judgment declaring Hon Agom as the senator elect and therefore directed INEC to issue a certificate of return to him and that was carried out by the INEC.
“Surprisingly to us, the candidate of APC and the purported candidate of the PDP, Dr. Stephen Odey, had to apply again to the Court of Appeal to review the judgment that the Court of Appeal had already given at the appeal tribunal.”
The governor advised lawyers to desist from filing matters that could ridicule the judiciary in on behalf of their clients saying every lawyer had the obligation to protect the integrity of the court.