Every lover of democracy, except maybe members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and their loyalists, seems to have a palpable fear of Nigeria becoming a one-party state but no one seems to know how to stop this from happening.
The former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which should be leading a well-organized opposition and even form a coalition to stop the influx into the APC, is helplessly drifting into chaos.
The current impasse surrounding the chairmanship of Prince Uche Secondus is a case in point about a party that seems unable to help itself. The constant fights within the PDP which have ensured that none of its elected national chairmen has ever completed their four-year tenure reminds me of a description a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Emmanuel Ayandele of blessed memory, gave to the then South Eastern State (current Cross River and Akwa Ibom states): an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself.
When Governor Nyesom Wike projected and literally forced Uche Secondus down the throats of the Peoples Democratic Party as National Chairman of the main opposition party in December 2017, quite a number of party members kicked against the choice. Before then, Secondus had acted as national chairman of the party from 2015 to 2016 following the ouster of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
First, the sentiment was that the northern part of the country should produce the national chairman to clear the coast for the south to produce the presidential candidate. Alternatively, Prof. Tunde Adeniran and his camp felt the Southwest which had never occupied the office of National Chairman of the party should be given a chance to do so. Adeniran’s and all other attempts to oppose the emergence of Secondus were stoutly resisted by Wike who eventually had his way at the party’s national convention which his state, Rivers, hosted in Port Harcourt.
Secondly, the thinking was that Secondus lacked the clout to withstand or outperform his opposite number in the ruling All Progressives Congress, the mercurial Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who, besides being a one-time President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, had the added visibility derived from being a two-term Governor of Edo State. On top of these, Oshiomhole equally had the gift of eloquence and erudition which Secondus could hardly match.
Fast forward to 2021 and Uche Secondus now finds himself in all manner of troubles. The feelers are that the same Wike who made Secondus National Chairman is now fingered to be the one leading the effort to remove him and not allow him to enjoy the remaining four months of his tenure which will expire in December 2021. Just when everyone thought the party organs, mainly the Board of Trustees, BOT, and the party’s Governors Forum, had achieved a middle ground of give-and-take which would see Secondus vacate office in October, that truce seems to have collapsed following an injunction by a Rivers State High Court asking Secondus to vacate office immediately.
The Suit No: PHC/2183/C5, instituted by Messrs Ibeawuchi Ernest Alex, Dennis Nna Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umezirike Onucha as Claimants/Applicants lists Prince Uche Secondus and the PDP as Defendants.
The claimants/applicants sought an order of interim injunction from the vacation judge, Justice O. Gbasam, to restrain Secondus from parading himself as a National Chairman or member of PDP pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction, an application Justice Gbasam granted.
And, with the camp of Secondus signalling their intention and readiness to fight Wike in court, according to newspaper reports which quoted the National Chairman’s media aide as saying that Secondus and PDP will defend themselves if taken to court, the PDP is in for another round of turbulence.
Reports trace this new twist to Wike who, it is said, has the ambition to run as Vice Presidential candidate should either Atiku Abubakar or Waziri Tambuwal emerge as the presidential candidate of the party. With this master plan, it is easy to see why Wike will never allow Secondus a second term or even the comfort of finishing his term as this will give Secondus to plant his loyalists in positions to influence things in the party going forward. Wike is rather pushing the national chairmanship position to the southwest where Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, former Attorney-General and two-time gubernatorial candidate of the party in Ondo State, seems to be the favoured aspirant.
Those with insight into the imbroglio hint that Secondus’ problems arise from his determination to not only complete his term in December but to also offer himself for a second term now that the PDP seems to have zoned its presidential candidacy to the north, with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the preferred choice.
To drive home this point, his critics say Secondus’ recent visits to former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo was not unconnected to his insistence that he be allowed to conclude his term and possibly run for a second term.
With reports signaling Secondus’ preparedness to see this through to the end, including the legal option, observers see a deja vu as the PDP went through a similar situation in 2016 when Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was drafted by Wike and former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, to head the party’s National Working Committee in an interim capacity. That situation was eventually resolved in the law court but not without impacting negatively on the party.
The PDP never seems to learn from its mistakes. The question to ask is if the party, which is haemorrhaging so badly at the moment, can survive another round of self-induced crisis. In the event that it survives, will the party have enough time between now and 2023 to heal, put its house in order and get an acceptable candidate to beat the APC that currently has in its ranks 22 of the country’s 36 state governors (some will say still counting); nearly 70 senators out of a total 109, and over 200 of the 360 members of the House of Representatives from across the states and the Federal Capital Territory?
Bassey, a commentator on public affairs, can be reached at email@example.com
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