More facts emerged on Friday about how the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, and the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, clashed at the party’s Board of Trustees meeting held on Thursday in Abuja.
The meeting was summoned by the BoT to find an amicable solution to the crisis rocking the party as a result of Wike’s antagonism to Secondus as the PDP’s national chairman.
The crisis rocking the opposition deepens as political bigwigs in the party jostle for shares of its structure ahead of the 2023 polls.
The PUNCH, on Thursday, reported that Secondus was battling to retain his chairmanship position as Wike spearheaded moves to ensure his removal before the party’s national convention.
Secondus’ opponents were said to have anticipated that he would install his loyalists as members of the convention committee, thus paving the way for his re-election.
It was also alleged that Tuesday’s resignation of seven members of the PDP National Executive Council as part of the moves to oust Secondus and set up a caretaker committee, which would organize the next national convention.
The seven national officers of the party who resigned included the Deputy National Financial Secretary, the Deputy Legal Adviser, the Deputy National Auditor, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, the Deputy Women Leader, and the Deputy Organising Secretary.
However, the PDP BoT members, at a meeting on Thursday presided over by its Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, insisted that Secondus should be allowed to complete his tenure, which would soon end.
The board members, according to sources, faulted what they termed as uncomplimentary remarks by some party leaders, including Wike, against the National Working Committee, while condemning the way the NWC handled crises in some state chapters of the party.
Incidentally, both the Rivers governor and the PDP national chairman are from the same state.
Wike was also a major backer of Secondus when he was elected as the party’s national chairman less than four years ago.
Rivers gov boasted he singlehandedly sponsored Sheriff’s removal
Saturday PUNCH learned that Wike, a major financier of the party, attended the meeting as a BoT member.
His arrival at the meeting was said to have taken attendees by surprise as he was not a regular attendee at any of the party’s functions, apart from the PDP Governors’ Forum.
The governor was also accused by some people of being behind the resignation of some of the national officers of the party.
“His presence, which was not expected, despite his being a PDP BoT member, came as a surprise to many, but not to those of us who are followers of events in the party,” a member of the party’s NWC said.
The source, who is also a member of the BoT, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wike, in his remarks, was angry at some unnamed members of the party, who he said labeled him the party’s “Father Christmas.”
The source said, “Holding a magazine where he (the governor) said he was described as a Father Christmas, he said when he single-handedly paid the legal fees and other matters in the case that removed Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the party and rescued it from him, nobody called him such a name.
“He said he had been paying the rent for the Legacy Building (PDP Presidential Campaign office in Abuja), yet nobody described him using such language. He said if he was not a party man, he could probably have used such money to also marry four wives. He also said he had not told anyone that he wanted to be the presidential candidate of the party in 2023 as insinuated in some quarters. ”
Wike was also said to have paid the salaries of some of the staff members of the party, while other governors and influential members felt unconcerned.
The source disclosed that Wike also accused Secondus of polarising the PDP Governors’ Forum as some of its members were behind the national chairman, while others were with the governor.
As soon as he ended his speech, Wike was said to have made an attempt to leave the meeting, but Secondus, according to the source, said it would be wrong for the governor to leave without hearing from him.
“If you attack me, I will attack you!” Wike was said to have fired back at Secondus. This remark was said to have made attendees to laugh hilariously.
I haven’t told anyone I’m running for the second term –Secondus
However, sources said Secondus challenged Wike on claims that he was seeking another term.
“He told the governor to name anyone he had informed that he was running for a second term. He also said that the party would determine who would be the next national chairman of the party and that the party was bigger than himself. He said the governor should play the role of a father,” the source added.
After Wike ended his speech, Senator Abdul Ningi was said to have been the first to speak. He told the governor that the rift in the party would be settled and that there was no need to quarrel, proposing that a committee should be set up to look into the issues raised by aggrieved members.
In his contribution, a former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, was said to have told Wike that it was the first time the governor would be speaking to the board on any issue like those mentioned.
A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi, was said to have expanded the list of those suggested by both Makarfi and Ningi to be in the committee to look into the crisis rocking the party and advise the party on the way forward.
“He suggested that the committee must consist of seven members of the BoT, all the governors elected on the party’s platform, three former governors, three former ministers, and the entire membership of the NWC,” the source said.
Following the mass resignation of NWC members four days ago, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, withdrew his resignation.
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the deputy national legal adviser and the deputy national organizing secretary were also planning to withdraw their letters of resignation.
“Barring any last-minute changes, the two men will be back at their desks on Monday,” a secretariat staff member of the party said.
Meanwhile, further investigations showed that the initial plan was for four key members of the NWC to resign, namely the Deputy National Chairman (North), National Secretary, Youth Leader, and the National Auditor.
“If they had resigned with those who initially resigned, then the aggrieved governor would have taken the matter to the governors’ forum meeting on Monday and canvassed the total dissolution of the entire NWC on account of a crisis of confidence,” another source added.
The source said the party’s leadership, including the caucuses, was of the opinion that members of the NWC, especially the national chairman, should be allowed to serve their tenure and seek re-election if they so desired.
He said, “Presidents and governors produced by our party seek re-election and they are even given priority. Also, members of the National Assembly even seek re-election more than twice. Why would we be forcing our national officers out?”
In the history of the party, none of its national chairmen has served four years, as constitutionally allowed by the constitution.
The late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who was the first elected vice president of Nigeria, was the first chairman of the party in 1998.
He left to take part in the party’s presidential primaries, which he lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was succeeded by a former governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar, who was in office between 1998 and 1999.
Senator Barnabas Gemade took over from Lar and was in office from 1999 to 2001, after which Chief Audu Ogbeh assumed office as the party’s national chairman.
Like those before him, Ogbeh also failed to complete his tenure as he was forced out of office due to the Anambra State party crisis, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo believed was not well-handled by the party chairman.
The first Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Senator Ahmadu Ali, succeeded Ogbeh and was in office between 2005 and 2008. A former National Secretary of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, was elected as the national chairman in 2008 but was forced to resign in 2010.
A former governor of Enugu State, Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, was barely in office for one year in 2010 as the party national chairman when he was sacked and succeeded by Dr. Haliru Mohammed, who also did not last one year before he was succeeded by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, a former national secretary of the party from Kwara State.
Baraje was in office between 2011 and 2014, but Dr. Bamanga Tukur, who took over from him, presided over the affairs of the party between 2012 and 2014 before he was also forced to resign due to a crisis that engulfed the party as a result of a gale of defections by some governors to the All Progressives Congress, which was in its formative years then.
A former governor of Bauchi State, Adamu Mu’azu, was in the saddle of the party for just a year between 2014 and 2015, during which the party lost the presidential election for the first time since 1999.
There were speculations that he worked for the APC; although he denied the allegation, he is now a member of the party he denied working for then.
Also, Ali Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, was installed as the national chairman in 2015. His reign was characterized by litigation and accusations that he was planted by the APC to derail the former ruling party.
The sheriff, who was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2016, is also now a member of the APC. Makarfi, who midwifed the convention that ushered in Secondus as the national chairman in 2017, succeeded Sheriff.
I did not collect money to resign – Odeyemi
Meanwhile, Odeyemi has denied rumors that he collected money from a sitting governor to resign.
The PDP’s deputy publicity secretary told Saturday PUNCH that he and others resigned because they felt sidelined by the party’s national leadership.
Odeyemi, who is abroad, said the aggrieved deputies turned in their resignation letters as a protest and send a signal to the incoming party leadership to scrap the positions of deputies since they were not part of decision-making in the party.
He said, “I have been away from Nigeria for more than two weeks. Did I collect the N25m while away or what? Now that I have withdrawn the letter, will the man say to have given the money not look for me to collect whatever they alleged he had given me? There is no truth in the allegation.”
In his reaction, Dr. Umar Ardo, a former aide to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, said those fighting the party had lost out.
Ardo, a governorship aspirant of the party in Adamawa State, said the party must also “allow its national officers to go for a second term because we need stability at the party level more than anything.”
BoT, govs, NWC others meet in Abuja Tuesday
Meanwhile, the 28 ‘wise’ elders set up at the BoT meeting are meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.
The meeting is expected to resolve what a source described as ‘contentious issues’ threatening the peaceful co-existence of members of the party. A source, who is a member of the committee, said the BoT decided to have an enlarged meeting to avoid each caucus involved in the party from having different opinions.
BoT chair, Walid Jibrin, who confirmed the holding of the meeting in an interview with one of our correspondents, said preparations were on top gear to enable them to have what he described as a peaceful meeting.
“We are meeting on Tuesday in Abuja. We would be able to tell ourselves the real truth about the party. We have to sit up and take decisive decisions. Nobody should be allowed to bully us,” the BoT chairman said.