The intervention, Thursday, by some political elders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) saved the embattled national chairman of the main opposition party, Prince Uche Secondus, from a planned removal by certain forces opposed to his leadership.
The indication that the elders’ had achieved a breakthrough in their intervention emerged, when Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, who was among the seven that resigned their positions on Tuesday, changed his stand and withdrew his resignation letter.
Even more instructive, it appeared, was Odeyemi’s pledge to work with the Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) to ensure a successful national convention, which would usher in new national officers in December.
The PDP elders comprised members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the National Executive Committee (NEC), governors elected on the platform of the party, and other prominent stakeholders. The BoT and NEC members at their meeting yesterday set up a committee to resolve the crisis in the party.
Members of the committee include 13 PDP governors, three former governors, three members of the National Assembly, two former ministers, all NWC members, all former senate presidents, all former deputy senate presidents, all former speakers of the House of Representatives and their Deputies.
Although the elders of the party, including the governors, at their meeting on Monday were to consider some of the last options before them. They gave the Secondus-led NWC a lifeline of 72 hours, inside party sources claimed the worst might have been over for Secondus and his NWC.
Some of the PDP elders were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim; one of his successors, David Mark; former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; Professor Jerry Gana, Dr. Iyochia Ayu, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, and Senator Ibrahim Mantu. They said their goal was peaceful resolution by disagreements in the party.
Other elders of the party, who shared this position, included Senator Adolphus Wabara, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, Senator Helen Esuene, Hajiya Zainab Maina, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Hon. Austin Okpara, Sentor Biodun Olujimi, Senator Zainab Kure, Senator Agboola Hosea, Senator Odion Ugbesia, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe and Hajiya Hadiza Adodo.
Secondus, too, warned that any dislocation in the party now would do the PDP no good. He said the meeting was essential, because “a time like this is a time that we must brace up and be able to come out very strong and even stronger.”
Sources at the meeting said Secondus was able to survive his removal because a majority of the stakeholders held the view that the NWC he led should be allowed to conclude its tenure, which is due to end on December 9, 2021.
They said the removal of Secondus would be a bad omen for the party currently. Those who wanted him out were bent on having him to publicly declare that he would not contest the office of the national chairman at the December national convention, for peace to reign.
The importance of yesterday’s meeting also underscored by the attendance of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who for the first time, attended a BoT meeting of the party and had been at the forefront of the Secondus Must Go movement.
Chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin, while declaring open the meeting yesterday at the PDP national secretariat, said, “This meeting is very important at this crucial time, because of the numerous problems in our party especially, lack of cohesion within the party, among major stakeholders that needs the intervention of BoT as the highest advisory body and the conscious of the Party.”
He said with the total disorder and confusion at the recent congresses of APC, coupled with the failure of the government to protect life and property of Nigerians, it was important for PDP to sit up.
“Now is the right time for PDP to set its house in order to prepare for the coming elective convention our national party leaders, and preparations for the coming 2023 general election,” he said.
According to him, to achieve a complete success, the party must do away with personal interest and unnecessary in-house fighting aimed at killing the objectives set by the party.
The source said, “We must look critically at the party’s approved organs advising all to wake up from the slumber by functioning very well in order to fulfil the dreams of our forefathers.
“In the light of the foregoing, it is very important, therefore, that the BoT, being the conscience of the party, must today come up with necessary strategy for the election of the party’s national leadership based on free and fair election that will produce credible and competent officers of our party. The BoT is always ready to listen to any group, committee, or any individual, who has good intention for the Party.
“Any individual or group, who has good contribution, therefore, will be nicely accommodated by the BoT provided that the intervention is aimed at promoting peace and unity in our great party as against the APC great threat to unity, stability and security of the nation. At any other business (AOB) in today’s agenda, we will listen to such contribution from any group or individual”
He explained that in order to operate effectively as the conscious of the party, the meeting should deliberate fully on the need to put the collective interest as true PDP members ahead of any personal interest against unity and stability of the party, “making sure that new leaders emerge only through free and fair election at National Convention.”
The source said there was also the need to take a firm stand to drastically reduce court cases by aggrieved members but to always follow the procedure enshrined in the constitution before referring any matter to court of law, stressing that, “Anyone that takes the party to court should be seriously disciplined.”
He hinted that he had completed all arrangements with the governor’s forum, the National Assembly caucus and forum of state chairmen, for effective consultation on the way forward for party.
Secondus, on his part, said, “Today’s meeting is critical, not only for members of the National Working Committee (NWC) but the entire party. It is critical because a time like this is a time that we must brace up and be able to come out very strong and even stronger.
“Because I believe that in every human endeavour, where there are issues, the issues must be tabled, discussed and come out with solutions. That solution will make our party very strong.
“The state of our party as I briefed you the last time we met here, is that we have on our hands nine state congresses that have to be conducted before the convention. And I believe that the reconciliation committee has done great work in Plateau State and Niger State. And by the grace of God, the remaining congresses in the remaining state, as we speak, the forms are being sold for those, who want to contest in their various states.
“Let me commend the effort of the reconciliation committee in resolving issues arising in states and involving the stakeholders they have met. I believe that their issues and the issues must be resolved. The reconciliation committee has been successful, so far so good.
“After the main state congresses, both the public and our party are looking forward to a smooth and peaceful convention, which is coming up in December. We believe the preparation is being done in the office of the National Organising Secretary. And soon the schedule of events, the timetable and the others shall be presented before the Caucus, BoT, NEC and all organs of our party for action leading to the convention.
“This is the first time in the history of our party, regardless of divergence opinions that this current NWC has been in office and nearly three months to the convention, we will be ending this regime in a smooth transition that will be taking place without rancour or problem.
“Let me report to the BoT, that of truth, based on what the Chairman of the BoT has said, that seven deputies, members of the principal working committee, resigned. We met with them, the first day they brought their letters and we also met with them yesterday. We quickly deployed the internal conflict resolution mechanism so that the issues are not escalated to the point that our party will be greatly damaged.
“You are aware that the National Youth leader took a stand that is outside the conduct of our normal process of settling grievances and thereafter he on his own has been going on, on the wide-scale allegations and so forth.
“We believe that issues of this nature must be handle quickly and swiftly so that we can get back to the business of conducting free and fair conventions for a smooth transition, because any dislocation will cost an infraction and will result to several unknown issues that we may come out, we may not be able, but God forbid.
“The intention is to come out that for three years, eight months now, it has been very peaceful. Not that no issue, the issues are usual issues of party – both party administration and those who know the running and the power game will understand. I’m happy to report to you that these are very critical issues, that the conscience of the party and another forum will look into.
“My opinion is that anything contrary to the smooth running of our party, towards this three months that is remaining will not be good enough for our party.”
Furthermore, he said, “Sacrifices have been made from the beginning when we came in and by the grace of God, not without an error, because anyone that has no error is perfect. But as human beings you are aware that the convention that took place in Port Harcourt was transparent; it is a convention that put the party together and it was smooth, free, fair and we went into that election in 2019.
“I believe that all hands must be on deck, because you are aware that the other party is falling apart and Nigerians are looking up to PDP to come out stronger and prepare themselves for 2023. And this, by the grace of God, we all are willing and I believe that the party will come out stronger from this situation and with strength, we will match forward to 2023 to rescue Nigeria from the crisis APC has taken Nigeria into.
“I believe that members of the BoT who have worked so hard from the beginning and now in collaboration with the NWC and governors forum will be able to chart a way forward – a way forward that will bring victory to our party.”
In their intervention, a statement by all the concerned elders of the party stated: “In view of recent developments at the national secretariat of our great party, we have resolved to issue this press statement urging all party organs, party officers and party members to remain calm, faithful and orderly, as we proceed with urgent consultations and initiatives to resolve the contending issues.
“We wish to firmly reassure aggrieved stakeholders that we intend to be thorough, objective, creative and balanced in our efforts to find lasting solutions to the fundamental matters arising. Towards this end, we have initiated moves to urgently meet with our governors, the Board of Trustees, the National Working Committee and other critical stakeholders.
“Since we all share the legitimate desires of our loyal members to offer a credible, effective and productive alternative, we have no doubt that we shall soon find positive, appropriate, pragmatic and lasting solutions to the problems facing the party. We shall emerge from this crisis stronger, better and more united. This is only a temporary challenge.
“We assure all Nigerians that the Peoples Democratic Party is resolute in providing qualitative leadership, sound programmes, effective implementation strategies and hope generating solutions to our national problems.
“On behalf of the elders and founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party, we wish to use this medium to thank all Party Members and supporters across Nigeria and in diaspora for their commitment, loyalty and strong support.”
Atiku, while responding to the situation in the PDP, called on party leaders to unite in collective interest of the party and the country, adding that the party cannot afford to be divided at this critical point in time when Nigerians were desperately yearning for change in the face of their miserable living conditions.
In a statement by his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku said, an opposition that was being looked up to as an alternative could not afford to be fighting itself and lending its hands to the ruling party for its own destruction. The statement He, therefore, urged the party’s faithful to understand that the price of having a fragmented PDP was too high to pay, but above all, a betrayal to the memories of the founding fathers of the party.
Dismissing insinuations that he was fueling the crisis, the former vice president explained that he was lately involved in reconciliation efforts within the party across the country and has backed reconciliation processes aimed at defusing tensions in the party.
He called for calm and for the combatants to sheath their swords and give the reconciliation mechanisms of the party a chance, noting also that the interest of the PDP far supersedes that of any individual, confident that the party would overcome its current travails for as long as all hands were on deck.
“The PDP is greater than our individual ambitions. We have to consolidate the party first before we talk about our ambitions. We have to be careful not to play into the hands of the ruling party. We can’t afford a one-party system in Nigeria that denies our people a viable alternative for true change in 2023”, he said.
But Odeyemi’s withdrawal of his resignation letter had signaled more hope of reconciliation in the party, with speculations that more would follow suit soon.
The letter read: “I write to withdraw my letter of resignation as the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of our great party. This decision is taken in view of the activation of the internal method of resolving issues by our leaders across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
“I also wish to state expressly that whatever embarrassment the resignation has caused the party, its leaders, members and supporters is highly regretted.
“Most importantly, in view of the fact that the tenure of myself and other members of the present National Working Committee (NWC) will expire in another three months, it is my view that the boat should not be rocked under any guise.
“Consequently, I pledge my loyalty and commitment to the party and the Prince Uche Secondus-led NWC, and will continue to play my roles to ensure a successful national convention, which will usher in new national officers. May God endow our leaders with wisdom to navigate the ship of the party to a safe harbour. Amen.”
Meanwhile, Secondus and his NWC are likely to know their fate in the after BoT and the committee set up on the crisis had met with the governors of party on Tuesday.
Mark, who hinted at the development, said the committee’s basic duty was to ensure proper reconciliation among all the contending forces.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja