BY HENRY UMORU
Prince Uche Secondus, a former Acting National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview, bares his mind on the non- elective convention of the party held in Abuja, last weekend, the anti- graft war of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the PDP ahead of 2019, among other issues of national importance.
Your party has just had its non- elective national convention. What is your take?
That is an indication that after the Supreme Court judgment, the party and its members have come together and I believe the convention brought everybody on board with the understanding that our differences have been resolved. It was in unity that we passed all the motions and extended the life of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi – led Caretaker Committee in preparation for an elective convention coming up in December. Our party members, stakeholders, leaders, supporters and loyalists across the country are very happy about the successes recorded at that convention.
You saw the enthusiasm that was displayed by the members of the PDP at the convention. Everybody was happy because better days are here again for the PDP, especially against the backdrop of what we suffered in the past. For almost two years, the party was in crisis, but now the PDP is out of crisis and, for the first time since we lost the presidential election in 2015, we were able to come to the Eagle Square as one united party under one strong umbrella, to rekindle the hope that all is not lost in our country.
Now that the tenure of the Caretaker Committee has been extended by four months, what would you tell the committee and the party members ahead of the elective convention?
As an executive member of the party, I am aware that the Caretaker Committee is ever ready to work tirelessly to make sure that the December convention takes place. And across the nation, our party supporters are are ready to come and elect their officers; they are working, working really hard.
With the non- elective convention, it appears all is well with the party?
All the differences have been settled and you are aware that the Supreme Court gave judgment and that judgement represents the aspiration of the majority of members of the party.
Ahead of the 2019 elections, how prepared is the PDP?
It is a long journey and we will not like to disclose our strategies. But first, we have to put our house in order. All we are doing is to continue to work hard for the party, win more party followers, those who are outside and those who left the party for the APC, in preparation for the general elections that would come in 2019. It is a lot of hard work. We will be having a new strategy and a new narrative. I believe that following what happened in the16 years that we were in power and what has happened in the last two years, the party has learnt a lot of lessons and the PDP will not repeat the mistakes that were made. From what we saw at the non-elective convention, one would be bold to say that the PDP is on the march again and, by the grace of God, come 2019, Nigerians will vote the PDP, considering what we have experienced from 2015 to date. PDP has been a pioneering party in Nigeria that formed the federal government, a party that did not only build credible institutions of government, but also helped to create the institution of democracy which we are enjoying today in Nigeria. It is good to also test the other side, today we know the difference and I will say the difference is that of between day and night. I think what would be the first agenda, the foremost agenda of the PDP, is that those institutions that have been established by the PDP government to fight corruption, the PDP government that is coming, God’s willing ,would take the institutions to greater heights as that would ensure that corruption is fought in the most civilized manner, not witch – hunting but by the rule of law.
It would be fought at the grassroots, in all spheres of our nation. In fact, we have an agenda that when it is unveiled, the whole country will welcome it.
You said that PDP has learnt its lessons. Can you give instances where the PDP made mistakes?
Of course after establishing the institutions to fight corruption, the EFCC, the ICPC and the rest of them, I believe that the mistake the PDP made was that the much needed strength to prosecute and to fight it from the root was not there. Yes, some successes were recorded, but not to the knowledge of the people. I believe that, that was one mistake that we made and it is a major mistake. This time, we have to purge ourselves and we will ensure that everyone that would occupy public office will be properly screened and I believe that, that is the beginning and that person will take an oath administered by the party that he will fight corruption on a scale acceptable to Nigerians and the international community.
What is your take on the calls for restructuring and devolution of power?
So much power is given to the centre; that is not done anywhere in the world where democracy is practiced. Power belongs to the people and should be decentralized. Let’s not be sentimental about it, let the people at the grassroots have power to conduct their affairs; for instance in the regional days, chiefs and community leaders had the responsibility to make returns on taxes in their areas. That is decentralization; that is restructuring. But when power is concentrated at the centre, it is a like a central command structure, a unitary form of government and we erroneouly call it federal system.Restructuring means quite a lot to our people, especially those who are old enough to see what was obtainable in the regional days when substantial power was given to the regions and the regions gave power to the communities; there must be community participation; that is restructuring. When the communities don’t participate, a situation where everybody looks up to Abuja, things cannot work. And that is why you can see that roads are not maintained, unlike in those days when the community will maintain the roads. Now, everybody is sitting back and waiting for Abuja to repair the roads. Everybody also waits for money to come from Abuja. We should leave sentiments and go back to the basics. There must be community participation and involvement in government.
What about state police?
It is absolutely necessary because even during the regional days, there was the Adandoka in the Northern Region and in the Eastern Region, we had court messengers. These were the people who enforced the laws and made sure that those who were eligible to pay tax paid. So, if you like, call it community police and you still have the federal police that have the overriding powers, just like what is practiced in the United States where the state has its own police, the community has its own police but they still have the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that oversees everything. Our own police can be restructured in such a way that everybody will be involved and everybody will participate.
There is tension in the land. Pro – Biafan groups are agitating in the South-East. Some northern youths some time ago gave quit notice to the Igbo resident in the North and, some days ago, some Niger Delta agitators gave quit notice to northerners and the Yoruba resident in the oil-rich region.
What is your take on these agitations?
This is the failure of government. The government is broken, absolutely broken; the absence of the Commander-in-Chief may have caused quite a lot and you know that there is no country in the world where a President is absent for a very long time and a few people would gather and call themselves a cabal, which means that we have several Presidents ruling the country. Yes on paper they say Acting President is in place but the reality is that the cabal is in charge and that is what we are seeing today. This government is completely broken, the people should see it. Is this the kind of government they voted for? Is this the government they envisaged? We need a government that has the interest of all the people of Nigeria at heart irrespective of whether you are from the North, the East or West. We need a united Nigeria and a party that can put the nation together. This APC government cannot unite this country. The people are disillusioned, the people are not happy about the way things have gone in the last two years. There is so much distrust, dishonesty in the system and the party in power is not speaking the truth; that is the message we will be preaching in a couple of months ahead.
How is your state, Rivers, doing?
Rivers State is doing well; it is God’s own state. You are aware that we have passed through a lot and those who are planning evil against the state will know that they are not God because God has reversed all their plans. We believe that it is only God that can deliver us from the hands of the enemies of Rivers State.
What is your message to Nigerians?
Let there be peace, let there be unity, let the people come together because there will be another opportunity to compare and contrast whether the APC controlled government has performed very well or not. They cannot unite the country, the country is virtually irreparably divided under their government, the country is broken and the alternative is the PDP. So let us come together and vote them out.