Prince Uche Secondus is the national chairman of the main opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview with Vanguard in Abuja, Secondus speaks on the state of the nation, posturing for the 2023 Presidential poll, and the stewardship of governors elected on the platform of the PDP among others.
By Dirisu Yakubu
On the detention of journalist, Jalingo Agba by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River and the inability of the PDP to intervene You are aware that the governor met with the President on Tuesday and on his way out he was interviewed by your colleagues and he had to explain what happened. So, I refer you to the statement of the governor because we are all concerned and if it is true, a proper investigation will be carried out. You don’t need me to say much about that until a final decision is taken but we are concerned generally because this is a country that believes and of course it was the PDP that came out with the Freedom of Information Act and we believe in it. Our President, Goodluck Jonathan signed it and so we believe in free press and free speech.
On perceived disloyalty of some PDP governors and stakeholders and lack of readiness on the part of the leadership to call them to order.
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You see, democracy is fast deteriorating in our country because of the style of the federal government. As you can see, it is do-or-die, or winners take all. There is hunger in the land and insecurity. Even in those states not controlled by PDP, you still know that we have critical stakeholders in those states who are firmly on the ground.
And you know also that in 2019 election, we won in those states that are not ours and that shows clearly that we are moving forward with democratic ideals and principles but you never can tell. There may be one or two places where we may have what you just described but we believe that it will come on and off until we arrive at the right destination not just for our party but for our nation also.
Where is the party going to zone 2023 presidential ticket?
Today, we are more concerned about rebuilding our party. When the time comes for the nomination of a Presidential candidate, the party will come out with it’s position. You know the Constitution allows everybody, whether you are from North or South. No one is going to stop anyone from contesting even when it was zoned to a particular region in the past. Every person still has a right to contest so if you are qualified and desire to run for the office of the President, you are free to contest.
There is rumour that your party is planning to change its name…
I am quite glad that you called it rumour and I would regard it as gossip. Everybody, every free thinker is allowed to think but we never considered name change. It has never happened and no suggestion but like you said, it is rumour. It is not being considered by our party at all, it is not part and parcel of our agenda for now.
Is you party considering a merger?
Why not? When the time comes, if there is need for people to pull their resources and strength together, it can happen, it is possible. Our focus is in making sure that our party is strong and viral and ready to win election.
On division of the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives
I want to assure you that our distinguished senators are working hard. In the House of Representatives, we have issues but we are working hard to resolve them. And we believe that any member of PDP not necessarily those in leadership position is free to voice his feelings about what is going on in government.
On what PDP is doing to win Edo State on account of the APC crisis in the state
We are working very hard in Edo State. We met with the leadership and stakeholders of Edo State last week and I believe that our people are coming together very strongly and you are aware that state belongs to PDP before the APC took it from us. So we are working hard to regain Edo State.
On comments that apart from the card reader, the PDP did not do much on electoral reforms after 16 years in power
If you recall when PDP came into power in 1999, I want you people to rewind a little bit because we must know where we were coming from and where we are now. It took 16 years for us to carry out electoral reforms which gave us what we have and which was not implemented. First, the laws were analogue. Second, there have been several reforms within the 16 years and it became like rhetorics and you know part of it, part of our challenge was that the Constitution of our country must also conform with the desire of the change and reform which we proposed before we handed over in 2015. It was the PDP that equipped the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with all the data and with all the machines and also the transmission of result sheets electronically but when this government came, they discarded all the structures that were put in place even though the electoral law didn’t quite capture it because of the impediment of our constitution.
Now 16 years was not a joke. I suppose you should appreciate that PDP has done very well bringing us to where we are today and it is left for those in government now to do its part. All the reforms are there, particularly the amendment that was done in the 8th Assembly, but which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent so that the bill would become law. The President refused to sign it, so why are you putting the blame on PDP? 8th Assembly amended the electoral laws so you don’t put that blame on the door of PDP, put it squarely on the door of APC government. They are now in government for five years running, so put that on their doorstep.
A sitting governor of your party publicly campaigned for a governor of another party in another state recently. Why didn’t the party under your leadership sanction him?
Being a governor does not stop an individual from airing his views. He hasn’t come out openly to say ooh, this is PDP position. I am quite sure that people can in a democratic world hold free speech. It is time for our country to move from a situation of sentiments and emotions and all whatnot. We don’t listen to gossips, some may be correct, some may not be correct, but let’s drop this idea of rumours. Our position is very clear, we are going to contest in Edo but we are asking for reforms. This is the position of the national leadership of our party.
On the perception that the PDP under his watch is weak in terms of discipline given altercations among governors and the view that whatever happens in Wadata is what has been planned in Rivers State
Anything that has to do with our governors and the altercation between the governments of Rivers and Bayelsa states have made the headlines. We don’t want to go into it. I don’t think that is going to help to build a party.
Those who want to destroy would want to dig up emotions. So I believe that enough is enough. What we do behind the scene is not to the knowledge of the press and we are not ready to disclose that because we have our strategies. You may think that is weakness, but that’s the sign of strength. The way you think it may not be the way we think and I have been in this party long before Wike became governor. I had been the chairman for River State PDP for eight years, the national organizing secretary for four years, Deputy National Chairman and acting National Champion all that time where did I take directives from? Is it now that I am the substantive chairman that I have to take the directives? That is rumour and blackmail and we are not ready to pay any attention to such.
In politics, people like to gossip and then carry rumour from one place to the other which gets to media executives like you.
A gale of defection has hit the Imo State PDP and many of your members are decamping to APC. Are you not worried about these developments?
I don’t know what to answer more than what I said before concerning the House of Reps. We are still in the process, you cannot force us to do what we don’t want to do. In other words, all the processes must be completed. If you were in the last National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting, we stated that the BoT had submitted it’s report on the House Minority leadership controversy. The Ikimi committee has also submitted it’s report and all of these will undergo a process and at the conclusion we will come out with our position. Elumelu himself was there when Kingsley Chinda was elected. Chinda was not just appointed, he was elected. But whatever happened is bygone.
We’ re looking forward to reconciling, and making sure that we put these issues behind us.
On the view that the PDP has been lethargic and has not really played the opposition role
The PDP is the strongest opposition party in Nigeria. And you know, we don’t behave as if we’re on the street. We have men of high integrity in the leadership of the party. We do our opposition constructively. We are also aware that countries like Ghana, Kenya, even the United States passed through what we are passing through in opposition today and we’re doing better. It is those who are in government that are behaving like opposition because they used to be in opposition.
We have the intellectual arm that is the Peoples Democratic Institute, PDI. People are working silently. You are aware that in the last NEC meeting, we announced the constitution of a committee to review and assess what happened in 2019 elections. All of these are towards putting our party on the right track ahead of 2023. If all the electoral laws would be amended to conform to modern-day technology where even people can stay in the confines of their homes to vote and their votes will count, that will be good for Nigerians and democracy.