By Dirisu Yakubu
Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, recently hosted journalists to a media parley in Abuja, the nation’s seat of power.
The event which coincided with his three years in office, offered Secondus an opportunity to present record of his stewardship, ranging from repositioning the party for the 2023 polls as well as steps taken so far to deepen internal democracy in the party.
What we met on ground
It has been 36 months of ups and downs and I am proud to report that the party is not at the level where we met it. We took over the party when it was still trying to come out of the trauma of losing election and being in opposition for two years under an intolerant ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. We met a psychologically traumatized party struggling to adjust to opposing life after 16 years in power. We inherited a party that had issues with internal democracy. Delegates were not having the final say on who flies the flag of the party in an election. Names of winners were randomly and blatantly changed in Abuja with disregard to the people and the requirements of our constitution.
What we did
The delegates of our party across the country had given us the mandate to lead believing in our rebranding campaign message of 3Rs- Reposition, Rebuild and Regain which were designed to recreate and rebrand the party. We quickly hit the ground running in our reform policy. We organized a rebranding conference and embarked on extensive consultations across the country. Our sensitization program took us to rallies in all the geo-political zones.
By the time our reform program came on stream, the party had become an attractive brand to accommodate the influx of new members that included the entire leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly then, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, others members of the parliament at federal and state levels as well as three incumbent state Governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto who joined us.
As we approached the general election of 2019, the PDP was already the party to beat. The internal democracy promised in our reform package was already in place. Powers were effectively decentralized to flow from the people. Party tickets were gotten at the congress venue not at party headquarters at state and national levels. Popular and more acceptable candidates emerged at state congresses and national convention.
Our national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers state in October 2018 became the first of its kind in Nigeria. It was so transparent that there was no complaint from anybody. Instead, all the contestants resolved to support the winner. All these helped to engender confidence and trust in our leadership.
Our 2019 campaign
Nigerians had earlier realized their mistakes of 2015 and also accepted our apology for any short coming. We carried out one of the most effective campaigns, going to the people with issue based messages not propaganda.
Nigerians accepted these messages and were ready and charged to vote out the APC whose incompetence and incapacity to govern had become apparent. But what Nigerians never envisaged was that the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari who came to power through a transparent and credible election was not going to conduct free and fair election in 2019.
As a prelude to their agenda of holding on to power when it was obvious that Nigerians did not want them, all institutions of democracy, the legislature, the judiciary, the opposition and the media were made targets of intimidation and harassment. You all could recall the shocking and unprecedented unilateral removal of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen. You also recall that midnight attack and arrest of some judges and justices by security operatives of state in the name of fighting corruption.
We all are witnesses to the intimidation meted out to the parliament, how the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki was subjected to all kinds of harassment, how the mace, the symbol of the Senate was stolen in a broad daylight and how the entrance to the National Assembly was blocked by masked security operatives to prevent members going in. We also saw how security men were deployed to help the ruling party have an advantage over other parties in elections.
Notwithstanding, PDP under my leadership had through its reform packages significantly enhanced the image and status of the party. All over the country, the party remains the bride. States under the party’s control rose from 11 to 16 and it could have been more if not for the shameless ambush of the APC in Osun, Kano, Kogi and Imo states.
Internally, the party has also used its in- house means to resolve issues making PDP the right party to belong in this country today. Nothing supports this assertion more than that after five and half years, the ruling APC instead of trying to put their tattered house in order is busy begging and coercing our members to join them with fake and unrealistic promises.
At the risk of being seen as blowing our own trumpet, it’s necessary to note that this NWC is the first in transparency and accountability, the first to function effectively for three years without any scandal or dent of corruption; the first also to successfully render account of its monetary expenditures to both NEC of our party and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as statutorily required.
Another thing that helped us as a party while in this opposition is the exceptional performance of PDP governors. Throughout all the PDP controlled states, there is glaring evidence of delivery of democracy dividends. This has helped to engender confidence on the party about democracy. APC performance in the area of delivering democracy benefits at federal and state levels has been awful and demoralizing. As a party, we are proud of the performances of our Governors and Nigerians are also happy with them.
State of the nation
I know you the media are interested in zoning, but our party has a clear method of doing things. After the general election, we set up a panel to study and appraise our performance and make necessary recommendations.
The Governor of Bauchi state, Alhaji Bala Mohammed is heading the committee and they are still working. We did the same thing when we lost election in 2015 when we set up the Senator Ike Ekweremadu committee to look into why we lost. It was from that report that the party took action towards 2019.
The same way this time, we must study our last outing before looking ahead. We can’t be talking of zoning when we have not appraised how we faired in the last election. Moreover, the state of the nation today is such that politics or anything concerning 2023 of three years away should take back stage. Nigeria is in a comatose state today where APC brought it. That should be our concern now.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was scheduled to address the nation’s parliament today backed out after confirming to them he was coming. Disregarding the nation’s parliament is disregarding Nigeria people because they are representatives of the people. The truth which is worrisome is that the President either does not know what is happening or does know what to do, otherwise, he should not be afraid to face the people.
The hard fact facing all of us now is that this regime has woefully failed Nigerians in all ramifications. It’s a shame that a government that came to power brandishing its military credential as a General with the propaganda to wipe away Boko Haram in 100 days is there 5 years plus presiding over the worst security situation in our history with no clear direction what to do and even afraid to face the country’s the parliament to explain what he is doing.
Jonathan and 2023 Presidential ticket
I stand by my position that the Gov. Bala-led committee is still working. They are coming out with a report on why we lost and by the time they finish, we will take decisions and the decision is not for the National Working Committee but for the entirety of our party.
And I believe that whoever that is interested in the 2023 may be including the former President, the chances are there because the PDP is a party of all. Everybody will have that opportunity but in clear terms, we have not taken any decision to give anybody ticket for now.
Projecting into the next one year when our tenure will end, we have lined up some programs. Our e-membership registration is to begin in 2021 unfailingly having secured the approval of its take off from the NEC of our party. We also intend to finalize the peace and reconciliation process within the party with a view to entering the general election as one united and focused political family.