By Donu Kogbara
PRINCE Uche Secondus, the suspended National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, tried to prevent the PDP convention from taking place in Abuja tomorrow.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal in Secondus’s state capital, Port Harcourt, deferred judgement till today.
Secondus has been fighting for his political life for several months. Numerous legal challenges have been launched against him, resulting in a flurry of court judgments that have removed him and ordered him to “stop parading himself as PDP Chairman”, then reinstated him.
Throughout this drama, Secondus’s main opponent has been his own Governor – Chief Nyesom Wike of Rivers State – whose famously deep pockets make him a highly desirable ally and formidable adversary.
‘Twas not always thus. Time was when Wike was so passionately pro-Secondus that he bulldozed many party colleagues who were less enthusiastic about his candidate until Secondus was elected as Chairman in December 2017.
I was chatting about recent developments with a pal who has been a PDP Rivers member since the party was founded in 1998; and we agreed that the breakdown in the Secondus/Wike relationship (and collapse of so many other political friendships in our state) is really sad.
I’ve never been a politician; but I’m often mistakened for one or described as one because my late father was an idealistic political animal; and I grew up surrounded by many of the male and female movers and shakers who have dominated the Nigerian political scene, both in different states and nationally…and both before and since we gained Independence from British colonialists in 1960.
Long story short: Partly because of the access to established and up-and-coming VIPs that I acquired via my father and partly because I embraced journalism – a profession that provides an Open Sesame to the world of decision-makers – I’ve been positioned in privileged ringside seats while endless political dramas have unfolded.
And, looking back, because I have a sentimental streak and an emotional stake in the mostly toxic political dramas that have unfolded in my state, I regard them as especially unfortunate.
I clearly recall the halcyon days when Wike and Secondus were on good terms. I remember the cordial drinks and meals in Government House Port Harcourt. And the laughter, warmth and lively discussions that usually ended with everyone being on the same page or agreeing to disagree about a particular issue in a civilised way.
And it’s not just the cheery Secondus/Wike chumminess that has totally disappeared and degenerated into unfortunate hostility. When Dr. Peter Odili was our Governor (1999-2007), Wike and Rotimi Amaechi, the current Minister of Transport, were his “boys” and favourites who held key positions within Odili’s administration; and they and the rest of us were one big happy family.
Now, Wike and Amaechi are bitter arch enemies. OK, so because journalism ethically obliges me to be objective about politicians’ performances, there have been times when I have (sometimes reluctantly) criticised all of the above for not performing adequately or for mishandling certain situations.
But even when they were fed up with me (and/or fed up with each other), there was still a Bottom Line sense of kinship and fraternal empathy; and I cannot forget the fact that we were all essentially united for long periods of time.
Then things got really nasty. Firstly, there was the whole 2007 palaver about Amaechi’s initially frustrated governorship ambition, which Odili was compelled to abandon because of sabotage from the then President, Obasanjo.
Then there was the quarrel between Amaechi and Celestine Omehia, his first cousin…who replaced him as the PDP Rivers guber candidate. Then Amaechi won the Supreme Court judgement and retrieved his mandate from Omehia. Then he decided to embarrass Odili by setting up a kangaroo court to investigate his former mentor.
Then Wike, who had bent over backwards to enable Amaechi to become Governor, fell out with Amaechi. Eventually, Amaechi left PDP and Wike partnered with the then PDP President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to humble Amaechi. And they succeeded spectacularly.
Now Amaechi is benefitting from backing the “right” horse – Buhari – in 2015; and he is doing well federally, but he’s totally out on a limb on his home turf. Meanwhile, Wike is in Opposition. All of the camaraderie that all of the above once shared has gone with the wind in the past 15 years. I am no longer close to most of them. Many of them are no longer on speaking terms.
I wish that Wike and Amaechi and Secondus and other politicos would forgive, forget about grievances and try to make peace. I’m not just being sentimental. I believe that our besieged Niger Delta region can only seriously prosper if leading lights join hands. I cannot forget the December 2006 PDP Convention.
It was a chilly Abuja evening. My dear sister Toru and I were shivering. Amaechi went to his car to find a blanket to cover us. We were so touched by his brotherly kindness. Later on that evening, Obasanjo outmanoevered Odili and handed the PDP ticket to Yar’Ardua. And we all – Wike, Amaechi, Toru, myself and the rest of the Rivers PDP family – felt tricked and devastated. I really miss those days when we were all together.