From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) is in a fix. A crack in the National Working Committee (NWC), and festering crisis in the state chapters have put the opposition party on the edge.
Without contention, unfolding events show that the PDP leaders are locked in a titanic struggle for control of the party structures at both the national and state levels ahead of the 2023 general elections. The calculation is that whoever controls the levers of party, at this particular time, will have the upper hand in determining who gets what in the party in the next general elections. For those conversant with power struggle in the country, what is happening in the PDP is common in every election circle.
The crisis in the PDP blew open last Tuesday, as seven deputy national officers of the party served the NWC a 30-day notice of resignation.
The deputy national officers, who are members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), include: the deputy national officers, Diran Odeyemi, deputy national publicity secretary; Ahmed Bello, deputy national legal adviser; Umoru Hadizat, deputy national women leader and Divine Amina Arong, deputy national auditor.
Others are Hassan Yakubu, deputy national organizing secretary; and Irona Alphonsus, deputy national financial secretary.
The deputy national officers in the past two years have been on a warpath with their principals, who are members of the NWC for allegedly sideling them in the affairs of the party. Odeyemi, has however, withdrawn his resignation letter.
The resignation notice opened a new vista in the battle for the soul of the PDP, as the crack in the national leadership became obvious.
The PDP National Youth Leader, Sunday Udeh-Okoye, confirmed to journalists at the party secretariat, last week, that there is a crack in the NWC. Udeh-Okoye, who openly called for the immediate resignation of Secondus for alleged poor management of the party affairs, called on leaders of the PDP to rescue the party.
According to him, “Mr. Uche Secondus, the national chairman of the party is incompetent of managing the affairs of this party; he lacks managerial capacity to manage PDP.
“There is a sharp division in our NWC right now, not only me, many more NWC members are more aggrieved than myself. Today(Tuesday) I have asked him in our NWC meeting to resign his position as the chairman of this party because he cannot lead this party to victory.”
He said: “seven deputies have already resigned their positions today because of Secondus; many more people are also going to resign in the NWC. Right now, I can tell you that not less than eight to ten persons within the NWC members are very aggrieved.”
Apart from Udeh-Okoye, four other NWC members, it was gathered, has equally concluded plans to resign their positions in the next few days. Daily Sun learnt the NWC members have already cleared their desks.
However, Secondus, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Ike Abonyi, expressed surprise that it took Udeh-Okoye more than three and half years to discover that he is allegedly incompetent.
“It took him three and a half years and four months to the convention; it is very unfortunate because he has operated as the youth leader of this party since December 2017 with Secondus as National Chairman and has worked with him.
“But suddenly, few months to convention, after the game of this morning, he suddenly discovered that Secondus is incompetent; he suddenly discovered that Secondus is enriching himself” , he said.
Last week, there were intrigues and serious horse-trading as Secondus and other PDP leaders make frantic efforts to stave off a major crisis in the opposition party.
Last Thursday, the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), after meeting, in Abuja, announced the setting up of a committee to proffer a wholistic solution to the problems plaguing the party.
Former Senate President, David Mark, told journalists that the 28 man committee consists of PDP governors, former governors, former ministers, BoT members and NWC members.
According to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the end of the meeting of the peace panel, the country will know the direction the opposition party is headed.
“We all came together to addresses some issues and because of the urgency of the matter, we agreed to set up this committee urgently and within the next 48 to 72 hours, they will meet and at the end of that meeting, the country will see the direction the party is going. The commitment of everybody to attend that meeting and subject themselves to the decision of that meeting shows the interest of everybody,” Saraki had stated.
The panel, which has 72 hours to complete its assignment, is expected to give its verdict, after a meeting with the PDP Governors Forum and other critical stakeholders on Tuesday.
Besides, the PDP Governors Forum has also scheduled to meet on Monday to brainstorm on how to resolve the issues in the party.
The chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin said the party must act fast to resolve the present crisis, before it escalates further.
Jibrin, who spoke at a BoT meeting, in Abuja, Thursday, to find solution to the issues in the opposition party, said the board must do an introspection into why most national chairmen of the PDP never completed their tenure and draw useful lessons.
According to him, “now is the right time for PDP to set its house in order to prepare for the coming Elective Convention to elect our national party leaders, and preparations for the coming 2023 general elections.”
He added: “this BoT should therefore look at reasons of the abrupt end of past National Chairmen and the NWC tenures and take decision quickly. We must sit down with the National Chairman and the NWC and come out with decisions that will make our party strongest. While truth is bitter, we must cope with the bitterness by taking serious actions to handle this situation.”
Secondus walking a tightrope
Secondus, whose four years tenure as national chairman, expires on December 10, has been in the eye of the storm in the past one year.
The NWC and particularly the PDP national chairman had come under criticism in recent times over their leadership style and management of party affairs and the crisis rocking some state chapters and recent defections from the party.
The PDP chairman, sources say, is eyeing a second tenure as leader of the opposition party. However, party sources say politicians from the South South, while the PDP chairman is from, who are seeking the 2023 presidential and vice presidential ticket of the party are opposed to his second term bid.
“Those interested in the 2023 presidential ticket from the South South are seeing his continued stay as a threat to their ambition, so they are pushing that the next national chairman should come from the North,” the source had told our correspondent.
According to the source, those opposed to Secondus had concluded plans to force him out last February. The anti-Secondus group, it was gathered had penciled a former deputy speaker and former chairman of the party in one of the South South states, as his possible replacement.
However, critical stakeholders intervened, with the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) hurriedly passing a vote of confidence on him, last March.
The recent resignations and threat of resignations, it was gathered is the last push in the plot to sack Secondus as PDP national chairman.
However, the current move has polarized leaders of opposition party, including PDP governors. The pro-Secondus wants the PDP chairman to be allowed to serve out his tenure, while the other group wants Secondus replaced by a caretaker committee immediately.
Plot for caretaker committee
The plot by the anti-Secondus group, it was gathered, is to create a crisis situation in the party so as to replace the NWC with a caretaker committee, which will preside over the December national convention of the opposition party. The December convention is expected to produce a new leadership, which will preside over the nomination process for the 2023 polls.
However, Secondus, who has started fighting back, on Wednesday, accused an unnamed party chieftain eager to hijack the PDP as responsible for the plot to oust him as chairman.
In the statement entitled “who is after Secondus and why is somebody in love of caretaker”, the PDP chairman said he is aware that the said party chieftain is out to hijack the party for his inordinate ambition.
“Answers to the above posers will help members of the public to decipher the recent disquiet in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and why few months to National Convention of the party, somebody is routing for a Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of the party.”
Former Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, said the opposition party should be wary of the idea of a caretaker committee.
“We are not a ruling party at the centre. We don’t have the time, resources and mechanisms to resolve problems that will arise from a caretaker committee which will throw up more problems before the party convention and primaries at the centre and across the states, “ he said.
No doubt, forces against the PDP chairman are bent on ensuring that he does not complete his tenure, or at least scuttle his speculated second term bid. On the other hand the Secondus camp has warned that truncating his tenure, three months to expiration, will not augur well for the opposition party.
However, at the moment, all eyes are on the PDP elders to see what resolution they will come up with. But whether the verdict of the party leaders will diffuse the rising tension in the PDP will be another issue all together.