By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Among the leading chairmanship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus is arguably the most controversial. In this interview, he debunked some of the insinuations and issues bordering on his aspiration. He also unveiled his three-pronged agenda to rebuild, reposition and regain the party’s lost glory.
How do you want to achieve your agenda of repositioning your party if you are elected the National Chairman?
Part of the agenda is to take the party directly to the people at the grassroots. My experience over 18 years shows clearly that we started from the grassroots. But gradually, we were disconnected from the source of power which is the people. Therefore, my plan is to take the party back to the people. In doing this, we are going to devolve powers to the state chapters and then revolve the process around electoral wards numbering about 9,000 and possibly 120, 000 polling units. We would allow the people to reclaim the power by building confidence in the party. One way to do this is by allowing the constituencies and the state chapters to decide their choice because power belongs to the people. We would let them decide who their representatives will be. This is unlike before when primaries were conducted but things changed in Abuja. We want to return the party to the people to enable them make their choice and then take over their destinies in their own hands. One of the challenging things is that we are no longer in power. So, the people will detect their choice, which means we can no longer decide everything in Abuja. The second thing is the reward system which was also eroded. The people in Abuja with Agbada were the ones calling the shots leaving out the people who actually suffered for the party. Those who can deliver their wards were not taken care of. Rather, only the big men in Abuja were the people parading the corridors of power and taking decision on behalf of the people. This time around, we are going to involve the people from ward officers at the polling unit level to local government level. They are part and parcel of the system and they will be recognized as such and be rewarded for delivering their wards. When you strengthen them and give them confidence, you will see that the party will be gradually repositioned. This, of course, goes along with aggressive membership drive. In the process of rebuilding confidence at the grassroots, they will also be involved in the aggressive membership drive by allowing them to participate in electoral decisions regarding those who will represent them. When you do that and a popular person is elected in a constituency, for instance, it becomes an anti-rigging because when a popular person is elected, the people will massively support that person and also defend their votes. This is what we are going to do differently from the old order. There will be reward system, building back the system and allowing people to make their choice. These were not there when we were in power. One other thing I will do differently is to make sure that we are not sitting down at the Wadata house. Wadata has a way of weighing down the leadership. We will allow leadership to interact with the people and to hear from them. I have done a kind of census to know their problems and by the special grace of God, we will address them. We have less than one year to go for election. We need to take practical step to rebuild the confidence of the people almost immediately. We will totally abolish the practice of allowing the big men in Abuja to substitute the names of candidates. It will not happen again.
How would you address the issue of waiver for the new and old members who are joining the party without necessarily creating further problems?
We are taking a memo to the convention. It was agreed in our previous NEC meeting that we would totally eliminate the waiver. It used to be two year , but it is no longer two years because we want new members. A memo is being done to that effect so that the bottleneck which used to be a stumbling block for new members will be totally eliminated. So, people are free to come in and they have equal rights with the old members. You know that Atiku has come back. So, the issue of waiver is no longer an issue.
How would your party avoid a rancorous convention?
The Caretaker Committee has provided some level of understanding with those contestants. Of course, people can have different views. But the bottom-line is that the understanding is gradually getting better. I believe there will be a very peaceful convention.
What is your major inspiration for wanting to lead the party?
It is my experience. I looked at the party and I realised that we are almost one year to the next election and I decided to offer myself based on experience. They say experience is the best teacher. There are one or two areas where we made mistakes. My experience is enormous. We will review where we made mistakes and I will take bold steps to correct them in order to move the party forward. I was at the engine room of the party at one time as acting national chairman. I believe that technically, if I am there, I will make sure the right thing is done. A few others aspirants who have experience may not have the kind of experience I have acquired over the year in the party. I have a straight forward three-in-one vision: Build, reposition and regain the loss.
You have heard a lot of reactions from other aspirants like you from the South-west. In case the position eludes the region, what are you going to do to ensure that the people have their own fair share of the deal to avoid further crisis?
It is part of our constitution that offices must be zoned. There are quite a lot. Apart from party offices, there are also other ones like Presidency, Vice President, Senate President as well as House of Representatives’ Speakers. And South-west is a very important zone in our country. So, there is no way any of these major positions will elude the South-west. I believe party leadership will take care of the various zones.
But the body language of the South-west is like saying it is either the chairmanship position or nothing else. How would you address that?
We are not being driven by sentiment or emotion. Winning an election is not by sentiment. If you go sentimental, you will lose election . So, we are not considering that. But all of us must work together to regain power in 2019.
Looking at the variables on ground , do you think PDP has all it takes to win the next election?
We will hit the ground running. If we hit the ground running and all hands on deck, we would get there. The confidence is there that if we hit the ground running from day one, we will get back to power. It only requires hard work. I assure you that we would hit the ground running and it will be clear to the people that we have started a new thing. We have learnt from our mistakes and we are moving ahead.
If you have to give waiver to a formidable force like Atiku, how are you going to do it in a way that would not hurt other presidential aspirants who had earlier declared their intentions for the race and are already on the field?
We would follow the rules and our constitution. Those who are coming into the party have no fear. They can realise their dreams and that is why we are removing the issue of waiver, stringent measures and so on and so forth. Our party is going to be open, and more importantly, we are going to provide a very transparent platform for all to participate and contest. We are going to make it open so that people from all walks of life, those who are in and those who are coming from outside, have equal opportunities to realise their dreams. At the end of the day, nobody will be hurt.
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the PDP nurtured a civilian-to-civilian transition. Do you have such confidence in the present government to consolidate on that achievement?
I believe the PDP should be commended that they nurtured our democracy to a level where a ruling party would hand over power to an opposition party. I believe if what happened in 2015 happens again in 2019, it will not be a strange thing. All parties should be prepared to give in when it is necessary. Our brothers in APC should know that anything can happen. Power comes from God. They have got it and we never went to court to challenge their victory for the interest of our democracy and Nigerians.
One of the sentiments against you is that a particular governor is behind your aspiration in order to use you for his future political ambition. How would you react to that?
There is no iota of truth in it. One thing about politicians is that they imagine all sorts of things. I am not a new person, I am known across the country. So, nobody is going to say Governor Wike is bringing somebody unknown. I consulted him; I consulted ten other PDP governors. I didn’t stop there. I mapped out my strategy and I went round to consult other leaders including BOT members and former governors. There is no governor who will say he wants to control the federal structure. The highest level of his control is the state. So, there is no iota of truth in the rumour . I believe seriously those who are saying that are just being mischievous. My record is clean. And having contested several elections to a point of acting as national chairman, I can boldly say that I am capable. But then, I have to consult my governor. I am not like other candidates who would not consult their governors. If I have his support, is that a crime? He has no motive to control the federal structure. How can he control the state and still control what is happening in Abuja? It is not possible. He is not God. People are just carrying rumour for mischief making and blackmail.