Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” — John F. Kennedy, former President of the United States.
Prior to the December 2017 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state were best of friends.
Those familiar with the relationship with the duo said Secondus usually resume at the Rivers State Government House in the morning, following the governor to all his outings and then retire to his home in the night.
Unknown to many, Secondus desperately wanted something from Wike-his support to become the national chairman of the PDP. To many, there was nothing wrong in that as Secondus had also used his influence as Deputy national chairman and later acting national chairman of the PDP to help Wike achieve his dream of becoming Rivers state governor, in spite of stiff opposition from the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Rotimi Amaechi, Wike’s predecessor who is now the Minister of Transportation.
Secondus who stepped in as acting national chairman of PDP in May 2015 following the resignation of the then national chairman, Adamu Mu’azu believed that having risen to the highest position in the party, he has the requisite experience needed to stabilise the PDP, which is yet to recover from its defeat to the APC. He was said to have intimated Wike of his aspiration and the governor gave him total support. Having zoned the position of national chairman to the South, the general belief then was that it was the turn of the South-West to clinch the position. But the leaders in the region played into the hands of Secondus and his loyalists as they failed to produce a consensus candidate and also refused to step down for one another.
Few days to the convention, the entire South-West PDP was in disarray while the South- South, led by Wike stood behind Secondus. Through Wike’s support, he also received support from some Northern governors who asked their delegates to vote en masse for him. At the end of the convention held at Eagles Square Abuja, the Chairman of the electoral committee and former Benue state governor, Gabriel Suswam, declared that Secondus polled 2,000 votes out of a total vote tally of 2,296, to emerge chairman. He defeated former Minister of Education, Prof, Tunde Adeniran, who got 231 votes while former AIT Chairman, Chief Raymond Dokpesi got 66 votes.
Genesis of Conflict
No sooner had Secondus became PDP national chairman that trouble began to rear its head. As the number one man in PDP, Secondus knew the power he wields and he believed that as the national chairman of the party, he could no longer subject himself to the whims and caprices of Governor Wike, who is now one of his members. On the other hand, the governor who has a domineering attitude believed that having installed the national chairman, he could exercise unrestrained influence over him and made him do his wishes whenever he wants.
A very smart and highly experienced politician, Secondus who knew the man he was dealing with quickly wormed his way into the hearts of many stakeholders in the party, especially in the Northern part of the country. This proved a smart move as majority of them rallied round him when Governor Wike came thought he could easily dethrone him the same way he installed him.
According to a source “the rift between the two started shortly after Secondus became the national chairman. Unlike before when he was very close to the governor, he kept a far distance and this made Governor Wike very uncomfortable. Of course, you can’t expect the man (Secondus) as the national chairman of a big political party like PDP to be relating with you the way he was doing before. Besides, his office is now in Abuja and he had many issues to contend with, especially the Makarfi- Modu-Sheriff crisis that has polarised many PDP states across the country”.
“The final straw that broke the camel’s back was the PDP presidential primary held in Port Harcourt in 2018. Prior to the convention, the governor, who was backing Aminu Tambuwal had complained of Secondus closeness to Atiku Abubakar, former Vice-President who was one of the frontline aspirants of the party. Despite the fact that the convention was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, Atiku won the convention and Wike felt Secondus whom he had thought will repay him for his assistance did not do what he was supposed to do as the party’s national chairman”.
After months of playing hide and seek, denying the existence of any rift between them, Governor Wike bared his fangs against Secondus and declared that he is unfit to lead the party again. He used several derogatory names against Secondus such as ‘tax collector and incompetent’. In one of his interviews, he accused the Secondus-led of sowing seed of discord among PDP governors and jeopardising the party’s prospect to clinch the presidency in 2023.
The governor accused the current leadership of NWC of merely being interested in retaining the current structure of the party to remain in power, and not to win the 2023 election.
“PDP ought to have harvested from the inefficiency of the APC; from the maladministration of the APC. Ordinarily, that is what opposition party ought to do. If you ask me, are Nigerians waiting for a change? Yes. If you ask me as a member of PDP, am ready to support PDP to takeover, yes. But, if you ask me currently as it is, is the leadership of the party willing for us to harvest this opportunity for a change, I will say no.”
“An opposition party that ought to be united, to work, to take over the affairs of government, because people are waiting for this opportunity, but the current leadership of NWC is not prepared for that, rather, what they have done is to constitute some people to sow a seed of discord among governors for their own selfish interest. And that will boomerang; that will consume them” Wike had said.
Reacting to Wike’s outbursts, Babangida Muazu, former governor of Niger state said he was surprised that the Rivers state governor was not sanctioned for using uncomplimentary remarks on the national chairman.
He said “I was surprised that nothing was done with the other person who called the NWC tax collectors. I was surprised that nothing was done. I remember many of us in the Board of Trustees raised the issue. I also remember that one or two of us raised the issue in NEC. Even if a letter of warning had gone out, other members would have learned from that. That was very unfortunate”.
Following moves to oust him from office few days ago, Secondus who had maintained a dignified silence alleged that a certain party bigwig who he described as “Father Christmas” is using gifts to lure party stakeholders in an attempt to hijack its structures.
He also alerted that the party chieftain is deploying all manner of resources to destroy the party boss and birthing a caretaker committee.
In a statement titled: “Who is after Secondus and Why is somebody in the love of Caretaker?”, issued by Secondus’ spokesman, Ike Abonyi , Secondus stated: “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.
“The media office of the National Chairman is privy to intelligence that the strong party chieftain bent on hijacking the party structure for destruction is still on the loose with the main agenda of denting the image of Prince Uche Secondus the National Chairman.
“Reports reaching this office shows clearly that this character is deploying all devious means to try and diminish the person and character of the National Chairman with a view to having his way of ultimately hijacking the structure for his disproportionately large ambition.
“We, therefore, wish to alert the general public particularly media houses and party stakeholders to look out for strange deployment of luring gifts from this destructive ‘Father Christmas’ all aimed at having a grip on the soul of our party by having a caretaker Committee.
“What continues to shock many party observers is the real reason behind the desperation of this man to get at the National Chairman and the quantum of public funds being expended to achieve this illicit goal a few months to the National Convention.
“Few months to National Convention anybody who means well for this party and who is a true democrat should respect the constitution of the party and approach issues dispassionately.
“Prince Secondus through the media office, however, wishes to assure all critical stakeholders of our great party that every reasonable step is being taken to ensure that the image and status of the party is not injured by all these needless noise and schemings by desperadoes.”
Despite peace moves by the party leaders who agreed to move the convention from December to October, it appears that the war is over as Wike few days ago granted another interview, saying Secondus is unfit to lead the party. But it will be hard nut to crack as Secondus had gained more friends in the PDP who are rallying behind him.
When asked to give an advice to Secondus on way out of the leadership crisis, Muazu said “I will advise him (Secondus) to keep doing what he is doing. Yes, you were supported to be elected, you have been elected. You have a four-year tenure, make sure you complete that tenure. You have a room and a right to contest for the next four years. That decision is yours but you have more supporters now than you did before the other election”.