In this report, CHIDI UGWU, in Abuja, writes on the politics of Prince UcheSecondus’s election as the new National Chairman of PDP in the recently held elective National Convention of the former national ruling party, explaining why the South West, contrary to expectations, could not clinch the Chairmanship position, which was zoned to the South.
Hints that Prince Uche Secondu swould go very far in his quest for the PDP National Chair position, which he ran for in the just-concluded PDP elective National Convention, emerged about two weeks ago. On November 28 to be precise,Secondus, a one-time Acting National Chairman of the PDP, had visited Ebonyi State on a campaign tour, along with some other national leaders of the party.
Receiving Seconduswith his entourage at the Executive Council Chambers of the Government House, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State governor, an obviously impressed Engr. Dave Umahihad this to say to, and about,Secondus: “You are experienced and I want to commend you. When we were vying for the party ticket, you were one person that didn’t collect anything from any of the governorship aspirants or anybody. Everybody attests to that.”
“Some people asked us to give. I didn’t give anybody either. But, a day of reckoning has come and we will not vote for such people when they show their faces.
“We must do everything possible to eliminate bribery and corruption in our party politics–it is very important. So, I want you to do everything possible, if God takes you there, to eliminate bribery and corruption. I want to assure you that there will be a level playing ground for all the contestants.
“This time around, Sir, the South East will negotiate very seriously with anybody that the South East will vote. It will not be on the party level. We want to negotiate and know what is coming in for us. This is very important,” the governor stressed.
A week later, on December 5, Umahi, Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, whose younger brother Austin is also Chairman of the PDP in the South East, added that the South East would vote en bloc for a candidate of their choice.
“We just had a meeting in Umuahia, Abia State; they agreed to give us direction. We are going to meet in Abuja and take a common position, common position in the sense that in the past, we voted blindly. Now, we will seek negotiation with any one they want us to vote for. The person will agree what he will do for us. But, I want to assure you that whatever decision we come up with as a zone, I will let you know.
I am not a politician but a child of God. I don’t play politics of deceit,” Umahihad told Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of Daar Communications and PDP chairmanship candidate who had visited Abakaliki to solicit the Ebonyi governor’s support.By syllogistic reasoning, it was easy to deduce how the South East would vote.
And so, with the South East and South South’s block votes in his kitty,UcheSecondus was already walking on a solid ground–electorally. Thus, when the votes were counted at the end of polling in the early hours of Sunday, December 10, and Secondus came tops with 2000 votes to his closest rival Professor TundeAdeniran’s 230 votes and Dr. Raymond Dokpesi’s 66, it came as no surprise to keen watchers of the politics of PDP: it was a victory correctly predicted.
On the other hand, the South West was in disarray. The zone had a total of six aspirants none of who agreed to step down for the other; they just couldn’t agree on a consensus candidate from among themselves. The South West candidates in the race included Chief Bode George,former deputy National Chairman of the party;Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Education Minister; Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, former Minister of Sports and Special Duties; Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Rasheed Ladoja, former governors of Ogun and Oyo States, and Jimi Agbaje, PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State in the 2015 election.
Individually, the South West candidates are all strong political personalities who command wide networks of contacts, associates, support and influence across the country. Many expected the South West to really fight for that position and win on their own strength. But, that was not to be, as the candidates failed to come together and present a common front.
The lack of unity in the South West camp became glaring when the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele fayose, a strong voice in the PDP who supported Secondus, specifically told former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel in the course of the campaigns, that even if he won the Chairmanship, he Fayose would not work with him.
Indeed, the South West PDP leadership had to file a stay-of-execution appeal in an Ekiti federal court, following an interim order of Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of the Ado Ekiti Federal High Court, delivered on Nov. 8, barring the Dr. Eddy Olafeso faction of the party from parading itself as the authentic leadership of the party in the South-
West, to be able to attend the convention with unified delegates from the South West.
The order of the federal high court was at the instance of another faction led by Chief MakanjuolaOgundipe, which had earlier dragged the Olafeso group to court. An elated Olatubora, when he obtained the interim order, said the implication of the order was that the Olafeso-led faction had no legal right any longer to attend and participate in the Dec. 9 national convention of the party. It was as bad as that.
However, the South West attended the convention quite alright, and fully participated in the election of party executives. But, they couldn’t secure the coveted chairmanship position largely because of their disunity and disorganization. By the time some of the candidates agreed to step down or simply withdrew from the race, the damage had been done: it was already too late to pool their ‘electoral resources’ and support one candidate and hope to win.
The question many pundits have asked is, could the result of the chairmanship race have been different if the South West had organized better? Perhaps. Indeed, if reports are anything to go by, the northern delegates had planned to support the South West to produce the Chairman.
But, apparently because of the disorganization in the South West camp or in spite of it, the North, according to one newspaper report, had no better option than to “dump” the South West. And vote for Secondus, the South South candidate who was also supported by the South East!
Yet, it is also possible that Secondus could still have won even if the South West had organized better. Obviously, there were more hardnosed calculations by stakeholders, dictated by personal and regional interests, beyond the seeming sense of entitlement that the South West appeared to have brought to bear on their campaign for the chairmanship.
Chief George betrayed that mindset when he accused Rivers governor, NyesomWike of frustrating South West candidates. Apparently as part of the campaign for a South South candidate, Wike had alleged that a candidate from the oil-bearing and producing South South, where five of the six States are ruled by PDP governors, would be better as PDP National Chairman than one from the South West which, according to the governor, hadn’t contributed meaningfully to the success of PDP. George took the remark as an insult to the South West and withdrew from the race.
George’s calculation, obviously, was that the PDP would settle for a micro-zoning arrangement whereby the chairmanship slot would be specifically zoned to the South West, not just South (but, that was not to be because the party merely zone the chairmanship slot to the South).
Reports quoted George, a PDP BoT member who stood for the party`s micro-zoning principle, as alleging that the South West had been “cheated” with the entrance of aspirants from the South-South into the chairmanship race.Consequently, he withdrew from the race.
“It appears the PDP is bent on self-destruction; I can’t be part of this…I cannot be part of this criminal allegation (that South West has not contributed meaningfully to PDP)…I hereby withdraw from the fraud as a Yoruba patriot; I will stand for our people,’’ George said while announcing his withdrawal from the race.
Wike replied that as “a father, what he (George) …did was to exhibit failure,’’ adding that in politics, all kinds of stories are told by people to project their views as the dominant viewpoints. But, “I have a right to support any candidate of my choice and I do not see how that can be said to be imposition,” he stressed.
“Making statements that some people have hijacked the party, is not correct. With all due respect, we are not playing sentiments; the people know what they want.’’
Debunking allegation of undue influence over the convention, Wike, who is reported to have been in the forefront of the fight to save the PDP from disintegration, added that though governors may be influential, their influence is often limited to their states. However, he insisted that there is nothing wrong in a governor backing an aspirant in whose capabilities such governor believes.
So, did OlabodeGeorge actually act patriotically (as a ‘Yoruba patriot’, as he put it) to save ‘Yoruba’ face by withdrawing, or was he simply scared of election?The latter may well be the case. For, as was to be disclosed by the former Naval officer himself, he had entered the race, in the first place,in the hope that the micro zoning arrangement in the party,
which he alleged had been trashed by the mere participation of the South South in the race, would be sustained so that the South West would not have to contend for the Chairmanship with any candidates or candidates from outside the zone.
Unfortunately for him, the PDP only zoned the Chairmanship to the ‘South’ as it zoned the Presidency to the ‘North’ (not to the South West or South South or North West or North East–in the case of the Presidency), it follows that George, unable to stand the rigors of electoral campaigns and expenditure, and brimming with a sense of South West entitlement to the PDP Chairmanship, wanted the PDP chairmanship zoning arrangement to reflect the 1999 political transition arrangement whereby the nation allowed an all-Yoruba-candidates presidential election,
just to placate the South West over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election of which the late MKO Abiola was posthumously declared winner. But, because the PDP had no reason to placate the Yoruba this time around and, therefore, made the chairmanship open for contest by the entire South, George, a former powerful Deputy National Chairman of the party, practically resorted to blackmail to discredit a process, which he knew had been meticulously put in place by the PDP to ensure a peaceful and transparent national convention of a former ruling party that needed such a credible outing to reinvent itself.
So far, nothing has been said or done by any of the other South West candidates to indicate an agreement with George’s position. Although none of them has as yet congratulated Secondus (Adeniran criticised the process through which Secondus emerged), they have not gone all out either to discredit the process on the allegation that it was skewed against the Yoruba.
If anything, the convention went on and ended smoothly, producing a new set of National Working Committee members of the PDP that many party faithful, supporters and opponents alike hope would inject new vitality into the party and, by extension, the nation’s body politic.
As the politics of 2019 unfolds, the world, to be sure,is watching to see how Prince Uche secondus and his team– Elder YemiAkinwonmi-Deputy National Chairman South; Sen. Gamawa Babawo Garba-Deputy National Chairman North;Sen. Ibrahim Tsauri-National Secretary;Dr.Agbo Emmanuel-Deputy National Secretary;Hon. Aribisala Adewale-National Treasurer;Alh. Wada Masu-Deputy National Treasurer.
Ibrahim Husseini Maibasira-Financial Secretary;Hon. Irona Alphonsus-Dep. Fin. Sec.;Col Austin Akobundu(Rtr)-National Organising secretary; Barr. Hassan Yakubu-Deputy National Organising Secretary; Kola Ologbondiyan-National Publicity Secretary;Hon. Diran Odeyemi- Deputy National Publicity Secretary; Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem-Nat. Legal Adviser;Barr. Ahmed Bello Liman-Dep. Nat. Legal Adviser;Mallam Adamu Mustapha-National Auditor;Miss Divine Amina Arong- Deputy National Auditor;HajiaMariyaWaziri-National Women Leader;Umoru Adizet Hadizat-Deputy National Women Leader;Rt. Hon. Udeh Okoye–National Youth Leader and Umar Babangida Maina– Deputy National Youth Leader–will reinvent the PDP and reposition it to win future elections.