A former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus has challenged whoever wants to be chairman of the party to show proof that he is able to deliver not only his state but his zone to the party during next year’s general election. He spoke with Tobi Soniyi and a few political editors. Excerpts:
At the botched Port Harcourt convention, you agreed to be deputy national chairman. Now you want to be chairman. What has changed?
The truth is that, by last year I was gunning for the deputy. The arrangement was such that somebody from the South-west would emerge as the chairman. That time, we had two and a half years to the general election. But now, we donâ€™t have time, therefore we need an experienced person who will start working from that the first day.
The second reason is that, relatively you need a zone where there may not be crisis and I believe that in my state and in my zone, we donâ€™t have crisis within the party unlike in other zones where they have some issues. I donâ€™t want to go into details. These are some of the reasons I am volunteering myself for the position.
I have been in this party from day one. In fact, I can lay claim that I am also a foundation member of the party â€“ well known.
In 2015, for the first time in the history of this country a civilian to civilian transition took place and it was peaceful. So we are going into another phase that is very crucial within one year. So we need an experienced person and I believe I can pride myself among all the aspirants as the most experienced.
Among those ontesting from the South-west are those that have been at the top level of the party before too. Are you saying they are not experienced?
Yes, we may have somebody who has been deputy chairman there. The advantage I have is that, I have acted as the national chairman before.
The PDP is very strong in the South-south and the South-east, as such there is a need to woo the South-west. Will your emergence not lead the party to another crisis?
That is purely sentimental. In reality, if you want to win an election you donâ€™t start from the unknown. You begin with the known. Apart from the partyâ€™s chairman position, there are three or four major positions if you are talking about zoning of the positions. South-west is a very important zone in the country, if not the number one zone, if you like in terms of intellectualism, media and so on. We know they have produced the president. So if you look at the president, vice president and the senate president, these are key government positions. So if you are talking also of what will benefit the people directly, you will see that with these three key positions, there is no way South-west can be ignored; but we are down so we want to start from a safer place to move. I will deliver my state during the elections. As the chairman, you must deliver your place first, since they say that charity begins at home. I will deliver my place and then proceed to win other states and regions.
My agenda for the party will be based on 3rs: rebuild, reposition and regain. I will want to remain focused on it in terms of building the party. As we are doing that, we do it together with the other two â€“ repositioning in terms of membership, going digital and mostly emphasising on the youth who are leaders of tomorrow. As we are doing that, we are enlarging our scope of convincing Nigerians that PDP remains the best option. We stand for national unity in diversity.
Our founding fathers believe that PDP is a party that was founded on national unity. And it was good enough that the zoning is contained in our constitution so that regardless of where you are coming from, one day you can aspire to be the president of the country. I believe that taking the party back to the people is very important.
Some say that if you become the National Chairman of the PDP, the South-west will be considered for vice presidency slot in order to really give APC the big fight. How true?
If I become the chairman, I will not look at the permutation of the APC on how to win election. I have a different strategy on how to win elections. So it has to be about collective leadership position. Our first assignment is to determine who becomes our presidential candidate and the choice of the running mate will be the exclusive right of the candidate. So we are not positioning that. We are not going to say it should come from here or from there.
Looking at your campaign strategy and that of others, are you not worried?
Well, I am strategic; but because others have not been in the party to know the inner workings of the party, they are doing otherwise. Donâ€™t forget that it is not an open election. It is a delegate election, delegates and super delegates. Obviously, Iâ€™m strategic about this and Iâ€™m confident that if it is a delegate election, yes, it is good to carry the press and people along but the most important thing in this election is consultation. Why others are making presence in the media and all that, I will continue consultation with leaders of the party across the country trying to get their support. In places like America it is called endorsement but in Nigeria, if governors or the BOT endorse you, that is imposition. There are two things here, you need the super delegates to be on the same page with you, let me not call it endorsement to avoid misinterpretation. So that is how weâ€™ve started. We are also time conscious. You canâ€™t start what you cannot finish. You do a bit of ground work and practically, you need to step up and I can assure you that as we move on, you will see posters and all that. We have done a bit of ground work believing that we will have support of those we have contacted.
One of the aspirants alleged that Ahmed Makarfi is aligning with you. There is also the feeling that some people within the party are not comfortable with the way you managed the resources of the party when you acted as its chairman?
Eighty percent of time, rumour is more than the fact. This is Nigerian politics for you. Speculations and imaginations engulf most of our thinking. But I believe that the media especially the political editors will do more findings than just headline news. There is no truth in it that Wike drafted me to do Makarfiâ€™s bidding. Iâ€™m close to virtually all the governors, and I consulted all of them, including the BoT chairman.
I have never sat down with Makarfi on how to become chairman. All these are speculations and you know when someone is doing better than the others, those who are not doing what they suppose to do will always speculate and try to drag him down. This is a pull down syndrome. There is no iota of truth in it. I have no arrangement with Makarfi; no one is trying to impose me on people. I have been there before. I have contested as national organising secretary, I have contested for deputy national chairman, I acted as national chairman of our party. These are records that you can cross check.
On the issue of what Muâ€™azu left, again, this is a calculated attempt to blackmail me by whosoever is behind it whether from within or outside, I donâ€™t want to mention names. For anybody to say N9 billion was missing or N9 billion was left, it means that money was not even used for election. The money realised was about N11billion from sales of forms nationwide. And in our guideline and constitution, when you realise this money, it is shared among the local government, the state, the zonal and the national. Even by mere mention of N9 billion means no money was given to them as I mentioned above. I want to plead with you to get into the secretariat, there is a director of finance, there is an acting treasurer, go and find out the fact not taking blackmail or headline news from other people. These are sponsored by some people.
After the 30 percent was shared, you can do the mathematics yourself, money was kept for completion of our national headquarters. There was no money at all that we met. Now, that money that was kept was about N5 billion while Muaâ€™zu was still the chairman. The truth is that, after we lost the presidential election, we could not raise the money for other elections. So the leaders looked and say that the money that was reserved should be used. I was still in Rivers State when the chairman called all of us from our states and said they could not get money to disburse again. So, the chairman disbursed the money. We came back and met some money â€“ the N500 million that was even in the bank was seized with BoT chairman that was involved in fund raising. When they could not get their money back, the bank had to seize some money.
No money at all that was left that was to be accounted for. Let me tell you Iâ€™ve been chairman of PDP in Rivers State, Iâ€™ve not been found wanting. Iâ€™ve been national organising secretary, I raised the money in 2011 and I was not found wanting. If you recall, Taraba election was inconclusive. There was a repeat election in Taraba, Imo and I think in Abia. All these were expenses of the party. By the time we returned, of course, Muâ€™azu gave us account of all money, all the money had been used apart from payment of salaries and a few things that we needed while the other balance was still in the bank. I challenge you to go to the secretariat to get your figures accurately because I may not be accurate with figures. But no money was missing apart from N500 million that the bank seized. The issue of missing N 9billion is to misinform the people to change their mind against some of us that want to contest. When I appeared before the Senate caucus, on my own, I threw light on the alleged missing money. Some of them brought money to me but I rejected it and I said they should go and use the money for the election. I have been mentored to know that money destroys in politics.
What is your plan B as you prepare for the convention?
My plan B is to support anybody that wins that day. It can be me and I will be very glad and thank God. But if someone else emerges, I will support him because I am a team player.
In my state and in my zone, we donâ€™t have crisis within the party unlike in other zones where they have some issues.