‘Those in Government Are Behaving Like Opposition ‘

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Uche Secondus

Chuks Okocha was among a group of journalists who interviewed the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus on diverse issues affecting the party

The Buhari Media Organisation recently made a mockery of your party that for the 16 years your party was in office you could not complete the party headquarters

It is entirely the business of the PDP to determine when we are ready to relocate into our new secretariat. We have secretariats. We have offices and as you know, we have one at Wadata and another one at Legacy. That one is still under construction. Be patient till we move over there, but we have very good offices.

What is your party doing about one of our colleagues, Abba Jalingo who has been in detention allegedly orchestrated by the Governor of Cross River State?

You are aware that the Governor of Cross River met with the President and on his way out he was interviewed by your colleagues and he had to explain what happened, how water entered melon. I refer you to the statement of the governor because we are all concerned and if it is true, a proper investigation will be carried out and I believe that what the governor said, you are aware of it. You don’t need me to say much about that until a final decision is taken, but we are concerned generally because this is a country that believes, and of course, it was the PDP that came out with the Freedom of Speech Act. We believe in it. Former President Jonathan signed it. We believe in free press and free speech.

We have observed that a lot of PDP stake holders especially the governors have shown disloyalty publicly to the party, they have no allegiance to the party and your administration has lost the capacity to call them to order

Democracy is fast detouriorating in our country because of the style of the federal government. It is a do-or-die or winners-takes-all, people are not patient. There is hunger in the land and insecurity that may be what is contributing to what you are witnessing today but our position is very clear.

Even in those states not controlled by PDP, you still know that we have critical stake holders in those states who are firmly on the ground. You know also that in the 2019 national elections, we won in those states that are not ours and that shows clearly that we are moving forward with democratic ideals and principles but you never can tell. There may be one or two places where we may have what you just described but we believe that it will come on-and-off until we arrive at the right destination not just for our party but for our nation also.

Where is the party going to zone 2023 presidential ticket?

Today we are more concerned in rebuilding our party. When the time comes for the nomination of a presidential candidate, the party will come out with its position. You know the constitution allows everybody, whether you are from north, whether you are from south to contest. No one is going to stop anyone from contesting even when it is zoned to a particular region and I am talking about the past. Every person still has a right to contest, if you are qualified and desire to run for the office of the president you are free to contest.

There is rumour that your party is planning to change its name

I am quite glad that you called it a rumour and I would regard it as gossip. Everybody is allowed to think the way they choose. We have never considered a name change. It has never happened. Like you said, it is a rumour. It is not being considered by our party at all. It is not part and parcel of our agenda for now.

Is your party considering a merger?

Why not, when the time comes, if there is need for people to pool their resources and strength, it can happen. It is possible. Our focus is in making sure that our party is strong and viral and ready to win elections.

Your party is divided especially in the House of Representatives where the issue of Minority Leader has divided members of your party

I want to assure you that our Distinguished Senators are working hard in the Senate. We have issues in the House of Representatives and we are working hard to resolve them. And we believe that any member of PDP not necessarily those in leadership is free to voice out what is going on in government and so that is why are people are working hard to reconcile those in the House of Representatives but Senate is in order and the Senate is moving forward.

There is crises in APC. What is your party doing to clinch the governorship seat in Edo state as the election is moving closer?

We are working very hard in Edo State. We met with the leadership and stake holders and I believe that our people are coming together, very strong and you are aware that the state belongs to PDP before the APC took it from us. So we are working hard to regain Edo state.

Your party spent 16yrs in office and the only thing it could put in place regarding electoral reforms is the card reader. Many of us believe that if your party was honest enough and not benefiting from electoral fraud, there would have been a more solid reform which could made it difficult for individuals or groups or parties to rig elections.

If you recall when PDP came into power in 1999, I want you people to rewind a little bit because we must know where we are coming from and where we are now.

It took 16 years for us to carry out electoral reforms which gave us what we have and which was not implemented. First, the laws were analogue. Second, there have been several reforms within the 16 years and it became like rhetoric and you know part of it, part of our challenge was that the constitution of our country must also conform with the desire of the change and reform which we proposed before we handed over in 2015. It was the PDP that equipped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with all the data and with all the machine and also the transmission of result sheets electronically but when this government came, they discarded the structure that was put in place even though the electoral law didn’t quite capture it because of the impediment of our constitution because a major aspect was that we need also change a major aspect of our constitution as regards the electoral reforms and this requires everybody.

When we call for electoral reforms, it is not the APC. The PDP and everybody in our nation should be involved because we must move forward.
Now, 16 years was not a joke. You should appreciate that PDP has done very well bringing us to where we are today and it is left for those in government now to quickly move to the next level, all the structures are there. In the last amendment that was done by the 8th National Assembly, President Buhari refused to assent to that Bill to become law. Elections results can be transmitted from the voting point to the centre. The President refused to sign it, so why are you putting the blame on PDP? The 8th Assembly amended the electoral laws so you don’t put that blame on the PDP put it squarely on the shoulder of the APC government. They are now in government for five years. We believe that if we didn’t do the needful reform, we cannot move forward as a nation, we can’t.

We don’t want to join issue with APC. We don’t want to join issues with anybody. What we want is electoral reform that will be good for everybody. People should have the right to come and vote and not be killed and that is the right of all citizens.

A sitting governor in your party was publicly campaigning for a governor of another party in another state. Why could the party not call him to order?

Being a governor does not deprive an individual from airing up his own individuals view, am quite sure you understand that. He hasn’t come out openly to say ooh, this is PDP position. If he has aired up his views in terms of Edo, I am quite sure that people can in a democratic world and free speech, people can have the right to do so, but that is not the position of PDP. And it is time for our country to move from a situation of sentiments and emotions and all what not. We don’t listen to gossips, some may be correct, some may not be correct, but let’s drop this idea of rumour or not rumour and you link it to PDP, Our position is very clear, we are going to contest for the election in Edo, we are asking for reform and that is the position of the national leadership of our party.

The PDP under your watch is being perceived as weak in terms of discipline. Some time ago, the Governor of Rivers State accused his counterpart in Baylesa of anti-party activities insisting the you were aware and you did nothing.
Again, there is this view that whatever happens in Wadata was planned in Rivers State and that your leadership is tied to the apron string of Governor Nyesom Wike, who tells you what to do. How do you respond to these issues, please?

First, anything that has to do with our governors and the altercation between the governments of Rivers State and Bayelsa State, have made headline news and we don’t want to go into it. I don’t think that is going to help to build a party. Those who want to destroy want to dig up emotions. I believe that enough is enough. What we do behind the scene is not to the knowledge of the press and we are not ready to disclose that because we have our strategies. You may think that it is a weakness, but that’s a sign of strength.
The way you think may not be the way we think and I have been in this party long before Governor Wike became governor. I’ve been the Chairman for River State for eight years, the National Organizing Secretary for four years, Deputy National Chairman and acting National Chairman. All that time, where was I taking directive from, even when I was Acting Chairman? Is it now that am full Chairman that I have to take the directives? That is rumour and blackmail and we’re not ready to pay attention to such.
In politics, people gossip and then carry rumour from one place to the other which gets to the media. I don’t know where you’re coming from. You can investigate, whether any of the things you have said here are true. You also know the truth and the truth will prevail at the end of the day.

A gale of defection has hit Imo State and many of your members are decamping to APC. Are you not worried about this development? What are you doing to stem the tide of that defection? There was a time we had information that there is going to be right sizing of the workforce. Can you give us details? Why has the party not taken a position on the Elumelu Issue?

I don’t know what to answer more than what I said before concerning the House of Reps. We are still in the process. You cannot force us to do what we don’t want to do. In other words, all the processes must be complete. At the last NEC, the BoT committee or panel has submitted their report, the Ikimi report is with us also. All of these will undergo a process and at the conclusion we will come out with our position.
We don’t want to be carried into the sentiments of what happened. Those who were there know what happened. Elumelu himself was there when Chinda was elected. Chinda was not just appointed, he was elected. But whatever happened is bygone. We’re looking forward to reconciling, looking forward to make sure that we put this issue behind us. It’s not an issue at all.
The other one has to do with staff. We will inform you when we are ready with our report. We believe that we need to rejig but in doing that, we must have a human face making sure that we do the right thing to strengthen our party even at the management level. That’s what we’re doing.
On on defection, of course, it is a Nigerian syndrome. It is part of the deteriorating situation of governance bought by the APC, starving the people and causing insecurity, that is what we are experiencing today, not only in Imo but in some other states too.
And our position has been properly articulated at the press conference by the National Publicity Secretary.

There is a view that the PDP under your leadership has been lethargic. It has not really played it’s role as opposition. Beyond the issue of press statements, it has not been able to mobilize Nigerians to internalize the failing of the ruling party. Have you made attempts to understudy the role of opposition parties in other climes and how they were able to topple the ruling party?

The PDP is the strongest opposition party in Nigeria. We don’t behave as if we’re on the street. We have men of high integrity in the leadership of the party. We do our opposition constructively; it must not be out of place. It must be within the laws of our land. We cannot be seen on the street. Maybe what is expected is that we become violent. We are very constructive, we are very strong and if you are in government, you know the feelings.
The senate minority leader Senator Abaribe gave a bombshell recently. So it’s not by press conference or issuing of statements, and of course you know what happened recently . The entire country was grounded, not only in Abuja but across the states. When occasions demand, we will let the people know. But our plans and our strategies are in place.
We are also aware of the other countries like Ghana, Kenya, even the United States have passed through what we are passing through in opposition and we’re doing better. It is those who are government who are behaving like opposition because they are used to being in opposition. I believe that we will do everything within the laws of our land and we’re doing quite a lot, planning, strategic initiatives that are in place. We have the intellectual arm that is the Peoples Democratic Institute (PDI). They are working silently. You are aware that in the last NEC meeting we announced establishment of a committee to review and assess what happened in 2019. All of these are towards putting our party on the right track walking towards 2023 if all the electoral laws would be amended to conform to modern day technology where even people can stay in the confines of their homes to vote and their votes will count- all of that are working towards.
Last week, we called on the National Assembly to quickly take their first front agenda and let them make it a priority, about the electoral laws because all of these issues that are happening in our country today: insecurity bad economy, corruption has to do with those who are in government. That should be first and foremost thing that the National Assembly in this new year should do. They should amend all our electoral laws bring everybody together so that the people will have the right to vote, not like that woman who voted and was burnt death. We will keep this going. That woman became the symbol of democracy in Nigeria. We are on the right track. We want to assure you that we can do it better.

QUOTE:

The PDP is the strongest opposition party in Nigeria. We don’t behave as if we’re on the street. We have men of high integrity in the leadership of the party. We do our opposition constructively; it must not be out of place. It must be within the laws of our land. We cannot be seen on the street. Maybe what is expected is that we become violent. We are very constructive, we are very strong and if you are in government, you know the feelings