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The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, may be fighting the political battle of his life as he rallies his supporters to contain spirited efforts by some forces to oust him.
The party’s hierarchy is currently sharply divided over his continued stay in office, with his antagonists faulting his handling of party affairs, the latest being its financial audit report for 2020.
The audit report sparked an unsuccessful attempt to remove Secondus at a recent meeting in Abuja.
The Nation gathered that the plot, which was initiated by a vocal PDP governor in one of the South-south states, is being resisted mainly by some power blocs in the North who consider the move inimical to the stability of the party.
However, The Nation gathered that anti-Secondus sentiments remain strong among some influential members of the PDP.
Sources at the recent Abuja meeting said many of the NWC members openly accused Secondus of lacking the moral right to continue in office as the national chairman of the party.
Another reliable source claimed that the meeting, which was called to discuss some developments in the party, including some major complaints against the national chairman, ended without the complainants being convinced on the innocence of the accused.
One source said: “Yes, we had a meeting where some of our colleagues openly chastised the national chairman over some of his leadership approaches.
“The discussions were tense and it became obvious that many of our colleagues are no longer in support of Secondus.
“As politicians, we can see that the outbursts were not just about allegations of financial impropriety which were defended by the accused, but largely about political dissatisfaction in some quarters, largely outside the NWC.
“There are now indications that some of us are listening to the dictates of some people outside of the committee in the way we approach developments within the committee.
“But it is not true that the meeting, or any report, indicted the national chairman. What we discussed were allegations and there is no indictment yet.”
It was gathered that some NWC members openly frowned at what they described as the unnecessary meddlesomeness of the chairman in the affairs of the party in the Southwest zone.
According to a member of the committee, “it is not true that the actions of the national chairman and the national legal adviser in the Southwest represent the position of all members or majority of members of the NWC.
“These two men have been taking unilateral decisions and they have been told so.
“For many of us, Secondus is dividing the party more than he is uniting it and he cannot be allowed to continue.
“We are happy we will soon be heading to an elective convention and the party leaders are ready to correct the anomalies once and for all.”
The source, a member of the party from the Southwest, claimed that many NWC members are dissatisfied with the way Secondus placed former Governor Fayose over and above Governor Seyi Makinde in the zone.
“That is not how we do things in PDP. But Fayose is Secondus’ friend.
“Sadly, this unnecessary meddlesomeness is killing the party in the Southwest.
“We have the only governor being disregarded by the national leadership of the party all the time; we have the majority of our national assembly members unhappy with the party’s handling of issues; those of us in the NWC from the zone too are concerned that things aren’t being done properly.
“And we say we are repositioning the party to take over the zone. How on earth are we going to achieve that?”
The Nation gathered that at the meeting, which witnessed several shouting matches among the members of the committee, the national chairman was questioned over some financial issues as well as some contracts awarded under his watch.
While supporters of the national chairman insisted that all the issues raised were explained satisfactorily, some members disagreed.
“We are yet to conclude on the matter. The fact that those involved offered some explanations doesn’t mean that is the end of the matter,” a source said.
“An alarm has been raised and the process to dissect all issues is just starting.
“This is more than just a probe. It is an indication that Secondus has lost the confidence of many of the members of his committee. He is fighting for his political life.
“But when you consider the fact that many of the NWC members are nominees of the PDP governors, you will understand the situation better.
‘The current move against him is not just by the NWC members but by some governors determined to see him out of office soon,” another source added.
But the national auditor of the party, Adamu Mustapha, said there is no indictment for Secondus as the meeting in question discussed a routine memo and all issues were satisfactorily concluded.
He said: “To say the least, I am shocked that the routine memo can be so mischievously misrepresented in the media ostensibly to achieve a sinister purpose against our party.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all the issues raised in the memo were exhaustively deliberated in the NWC meeting. The deliberation was conclusive because, on all the items raised, approvals were sought and granted by both the NWC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party.”
He said at no time did he “make any allegation of any form of financial impropriety against the national chairman, “neither did I allege any form of a misdemeanour on any member of the NWC.”
He added: “The NWC is not divided as we are working in the collective interest of our party. I urge the media to always crosscheck all the facts in a matter before going to press to avoid misleading the reading public.”
Some other sources said Mustapha had presented and distributed the controversial memo to members of the National Working Committee (NWC) during their weekly meeting on Wednesday. Secondus chairs the NWC by virtue of his position as national chairman.
One of the sources said: “A majority of NWC members at the meeting had faulted the contents of the audit memo as presented by Mustapha because the spendings and the contract awards he referred to in the memo were all approved by the NWC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our party.
“We also reminded him that the party’s financial audit report for 2020, which was done in collaboration with external auditors, as required by law, was discussed at the last NEC meeting and had since been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“As a result of the rejection of the memo by a majority of NWC members at the meeting, the auditor withdrew the memo and it was unanimously resolved that the memo stood withdrawn.
“So we were all surprised when the same memo became a news item in some sections of the media the next day”, a source close to the meeting said.
Another party source, who pleaded anonymity, said the move to sack the party chair was mooted about three weeks ago when some members of the NWC attempted to pass a vote of no confidence in the party chair during a meeting.
The source traced the genesis of the crisis to a number of issues between the party chairman and the said South-south governor who incidentally played a pivotal role in mobilising the various stakeholders to ensure that Secondus emerged chairman at the party’s 2017 national convention.
According to the party chieftain, the party chairman’s problem with the governor started with the conduct of the PDP convention in 2018, where former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged as the party’s presidential flag bearer for the 2019 election.
The governor was said to have mobilised massively for his preferred candidate, a serving governor in one of the Northwest states, who is a very close ally of his.
The source said:”Recall that it was for this reason that the governor insisted that the convention must hold in Port Harcourt, threatening to deal with the PDP if the convention should hold in Abuja as initially agreed by the party leadership.
“Having prevailed on the leadership of the party to hold the convention at his preferred venue, the governor then approached the party chairman with a request to ensure that his preferred candidate clinched the ticket. But the party chairman had resisted the pressure and allowed a free and fair voting process at the convention.
“To make matters worse for the governor, his fellow governor from another state in the South-south, who chaired the convention process, insisted on working with his own team which he brought in from his own state, thereby rejecting a team assembled for him by the host governor. That was how Atiku clinched the presidential ticket of the PDP and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Another party source, who also craved anonymity, informed our correspondent that the said governor also clashed with the PDP national chairman during the nomination process for the 2020 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The source said while the governor preferred a particular aspirant for the party’s governorship ticket, the then outgoing Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, had insisted on having his own candidate for the ticket.
The source said: “The battle for the Bayelsa governorship ticket was so fierce that the then outgoing governor threatened to dump the PDP if his own candidate failed to win the ticket.
“The threat was real and the ex-governor made his mind known to the party chairman and other stakeholders. And the chairman and other stakeholders had to cave in for fear of losing the ex governor to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)”.
Investigation further revealed that key party stakeholders, particularly from the North, including some state governors, are uncomfortable with the domineering influence of the South-south governor in the affairs of the PDP under Secondus.
The stakeholders have decided to lend their support to the party chairman, insisting that even if Secondus should be removed, it must not be on terms dictated by the said governor.
Many of the party’s governors are said to support the chairman’s retention till December 2021 when his tenure and those of other NWC members will expire.