The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, in an interactive session with journalists, speaks on some issues affecting the party and the country.
Where is the PDP going to zone its 2023 presidential ticket? Will it likely be the North or the southern part of the country?
Today, we are more concerned about 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 to contest, whether you are from the North or from the South. No one is going to stop anyone from contesting even when it is zoned to a particular region. So, everybody still has a right to contest. If you are qualified to run for the office of the President, you are free to contest.
Is your party considering a merger?
Why not? When the time comes, (we will decide). If there is the need for people to pull their resources and strength together, it can happen, it is possible. Our focus is on making sure that our party is strong and ready to win elections.
What is your party doing in Edo State considering that the governorship election in the state is holding later in the year?
We are working very hard in Edo State. We met the leadership and stakeholders in Edo State last week and I believe that our people are coming together very strong. I am sure you are aware that the state belonged to the PDP before the APC took it from us. So we are working hard to regain Edo State.
Your party spent 16 years in office and did little regarding electoral reforms. Why did it not ensure a holistic electoral reform to make rigging impossible?
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 were not implemented. First, the laws were analogue. Second, there have been several reforms within the 16 years and it became a rhetoric and you know part of our challenge was that the constitution of our country must also conform to 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 with what it needed to work with in order to have free and fair elections. Transmission of result sheets electronically was prepared for, but when this government came, all these were discarded. All the structures that were put in place were pushed aside. Even though the electoral law didn’t quite capture it because of the impediment of our constitution because a major aspect was that we needed also to change a major aspect of our constitution as regards the electoral reforms.
When we called a few days ago for electoral reforms, we were not calling only the APC and the PDP. We were calling on everybody in our nation because we must move forward.
I think you should appreciate that the PDP has done very well bringing us to where we are today and it is left for those in government now to take us forward. The last constitution amendment was done in the 8th Assembly but President ( Muhammadu) Buhari refused to assent to that bill.
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 the PDP?
What is your advice to the judiciary?
We also believe that it is time for the judiciary to wake up because it is the last hope of the ordinary man and the judiciary is the conscience of democracy. Without a strong judiciary, democracy cannot stand.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
We believe that what has happened in the country is enough lesson for all of us to repent and render selfless service to our people. It is time to wake up because this is a fresh beginning. It is time for us to speak out and speak out the truth and not engage in propaganda. You can deceive the people some of the time, it is a very common adage, but you cannot deceive the people all the time. You can carry on with your propaganda for long but one day, the truth will come out.
What is your view about situations of things in Nigeria?
We are burdened and pained by what is going on in our country today. Without electoral reforms and amendment of our electoral laws, we can’t move forward. Look at what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa, and other elections in 2019. It is a shame. Ghana can conduct their elections without any violence and problems. Kenya can do the same; South Africa and other countries in Africa can do the same but Nigeria cannot. Where are we today? What is our position? Bans are being placed on our country, travel restrictions, we are being treated anyhow, the Giant of Africa (Nigeria) is now an ant of Africa.
PDP stakeholders, including some governors have shown disloyalty to the party publicly. Has your leadership lost the capacity to caution them?
You see, democracy is fast deteriorating in our country because of the style of the Federal Government. As you can see, it is a do-or-die affair, or ‘winner takes it 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 the PDP, you still know that we have critical stakeholders in those states who are firmly on the ground. And you know also that in the 2019 elections, we won in states that our party didn’t control and that shows clearly that we are moving forward with democratic ideals and principles.
There are reports that your party is planning to change its name. Is this true?
I would regard it as gossip. And everybody, every free thinker, is allowed to think but we have never considered changing our name. It has never happened but like you said, it is a rumour and anybody can spread rumours. It is not being considered by our party at all, it is not part and parcel of our agenda for now.
Your party has been accused of not playing its roles as an opposition party very well. Why is this so?
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, gave a bombshell (that the President should resign over growing insecurity.) So it’s not by press conference or issuing of statements, and of course you know what happened last week. The entire country was grounded to a halt, 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 other countries like Ghana, Kenya, and even the United States have passed through what we are passing through in opposition and we’re doing better. Those who are in government are the people who are behaving like opposition because they are used to being in opposition. So I believe that we will do everything within the laws of our land and we’re doing quite a lot; planning and putting strategic initiatives in place. We have the intellectual arm that is the Peoples Democratic Institute; people are walking silently. You are aware that in the last National Executive Meeting of our party, we also announced that we were establishing a committee to review and assess what happened in 2019. All of these are towards putting our party on the right track and working towards 2023. If all the electoral laws would be amended to conform to modern-day technology, where even people can stay in the precincts of their homes and vote and their votes will count, that will be fine.
Last week, we called on the National Assembly to quickly make issues confronting Nigeria such as insecurity, corruption, bad economy and electoral its priority. All these issues that are happening in our country today have to do with those who are in government.
They should amend all our electoral laws, bring everybody together so that the people will have the right to vote, not like that the PDP women leader in Kogi State, the late Mrs Salome Abuh, who voted and was burnt to death. We are on the right track and we want to assure you that we can do it and we can do it better.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, who is a PDP governor, publicly campaigned for Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State of the All Progressives Congress. Why has your party not cautioned him?
Being a governor does not prevent an individual from airing his individual view. I am quite sure you understand that. He hasn’t come out openly to say what he said was PDP’s position. In a democratic world and with a free speech, people can have the right to do so, but that is not the position of the PDP. And it is time for our country to move away from a situation of sentiments and emotions and all what not.
The PDP under your watch is being perceived as weak in terms of discipline. Sometime ago, Governor Nyesom Wike accused his counterpart in Baylesa State, Seriake Dickson, of anti-party activities, insisting you were aware of it and did nothing about it. Why?
Anything that has to do with our governors and the altercation between the governments of Rivers State and Bayelsa State, I think we should just let it lie. It has 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 would want to dig up emotions. So 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 is 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 was the Chairman of PDP in Rivers State for eight years, the National Organising Secretary for four years, Deputy National Chairman and acting National Chairman. All that time, where did I take the directive from? Is it now that I am fully the Chairman that I have to take directives? That is rumour and blackmail and we are not ready to pay any attention to such.
Why has the party not taken any position on the issue of Ndudi Elumelu?
I don’t know what to answer more than what I said before concerning the House of Representatives 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 completed. If you were in the last NEC, we said the BoT committee or panel had submitted its report; the Ikimi committee has also submitted its report and 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 away by sentiments. Those who were there, even members knew what happened. Elumelu himself was there when Kingsley Chinda was elected. Chinda was not just appointed, he was elected. But whatever happened is history now. We’re looking forward to reconciling, looking forward to making sure that we put this issue behind us.
Are you not worried about some PDP members defecting to the APC in Imo State?
Defection is a Nigerian syndrome. It is sad, but unfortunately, it is part of the deteriorating situation of governance as shown by the APC, starving the people and causing insecurity.