Former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, has explained how the national executive shared the N11 billion that was realised from sale of nomination forms across the country, after President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 election. Prince Secondus who is also eyeing the National Chairmanship of PDP, told select journalists, including SAMINU IBRAHIM, that he is the most qualified aspirant for the party’s top job in the excerpts of the interview below.
Before the botched Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) convention in Port Harcourt, you were eyeing the deputy chairmanship of the party. Now you want to be the national chairman, what informed the change of heart?
The truth is that by last year, I was running for deputy and the arrangement was such that somebody from the south west will emerge as chairman. We thought we had enough time, about two and half years before the general election. What drafted me now is that we believe that we don’t has time. We need an experienced person who have been in the engine room and who had been at the head of the party, who knows that from the first day, you will just start to work.
The second thing is that relatively you also need either a state or zone where there may not be crisis and I believe in my zone, in my state, we don’t have crisis within the party. Unlike other zones where they have some issues. I don’t want to go into unnecessary details. I am convinced that I can avail myself and volunteer myself; I was not drafted, having occupied the highest position in the party before as acting chairman.
So, there is no one that will come and draft me either for his personal ambition or otherwise. 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. I did consultation with some leaders of the party, first of all in my state, and then my zone. We looked at the timing, the time is so short that within one year, we will be going for an important election.
You will recall that in 2015, for the first time in the history of this country, a civilian to civilian transition took place and it was peaceful and we are going to another phase that is also very crucial within one year and so we need an experience person and I believe that I can pride myself that, among all the aspirants, I am the most experienced. I was deputy national chairman, I was national organizing secretary, acting national chairman, so I volunteered myself; nobody drafted me to run.
Among those running from the south west, we have one who has also been at the top level of the party before, are you saying he is not as experienced as you?
Well, he was deputy national chairman, but I don’t think he has acted as the head of the party. The advantage that I have is that I have acted as the national chairman.
The impression people have is that the PDP is weak in the south west and needs the national chairman to strengthen the party in the zone, are you not in support of this arguement?
That is purely sentimental opinion, in reality if you want to face the business of politics and win an election, you don’t go sentimental.
Now, if we were in government, you can situate, you can zone, but you want where it will be safer for you to start from day one. Your eye will be on the election and how to win the election. We believe that yes, we have materials from south west, but my conviction is that we are better off with someone who is from a relatively peaceful zone and as we are going into an election year, we can deliver. We believe that apart from party positions, there are three or four major positions if you are talking about zoning, compensation for south west. The zone is a very important zone in the country, very very important zone, if not number one, in terms of intellectualism, in terms of media etc. We believe that they have produced a president before like the south south, so if you look at the presidency, the vice president, senate president these are key government positions.
So if you are talking of what will also benefit the people directly, there is no way the south west can be ignored. People are brainstorming, looking at various options. But we are down, and so we want to start from a safe place. Like starting from the known to unknown.
What will be your programmes if you become the national chairman? Particularly how would you reposition PDP to bounce back to power in 2019?
To start with, I will deliver my state, I will deliver my zone. You don’t hope to deliver some where else and you as the national chairman you can’t deliver your place. So I am assuring you that charity will start from home, I will deliver my place and then migrate from there.
First my agenda is in three arrows; rebuild, reposition and regain. And with this three-in-one agendum, I want to remain focused on it in terms of bringing all shades of opinion in the party together and all classes of people including the youth.
My aim is to build bridges across the polity and bring everybody together and rekindle hope and faith in the party. And as we are doing that, we are also repositioning in terms of membership drive of mostly the youth, who are leaders of tomorrow.
As we are doing that, we are enlarging our scope and convincing Nigerians why they should vote for PDP. We stand out for national unity, unity in diversity, we stand out very clearly against the other parties. We need once again to come together as a nation and look at ourselves, believe in ourselves and move forward for the socio-economic development of our country. Without unity, there is nothing you can do, we will bring people together, so that we can reposition and regain lost ground.
Under your chairmanship, will PDP be largely funded by all members instead of being exclusively funded by the governors?
Part of my agenda in terms of rebuilding is taking the party back to the people. The founding fathers of our party believed that this is a party founded on national unity and it was on that note that we have enshrined in our constitution the zoning principle, so that regardless of where you come from, one day you can aspire to be the president of this country and that has happened in the party in the last 16 years.You see where a minority man has aspired and became the president of the country.
Before now, it was not easy to achieve, and so I believe one of the greatest things is to take the party back to the people. I am going to rotate the headquarters of the party, anywhere I am, when I move from state to state, that will be the headquarters of the party. We made several mistakes in the last 16 years, so much concentration of powers in Abuja and that made us to alienate the grassroots.
We have 120,000 polling units across the country, 9,000 wards, these are the most important people. We know that the people in Abuja are also very important, but if you are expecting to win national elections, the votes have to come from all the polling units, electoral wards and local governments in the country. So, I want to take the party back to them to own, my ambition is to make everybody a stakeholder of the party. This is the only party you cannot say somebody owns, or that big man owns; anybody can aspire to be a stakeholder and be part of it.
‘I’m the most experienced aspirant’
The general impression is that if you become the national chairman, the southwest will produce the vice president in order to fight the APC which also has a south westerner as vice president. How correct is this scenario?
That is absolutely wrong. For me, I am not looking at permutation of APC. I have a different agenda that will win election, it has to be collective leadership decision where the rest of the positions will go. You know that nobody contests the position of vice president, our eye is on who becomes the candidate first and the choice of vice president is exclusive right of the candidate. At the appropriate time, we will make a statement.
Relatively, your campaign seem to be low key and not as visible as other aspirants. Is this a deliberate strategy?
Well, I am strategic, may be others have not been in the party to see the inner workings of the party. Don’ t forget that this is not an open election. This is a delegate election, delegates and super delegates; so I am strategic about it. I am conscious that it is a delegates election, and therefore my targets are narrow.
The most important thing in this election is consultation. While others open offices, I was doing consultation with the leaders of the party across the country, trying to get support. In a delegates elections, you need the super delegates on the same page with you. Don’t let me call it endorsement, because if you call it endorsement, they will say imposition. So that is the way we started, we are also time conscious, you don’t start something you cannot finish. As you will see, our campaign is stepping up into the open.
There are reports that your decision to contest the national chairmanship is to stabilize Governor Nyesom Wike of River state’s second term agenda. Secondly, it is alleged that National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi is also supporting you to enhance his presidential ambition. Some PDP faithful are also not comfortable with how you managed the party’s N9 billion. Can you react to these allegations?
Most of the time, the rumour are more than the facts, this is Nigerian politics for you. Speculation and imagination engulf most of our thinking, and our politics is so terrible that we are sentimental and we have not changed. But I believe the media will do more findings than just headline news. There is no truth in it that Governor Wike wants to do this or that. Like I said, I consulted him and moved to Bayelsa. Why are they not saying Bayelsa governor is behind my bid? I am even close to virtually all the governors, the BoT chairman and others that I consulted like Wike. People just sit down and imagine all sort of things. I have not sat down with Makarfi, to suggest that if I am the chairman, he will become…..all these are speculations. And you know when someone is doing better than the others, those who are not doing what they are supposed to do will always speculate and try to drag others down. This drag down syndrome is part and parcel of our politics, there is no truth in it, I have no arrangement with Makarfi.
No one is drafting me or wants to impose me on anybody. I have been there before, so the records of experience are there. So there is no way anybody will say I am being drafted into the race.
The issue of what former chairman Adamu Mu’azu left. Again this is a calculated blackmail by whosoever, either within or outside. I don’t want to mention names. The records are straight and can be found in the secretariat.
For anybody to say N9 billion was missing or was left, so it means that money was not used for election? Let me be specific, we realised N11 billion from sale of forms nationwide. And in our constitution, when you realize this money, it is shared among the local governments, states, zonal and at national levels. I want to plead with you to go to the secretariat, there is Director of Finance, find out the facts. After the 30 percent was shared, what was left was kept for the completion of our national headquarters and that money that was kept was about N5billion. Mu’azu was still the chairman.
After sharing money on expenses incurred at the local, states and the zone what was left again was shared to those who went to carry out assignment in conducting primaries; so people give imaginative figures on their own.
Afterwards, there was still this money set aside for the completion of secretariat. The truth is that when we failed the presidential election, the presidential campaign organization could not raise money for other elections and the leaders said the money reserved should be used.
I was in Rivers state, when they called all of us from our states and the then chairman, Adamu Mu’azu disbursed all the money. We came and met some money that a bank had seize N500,000 involving a BoT in fund raising. All the correct figures and the account can be given by former Treasurer or the current people or the Director of finance who is there. There was no money left that was not accounted for.
Let me tell you, I have been the chairman of Rivers state PDP I have not been found wanting, I was National Organizing secretary, I raised the money in 2011, I was not found wanting. I challenge you to go to the secretariat and ask specific questions about this N9 billion and you will be given answers, I believe it is a calculated attempt to blackmail those of us in the former NWC.
Sometimes, if you hear this stories, it is good to investigate before you publish, so that people will not be misinformed. The issue of N9 billion is targeted at misinforming people so that they can change their minds on those of us who want to contest.
What is your plan B as you are preparing for the convention?
My plan B is to support whoever emerges that day. It can be me and I will be glad and thank God for it. But if somebody suddenly emerges, I will support him, I am a team player.