Prince Uche Secondus is a former Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with a cross section of journalists in Port Harcourt, he expressed pessimism about the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free and fair election in the rescheduled Parliamentary Election in Rivers state in October.
He also spoke on the crisis rocking the party which was unable to hold its planned elective convention for the second time in Port-Harcourt. ROTIMI AKINWUMI brings the excerpts:
A stakeholders’ meeting was held today in Port Harcourt between INEC and political leaders on the rerun elections in Rivers and October has been fixed as the new date. Do you believe that PDP would put up a good show, taking into consideration its crisis? Also do you believe in the capacity of INEC to do a good job?
I think you should be asking APC because we are in control in this state. This is a PDP state and we are virtually in control. We won all the seats, we won virtually every available seats; but of course, they went to court and the court said we should have rerun. We are solidly on the ground but our fear is that consistently, INEC has shown that they are hundred percent biased and that it has become an instrument of APC. It has become a parastatal of APC. In fact, APC has been dictating what INEC should do in Rivers state. So, it is no longer INEC. If they continue in this manner the whole country is watching. There is one lady called Amina Zakari who has taken personal interest to give the seat in my senatorial district, against the peoples’ will to Magnus Abe. She has taken a personal interest and I can tell you, if she continues this way, she is the single person with the entire INEC responsible to destabilise this nation. The way they are going with inconclusive election and they are defending what is not right. Buhari should call INEC to order before INEC will destabilise this nation because they cannot conduct the election of 2019. I can say for sure that the country has no electoral body; what we have right now is APC electoral commission. So, the meeting they held today, from the fall out of the meeting, is that areas where they officially cancelled election, out of violence, they are dancing around to see what they can do to help APC. The whole world is aware and we call on APC to call INEC to order, so that they can be an umpire that can conduct free and fair election. By the way, why is APC government not emphasising one man, one vote? Today, we wish them well—it is their turn. But do they know the future? So, one man shouldn’t behave as if he is God. There is fear that INEC cannot conduct credible election in Edo and Ondo. In Edo, they are taking side with Oshiomhole. We heard the other day that the president’s wife endorsed Obaseki. INEC is dividing the country, it is no longer an unbiased umpire, they have taken side and we have no confidence at all in INEC. If PDP had conducted itself in this manner in the last 16 years, this country would have been in turmoil. The country is sliding. Why is it difficult for the commission to conduct election in one senatorial district? Let them be neutral, one man, one vote and you will see peace. But they are interested in creating confusion so that they can declare APC candidate. When Professor Jega was there, he always emphasised free and fair election, but the current INEC with Amina Zakari is more interested in APC than conducting free and fair election. We wish her well. Today, Buhari her brother is there, but who knows tomorrow. Nepotism is corruption; what Amina is trying to do is corruption. The truth will come out. We wish the government well but they should be fair to everybody.
Looking into the crisis rocking your party, the PDP, the party could not hold its scheduled national convention, as the police stormed the Shark stadium venue to effect a court order. What is the way forward for the party?
On that 17th, we held our convention, it was a non- elective convention, obviously because the security agencies decided which of the court orders to obey. In my opinion, the Port Harcourt court gave a judgment and the Abuja court was an order. We believe that the convention that took place in Port Harcourt, all the security agencies could have done was to make sure that the convention held peacefully. The rest of the matter could have been settled in the court of law. That’s democracy and you cannot mix it with autocracy, with dictatorship, with arm twisting; turning the country to a police state by stopping a political party from conducting their businesses all in the interest to kill the PDP. So, the first accusation is the APC government that wants to destroy the party and this is total civilian coup de’tat against the PDP by the APC led government.
While you point accusing fingers at APC, some of your party members believe that the problem of PDP is self-inflicted because of the way the governors foisted Modu-Sheriff on the party as National Chairman. What’s your opinion on this?
Well, there is no organisation in the world that doesn’t make mistake. Every organisation or political party make mistakes. Even government makes mistakes. Are we perfect? Yes, Sheriff was asked to come and complete the tenure of M’uazu but nobody knew that he is this kind of character that can be hired. But we have all seen, he is writing his history, history is being written but I believe that we shall overcome all this. Government is behind it.
But as the litigations persist in court, why is it difficult for the stakeholders to find a political solution to the impasse?
The Board of Trustees, several times wooed Sheriff and tried to impress it on him that it shouldn’t be a do or die affair, that he should be a team player, that no single individual, or group of people can take a whole lot, the entire stakeholders for a ride. The governors are there, the national assembly, former members of the working committee, the 36 states chairmen of the party, all on one side against one or two persons. So, we believe that with the time that we have given to Senator Ahmed Makarfi committee, may be Sheriff will see reason why we should come together for the sake of the party.
Even that one year extension given to Senator Makarfi caretaker committee is being questioned by Senator Sheriff. He has said it is a serious infraction on the party constitution. What is your take?
No, it isn’t. Let him go and read the constitution. Convention is the highest body, you can take it as the Supreme Court of parties, not only PDP. Convention, by our constitution makes the law that governs the party, it is highest body. So, since the security stopped the convention for elective convention, we had no other choice than to come together at the party secretariat of Rivers state chapter of PDP as a convention and then extended the life of that committee so that we can trash some of these matters in the court as quickly as possible. We don’t want to run back and front; it isn’t that they are going to run the office for one year. If these matters are resolved in the next one month or two, then we go into convention to elect our officers. So, convention is the highest body. Sheriff should go back to the constitution and go through it properly; he would see those facts that are there.
Let us go back to the reconciliation efforts by the BoT; what are those terms Sheriff put forward that the entire party stakeholders are finding difficult to meet? Are they tall demands?
From what we heard, he had asked that he should be returned to the party as chairman, that isn’t possible. He has been removed by the highest body of the party, he would be recognised as former chairman and he would be given his rightful place in the Board of Trustees, because every former chairman is a member, every former deputy chairman is a member of BoT and subsequently, every other position that he wants to seek he can go ahead to seek for it, but the way he is going, he is writing his history.
Aren’t you worried what would become of the future of the party considering conflicting judgments coming from courts?
No, I think the rule of law will definitely takes its course, I believe that it will be resolved, it is like every other issue.It is left for the judiciary to look at the matter and act on it dispassionately and then pass their judgment.
Some people are already looking at the emergence of a third force, from the ashes of PDP. Are you part of those exploring this option?
Well, there is nothing that is impossible. But you know PDP is a good brand. Yes, we have a lot of challenges. We lost the last general elections and the issue of government probing some of our chieftains and matters are in court. Those issues are there, they are challenges but I believe seriously that nothing is impossible but as far as we are concerned, we are trying to make sure that PDP remains a united, one family but the future belongs to God.
There were insinuations that the Board of Trustees tried to impress it on the Senator Makarfi committee and the governors to halt the aborted convention, but the governors refused. Were you privy to this?
They (BoT) tried to plead with Sheriff but it failed. So, it is complete falsehood that the BoT tried to stop the convention, and that’s why the BoT participated. They came in full numbers to attend the convention, all members were all there and of course, the chairman of the BoT spoke at the convention even though they sealed the venue but we had a convention at the party secretariat, it wasn’t elective.
But is there no rule for specific venue for convention?
Port Harcourt was chosen as venue. There was no specific place where in Port Harcourt. It would have been the same if Abuja was the venue or Lagos. I remember in those day in National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) it was supposed to be at a place in Yaba; the hall couldn’t accommodate us and we moved to another place. So, the venue of this year convention is Port Harcourt.
Did INEC move with delegates to the Rivers PDP secretariat, after the Sharks stadium was cordoned off? I asked because the law says any convention not monitored by INEC is void.
Well, I cannot say for sure because of the action of security agencies, they might have been scared and left.
But what is the implication on that on the convention itself?
It is stipulated in the constitution. If we are to do election of officers, they are to monitor the election processes, but if it is a meeting: passing resolution, giving more powers, or whatever, it wasn’t an elective convention. So, it wasn’t compulsory that INEC must be there, but if it was an elective convention, of course, they have to monitor whether we follow our own guidelines, in terms of voting system and the process of election.
Are you so confident that at the end of one year extension given to Senator Makarfi-led caretaker committee, the leadership tussle would have been resolved, considering the perceived intransigence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff?
I am very hopeful, because I believe that wherever he is now and whatever he is saying, he cannot fight the people, because the voice of the people is the voice of God. You can fool the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people, all the time. So, believe that he should also be getting tired, if he isn’t tired. One day he will be tired. It will be resolved quickly, because we aren’t saying it has to be one year, in the next couple of months. We gave one year to give ample time. But we believe that it will be resolved.