In view of the political, economic and security challenges facing Nigeria, many of her citizens have turned their attention to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for succour, challenging it to provide the needed alternative solutions. In this interview, National Chairman of thePeoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus tells ONWUKA NZESHI and ONYEKACHI EZE what the party has done in the last three years to stay afloat and play its role as the main opposition party in Nigeria
You’ve been piloting the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last three years. How has the journey been so far?
It has been 36 months of ups and downs and I am proud to report that the party is not at the level where we met it. We took over the party when it was still trying to come out of the trauma of losing election and being in opposition for two years under an intolerant ruling party, the APC. We met a psychologically traumatised party struggling to adjust to opposing life after 16 years in power.
We inherited party that had issues with internal democracy; delegates were not having the final say on who flies the flag of the party in an election. Names of winners were randomly and blatantly changed in Abuja with disregard to the people and the requirements of our constitution.
How did you manage these challenges to achieve the current level of success?
We hit the ground running with our well-articulated reform policy. We organised a rebranding conference and embarked on extensive consultations across the country. Our sensitisation programme took us to rallies in all the geo-political zones.
By the time our reform programme came on stream, the party had become an attractive brand to accommodate the influx of new members that included the entire leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
You will recall that the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara others members of the parliament at federal and state levels joined our party. In addition, the three incumbent governors of Benue , Kwara and Sokoto states also joined us.
Have you been able to overcome the challenge of internal democracy in your party?
We worked very hard to achieve the internal democracy we promised in our reform package. Before the last general election, our party was already the party to beat because powers were effectively decentralised to flow from the people. Party tickets were gotten at the congress venue not at party headquarters at state and national levels.
Popular and more acceptable candidates emerged at state congresses and at the national convention. Our National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in October 2018 became the first of its kind in Nigeria. It was so transparent that there was no complaint from anybody; instead all the contestants resolved to support the winner. All these helped to engender confidence and trust in our leadership.
With all these reforms and the increased level of acceptance, one would have expected PDP to triumph at the polls. What really happened?
Nigerians had earlier realised their mistakes of 2015 and also accepted our apology for any short coming. We carried out one of the most effective campaigns going to the people with issue-based messages not propaganda.
Nigerians accepted these messages and were ready and charged to vote out the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose incompetence and incapacity to govern had become apparent. But what Nigerians never envisaged was that the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari who came to power through a transparent and credible election were not going to conduct free and fair election in 2019.
As a prelude to their agenda of holding on to power when it was obvious that Nigerians did not want them, all institutions of democracy, the legislature, the judiciary, the opposition and the media were made targets of intimidation and harassment. You all could recall the shocking and unprecedented unilateral removal of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen; you also recall that midnight attack and arrest of some Judges and Justices by security operatives of state in the name of fighting corruption.
You are all witnesses to the intimidation meted out to the parliament; how the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki was subjected to all kinds of harassment; how the mace the symbol of the Senate was stolen in broad daylight and how the entrance to the National Assembly was blocked by masked security operatives to prevent members from going in to perform their constitutional duties.
You also saw how security men were deployed to help the ruling party have an advantage over other parties in elections.
What specific gains can you say these reforms brought to your party?
The PDP under my leadership had, through its reform packages signifi cantly enhanced the image and status of the party. All over the country the party remains the bride. States under the party’s control rose from 11 to 16 and it could have been more if not for the shameless ambush of the APC in Osun, Kano, Kogi and Imo states. Internally, the party has also used its in-house means to resolve issues making PDP the right party to belong in this country today.
Nothing supports this assertion more than that after five and half years, the ruling APC instead of trying to put their tattered house in order is busy begging and coercing our members to join them with fake and unrealistic promises.
At the risk of being seen as blowing our own trumpet, it’s necessary to note that this National Working Committee (NWC) of our party is the first in transparency and accountability; the first to function effectively for three years without any scandal or dent of corruption; the first, also to successfully render account of its monetary expenditures to both (National Executive Committee) NEC of our party and to INEC as statutorily required of us to do.
The INEC has released the timetable for the 2023 general election but your party is yet to indicate the direction it would go in terms of zoning your presidential ticket. What is happening?
I know the media has always been interested in the zoning formulae, but our party has a clear method of doing things. After the last general election, we set up a panel to study and appraise our performance and make necessary recommendations.
The Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Bala Mohammed is heading the committee and they are still working. We did the same thing when we lost election in 2015 when we set up the Senator Ike Ekweremadu committee to look into why we lost. It was from that report that the party took action towards 2019. The same way this time, we must study our last outing before looking ahead. We can’t be talking of zoning when we have not appraised how we faired in the last election. Moreover, the state of the nation today is such that politics or anything concerning 2023, which is three years away, should take back stage.
Nigeria is in a comatose state today where the APC brought it, that should be our concern now. President Muhammadu Buhari who was scheduled to address the nation’s parliament today (Thursday) backed out after confirming to them he was coming.
This back and forth movement of the President on a vital issue like security that is overwhelming our nation underscores our position as an opposition party that nobody is in-charge and that this is a broken government. Disregarding the nation’s parliament is disregarding Nigeria people because they are representatives of the people.
The truth which is worrisome is that the President either does not know what is happening or does know what to do otherwise he should not be afraid to face the people. The hard fact facing all of us now is that this regime has woefully failed Nigerians in all ramifications. It’s a shame that a government that came to power with a retired general at the helm of affairs, brandishing his military credentials and with the propaganda to wipe away Boko Haram in 100 days has not been able to secure Nigeria, after five years.
Buhari has been presiding over the worst security situation in our history with no clear direction of what to do and even afraid to face the parliament to explain what he is doing. Like I said in May this year, in the assessment of the five years of APC administration, APC is a road Nigeria should not have followed.
Everything on ground in our country today from insecurity to the recessed economy point to the fact that Nigeria entered the wrong bus in 2015 and they are paying for it because wrong vehicle cannot take you to your correct destination.
You accused the ruling party of poaching your members while your party is also approaching members from the other parties to poach them too. So what is the difference?
Yes, they have been poaching from virtually all the parties; they have been running round but they have not been successful at all. But, I believe that what should bother them most at this time should be governance, the security, the economy, all that have broken down.
The issue is that they should stop running up and down and face the reason why the people gave them the mandate to govern Nigeria. If they do that, there will be no security issue; there will be no economic issue like hunger. I think that this is the most important thing.
Is your party making moves to bring back former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2023?
I stand by my position that the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee is still working; it are coming out with a report on why we lost and by the time they finish, we will take decisions.
The decision is not for the National Working Committee (NWC) but for the entirety of our party. I believe that whoever that is interested in the 2023, may be, including the former President, the chances are there because the PDP is a party of all. Everybody will have that opportunity, but in clear terms, we have not taken any decision to give anybody ticket for now.
Why is the PDP not strongly pushing for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari in the face of his several infractions on the constitution?
We are not a party of propaganda. APC believes in propaganda, but we believe that our agenda must be constructive.
You are also aware that just last week, the House of Representatives moved a motion for the impeachment of Mr. President and you can find out those who killed that motion. We are strong; we are very constructive and we are moving ahead.
Of course, you know that we won the 2019 election, but that story is for another day because if the media had supported, it could have been something else. It is now your opportunity; I am inviting the media to come all out to support the opposition so that we can move ahead to protect our people.
Despite the provisions of the constitution, why have your party failed to challenge the seat of governors and member of the National Assembly who decamped from your party?
For the senators that have moved, we are convinced that it is illegal. The fault is from the leadership of the National Assembly; it was not supposed to be that way. I don’t believe that the leadership of the National Assembly is looking at the provisions of the Constitution. If they do, they will not accept those making such movements. This is again what the media should highlight.
Is there any hope for our country?
Even in this situation of hopelessness which the APC has dragged Nigeria into, there is still a window for the children of God. Nigerians should not despair. There is light at the end of the tunnel. This light is in the resourcefulness and resilience of our youths.
The well laid out programme of youth development by the PDP will ensure that the future of this country is handed over to those it rightly belongs to, the Nigeria youths.
We have watched the hopelessness of Nigeria youths under APC administration because it’s cabinet is made of largely the outgoing generation who think less of the future because it does not belong to them. In the next one year before our tenure ends, we have lined up some programmes.
Our e-membership registration is to begin in 2021 unfailingly, having secured the approval of its take off from the NEC of our party. We also intend to finalise the peace and reconciliation process within the party with a view to entering the general election as one united and focused political family.