The crisis rocking Nigeria’s main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has taken another dimension after two Deputy National Chairmen lay claim to seat of embattled National Chairman, Uche Secondus, barely twenty-four hours after a High Court sitting in Rivers State restrained him from parading or acting as the party’s helmsman.
Following the development, both PDP Deputy National Chairmen from South and North, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, and Suleiman Nazif respectively laid claims to Secondus’ chair, arguing that they are both constitutionally empowered to take over the party’s affairs and redirect it for efficient administration ahead of 2023 general elections.
Aside from allegedly taking over the affairs of the party on Tuesday, Akinwonmi also suspended the NWC meeting of the party indefinitely and justified his action with the provision of Section 35 (b) of the PDP Constitution. On his part, Nazif noted that he would be serving as PDP chairman in an acting capacity in line with the court’s judgment.
While Akinwonmi announced his takeover through a statement, Nazif made the announcement after an emergency National Working Committee meeting held at the Party’s headquarters in Abuja. Akinwonmi explained that taking over the party’s leadership was in line with the PDP constitution and moves to ensure crisis rocking the party was resolved amicably to achieve a united house.
“Section 35(3) (b) of the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party empowers me to summon and preside over party meetings in the absence of the national chairman. Our attention was drawn yesterday (Monday) evening to a court order which purports to restrain our National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, from summoning and presiding over the meetings of the organs of the party,” the statement said.
Akinwonmi’s first assignment was to postpone the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) earlier scheduled for Tuesday until further notice. According to him, this was done in exercise of the powers of his office and to allow for broader consultations in the overall interest of the party.
It would be recalled that the court had yesterday suspended Secondus from parading or acting as head of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC). Aside from the suspension, the court ruled that Secondus should desist from parading himself as a member of the major opposition party, PDP, henceforth.
The court, preceded over by Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the Degema Division of the Rivers State High Court, granted an interim order brought before it against Secondus by aggrieved members of the party. Secondus and the party were listed as defendants in a motion ex parte marked PHC/2183/CS/2021 and filed by four PDP members, Ibeawuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umeziriki Onucha.
After hearing the case brought before it on Monday, Justice Gbasam, according to documents signed by the Assistant Chief Registrar (Litigation) of the court, Patricia Victor-Nwoka, said that Secondus should not participate in any PDP activities both within the country and abroad.
He made the order after reading the affidavit in support of the motion ex parte and the written address, as well as heard the submissions of the counsel for the applicants.
“That an order of interim injunction is granted restraining the first defendant from parading himself as a member of the second defendant or national chairman of the defendant or performing the functions of national chairman of the second defendant or any committee of the second defendants at the ward, local government or state level or calling for any ward, local government or state congress of the second defendant or setting up committees for such congresses or participating in any activity of the second defendant whatsoever whilst on suspension as a member of the second defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction,” the judge added.
Justice Gbasam’s ruling came days after the suspended chairman visited former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, as part of the efforts to reconcile factions within the party structures.
Meanwhile, Secondus had while reacting to the ruling claimed that Governor Nyensom Wike-led Rivers State Government was behind some of his ordeals, including the judgment. “If Secondus and the party are taken to court, they will defend themselves. PDP and Secondus are not afraid of court; this party is a child of history, owned by Nigerians, bigger than any individual or group, including desperadoes,” the chairman said through a statment by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, on Monday.
Secondus had earlier in August disclosed that he would not be succumbing to pressure from the party’s top members and that no amount of protests would make him resign from his position. He explained that rather than succumb to pressure, he would continue to work for the development of the party and reconcile all grieving party members to ensure unity and positioned PDP as a party to beat before, during, and after the 2023 elections.
“The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus has said that he will not resign his position. Prince Secondus said in a short statement from his media office that nothing so far warrants his resignation from the party position and those tiny minority calling for his resignation should come clean and tell party members across the country his offense why he should resign. He said he will remain focussed and committed to the ideals of the party which he swore to protect and defend upon his election to lead this great party 44 months ago,” he said.
Protest seeking to oust Sceondus gain momentum after seven members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) on August 3 resigned from their positions over alleged unfair treatment by the party’s national chairman. The officers in different letters tendered before the party’s secretary argued that the NWC led by Secondus allegedly sidelined them in the daily activities of the party.
Some of the executive members include the National Deputy Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi; Deputy National Organising Secretary, Hassan Yakubu; and the Deputy National Woman Leader, Hadizat Umoru. To restore normalcy in the party, top PDP leaders had fixed October 2021 for the party’s national elective convention despite growing calls from some aggrieved leaders and members seeking removal of Secondus.
The decision was taken to ensure the embattled chairman retain his position and continue directing the party’s affairs till the end of October scheduled for the main opposition party’s national convention. The decision to hold the convention earlier than the previous date, which was ratified by the party’s stakeholders including 13 governors, the Board of Trustees, and other organs, was to appease those who oppose the continued reign of seconds as the party chairman.