It is no longer news that the once mutual relationship between the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, has gone sour.
Perhaps, what is news now is why Wike, who had worked so hard in 2017 to install Secondus as the PDP National Chairman against all odds, now wants him and the entire National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, sacked.
Investigation by New Telegraph showed that the choice of Wike’s successor in 2023, and the control of PDP structures both at national and in the River State, are among the causes of disagreement between the two. Wike and Secondus are from Rivers State.
A party source reported a strain in their relationship immediately after the 2018 PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt, which former Vice-President Atiku Abubkar won. Wike had supported Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to be PDP’s presidential candidate in 2019.
The source said the governor was not only angry that Secondus did not work for his candidate to emerge as the party’s candidate, but warned other NWC members to distant themselves from all the 12 presidential aspirants and their perceived supporters.
This, it was gathered, reportedly did not go down well with the governor as the two later made up after the primary. According to the source, the clash between the two this time is who becomes governorship candidate of PDP in Rivers State in 2023.
“Secondus wants his cousin, Tele Ikuru, but Wike prefers Austin Opara. As it is now, Wike seems to have his way because, going by the last local government election, the structure of the party is now in his hand,” the source explained. Ikuru served as deputy governor, first to Celestine Omehia, and later, to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation), after the latter won his case in 2018 at the Supreme Court.
It was learnt that Ikuru left with Amaechi to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, but returned to PDP shortly before the 2015 general election. He is from Andoni, a riverine area of Rivers State. Ikuru has been silent since 2015, unlike Opara who is one of the strong supporters of the governor.
Opara was Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007 and is from Ikwere, an upland area. The source added: “Since 1999, all the governors who ruled Rivers are from upland – (Peter) Odili, Amaechi and Wike. The agitations have been that the riverine should be given a chance to produce governor in 2023.
That is why the National Chairman wanted PDP to pick the governorship candidate from riverine. “But as it is now, Wike may have his way because no loyalist of Secondus was elected in the last local government election in Rivers State. “But I see crisis coming because if APC goes to the riverine or Ogoni area to pick its candidate, that might be problem for PDP.”
The same scenario played out in 2015 when Amaechi wanted the Ogonis to produce his successor. But Wike bulldozed his way. He defeated Dakuku Riverside, the APC candidate in 2023.
The party did not field candidate in 2019 due to its internal crisis. The source further disclosed that Wike is not only comfortable in securing the PDP structure in his state, but wants to dismantle the existing structure at the national level because of the fear that Secondus might use it to fight back and truncate his 2023 vice-presidential ambition.
The governor is gearing to run with his Sokoto State counterpart, Tambuwal as his running mate. The source explained: “Wike knows that if Secondus remains National Chairman, his chances of running with Tambuwal may not be possible because there is no way Nacommittee tional Chairman and vice presidential candidate will come from the same geopolitical zone, not to talk of the same state.
“Even Opara becoming PDP governorship candidate in Rivers can be stopped because the party may insist that riverine produces the candidate, if Secondus remains National Chairman.
In this way, he might bring in his cousin who is from the riverine. “So, the only way Wike can be sure that Opara remains in contention, and himself run with Tambuwal in 2023, is to push for sack of the NWC and a new set of people who will be loyal to him, elected.”
He, however, said Tambuwal’s ambition is being threatened because of Wike, adding, “Many party members are not happy the way he (Wike) is going about it.
He is creating problem for Tambuwal. He went to Sokoto State the other time and donated half a billion naira.
“Tambuwal has been advised to be careful with him, but he cannot afford to do so because Wike, almost singlehandedly funded his presidential ambition in 2018. Another source said that the Atiku group and northern members of the party are solidly behind Secondus and are ready to support him if he wants to go for second term.
He asserted that Secondus may seek reelection unless PDP zones its presidential ticket to the south, “because there is no way the south can produce both the national chairman and the presidential candidate. But it is most unlikely that PDP will zone the ticket to the South.”
However, it was gathered that Secondus has been fighting back as he was able to get the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and the Governors’ Forum to pass vote of confidence on his NWC.
The BoT, which met on Wednesday, assured of its commitment “not to allow any mischievous trends or strain to clog the working relationship between all members, particularly at the top management level of the party.”
In the communiqué, which was read by former President of the Senate, Adolphus Wabara, the BoT noted that it would “ensure that a fluent and uninterrupted operation of all the organs of the party, particularly the National Working Committee (NWC), remains in place leading up to a successful convention in December 2021.”
This was an assurance of the NWC members that they will be allowed to serve out their tenure, which expires in December this year. Wike and some other interest groups had been pushing for a caretaker committee to replace the NWC pending the December 2021 national convention where new party leadership is expected to emerge.
Also, the PDP Governors’ Forum, of which Wike is a member, met on Thursday (a day after the BoT meeting), and “commended the NWC for setting up the (reconciliation and strategic) committee” to reconcile aggrieved members of the party. Members of the NWC and Senator Bukola Sarakiled reconciliation committee attended the governors’ meeting with Wike also present at the meeting.
Tambuwal, who briefed journalists at the end of the meeting, said an interim report of the reconciliation Nacommittee of the party was submitted to the forum. Only two out of the 15 PDP governors – Dairus Ishyaku of Taraba and Ahmed Finitri of Adamawa State, were absent at the meeting. The Saraki’s committee had started reaching out to party leaders and aggrieved members immediately New Telegraph reported the division in the party.
The committee had reached out to former President Goodluck Jonathan, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida and other party leaders, who reportedly cautioned against forceful change in the party’s leadership because of its consequences to the PDP electoral fortune in 2023.
The source told this reporter that the party “can confidently call for National Executive Council (NEC)”, following positive responses that the present NWC will be allowed to served out its tenure.”
Meanwhile, Secondus’ Media Adviser, Mr. Ike Abonyi, in response to New Telegraph’s enquiry, simply said: “National Chairman is focused on improving the party and taking it to next level. He has refused to be distracted.”