Prince Uche Secondus is the national chairman of the leading opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with newsmen in Abuja, he spoke on electoral reforms, how the party is preparing ahead of the 2023 general elections and many other issues.
There are speculations that your party is planning name change ahead of the 2023 polls. What is the true situation?
I am quite glad that you called it speculation. I will regard it as gossip. We have not considered name change. It is not part of our agenda for now.
Some PDP stakeholders, especially governors, have shown disloyalty publicly to the party, but your administration is said to have lost the capacity to call them to order. What is happening?
You see, democracy is fast deteriorating in our country because of the style of the Federal Government.
There may be one or two places where we may have what you just described, but we believe that it would come on and off until we arrive at the right destination, not just for our party but for our country also.
Where is the party zoning its 2023 presidential ticket to?
Today, we are more concerned about rebuilding our party. When the time comes for the nomination of a presidential candidate the party will come out with its position.
Is the party considering a merger ahead of the 2023 polls?
Why not, when the time comes, if there is need for people to pull their resources and strength together, it can happen; it is possible. Our focus is in making sure that our party is strong and viral and ready to win elections.
The PDP is divided, especially in the House of Representatives, where the issue of the position of the minority leader has been raging. What is the party doing about this?
Yes, we have issues in the House of Representatives and we are working hard to resolve them. And we believe that any member of the PDP, not necessarily those in leadership, is free to voice out what is going on in government. We are working hard to reconcile those in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is in order and moving forward.
There is crisis in the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). What is your party doing to clinch the governorship seat in the state as the election is fast approaching?
We are working very hard in Edo State. We met with the leadership and stakeholders of the state last week and I believe that our people are coming together, very strong. And you are aware that the state belonged to the PDP before the APC took it from us. We are working hard to regain Edo State.
The PDP spent 16 years in office and the only thing it could put in place regarding electoral reforms is the card reader. Many of us believed that if your party was honest enough and not benefiting from electoral fraud, there would have been a more solid reform to make it difficult for individuals or groups, or parties to rig elections. Why do you blame the present government on electoral reforms?
It took 16 years for us to carry out electoral reforms, which gave us what we have, and which was not implemented. Part of our challenge was that the constitution of our country must also conform with the desire of the change and reform, which we proposed before we handed over in 2015.
It was the PDP that equipped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with all the data and machines. But when this government came, they discarded all the structures that were put in place.
It is left for those in government now to quickly put all the structures in place. In fact, President Buhari refused to assent to the last amendment done by the Eight Assembly.
Why are you putting the blame on the PDP when the Eight Assembly amended the electoral laws? Put it squarely on the door of APC government; they are now in government for five years. And we believe that if we don’t reform, we cannot move forward as a country nation. People should have the right to vote and not be killed.
Governor Dave Umahi, who was elected on the platform of your party, was publicly campaigning for Governor Obaseki of the APC for a second term. Why is the party not calling him to order?
Being a governor does not deprive an individual from airing his views. I am quite sure you understand that. He has not come out openly to say it is the position of the PDP. We don’t listen to gossips. Our position is very clear – we are going to contest for the election in Edo. We are asking for reforms.
The PDP under your watch is being perceived as weak in terms of discipline. Sometime ago, the governor of Rivers State accused his counterpart in Baylesa of anti-party activities, insisting you were aware, but did not do anything. What do you say to this allegation?
Anything that has to do with our governors, especially the altercation between the governors of Rivers and Bayelsa states, I think we should just leave it. What we do behind the scene is not for the knowledge of the press, and we are not ready to disclose that because we have our strategies. You may think that is weakness, but that is a sign of strength.
There is this view that whatever happens in Wadata Plaza was planned in Rivers State and that your leadership is tied to the apron string of Governor Nyeson Wike, who tells you what to do. What is your reaction to this?
The way you think may not be the way we think. I have been in this party long before Governor Wike became governor. I have been the chairman of the party in River State for eight years, national organising secretary for four years, deputy national chairman and acting national chairman. All that time, where did I take directives from? Is it now that I am full chairman that I have to take the directives?
A gale of defections has hit the Imo State chapter of your party, where many of your members are defecting to the APC. Are you not worried about the development? What are you doing to stem the tide of defections?
Defection, of course, is a Nigerian syndrome. It is part of the deteriorating situation of governance by the APC. Our position has been properly articulated by the press conference of the national publicity secretary.
There is a view that the PDP under your leadership has not really played its opposition role the way it should. Beyond the issue of press statements, it has not been able to mobilise Nigerians to internalise the alleged failing of the ruling party. Have you made any attempt to study the role of opposition parties in other climes and how they were able to defeat the ruling party?
The PDP is the strongest opposition party in Nigeria. And you know, we don’t behave as if we’re on the street. We have men of high integrity in the leadership of the party. We do our opposition constructively; it must not be out of place and within the laws of our land. We cannot be seen on the street every time. Maybe what is expected is that we become violent, but that should not be the case.
It is those in government that are behaving like the opposition because they are used to being in that position. So I believe that we will do everything within the laws of our land; and we are doing quite a lot in planning and strategic initiatives that are in place.
We have an intellectual arm known as the PDI. People are working silently. You are aware that in the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, we also announced that we were establishing a committee to review and assess what happened in 2019. All of these are towards putting our party in the right track towards 2023. All the electoral laws would be amended to conform to modern day technology, where people can stay in the confines of their homes to vote and their votes would count. We are working towards that. Last week, we called on the National Assembly to quickly take their first front agenda and make it a priority because all these issues that are happening in our country today – insecurity bad economy, corruption – have to do with those in government. That should be the first and foremost thing the National Assembly should do this year. They should amend all our electoral laws and bring everybody together so that people would have the right to vote, not like that woman who voted and was burnt alive. So we will keep this going. That woman became the symbol of democracy in Nigeria. So we are on the right track, and we want to assure you that we can do it better.
The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has been making mockery of your party, that for 16 years in office you could not complete your N11billion secretariat in Abuja. Why is it taking so long to complete the project?
It is entirely the business of the PDP to determine when we are ready to pack into our new secretariat. We have a secretariat; we have offices; and as you know, we have one at Wadata and another one at Legacy. That one is still under construction, so be patient till we pack out; but we have very good offices.
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