• Akinwonmi, Nazif claim chairmanship position
• Nazif fixes emergency NEC meeting for Friday
• Akinwonmi postpones NWC meeting indefinitely
The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deepened yesterday, as two contenders emerged for the acting chairmanship of the main opposition party a day after a Rivers State High Court suspended its embattled national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
The two contenders, Yemi Akinwonmi (Deputy National Chairman, South) and Suleiman Nazif (Deputy National Chairman, North), yesterday, engaged in hostilities, each claiming to be the rightful occupant of the office of acting chairman.
Akinwonmi had earlier in a statement declared himself as the national chairman and called off all planned party meetings, but after he learnt of the meeting presided over by Nazif, he appeared at the PDP national secretariat accompanied by a former House of Representatives member, Ladi Adeputu, and the National Secretary, Senator Umar Tsauri.
In a scanty statement made available to journalists at the party’s national secretariat, Akinwonmi anchored his decision on section 35(3) (b) of the Constitution of the party, which he claimed “empowers him to summon and preside over party meetings in the absence of the national chairman.”
Accordingly, Akinwonmi announced the postponement of the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC), which was earlier slated to hold yesterday.
The statement, which was signed by Akinwonmi reads: “Our attention was drawn yesterday 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.
“In the foregoing circumstances, as Deputy National Chairman (South), after consultations and in exercise of the aforesaid powers, I hereby deem it fit and prosper to postpone the NWC meeting earlier scheduled for today until further notice to allow for broader consultations in the overall interest of our party.”
Desperate for the control of the soul of the party, PDP leaders had for weeks engaged in fierce political battle, prompting the convening of a peace parley attended by all governors of the party, its Board of Trustees’ as well as other stakeholders.
The key decision of that peace meeting was a soft landing for Secondus, mandating him to call a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) the following week, which never held.
Those opposed to Secondus’ continued stay in office saw the failure to convene NEC meeting as part of strategies by him to continue his stay in office beyond the end of October that had been agreed to.
At the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held last week, Secondus explained that the party had lined up series of activities across the country, including party congresses, adding that any attempt to convene NEC meeting for an October convention would amount to a serious distraction.
But instead of convening the NEC meeting, Secondus rather embarked on political consultations with top leaders and prominent citizens, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Such meetings, it was learnt, annoyed his transducers to the extent of seeking the court order on Monday.
At exactly 2:00p.m. yesterday, some national officers followed Nazif to a meeting at the party’s secretariat, where they announced that the NEC meeting would hold on Friday.
Explaining his role, Nazif cited the Constitution of the PDP, which stated that “in the event of resignation, removal, death, incapacitation or absence of the national chairman, a deputy national chairman from the part of the country where the national chairman originates shall assume office as the national chairman in acting capacity without prejudice to section 47 (6) of the party Constitution. In the absence of the national chairman and the deputy national chairman from the region of the country where the national chairman originates, the other deputy national chairman shall act as national chairman without prejudice to 47 (6) of this Constitution.
“On this note, distinguish NWC members, I hereby take full charge of the PDP as chairman in an acting capacity,” Nazif claimed. He explained further: “We have waited this morning for the deputy national chairman (south), who has been incapacitated, who has not been attending NWC meeting in the last nine months. Like you know, in the absence of the deputy chairman south, I take full charge. So, I am hereby calling for an emergency NEC meeting on August 27, at 10:00a.m. prompt to deliberate on issues affecting the party.”
On whether there is now a division in the NWC, Nazif said: “Let me make this very clear that this meeting was called for 2:00p.m. and like I said, the deputy national chairman (south) has been incapacitated and did not attend any meeting in the last nine to 10 months. He has not been in communication with any member of the NWC for the last 10 months. And like I said, this party must continue its process.
“And if I am not available, someone else will take over. If national chairman is not available someone will take over, if deputy national chairman south is not available, the deputy chairman north will take charge,” he stressed.
The meeting presided over by Nazif was attended by the PDP national secretary, Senator Ibrahim Tsauri; national auditor, Adamu Mustapha; national vice chairman, South-South, Dan Orbih; his Southeast counterpart, Ali Odefa; national vice-chairman, Southwest, Toafeek Arapaja and national youth leader, Sunday Ude-Okoye.
BUT three hours after the departure of Nazif, Akinwonmi made a grand entry into the Wadata Plaza, the national secretariat of the party. Accompanied by the 2019 governorship candidate of the party in Ogun State, Ladi Adebutu, Akinwonmi said providence has bestowed on him the leadership of the party.
While declaring that there is no victor, no vanquish, Akinwonmi called on party faithful to join hands with him in piloting the affairs of the party.
“I am a man of peace, not a man of crisis. PDP has a good succession order. There is order here. The chairman is followed by the deputy national chairman one (South), followed by the deputy national chairman two (North),” he said.
Referring to the meeting earlier presided over by deputy national chairman (North) of the party, Nazif, Akinwonmi said: “Everything conducted while I was not here is null and void. At the appropriate time, we will call on a meeting of the NEC and the BoT.”
He added that he played no part in the fate that befell Secondus. Reminded that Nazif had in his absence described him as incapacitated, Akinwonmi pointed out that “sickness is not a friend of anybody. I was on my way to Wadata Plaza when I had a stroke in my car. I was at the hospital for three months. Anybody can be sick but I am getting back and better. It was not my making to be sick. In the past, I could not stand up but I stoop up singing the national anthem here this afternoon.
“It is wrong for people to start making reference to my ill health. Anybody can be sick but I am getting better now,” he said. However, the national secretary of the party, Ibrahim Tsauri, insisted that he attended the Nazif-led NWC meeting because Akinwonmi was not present, and that meeting stands legitimate. He said that in the circumstances faced by the party, the adoption of a doctrine of necessity had become imperative.
He added that no faction exists in the NWC, noting that Nazif only presided over the meeting of the working committee earlier because Akinwonmi was not present at the time.
“NWC was one under Secondus and there was no division. We are here to adopt the doctrine of necessity. PDP is a law-abiding party, with people of integrity and respect. PDP is the only political party in Nigeria today.
“Yesterday (Monday), we were faced with something very challenging, which we never expected. We have no other option but to accept the order of the court. There are people that took this matter to court. We have given the judgment to our lawyers to study,” he stated.