The second term ambition of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, appears to have suffered a major setback.
This followed indications that governors elected on the platform of the opposition party may have finally decided to have him replaced ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
It was learnt that the governors want the Rivers State-born politician out following the exit of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State from the party and rising speculations that more of their colleagues may leave the party over issues relating to Secondus’ handling of the zoning debate that has rocked the opposition party for a while.
According to very reliable sources, the governors arrived at a conclusion during the week following revelations that numerous chieftains of the PDP, including governors, National Assembly members and other eminent party chiefs, who are under pressure from the national caretaker leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to defect, are biding time over the expected leadership change before making up their minds on what steps to take.
Umahi, who dumped the PDP last month, had said he moved to the APC because of the injustice meted out to the Southeast by the PDP.
“It is absurd that since 1999 going to 2023, the Southeast will never be considered to run for presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position. It had nothing to do with me or my ambition,” the Ebonyi State governor said.
The exit of the governor as well as growing speculations of imminent mass defection is causing ripples in the PDP.
The developments are being blamed on the equally growing agitations over zoning within the party, and some governors are said to have earlier resolved that only Secondus’ ouster would restore sanity to the embattled opposition party.
The Nation gathered that at a meeting during the week, the PDP governors decided to commence the search for a credible replacement for the national chairman.
According to inside sources, a couple of the governors met in Abuja while others joined them on the zoom platform to discuss the fate of their embattled national chairman and the National Working Committee (NWC).
A source said: “With the tenure of the current NWC of the PDP ending this month, it became necessary for organs of the party to discuss what will become of Secondus and his team.
“Of course, the national chairman is not hiding his desire to remain in office for another term, but it appears majority of the governors elected on the platform of our party are not in agreement with his plans.
“As it is, the governors are searching for a replacement for him.
“Some reasons have been adduced for their decision to change the national leadership of the party.
“There are those who argue that in line with the zoning principle of the party, Secondus should give way for a northerner to emerge as the national chairman of the PDP so as to enhance the emergence of a southerner as the party’s presidential flag bearer in the 2023 general elections.
“Similarly, a number of the governors are of the opinion that the incumbent national chairman cannot achieve a free, fair and credible party primary for the 2023 presidential ticket given what they describe as his obvious support for a particular presidential aspirant and his group within the PDP.
“Hence, they want Secondus to vacate the seat upon the expiration of his term later this month.”
Apart from serving as an Acting National Chairman between 2015 and 2016, Secondus assumed office on December 10, 2017. His four-year tenure ends this month.
Many party chieftains have faulted his handling of the zoning debates while some have openly accused him of opposing the clamour for the south to produce the next presidential candidate of the PDP.
Last week, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State castigated the Secodus-led NWC for allegedly deepening the cracks in the party.
Wike, who was the chief sponsor of Secondus for the position in 2017, was particularly irked that the NWC was sowing seeds of discord among PDP governors and jeopardising the party’s chances ahead of the 2023 presidential race.
He said that instead of focusing on strategies on how to take advantage of the alleged growing disenchantment with the APC government, the PDP-NWC was busy creating crises among governors, using two former governors of Imo and Cross River states and a present senator from Benue State.
Wike said: “I will not allow anybody to kill PDP. They have capacity to move to APC; I don’t and I cannot move to APC.
“An opposition party that ought to be united, to work, to take over the affairs of government because people are waiting for this opportunity, but the current leadership of NWC is not prepared for that.
“Rather, what they have done is to constitute some people to sow a seed of discord among governors for their own selfish interest. And that will boomerang; that will consume them.”
The Nation gathered that a committee has been put in place by the said governors to consider some names that have been put forward as possible replacements for Secondus ahead of an elective convention of the PDP in a matter of weeks.
“There is a resolution by the governors to oppose any further delay to an elective convention. A committee is also in place now to examine some possible candidates for the job of national chairman,” a reliable source said.
However, it was also gathered that the governors were yet to be on one page with regard to where the next national chairman should come from.
While some believe that the position should be zoned to the north in readiness for the party’s zoning of its presidential ticket to the south, others want it thrown open so that the very best candidate can emerge as the national chairman, irrespective of zoning.
“It is still unclear if the governors will agree on zoning the position. As it is now, there are two schools of thoughts on the matter – those who want the position zoned to the north in readiness for the party’s zoning of its presidential ticket to the south and those who want it thrown open so that the very best candidate can emerge as the national chairman, irrespective of zoning,” the source added.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Secondus is not without support within the party as the battle for his seat rages.
According to findings made by The Nation, even among PDP governors, the embattled national chairman still enjoys the support of a couple.
A zonal officer of the party in the Southeast said: “He has a strong governor supporting him in the Northeast and another in the South-south. And currently, he has the support of the majority of the incumbent members of the NWC. The Atiku political camp within the PDP also feels Secondus should continue in office.
“With indications emerging that the former vice president may be reviving his machinery ahead of the 2023 presidential contest, his men are also rallying support for Secondus across the country.
“Many state chairmen of the party, especially in the Southwest, are solidly behind the national chairman in his quest for another term.
“Also, some former PDP governors, led by a former Southwest governor, recently met in Lagos to fashion out the modalities that will see Secondus retain his seat beyond 2020.
“There are talks that these people and others like them are working for the emergence of Atiku as the party’s presidential flag bearer in 2023.”