Apprehension was thick in the air, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) announced its decision to hold an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the wake of alleged misappropriation of N10million by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
A member of the party from Edo State, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, who blew the whistle on the misappropriation of party’s funds by Secondus, also followed up his allegation with a petition, which he submitted to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) last Monday, calling for independent investigation into how the party’s finances were being managed.x
In the petition, Afegbua specifically challenged the anti-graft agencies to scrutinise the expenditure of N10billion, which he claimed accrued to the party from 2017 till date, particularly proceeds from sales of nomination forms for Presidential, Senatorial, Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections.
However, after the Thursday meeting, The Guardian learnt that Secondus escaped NEC’s censure with merely some words of caution and warnings.
Apparently, in a bid to save the national chairman from his tormentors and traducers, the PDP NEC insisted that all parties to the current wrangling in the party should sheathe their swords till the December 2021 national convention, when new officers are to be elected.
Sources at the meeting disclosed that fears of possible deleterious consequences for the party informed the decision by top PDP leaders to prevail on all forces to sheathe swords until December, 2021, when the tenure of the Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) ends.x
It was also gathered that the absence of 13 out of the party’s 15 state governors, especially Secondus’ godfather, Nyesom Wike, added to the resolve of party stalwarts to ‘postpone the evil day’ for the national chairman.
Accordingly, last Thursday’s confidence vote on Uche Secondus is said to be PDP NEC’s last resort after concerned party leaders had thoroughly scrutinised the “expenditure books” to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the alleged fraud.
This is just as other concerned party leaders were said to have cautioned Secondus and his NWC members to improve on the ongoing peace efforts by reaching out more genuinely to those at war with them.
According to sources at the meeting, there was tension prior to the confidence vote motion, which was sponsored by a former Niger State governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, and seconded by one time external affairs minister, Tom Ikimi.
Party organs like the Governors’ Forum, National Assembly Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT), as well as, forum of PDP State chairmen, reportedly kicked against suggestions that the NWC be forced out to make way for a caretaker committee to run the party till December 2021.
Checks by The Guardian on how the various issues, particularly allegations of financial impropriety and abuse of due processes against the Secondus-led NWC were resolved, showed that party leaders already agreed to move on, particularly after some of the expenditure books were thoroughly scrutinised.
It would be recalled that the National Assembly caucus has been a strong pillar of support for Secondus and NWC, as the caucus has always stood firm behind them.
The lawmakers were said to have insisted that PDP must be allowed to remain democratic in nature and not “owned” by anybody or group of persons.
Reactions have continued to trail the vote of confidence passed on the PDP national chairman.x
A Senator from one of the Southeast states, who confided in The Guardian on what transpired at the NEC meeting said: “PDP’s greatest asset is that it is the only party that has remained democratic since its formation in 1998.
“Although we may have our differences, those differences had always been resolved through mechanisms of conflict resolution within the party; no room for a single godfather.
“So, what we are looking at is how to avoid that factor of “party owner or godfather. What happens to the party if that godfather dies?”
On whether the allegation of misappropriation was merely swept under the carpet, the Senator disclosed that appropriate officers in charge of the party’s finances were invited to present specific document relating to status of accounts and expenditure, after which party leaders came to the conclusion that the allegations lack substance.
He added that wide consultations across party organs suggested that those making spirited efforts to remove Secondus before the end of his tenure were trying to generate materials with which to execute their nefarious mission.
PDP National Vice Chairman (South/South), Chief Collins Orbih, told The Guardian that the Edo State chieftain, Afegbua, who raised the petition did not say that he was making the allegations of financial impropriety against Secondus on behalf of the state or zonal chapter.
Also Plateau State Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. John T. Akans, said the state chairman, Yakubu Gwot Chocho, attended the emergence NEC and fully participated in the proceedings.
Akans said: “We in the Plateau State PDP, are fully in support of the decisions taken. We subscribe to the vote of confidence; our decision should not be different from the resolution of NEC. Secondus is an experienced politician, we are fully in support of the NEC decision.”
Akans said with the vote of confidence on Secondus, there should not be any issues again, stressing that all those talking about where the chairman should come should wait till the December convention as NEC directed.x
A former governor of one of the Northwest states told The Guardian that he does not want to be seen to be commenting on the NEC meeting, stressing, “It was a vote of confidence, but the clouds are still gathering, it has not lifted.”
However, some party leaders urged the NWC to reach out seriously to aggrieved members and leaders to achieve more permanent healing. A member of the party’s Board of Trustees, who did not want his name in print, stated: “I don’t think the NWC should completely rely on this vote of confidence and abandon the path of true reconciliation. What the NEC decision has done is to send signal that all would not be well if we insist that the current officers should suffer premature removal. We all witnessed how the party almost died during the saga of Makarfi versus Modu Sheriff.”
The BoT member’s words of caution and counsel followed unconfirmed reports that masterminds of the Secondus-must-go agenda might have been planning to launch a fresh attack.
Intriguingly, last Thursday’s NEC meeting recorded the worst roll call, as only few governors attended, including Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and Ben Ayadè of Cross Rivers states.
Also, only three governors showed up during the national caucus meeting, which ended in the early hours of Saturday, at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja. They were Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) and Ishaku Darius of Taraba State.