SUPPORTERS of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Uche Secondus, on August 24, staged a protest against the restraining order issued by a Rivers State High Court which suspended him from office.
The protest was held amid reports that two factions are laying claim to the party’s leadership.
The Deputy National Chairman (South) of the PDP Yemi Akinwonmi was the first to announce that he had taken over the affairs of the party following the August 23 restraining order issued against Secondus.
Akinwonmi reportedly cited Section 35 (b) of the PDP Constitution to support his move to take over the affairs of the party.
In his first act as acting party chairman, Akinwonmi suspended the meeting of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) indefinitely.
The NWC meeting was earlier scheduled for August 24, but Akinwonmi said the meeting had been postponed until further notice to allow for broader consultations in the overall interest of the party.
But another faction, including nine members of the NWC, under the leadership of the Deputy National Chairman (North) Senator Suleiman Nazif, defied the earlier announcement by Akinwonmi by holding a meeting on August 24.
The Nazif faction also reportedly fixed an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party on August 27.
As reports of the leadership tussle emerged on August 24, The ICIR observed about a hundred placards-wielding protesters chanting pro-Secondus slogans as they marched around the national headquarters of the PDP at Wadata Plaza in Abuja.
Some of the slogans had inscriptions which read, ‘Secondus must finish his tenure,’ ‘PDP is a law abiding party,’ ‘Secondus wiped away corruption in the party,’ ‘Secondus must stay,’0 ‘Our party has made progress under Secondus,’ ‘Greatest betrayal of all time,’ and ‘Don’t destabilise our dear party.’
The placard that read ‘Greatest betrayal of all time’ listed the names of some members of the NWC, including Nazif and National Youth Leader Sunday Ude-Okoye, who are among leaders of the anti-Secondus group, as betrayers.
The crisis in the PDP took a turn for the worse on August 23 after a Rivers State High Court presided by Justice O. Gbasam granted an interim injunction restraining Secondus from parading himself as chairman and member of the party.
The order followed an ex parte application in suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 filed by Messrs Ibeabuchi Ernest Alex, Dennis Nna Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen and Umezirike Onucha against Uche Secondus (1st defendant) and the PDP (2nd defendant).
The court also ordered Secondus to refrain from calling, attending or presiding over any meeting of the PDP, or any committee of the party at the ward, local government or state level or calling for any ward, local government or state congress of the party.
Secondus was also restrained from setting up committees for congresses or participating in any activity of the PDP whatsoever, whilst on suspension, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
The court order is seen as an immediate victory for a PDP group, backed by Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike, which has been pushing to remove Secondus from office before the party’s national convention.
The convention, where Secondus is expected to seek election for a second term, was initially scheduled for December but it was moved forward to October after party stakeholders, including the PDP Governors Forum and Board of Trustees (BOT), deliberated on the crisis in the party at a meeting on August 10.
The resolutions reached by the PDP stakeholders at the August 10 meeting was seen as a middle ground arrangement for the pro-Secondus and pro-Wike camps as the embattled national chairman was to remain in office to conduct the national convention, though he lost two months of the duration of his scheduled tenure in office.
The stakeholders resolved that Secondus should immediately commence processes towards holding the national convention in two months.
However, tensions resurfaced after reports emerged that Secondus was not ready to conduct the national convention in October but insisted on staying on in office until December – the original date of the national convention.
The PDP was thrown into crisis after the resignation of seven national officers of the party on August 3 led to calls for Secondus’s removal.
PDP’s national convention was scheduled to hold in December but the Wike group wanted a caretaker committee set up to organise the convention.
Secondus’ opponents claimed he lacked the competence required to lead the PDP – the national opposition party – to dislodge power from the ruling APC in the 2023 presidential election.