By Favour Goodness
Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was on Tuesday factionalised with the emergence of two acting national chairmen.
The two Deputy National Chairmen of the party, Yemi Akinwonmi (South) and Senator Suleiman Nazif (North), in separate announcements, claimed to be the party’s acting National Chairman.
While Akinwonmi was said to be loyal to the Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, Nazif had the support of the suspended National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus.
A Rivers State High Court presided over by Justice O. Gbasam of the Degema Judicial Division vacation court, sitting in Port Harcourt, had on Monday granted an order restraining Secondus from parading himself as the national chairman of the party.
This was sequel to the consideration of an ex parte application in suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 filed by Ibeabuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen and Umezirike Onucha against Uche Secondus (1st defendant) and the PDP (2nd defendant).
On Tuesday, Akinwonmi issued a statement declaring himself as the acting national chairman in the absence of Secondus, citing Section 45 (2) of the PDP Constitution.
His statement read in part, “Our attention was drawn yesterday evening (Monday) 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.
“Section 45(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party empowers me to summon and preside over party meetings in the absence of the national chairman.
“In the foregoing circumstances, as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party, after consultation and in exercise of the aforesaid powers, I hereby deem it fit and proper to postpone the National Working Committee meeting earlier scheduled for today (Tuesday) until further notice to allow for broader consultation in the overall interest of our party.”
A few hours after the statement, members of the party’s NWC under the leadership of Nazif stormed the PDP national secretariat in company with armed policemen and went straight into the NWC conference room for a meeting that started around 2pm.
Soon after the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes, Nazif addressed the media.
He said, “Members of the NWC will recall that this morning, we were in possession of a valid court order from a high court in Degema, Rivers State, issuing an order removing Secondus as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party as well as the national chairman of our great party.
“A court has also ordered that from August 23, 2021, Prince Uche Secondus should stop parading himself as the national chairman. The NWC hereby complies fully with the court order.
“Consequently, the NWC hereby calls for an emergency NEC meeting on Friday, August 27, 2021, at 10am prompt to deliberate on matters affecting the party. You are all aware that the PDP is a law-abiding party, the party that follows due process. So, we have received this order and this is it.
“And in line with the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, and I quote Section 35, 3 a-d, ‘Functions of a deputy national chairman: there shall be two deputy national chairman, one shall come from the northern part, while the other from the southern part of the country.
“The deputy national chairmen shall perform the following functions: 1) assist the national chairman in the discharge of his duty. 2) Perform such other functions as may be assigned to them.
“3) In a result of resignation, removal, death, incapacitation or absence of the national chairman, a deputy national chairman from the region part of the country where the national chairman originates from shall assume office as the national chairman in acting capacity without prejudice to Section 47 (6) of the party Constitution. 4)
“In the absence of the national chairman and the deputy national chairman from the region or part of the country where the national chairman originates from, the other deputy national chairman shall act as the national chairman without prejudice to Section 47 (6) of this Constitution.
“On this note, distinguished NWC members, I hereby take full charge of the Peoples Democratic Party as chairman in an acting capacity.”
While explaining his reason for taking over, Nazif said, “We have waited this morning for the deputy national chairman (South), who has been incapacitated and who has not been attending the NWC meetings in the last nine months. As you know, in the absence of the deputy chairman (South), I take full charge; so, I am hereby calling for an emergency NEC meeting for August 27, 2021, by 10am prompt to deliberate on the new development.
“And I believe all the leaders of this party, the owners of this party, will be in attendance and that our governors and former presiding officers will be part of the NEC meeting to deliberate on all pending issues.”
In response to a question as to whether there was now a division among members of the NWC, he said, “Let me make this very clear that this meeting was called for 2pm 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 as far as the NWC is concerned.
“He has not been in communication with any member of the NWC for the last 10 months. This party must continue its process.
“And if I am not available, someone else will take over. If the national chairman is not available, someone will take over; if the deputy national chairman, South, is not available, the deputy chairman, North, will take charge”.