Prince Uche Secondus is the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this exclusive interview he granted Daily Trust, he hinted on a likely alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the much touted ‘Third Force,’ bared his mind on the All Progressives Congress (APC), discussed the state of the nation, and more. Excerpts:
Some PDP leaders who were aggrieved in the build-up to the convention, who also stopped attending party meetings, turned up at last week’s event in Abuja. What does this mean?
Uche Secondus: Our members who are doing one thing or the other, I think the Governor Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee has done great work, and has yielded fruit, especially regarding those who have different opinions, but not really leaving the party. I think everybody is back to the same fold now.
But some notable personalities, such as Jerry Gana and Tunde Adeniran have recently left for the SDP. Aren’t you worried?
We’re not worried because we know they are friendly. We may work together at the end of the day. They’re not a threat at all.
You apologized to Nigerians on behalf of the PDP for the errors the party made while in power. What motivated you?
As you are aware, this party was established for national unity, to wrest power from the military. The founding fathers believed that the party should be for all Nigerians. But no man is perfect. So we discovered that we made some mistakes, we also achieved something for Nigeria but all the same, there must be time for sober reflection; the time to say we are sorry. We’re bold to apologize because we are human beings. Any government or organization or individuals who will feel arrogant that they are perfect, for me, is wrong.
As the head of the PDP now, I felt after we have done post-mortem, we discovered some mistakes we had made so we should tender an apology. Take for instance, imposition of candidates, impunity; it was not this present leadership but from 1999 to when we exited from government, we discovered that some mistakes were made and we were not ashamed to apologize.
We didn’t apologize to the government of the APC, we apologized to Nigerians and our apology has gone down well, and I believe that will give us a new beginning. If you have a father and you offend him, what is left for you as a child to do? It’s to apologize to your father and he will say it’s okay. It’s the right thing to do, if you want to start a fresh agenda. On that occasion of Monday, we were resetting agenda, so it was good to apologize for the past mistakes that we have made. If not because of those mistakes, of course the APC wouldn’t have taken power. Now look at it, they’ve brought hunger, insecurity, et cetera. So it is proper for us to apologize to Nigerians; we are humble and it is both physical and spiritual, our apology.
Some Nigerians say with the apology, it shows the PDP admitted its members were corrupt while in power. . .
The summary of that is that those who are saying so do not know the implications. PDP is a corporate entity. The individuals in the government of PDP for 16 years have been hunted down. Some of them blackmailed; some of them faced media trials, some of them in courts, some of them are answering questions at the EFCC. But we say it should be transparent, the rule of law should take place. If you compare our government in 16 years and the government of the APC for three years, you can see who is more corrupt.
The APC-led government has asked your party to return all the funds ‘looted’ while in power before your apology would be accepted. What are you doing about this?
PDP has no case to answer. If you are talking about individual actors, some of them are standing trial in court and you can see what is going on in terms of who is trying what, who is playing pranks. APC is more corrupt. Individuals in the APC today, they are being covered by the same APC government. They borrowed N11 trillion within three years and the 16 years of PDP was only N6 trillion. Who is more corrupt? They have nothing to show for the three years; they have not achieved anything. There is hunger; there are killings all over the place. So they are playing pranks. It is part of their propaganda and blackmail.
PDP is a corporate body and has not been queried and has not been questioned. While we were in government, the individuals in government who have questions to answer have been called to answer such questions and some of them are in the court and the general feeling that imposition was the reason the APC came to government is the main background we apologized to Nigerians.
The economy is now in a shambles, the government is directionless, and cabals are in charge. Nigerians voted only one president, but we have several presidents in one. So there is confusion, there is crisis. You heard the verdict passed by former President Obasanjo, and the verdict of T.Y Danjuma, a war hero, not a politician; he is not a PDP member but we need such leaders who can speak the truth.
But is it correct to call people to take up arms like Danjuma did?
An armed robber attacks your home, what are you expected to do? Is it not to defend yourself?
Obasanjo has made a case for Nigerians, but said both the APC and the PDP are not good alternatives. What is your view?
Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to his or her own opinion. He is a leader and he has his own opinion, but that is not to say that is the opinion of all Nigerians.
Don’t you feel indicted by what he said?
Not at all; we are a political party. We have reformed, we have rebranded and we are resetting new agenda for Nigeria based on experience. Experience is the best teacher.
In the event that the PDP reclaims power in 2019, will the party also hunt APC members alleged to be corrupt while in government?
No. What we will do is to follow the rule of law, the best practices around the world. America fights corruption, Britain fights corruption, but in a more civilized manner. And remember we are in a digital age, not analog. So all institutions fighting corruption must be strengthened under our government and it must be done in a more civilized manner.
If we are lucky, by the grace of God, no matter how the incumbent government can do propaganda, when it is time for them to hand over, let them do so. When it was time for the PDP to step aside, we did and it was in a civilized manner. We said if the people have spoken, fine. We didn’t go to court. Neither the party nor our candidate went to court. Let the will of the people be done. There is no way you will hunt down all Nigerians. Go to the streets and market places and find out their feelings not the feelings of the elites but those of the common man then you will get the results yourselves.
Some people are questioning the integrity of the process that led to your emergence as PDP national chairman. What do you have to say about this?
The process was clean and transparent, so nobody can question that. The other one is insinuation, and this is a free world, so people can air their opinions. It was televised live, observed by INEC. It was the most transparent convention the PDP had, since after 1999.
In the next few months, you will be conducting primaries to elect candidates for the 2019 general elections. Is it true that the party is shopping for a presidential candidate outside its fold?
This party belongs to all Nigerians. Our doors and windows are open for all Nigerians to come in. And Nigerians are free to vie for any position, including women. In fact, our emphasis now is on the women and the youths because they are the future leaders of our country. So this party is open to all; to everyone who has interest and capacity to contest. And there will be a platform so whether you are here now or you are going to join tomorrow there will be free, fair and transparent process that will guarantee you who is coming and who is already there.
If anybody decides to join the party now and you are running for governor, president or senate, you are free to contest. We will provide the platform, if you are popular, you will be elected popularly. So there is no preference for anybody.
Some say you are likely to field Senator Ahmed Makarfi as presidential candidate . . .
It is not true, and there is no evidence. I bet you, under my watch, there will be free, fair and transparent process. In all offices, we will give people the opportunity. The greatest asset of the PDP today is the people. We will allow the people to make their choices and when they make it, they will vote, and defend their votes.
Will the PDP match the much-touted ‘third force’ that is springing up?
Whoever that is creating it, they will soon know that there is nothing in it. But they are our friends. I think at the end of the day, everybody will come together and Nigerians will know where they are going.
What is the position of the PDP on this controversial issue of election sequence?
Nigerians voted for National Assembly members and what are their duties? As prescribed by the constitution, they are to make laws and amend laws. This is not the first time they are amending electoral laws or other laws. So they have the absolute right provided by the constitution to make laws for Nigerians, not for a cabal, or a president. The laws they are making are for Nigerians and they must continue to do so. So in their wisdom they want to amend the electoral laws; they are free to do so because that is the job they were elected to do.
The Oyegun-led NWC of the APC got one year tenure extension but that decision was reversed by the President. What is your take on this?
These are the same mistakes. We have passed that stage, we have learnt our lessons and we will never make such mistakes again. We believe in the rule of law, and our constitution. Never in the history of any political party, even from 1999, is that you will abandon your constitution and the constitution of your country and promote something else that not in the constitution.
APC will continue to make mistakes and try to correct them. But it is the level of confusion in government they are displaying to Nigerians. It is not only in their party, they don’t even respect court judgments and they are not humble. No one has come out to say ‘our people, we apologize for our lapses’. But God is watching everybody.
What are those factors that make you confident that the PDP will reclaim power in 2019?
The APC government has failed Nigerians. Within three years they have created more division. This is the most corrupt government since 1960. Time will tell, and we’ll come up with facts and figures. For three years, they’re still doing the blame game. So we should start the blame game from 1960. And all the promises they made to Nigerians, they have completely failed.
Look at the Naira; it is N363 or N365 as the case may be to $1. But they made a promise that they will make N1 to $1. Have they not failed? Look at unemployment, over 80 million youths. Petrol was N87 when the APC came to power, but today if you drive out of Abuja, fuel is N250. Within Abuja and other urban centers, you may be lucky to get fuel at N145 per liter. Have they not failed? These are facts, and speak for themselves. It is not propaganda.
Thousands of people have been killed and the government has not provided answers. Nigerians are not fools, they know the facts. If I were of the APC, I would speak the truth and if necessary, apologize to Nigerians. That is the way we want a new government to be and especially the PDP where if we make a mistake, we will agree that we made a mistake and then find solution to it. Not when you make a mistake but you say arrogantly that that is not a mistake and you put one lie or the other on top of it.
Unless we come together and speak the truth, it will be difficult. We are selling oil, yet there is poverty. Other West African countries are doing well without oil. Look at Ghana. Nigeria is blessed in agricultures and other areas of life, yet our people are hungry. There is something fundamentally wrong. We need a leader who is truthful, who is humble to admit his faults. In Nigeria, no president has ever apologized, and this government is the worst. Even when they are killing people, they will feign ignorance.
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