Interviews Politics

Why Electoral reform is paramount for the 9th Assembly – Secondus

Prince Uche Secondus is the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with PDP reporters he explained the party’s strategy as opposition party, mergers, the party’s Presidential ticket, his relationship with governors and role of the media. MYKE UZENDU was there for The AUTHORITY.

The governor of Cross River has been accused of detaining Agba Jalingo, a journalist for several months. What is your party doing to ensure he regains his freedom?

You are aware that the governor of Cross River met with the President and on his way out he was interviewed by your colleagues and he had to explain what happened, how water entered melon, so I refer you to the statement of the governor because we are all concerned and if it is true, a proper investigation will be carried out. So you don’t need me to say much about that until a final decision is taken but we are concerned generally because of course it was the PDP that came out with the Freedom of Speech Act and we believe in it. Our President, Jonathan signed it and so we believe in free press and free speech.

It has been observed that a lot of PDP stake holders especially the governors have shown disloyalty publicly to the party, they have no allegiance to the party. One of them even said that he is 100 percent PDP and 100 percent APC. Even the governor was publicly campaigning for another party for Edo but your administration could not call him to order.

You see democracy is fast deteriorating in our country because of the style of the federal government. As you can see, it is do or die, or winners take all, people are not patient, hunger is in the land and insecurity. That may be what is contributing to what you are witnessing today but our position is very clear.

Even in those states not controlled by PDP, you still know that we have critical stake holders in those states who are firmly on the ground. You know also that in 2019 election, we won in those states that are not ours and that shows clearly that we are moving forward with democratic ideals and principles but you never can tell. There may be one or two places where we may have what you just described but we believe that it will come on and off until we arrive at the right destination not just for our party but for our nation also.

Being a governor does not deprive an individual from airing up his own individual view, am quite sure you understand that. He hasn’t come out openly to say ooh, this is PDP’s position. If he has aired his views in terms of Edo, I am quite sure that people can in a democratic world and free speech, have the right to do so, but that is not the position of PDP. And it is time for our country to move from a situation of sentiments and emotions and all what not. We don’t listen to gossips, some may be correct, some may not be correct, but let’s drop this idea of rumour or not rumour and you link it to PDP, Our position is very clear, we are going to contest for the election in Edo, we are asking for reform and that is the position of the national leadership of our party.

Some time ago, the governor of Rivers state accused his counterpart in Baylesa of anti-party activity and insisted that you are aware and you did nothing. Again there is this view that whatever happens in Wadata was planned in Rivers State and that your leadership is tied to the apron string of Governor Nyesom Wike who tells you what to do. How do you respond to that.

Anything that has to do with our governors and the altercation between the governors of Rivers State and Bayelsa state has made headline news and we don’t want to go into it. I don’t think that is going to help to build a party. Those who want to destroy would want to dig up emotions. So I believe that enough is enough. What we do behind the scene is not to the knowledge of the press and we are not ready to disclose that because we have our strategies. You may think that is the weakness, but that’s a sign of strength.

The way you think may not be the way we think and I have been in this party long before Governor Wike became governor. I’ve been the chairman for River State for eight years, the national organizing secretary for four years, Deputy National chairman and acting National Chairman all that time where did I take the directive from when I was Acting Chairman. Is it now that am full Chairman that I have to take the directives. That is rumour and blackmail and we’re not ready to pay any attention to such.

In politics normally in Nigeria people gossip and they carry rumour from one place to the other which gets to media executives like you but your rightly ask your question. I don’t know where you’re coming from, you can go do your investigative journalism, whether any of the things you have said here is the truth and you also know the truth and the truth will prevail at the end of the day.

Your party spent 16yrs in office and the only thing it could put in place regarding electoral reforms is the card reader. Many of us believed that if your party was honest enough and not benefiting from electoral fraud, there could have been a more solid reform which could have made it difficult for individuals or groups or parties to rig elections.

If you recall when PDP came into power in 1999, It took 16years for us to carry out electoral reforms which gave us what we have and which was not implemented. First the laws were analogue. Second, there have been several reforms within the 16years and it became like rhetorics, part of our challenge was that the Constitution of our country must also conform with the desire of the change and reform which we proposed before we handed over in 2015. It was the PDP that equipped INEC with all the data and with all the machine and also the transmission of result sheets electronically but when this government came, they discarded all the structures that was put in place even though the electoral law didn’t quite capture it because of the impediment of our constitution because a major aspect was that we need also to change a major aspect of our constitution as regards the electoral reforms and this requires everybody. When we called a few days ago for electoral reforms we are not calling only the APC, the PDP everybody in our nation because we must move forward.

I suppose you should appreciate that PDP has done very well bringing us to where we are today and it is left for those in government now. All the structures are there, in fact the last amendment was done in the 8th assembly, this President, President Buhari refused to assent to that Bill. Elections results can be transmitted from the voting point to the center. The President refused to sign it, so why are you putting the blame on PDP? 8th Assembly amended the electoral laws so you don’t put that blame on the door of PDP put it squarely on the door of APC government. They are now in government for 5yrs running so put that on their door step. And we believe that if we don’t at all do the needful and reform, we cannot move forward as a nation, we can’t.

So we don’t want to join issue with APC, we don’t want to join issue with anybody but what we want is electoral reform that will be good for everybody. People should have right to come and vote and not be killed, that is the right of all citizens.

Last week we called the National Assembly to quickly take their first front agenda and let them make it a priority, about the electoral laws because all of these issues that are happening in our country today: insecurity, bad economy, corruption has to do with those who are in government. So that should be first and foremost thing that the National Assembly in this new year should do. They should amend all our electoral laws bring everybody together so that the people will have the right to vote not like that woman who voted and was burnt alive and that woman became the symbol of democracy in Nigeria. So we are on the right track and we want to assure you that we can do it and we can do it better.

Your party is divided on the issue of House of Representatives Minority leadership. How are you resolving situation.

Yes we have issues in the House of Representatives and we are working hard to resolve them. We are still in the process, you cannot force us to do what we don’t want to do. In other words, all the processes must be completed. The BoT committee or panel has submitted their report, Ikimi has also submitted their report and all of these will undergo a process and at the conclusion we will come out with our position.

We don’t want to be carried into sentiment of what happened. Those who were there even members knew what happened. Elumelu himself was there when Chinda was elected. Chinda was not just appointed, he was elected. But whatever happens, bygone is bygone, we’re looking forward to reconciling, that we put this issue behind us. So it’s not an issue at all.

Where is the party going to zone 2023 presidential ticket.

Today we are more concerned in rebuilding our party. When the time comes for the nomination of a Presidential candidate the party will come out with its position. You know the Constitution allows everybody, whether you are from north, whether you are from south to contest. No one is going to stop anyone from contesting even when it is zoned to a particular region and I am talking about in the past. So every person still has a right to contest so if you are qualified and desire to run for the office of the President you are free to contest.

Is your party considering a merger.

Why not, when the time comes, if there is need people to pull their resources and pull their strength together, it can happen, it is possible. Our focus is in making sure that our party is strong and viral and ready to win election.

There is a view that the PDP has been lethargic and has not really played opposition roles beyond the issue of Press statements and has not been able to mobilize Nigerians to internalize the failing of the ruling party.

The PDP is the strongest opposition party in Nigeria. We don’t behave as if we’re on the street. We have men of high integrity in the leadership of the party. We do our opposition constructively; it must not be out of place and within the laws of our land. We cannot be seen on the street and what is expected is that we become violent, no no. We are very constructive, we are very strong and if you are in government, you know the feelings.

Today alone, the minority leader Senator Abaribe gave a bombshell. So it’s not by press conference or issuing of statements, and of course you know what happened last week. The entire country was grounded to a halt, not only in Abuja but across the states. When occasions demands, we will let the people know. But our plans and our strategies are in place.

We are also aware of the other countries like Ghana, Kenya, even the United States has passed through what we are passing through in opposition and we’re doing better. It is those who are in government, who are behaving like opposition because they are used to being in opposition. So I believe that we will do everything within the laws of our land and we’re doing quite a lot, planning, strategic initiatives that are in place.

We have the intellectual arm that is the PDI, people are walking silently. You are aware that in the last NEC meeting we also announced that were establishing a committee to review and assess what happened in 2019. All of these are towards putting our party in the right track walking towards 2023, if all the electoral laws would be amended to conform to modern day technology where even people can stay in the confines of their homes to vote and their voted will count, so all of that are working towards.

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