By OBINNA EZUGWU
He has his job well cut out. Remove President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) from office in 2019 and herald the return of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to power. He is Uche Secondus, the newly elected chairman of the country’s prime opposition party. He is the president’s new nemesis.
In his inaugural speech in the early hours of December 10, Secondus issued a “quite notice” to Buhari, informing the president to begin to prepare his handover notes. But talk is cheap. The task before him is daunting. And he is probably not unaware of it. He admitted as much in the said speech when he noted that it was a herculean task, but achievable.
“By my understanding, the mandate you have given us today is clear and unambiguous. It is to return our party to power come 2019,” he said. “As herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable. My campaign pillars for this election are ‘To Rebuild, Reposition and Regain’.
“Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice.”
Secondus has proved to be a fighter. Against the likes of Chief Olabode George, former governors of Ogun and Oyo: Otumba Gbenga Daniels and Rasheed Ladoja as well as media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi in the PDP chairmanship race, few people could have anticipated a landslide victory for him. Although it would be out of place to give him all the credit having been supported every step of the way by the governor of his state, Rivers, Nyesom Wike and other big wigs such as northern governors, former Akwa Ibom governor, Goodwill Akpabio, Governor Ayodele Fayose among others, he is by no means himself a small fry.
He proved his mettle as the party’s chairman in Rivers between 2002 and 2008 under governor Odili, in the course of which he earned the sobriquet “Total Chairman.” He also headed an influential group in the National Executive Committee known as G.84.
In 2007, he became the South South Zonal Coordinator for the party’s National Campaign Council which organised campaigns for the party during that year’s general elections. The party of course won by a landslide in the presidential election of that year with the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua emerging president. (He would have wished it was Odili who prior to Yar’Adua coming into the picture courtesy of President Olusegun Obasanjo, was widely tipped for the job).
His tenure as Rivers PDP helmsman ended in 2008, but in that year’s national convention of the party, he moved even further up the ladder. He was elected National Organising Secretary. A position he held until 2012.
Afterwards, he was made pioneer Chairman, Governing Board of the National Identity Management Commission. And on September 1, 2013, he was elected Deputy National Chairman of the PDP. When the party eventually lost in the 2015 presidential election and Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu resigned his position as the party’s chairman, Secondus took up his job in an acting capacity.
But his reign was marred in controversy as the North East insisted it was still their turn to produce chairman to complete Muazu’s term. This culminated in former Borno governor, Ali Modu Sheriff being called upon to lead the party and all the trouble that followed thereafter.
His stint in party politics did not start with the PDP nonetheless. The 62-year-old Andoni born politician began his sojourn in politics as a youth in 1978 preparatory to the second republic. He was subsequently elected as Rivers State Youth Leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the party that took power in 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari emerging president.
The second republic was truncated in 1983 with General Muhammadu Buhari’s military coup. When party politics resumed in 1993, he became Rivers Publicity Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC), a post he held till 1998 before joining PDP.
No doubt, Secondus is vastly experienced in party politics. But his new task is not enviable. He is leading a party with an already battered image against the power of incumbency. It is an uphill task that requires all hands on deck. His saving grace would be that even the Buhari administration itself has acquired as much bad image within the three years it has been in power, such that both parties just about balances each other out.
But it seems the new chairman’s first preoccupation will not be as he put it, the “gigantic task of retrieving this country from APC’s clear lack of direction and confusion starting with the Presidency,” but putting the party in order.
His emergence last week has continued to ruffle feathers in the party with the South West geopolitical zone which had hoped it would produce the chairmanship position feeling betrayed. He seems to appreciate this fact and has started well.
When he resumed office at the party’s national headquarters on Monday, he appealed to all those that contested and lost at the convention not to feel bad, as according to him, there was no victor and no vanquished.
“By the special grace of God, elections have come and gone and I declare to you that there is no victor, no vanquished,” he said.
“Our first assignment will be to bring all and sundry together, that is reconciliation. We reassure leaders of our party, especially those who contested this election; we have already started work and by the grace of God, it will be productive.
“We promise to rebuild the party to regain the lost grounds. That will start today. As I walked in through the gate, it was symbolic. I asked that the gate be thrown open.
“I hereby declare the gate to this party open to all our people irrespective of their religious beliefs, their class. They are free to come into the party especially those who left for one reason or the other.”
Earlier on Sunday, he along with Governor Wike reportedly met with Chief George, at his Maitama home, Abuja, where he assured him that he would work with everyone and nobody would feel marginalised in the party.
Chief George was said to have received them warmly and advised them on the way forward. He reportedly criticised Wike for making disparaging comments about the Yoruba, while the governor in turn said he was sorry if anyone felt offended by his comments as he meant no harm.
A good way to start, but the job of sacking Buhari is by no means an easy one.