Uche Secondus is the man of the moment.
The 62-year-old politician from Rivers State, South-south of Nigeria, won big on Saturday in Abuja.
But his election as the new leader of Nigeria’s biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seemed to have already put his party on a path to another crisis that could mar their chances in the 2019 presidential election.
Besides some of the aspirants from the nation’s South-west walking out of the party convention, alleging a gang up and also saying that the Yoruba were being “insulted”, the general thinking appears to be that the PDP would have been better off picking its national chairman from the region where the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has a grip on.
Mr. Secondus, when asked about the South-west question in a Thisday interview published in November, argued that it was wise for other regions to accede the party chairmanship to his zone – the South-south – being that it has for long remained a stronghold of the PDP. “If you want to win an election you don’t start from the unknown. You begin with the known,” he had said.
Apparently referring to the aspirants from the South-west, Mr. Secondus went on to say that those who wanted to lead the PDP must be ready to “deliver” their zones during the 2019 elections. “I will deliver my place and then proceed to win other states and regions,” he boasted.
The South-west question aside, Mr. Secondus is a man well-versed with party politics in Nigeria and looks very much prepared for his latest job.
In Rivers State where he has previously done two terms as the state chairman of the PDP, he is at home with the political leaders and the ordinary folk and is popularly called ‘Total Chairman’.
His strong connection with the likes of Nyesom Wike and Godswill Akpabio, the governor of Rivers State and a former governor of Akwa Ibom State respectively, has helped him to extend his political influence to the entire South-south and the nation at large.
In fact, the foundation of Mr. Secondus’ victory at the Eagles Square, Abuja, could be attributed to the duo of Messrs. Wike and Akpabio, who are believed to have largely funded his campaign.
Mr. Secondus has been in politics for 39 years so far. He joined politics in 1978 during the Second Republic as the youth leader, in Rivers, for the now-defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. He later became the state publicity secretary of another national party, the National Republican Convention, NRC, from 1993 to 1998.
Mr. Secondus became the acting national chairman of the PDP in 2015 after the resignation of the then chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, following the party’s defeat in that year’s presidential election. Before then, he was the party’s deputy national chairman.
As a businessman, he is said to have interest in Intels Nigeria Limited, a company that is linked to Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. The company has been having running battles of late with the Nigerian government.
The new PDP leader, like most of his fellow party men, have had brushes with the country’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, since Muhammadu Buhari became president. He was detained by the EFCC in 2016 for “illegally” receiving on behalf of the PDP 23 luxury vehicles valued at N310 million from the controversial businessman, Jide Omokore.
The court later declared his arrest as being unlawful and awarded N10 million damages against the EFCC.
During the May 2016 botched Port Harcourt convention, Mr. Secondus wanted to contest for the deputy national chairman of the PDP. But he changed his mind that year and went after the party’s top job.
“The truth is that by last year I was gunning for the deputy,” he admitted in the Thisday interview. “The arrangement was such that somebody from the South-west would emerge as the chairman.
“That time, we had two and a half years to the general election. But now, we don’t have time, therefore we need an experienced person who will start working from that the first day,” he argued.
Time – to confront and push Mr. Buhari and the APC out of power – is of the essence to Mr. Secondus, going by his own words.
And he reiterated his mission in his victory speech.
“By my understanding, the mandate you have given us today is clear and unambiguous. It is to return our party to power come 2019. As Herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable….. 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,” he said.