Efforts by elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to quell the leadership crisis might have come to naught as a High Court of Rivers State yesterday issued an order of interim injunction, restraining Uche Secondus from carrying on as Chairman of the party, pending the hearing and determination of a suit challenging his continued stay in office.

Secondus, according to the ruling, has been ordered to stop parading himself as a member of the PDP on grounds of his suspension from the party.

But the embattled chairman of the main opposition party has said if he and the party were taken to court, they would defend themselves.

Justice O. Gbasam of the Degema Division of a High Court of Rivers State, sitting in Port Harcourt, issued the orders while delivering ruling in an exparte application by some chieftains of the PDP in Rivers State.

The Plaintiffs, in the suit marked PHC/2183/CS/2021 were Ibeawuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen and Umezirike Onucha, while Secondus and PDP were the first and second respondents, respectively.

Mr. H. A. Bello, who argued the exparte application on behalf of the plaintiffs, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by his clients in the interest of justice, even as he sought an order of court directing that the matter be heard during the court’s vacation owing to the urgent nature of the case.

Part of the prayers were that Secondus be stopped from performing the functions of national chairman of the PDP while on suspension as a member of the party.

In a short ruling, Justice Gbasam granted the reliefs requested by the applicants and issued an order, “restraining the 1st defendant from parading himself as a member of the 2nd defendant or National Chairman of the 2nd defendant or performing the functions of National Chairman of the 2nd defendant or calling, attending or presiding over any meeting of the 2nd defendant or any committee of the 2nd defendant at ward, local government or state level.”

He was also asked to stay away from “calling for any ward, local government or state congresses of the second defendant or setting up committee for such congresses, or participating in any activity of the 2nd defendant whatsoever, while on suspension as a member of the 2nd defendant, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

Justice Gbasam, in addition, ordered that the restraining order and all other orders as well as originating summons and motion on notice be served on Secondus by substituted means.

According to the ruling, the order and all other court’s documents were to be pasted on the gate of the residence of Secondus at number 1, William Jombo street, old GRA, Port Harcourt, Rivers State as well as published in a national newspaper.

The court processes once pasted at Secondus’ residence and published in a national daily, the court held, was deemed to have been properly served on him.

The latest court action against Secondus might not be unconnected to the failure of his National Working Committee (NWC) to conduct a NEC meeting recently directed by the expanded Board of Trustees (BoT) meeting of the PDP.

The BOT, at a recent meeting to resolve the face-off between Secondus and some aggrieved leaders of the PDP, particularly the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, decided that Secondus should continue in office and that a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting be summoned to constitute the members of the National Convention of the party slated for the end of October,2021.

Though the NWC had immediately advanced reasons why the NEC could not hold, the resort to litigations was not foreseen.

Before the extended meeting of the BoT, there were two opposing groups: those plotting the removal of the NWC led by Secondus and those, who wanted him retained till the end of his tenure in December 2021. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the expected implosion in the party, due to the intractable leadership crisis.

Hitherto, the PDP was in serious crisis following the defection of three governors – David Umahi of Ebonyi State; Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State – and members of the National Assembly, who were elected on its platform. They all defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The mood dampening situation in the party was becoming worrisome as the PDP had lost 17 senators. The membership of the party in the House of Representatives had also diminished. Thus, some members believed the best way to resolve the crisis was by sacking the Secondus-led NWC.

The crisis, however, took a twist for the worst, when seven national deputies resigned in one day. Those who resigned were the Deputy National Financial Secretary, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Deputy Woman Leader and Deputy National Auditor.

The resignation had ruffled feathers of the NWC, and was like a joke taken too far, as it triggered several reactions from stakeholders. First, was the PDP governors’ forum through its chairman, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto State, who summoned a meeting of his colleagues to resolve the crisis.

In line with series of meetings and a determination to resolve the crisis to save PDP, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jubrin, summoned an expanded board meeting.

The perception in some quarters was that the new wave of crisis that has engulfed the PDP might not be unconnected to speculations that Secondus, might seek a second term at the national convention coming up in December. But some stakeholders, including Wike – Secondus’ governor – were not comfortable with that.

In the long run, BoT chairman, Walid Jibrin, identified numerous problems in the PDP, which needed urgent attention.

They included lack of cohesion within and among major stakeholders that needed the intervention of the BoT as the highest advisory body of the party.

Jibrin urged his compatriots in the PDP to seize the moment, but this must begin with the PDP putting its house in order, by starting the right preparation for the impending elective convention to elect PDP’s national leaders, that would lead the party in the 2023 general election.

He warned that the anticipated success of the PDP at the polls must not be sacrificed on the altar of personal interest and unnecessary in-house fighting, aimed at killing the objectives set by the party, noting also that PDP ruled for 16 years as against the total failure of the current government, which he claimed was characterised by incompetence and total insecurity.

Jibrin’s line of thought aligned with other stakeholders and members of the BoT. It was a masterstroke that eventually dictated the terms of engagement at the meeting.

Before the meeting, a statement by Senator David B. Mark, Prof. Jerry Gana, Dr. Iyochia Ayu, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Ayim Pius Ayim, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Ibrahim H. Dankwambo, Senator Helen Esuene, Hajiya Zainab Maina, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Hon. Austin Okpara, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Senator Zainab Kure,Senator Agboola Hosea, Senator Odion Ugbesia, Chief Mike Ogiadomhe, and Hajiya Hadiza Adodo, had appealed for calm while the crisis was being addressed.

By these interventions, the plot to move against Secondus and members of the NWC was defeated, even before the meeting commenced.

In taking that crucial step towards a resolution, the BoT members, NEC and other PDP stakeholders, erected a bridge over the troubled waters.

Unfortunately, some stakeholders within the PDP had taken a hardline position already and it was only a matter of time before the boiling cauldron of repressed anger brimmed over with naked emotions.

One of the immediate steps taken by the BoT was to urgently meet with PDP governors, the NWC and other critical stakeholders.

Curiously, those who wanted Secondus to stay in office till the end of his term, argued that it would leave a sour taste if Secondus was unceremoniously booted out of office. But his opponents left him with one foot of opportunity in the doorway. They wanted him to publicly renounce a second term ambition.

To enforce this position was a group led by Wike. This, sadly, underscored how much Secondus’ ouster meant to the Rivers governor, hence he attended the BoT meeting for the first time.

With Jibril’s agenda, which insisted that the meeting was crucial to the party’s survival in 2023, it was clear that the meeting was not going to fulfil the agenda of the anti-Secondus elements.

Given the opportunity, a visibly relieved Secondus thanked the BoT for its intervention and an opportunity to live another day. He commended the party’s reconciliation committee led by a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stating also how he tried to resolve the issue of the resigning deputies in the NWC.

He noted that the party’s internal conflict resolution mechanism was quickly deployed so that the issues were not escalated to the point that the party would be greatly damaged.

The meeting ended after over four hours. The thrust of discussion was given fillip and made public by Senator David Mark, who said the meeting had resolved to set up a committee made up of the governors, members of the BoT, members of the National Assembly, all the members of the NWC, former governors, former ministers, so that they could holistically resolve the problems.

A pointer to the fact that the crisis was about to be resolved was when the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, one of the officers that tendered their resignation, withdrew his resignation from office and vowed to work with the Secondus-led NWC to ensure a successful national convention, which would usher in new national officers.

Odeyemi said in a letter dated August 4, 2021, that his decision to withdraw his resignation was taken in view of the activation of the internal method of resolving issues by leaders of the PDP across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

But Secondus’ media office, while reacting to the development, has said, “If Secondus and the party are taken to court, they will defend themselves.”

The office of the National Chairman of PDP was reacting to calls from media houses on a press statement sent to newsrooms by one Kelvin Ebiri, Special Assistant Media to Wike announcing that, a court had restrained Secondus from parading himself as national chairman and member of PDP.

The media office, in a statement by Ike Abonye, said, “PDP and Secondus are not afraid of court. It’s disheartening that the interim order of court used in removing the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen unilaterally in January, 2019 for which PDP vehemently condemned is resurrecting again from Port Harcourt.

This party is a child of history, owned by Nigerians, bigger than any individual or group including desperadoes.”

However, from all indications, it’s not yet uhuru for the PDP, until after all the meetings and the coast is completely clear. Until then, the jury is still out.

THISDAY LIVE