By Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe
He has been very much around in the political terrain. His political savvy and ability to meander through the uncharted waters of the stillborn democracy had once earned him the title of “The Luckiest Rivers Politician” by The Beam Newspaper, in December 2007. Prince Uche Secondus has proved that the Bible days of Daniel serving under four different Kings can be replicated in 21st Century Nigeria.
He goes by a sobriquet “Total Chairman”, which he apparently earned during his tenure as the Rivers State Chairman of PDP during the years of Dr Peter Odili as Governor. Nobody was in doubt that “Total” was totally in charge of the Party under Odili having dusted the pioneer Chairman, late Chief Marshall Harry, a political colossus and others who seemed larger than Odili at the time he was drafted in running against a more formidable Ebenezer Isokariari.
At the time the trio of Chief Godswill Ake, Abiye Sekibo, Akeodi Oyaghiri, Chibuike Amaechi, Precious Ngelale and Uche Secondus were the wise men of the Odili political structure, Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was yet struggling to run as the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government in Rivers State-the second largest after Ikeja, in Lagos.
Wike succeeded and the platform became his springboard for both State and National prominence. His meteoric rise as the National Chairman of Association of Local Governments, ALGON, further exposed him to thdynamics of power and that placed him at par with Secondus who also had risen to National prominence in the leadership of PDP at the Wadata Plaza.
The battle for the Brick House in 2007, between Chibuike Amaechi, who was the Speaker and Odili’s political next of kin played a major role in positioning Wike and pitching him against the anti-Amaechi group, of which Secondus was leading the pack. In spite of Amaechi’s acceptance of Tele Ikuru, a nephew to Secondus and his highest political investment, as a running mate before the botched candidature as the flag bearer of PDP, Secondus was not totally in support of Amaechi. But Wike had readily become Amaechi’s man-Friday after the unfortunate breakdown of Amaechi’s close ties with Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
The 2007 legal battles to restore Amaechi as the rightful candidate and the winner of the Governorship election was the first test of power tussle between Wike and Secondus. While Wike was leading the pro Amaechi group, Secondus who at the time was battling to return as the National Organizing Secretary of PDP was leading the side of Celestine Omehia, who was used to substitute Amaechi wrongfully as the candidate for that election. Secondus was comfortable with Omehia as Governor considering that his nephew, Tele Ikuru’s position as running mate was not affected by the endorsement of Omehia by the leadership of the PDP.
Fast forward to the Supreme Court final decision on October 25, 2007, where Wike’s group won the case and Amaechi declared Governor instantly, a visibly distraught Total Chairman knew that his political journey had hit the rocks and may be retired too early, he was quick to accept Amaechi’s olive branch. Secondus, it was who aided the Amaechi group to sack the already nominated Local Government Chairmanship candidates under Omehia, who was now sacked by the Courts. He penned his signature against the document and forwarded the same to Abuja and to the Courts, invalidating the primary election conducted under Omehia for the Local Government election.
Stay with me and you will get to understand better the man currently in the eye of the storm.
Boom, the candidates who were already sure of their victories were sacked overnight and for a beautiful job, Total was rewarded with two major road contracts running into billions of Naira, and was also helped by Amaechi to emerge as the National Organizing Secretary of PDP.
Then came the breakdown of the relationship between Amaechi and Wike, during the era of Goodluck Jonathan as President. Secondus was in Abuja while Wike served as Minister for Education, State. They now sustained their friendship. Recall that Wike was Chief of Staff when Secondus abandoned the Odili-Omehia ship to align with Amaechi, who also retained Tele as his Deputy.
Now the plot to hijack the party structure from Amaechi was muted by Wike and the Abuja group led by Secondus saw Amaechi as their common enemy, so they all queued up behind Wike to stage a return to the party, having been ousted by the sudden sack of Omehia.
The stage for another epic battle was set. Secondus used the same position Amaechi had elevated him to and dealt a heavy blow on his close ally, Chief Gospower Ake of blessed memories. Ake was the State Chairman of PDP, holding the party for Amaechi. But in a sudden twist of events, Ake was sacked by the Court in Abuja and Felix Obuah, his political son, was installed in his stead. Wike’s calculations couldn’t have worked had Secondus not brought his influence at the Wadata Plaza, headquarters of the PDP. It was he alongside Dan Orbih and co who presented Obuah with a Certificate of Return, to prove to the Courts that he was the authentic Chairman of the party in Rivers State. Felix Obuah, had neither showed interest nor participated at the primary election which Ake won convincingly, but failed to request for his Certificate of Return. He had taken things for granted considering the fact that he was very close to Secondus, with whom he had walked the turf with for several years. But in politics, there is no morality but interest.
That was how Amaechi lost his foothold on the party and when he tried to push in Dr Sam Sam Jaja as the National Chairman of PDP, again, he was stopped as President Jonathan had found Wike a veritable tool to diminish Amaechi’s towering political height, as seen in his political will to do the unthinkable in terms of project execution, eradication of militancy and cultism and restoring normalcy in the state.
To reward Secondus again, he was elevated to the position of the Party’s Chairman while Amaechi led a group of Governors, Legislators and others to stage a walkout from the PDP Convention and subsequently formed the new PDP, which later merged with the APC.
When Ali Modu Sheriff, Wike’s close friend almost took over the reins of the party, it was Secondus again as Wike imposed him on the party having proved that he had the capacity to fund the party. It was even declared that the South South had become the headquarters of the PDP. Amusing though.
Things went on well until Secondus became politically exposed to Atiku Abubakar’s huge pockets. Rather than remain with Wike and his plot to impose his longtime friend and schoolmate, Gov Tambuwaal as the Presidential Candidate of the party in 2019, Secondus made a detour and tagged along with Atiku had just returned to the PDP after a dismal outing in APC. It may have been politically expedient, the decision of Secondus to support Atiku, who gave APC’s Buhari a run for his popularity. But it was alleged not to have been without huge sums of dollars parting ways.
This sparked off a cold war between Wike and Secondus and then the plot to remove Secondus and stop him from superintending over the party towards the build up to the 2023 elections.
While Secondus is more favorably disposed towards a Northern Candidate, and most likely, Atiku; considering that the rival APC will choose a Southern Candidate, Wike thinks otherwise and may be positioning to have a shot at the Presidency, if the party zones the ticket to the South.
Having failed in his bid to get Secondus out through resignation, Wike and his group struck a deal where the party agreed that Secondus be allowed to complete his tenure with Congresses to be conducted in October, with a caveat that no member of the National Working Committee, including Secondus should run for the election.
Just as the dust was yet to settle, Wike sensing that Secondus would renege on the agreement reached, Wike through his surrogates in Rivers PDP approached the Rivers State High Court and filed a suit against Secondus. The Court ordered Secondus not to parade himself as the National Chairman of the Party pending the determination of the suit.
I am just trying to avoid the pitfalls of wrong choice of legal terminologies since not everyone reading this ‘epistle’ may understand.
Less than 48 hours after it sacked Total, another Court in Kebbi, a High Court also, reinstated Secondus, in what looks like a reenactment of the events that led to the failure of Rivers APC to be placed on the ballot by the Electoral body, INEC, in 2019. Wike was accused of masterminding the controversial Court Orders.
While the Party had resolved to allow the National Deputy Chairman to continue in the stead of Secondus, the Andoni-born politician through those sympathetic to him, has gotten respite, albeit controversial as the two Courts are of coordinate jurisdiction, that is, of the same powers.
It is obvious that Uche Secondus is not a mere pushover and may have chosen to take a chapter from Wike’s book. Has Wike become too predictable with his alleged serial influence and pressure on the Judiciary in Rivers State or has he come to his wits end? With Atiku’s heavy political war chest, will Wike’s seeming monopoly of judicial powers be curtailed and contained? Is Secondus reaping from the seeds he sowed in the past?
The events in the next few days will tell.
Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe, a commentator, analyst and columnist, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.