By Sunday Ani
Former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Prince Kassim Afegbua, is angry over the failure of his party, the PDP to play the role of a viable opposition. He speaks on that and more in this interview
You have been raising concerns about Prince Secondus-led NWC of the PDP. What exactly are you talking about?
Just like the name suggests, a Secondus can only score 2nd in election situations, not first. That also explains why the party came second in the last 2019 election. But talking seriously, I am saying that if the PDP as a party is truly serious about 2023, then we need to inject new blood into the present leadership of the party that is presently in a state of inertia. We need capable hands to rally round persons and groups and make the party formidable in preparation for 2023. I am actually not impressed with the state of abandonment which the party is presently. If you see the audit report of the party, which they are trying to sweep under the carpet, you will marvel. In fact, I am going to take a step further to petition the EFCC and ICPC on the need to probe the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus. Too many lapses and financial malfeasance which deserve very transparent explanation. As an opposition party, we need to live above board in the way and manner we handle our finances so that others will copy from us. But it is unfortunate that this leadership has crippled the party and making it look helpless, even when elections are fast approaching.
Are there issues you want to share with us on the finances of the party vis-a-vis the report of the auditors?
The question you need to ask yourself is, what exactly is the function of the NWC of the party in-between elections? Where does the party apply its resources? What is the role and function of the audit department? Why do they owe staff salaries? Why has it become difficult to run a transparent financial system? What are the balances in the bank statements of the party? Whose bank accounts are you using to run your finances? Why make the party look like it has been privatised? Is it the personal property of the leadership, or what? A lot of people are even unaware that I was a foundation member of the PDP and did work at the national headquarters from the beginning in 1998 till 2001 before I left. My joining in 2018 again was some kind of home-coming for me.
Yeah, talking about the finances, why is it difficult for the auditors to publish the report?
Why did the leadership side-track the national auditor in the entire gamut of the party’s finances? What have they done about the garnishee order on the party’s account? What have they done to vacate those garnishees to prepare for proper accountability and transparency? I challenge the NWC to publish the outcome of the audit it carried out and account for the over N10billion accrued to it since 2017 or so. They spend party’s monies without approvals. They lavish money on frivolous expenses. When last have they given its statement of account to INEC as required by law? In fact, my next move is to call in ICPC and EFCC to look into the Secondus-led leadership in terms of party finances. I am going to send a petition to the anti-graft agencies to look into those financial abuses. If you want to build democracy, you must come out clean on transparency and accountability. We must collectively recover PDP from those who are holding it by the jugular and using it as their meal ticket.
You are apparently raising a lot of allegations, can you give further insight?
These are not just allegations, they are the realities that presently dominate the party at Wadata Plaza for which a lot of members are not happy. I am worried that the PDP is failing in its responsibility to play the role of a viable opposition. Secondus, the party’s chairman, likes to travel outside the country than going to visit states and see the progress of the party especially in states where the party has no governor. Imagine over four APC governors reportedly went to Zamfara to woo the state governor Mutawalle to join its fold. Where is the PDP leadership in all of this? Why can’t they persuade the Zamfara governor and respond to whatever worries he has. By the time he defects, he will be swelling the rank of a party that has grounded Nigeria to this level of monumental decay. Then, where do you go from there? How can a party that has ran aground Nigeria like the APC has done, be the one getting stronger everyday? Please, tell Prince Uche Secondus and his co-travellers to bow out by simply resigning, so that the PDP can immediately commence the process of strengthening its structures and role for a viable contest in 2023. If we continue with this present leadership, PDP will slump deeper.
Are you calling for a total overhaul or just concerned about the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus?
I am calling for a deliberate, conscious and sustained effort to reposition the party for a more holistic intervention in critical sectors of the economy by way of providing alternative voice. The party has its machinery to retool a system that is no longer productive, a system that is more of an inertia than being awake to its responsibility. A committee can be set up to look into the weaknesses and strengths of the party, generate ideas that would stimulate more audience participation and set agenda for it, in the interest of future engagements. If we remain silent because we do not want to hurt the sensibilities of certain persons, the party would be greatly injured when elections come.
But you worked against the party in the Edo gubernatorial election. Was that not also a way to decimate the party?
The reason I did that was the way and manner the PDP leadership imposed the governor on all of us without considering the fact that persons were on ground before Godwin Obaseki entered its fray. There were aspirants, congresses had been concluded and all of a sudden, the convention was postponed by sheer fiat without qualms. I felt that was not a proper thing to do. If Governor Obaseki felt he was popular, he should have joined another party and allow the PDP process to go on. But the leadership likes the aroma of money. And events took a 360 degree turn. I have no regret for my role. Given the same scenario, I will still act in similar fashion.