By Olusegun Olanrewaju and Ben Ogbemudia
The crisis rocking the house of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) assumed a rather dangerous dimension yesterday as the Pro-Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike’s forces and sympathisers dumped the newly-inaugurated Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).
Led by his ‘principal ally’ and Oyo State counterpart, Governor Seyi Makinde and other stakeholders, the apparently carefully-packaged ‘coupists’ voiced their resolve not to participate in the presidential campaign until the embattled party national chair, Iyorchia Ayu, clears his desk and quit office.
Party bigwigs, including governors, who converged on Wike’s residence said they are not going to have anything to do with the presidential campaign ‘contraption’ again unless Ayu steps down over perceived lop-sidedness in the leadership structure of the leading opposition party in Nigeria.
And to rub salt on wounds as to whatever appears to be conciliatory moves to mend fences in the crises trailing the national convention of the PDP which controversially threw up former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP in the build-up to the 2023 election, the Wazirin Adamawa, compounded matters in a big way, insisting that Ayu, was going nowhere.
*Wike’s group pulls out of PDP presidential campaign council, insists on the southern chairman
Emerging from the high-profile meeting, the conveners and participants indicated why they took a long-range firing in the already loaded cannon of the troubled party.
According to them, the publication of the Presidential Campaign Council list without the resolution of what has now been signposted as “the Senator Ayu lingering debacle”, translates to “putting the cart before the horse.”
Arising from a crucial meeting in the early hours of Wednesday in Port Harcourt, governor Makinde said they hope that the powers that be within the PDP will listen to the voice of reason and do the needful.
Among the top guns at the meeting were the host, Rivers governor, Wike; Oyo State governor, Makinde; as well as former governors of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose; Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), and Donald Duke (Cross River).
Other party chieftains such as PDP South-South national vice chairman, Dan Orbih; former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke, SAN as well as Senators Olaka Nwogu, Lado Danmarke, Mao Ohuabunwa, Sandy Onor, and Sulaiman Nazif.
Yet other attendees include former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudum Nwuche; as well as chieftains like Ibrahim Gusau, Nnenna Ukeje, Mohammed Maifada,
Bayo Lawal; Mohammed Jamu; Caleb Mutwang, and David Ombugadu.
Former PDP South-West national vice-chairman, Olabode George, who had earlier given the embattled national chair, Ayu, to quit office before the end of this month, read out the communique of the meeting.
George, a leading member of the South-West zone of the party, who has been one of the strident callers for a power shift to the south, said they were concerned about the divisions in the party, and bemoaned the failure of the leadership to utilise the internal conflict resolution mechanisms to ensure inclusiveness of all as a prelude to guaranteeing victory for the PDP in the February 2023 presidential poll.
The party chieftain read, “The published presidential campaign council list translates to putting the cart before the horse. The pertinent issue before the party remains the resolution of the Ayu leadership debacle, which is a departure from the spirit and letter of our constitution and undermines the unity of our great party.
“We, therefore, resolve that Senator Iyorchia Ayu resigns as the national chairman of the party for an acting chairman of Southern Nigeria extraction to emerge, and lead the party on the national campaign.”
The communique added, “Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Senator Iyorchia Ayu.”
Amplifying George, former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, said his description of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal as the PDP presidential primaries hero by Ayu is antithetical to the principle of justice, fair play, and equity on which the party was formed.
Jang said, “It is true that everything is being done for us to have internal democracy in the party. But, for the national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to go and embrace Tambuwal, calling him the hero of the convention, means there was a private arrangement that was done with Tambuwal to short-change other contestants, including Governor Wike.
“Here was a referee who now helped one of the sides to score a goal, and then blew the whistle that a goal had been scored.
“This is not what we formed the PDP to do for Nigerians, and therefore, we unequivocally asked that Ayu has to step down, so that having got the presidential candidate from the northern part of the country through his assistance, he should as well now step down so that a national chairman can move to the south, and the party can be united for the campaign towards 2023.”
Jang added that the call by Wike and others on Ayu to resign was aimed at addressing the structural imbalance in the party’s hierarchy.
Meanwhile, a former minister of information, Jerry Gana, added another weighty voice, saying “if the PDP cannot restructure itself, it cannot restructure Nigeria”.
Gana insisted that, as committed PDP members, party leaders were ‘sincerely desirous’ that the PDP returns to power and provides Nigerians excellent governance.
He added, “But that cannot be achieved unless we have a proper structure of the party as designed by the founding fathers. We are men and women who are committed to the issues of justice, fairness, and equity. You cannot build on a faulty foundation.
“Therefore, this call for the chairman to step down or resign is not because any of us is aggrieved, but because we believe it is important to ensure a fair structure, a just structure, a principle structure, and a constitutional structure for the party.
“If we want to restructure Nigeria, we should have the courage to restructure our party. And that is why we have met and decided that this is extremely important, and therefore we want Nigerians to know.”
In the spirit of continuation of the reconciliation process, the ex-minister maintained that they would remain committed members of PDP, but continued to insist that the right things be done.
“We remain PDP, but we want things done justly, fairly, equitably,” he said.
Former Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, completed the verbal routing, declaring that PDP leaders will continue to work for the party to the extent that fairness, equity, and justice are ensured in the party.
*I won’t force him to resign- Atiku
Rather than back down, however, presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, who has now been boxed into the corner, simply retorted, wryly, “I can’t force Ayu to resign”.
Yesterday, the former vice-president merely reinstated his position, as the party’s national chairman, Ayu, cannot be forced to resign.
Reacting to the decision of the Wike camp to pull out of his campaign council, presidential candidate Atiku said in a statement, “Early this morning, my attention was drawn to a news clip in which several very senior and influential members of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), addressed the press and, amongst other things, declared that they are withdrawing, forthwith, from the Presidential Campaign Council set up by our party to judiciously plan and prosecute the general elections set to hold in February and March 2023, on the one hand.
“And reiterated their earlier calls for the resignation or removal from office of the national chairman of our party, Senator (Dr). Iyorchia Ayu, on the other hand.
“The people that addressed the press must have their reasons for withdrawing from the Presidential Campaign Council, and I will not speculate as to what those reasons may be. I am quite surprised by this withdrawal because, as I have been informed by officials of our party, apart from the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, all the remaining states of the federation submitted names of people who they wanted to be included in the Presidential Campaign Council.
“On the calls for the resignation or removal from office of our national chairman, however, I must reiterate what I have said severally in public and in private; the decision for Dr Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him.”
Atiku added, “As to the calls for the removal of Dr Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organised and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done and conformity to, the law and our constitution.
“If Dr Ayu is to be removed from office, it must be done under the laws that set out the basis for such removal. In any event, you will all recall that the very body that is empowered by law to initiate this removal from office, has already passed a vote of confidence in him.”
Atiku’s ‘homily’ is not without some semblance of grandstanding, observers note.
The Wazirin Adamawa further stated, “Now, our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity, and mutual mistrust and educational dislocations, to mention a few.
“I have a plan to address these issues and I have, graciously, been given the ticket to lead our great party in next year’s presidential elections, with the singular mandate to come and lead the efforts to cure these ills.
“It is in this light that I have reached out to every single member of our great party to join me in the massive undertaking required to reset the ship of state and help rebuild our country. Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP.
“And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rebuild and reposition our beloved country. In this light, therefore, I will urge those members of our party that has stated their resolve to withdraw from the Presidential Campaign Council to rethink, retrace their steps, and join us in these efforts.
The above notwithstanding, and for the sake of our country, our children, and those yet unborn, we must not, for one minute, shirk our responsibilities to rebuild this beloved country of ours.
Accordingly, we must forge on with the task and the mandate that we have been bestowed with. It is time, therefore, to move on with the formidable tasks of nation-building ahead of us.
From here, it is not clear on the horizon where the ship of a presidential race is headed.