The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is being compounded by the absence of the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu and the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, party chieftains told this paper yesterday.
It was gathered that the inability of the two leaders to come back to the country and rally around the various organs of the party has allowed the crisis to fester.
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A source said the Board of Trustees (BoT) and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) are also disenchanted with Ayu and Atiku for abandoning the party at this critical time.
Daily Trust reports that since Atiku picked the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, crisis has deepened in the party with the camp of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, comprising three governors, former governors and ministers and some chieftains of the party in the South, threatening a showdown.
Atiku had on June 16 named Okowa as his running mate against the recommendation of the committee he constituted to assist him in the selection of the vice-presidential candidate.
The committee, chaired by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Umaru Iliya Damagum, had recommended Wike, who came second in the presidential primary as the running mate.
Days after the announcement, Atiku left for Dubai even as Ayu also went on vacation abroad leaving a wallowing gulf in the fractured party.
Some people in the party including a BoT member told this paper that the absence of the duo was hindering the resolution of the crisis.
Analysts say the issue if left to fester would dampen the chances of the party winning the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
Multiple sources said the call for Ayu’s resignation was being amplified by the members of the camp of the Rivers State governor, who feel the former Senate President sided with Atiku.
The key players in Wike’s camp include three governors; Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Samuel Ortom (Benue), former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose and former Attorney General of the Federation/ Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke. The statement of Ortom and Fayose last week worsened the crisis in the party.
It was gathered that the members of the Wike’s camp are behind the calls for Ayu’s resignation. They are hinging it on the fact that since the presidential candidate is from the North, the national chairman should come from the South.
A chieftain of the party said that there was an understanding last year before the national convention of the party that the party presidential ticket and the position of the national chairman must not go to the same part of the country.
“We had an understanding that if the North picks our party’s presidential ticket, the position of the national chairman will go to the South. With the emergence of Atiku, the position is expected to go South. However, it should not be done this way, “he said.
‘Crisis can’t be resolved without flag bearer, national chair’
A PDP BoT said the issues cannot be resolved if the duo of Atiku and Ayu are not around.
The BoT member, who is a founding member, said they have resolved to put the mediation on hold pending the return of the two key players.
“At a meeting yesterday (Monday), we resolved to wait until the return of our candidate and the national chairman to resolve the issues. As one of the founding members, we will not allow the party to disintegrate. Nobody is bigger than the party,” he said.
Ayu must go campaign begins in Kano
The Kano State chapter of the party yesterday asked Ayu to resign to allow for equity and justice in the structuring of the party leadership.
The state party Chairman, Shehu Wada Sagagi made the call on Tuesday while briefing Journalists in Kano.
According to him, for peace, unity and to give a sense of belonging to PDP members from the southern part of the country, the national chairman should pave way for a southerner to replace him.
“In the interest of unity and success of our party, I would like to call on the national chairman of our party, Iyorchia Ayu to please honour his promise that he earlier made that in case a northerner emerged as a flag bearer of the party, he will resign.
“So I will like him to toe the path of honour so that unity returns to the party so that Atiku Abubakar will be successful in the 2023 election because the southerners in our party need to be given a sense of belonging”, he said.
The Kano PDP chairman added that “In a situation where the national chairman is from the North, chairman of Board of Trustees is from the North, the Chairman PDP Governors Forum is from the North and the presidential candidate is also from the North, I think there is no sense of fairness.”
He emphasised that unity and success of the party should be the priority while Ayu should consider his resignation as a necessary sacrifice for the PDP.
“I call on Dr Ayu as a statesman to honour his promise and consider it as a sacrifice he should make for the party to move forward. And so, his resignation will go a long way in forging unity in the party so that at least a southerner should emerge as the national chairman of the party for unity to prevail and peace will return to the party.
“And we promise to be law-abiding members of the party and we will heavily campaign for our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar to win the forthcoming 2023 general election,” he said.
There’s trust deficit in our party – Wike’s camp
Contacted, a member of the Wike’s camp said there was a trust deficit in the party, saying both the candidate and the national chairman were not known to honour their words.
He said, “Atiku’s absence was the highest manifestation of arrogance and political negligence.
“Leaving his burning house to go and rest somewhere is the height of it. He is going to Morocco for Sallah instead of coming home. On his part, Ayu ran away because the heat was so much on him.
“Ayu’s exit is the minimum requirement for the Wike’s camp. Anything short of that we will scuttle the chances of the party. Wike will not leave the PDP but will not work for its presidential candidate if the issues are not addressed,” he said.
According to him, Wike will not entertain any committee without correcting the wrongs in the party.
Mediation ongoing, no vacuum – Ex-VP, Ayu’s aides
Contacted, the spokesman of the party, Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Trust that the chairman will return to the office when he is through with his vacation.
He, however, refused to say exactly when the national chairman will return to the country.
Ayu’s spokesperson, Simon Imobo-Tswam, who had days ago said his boss will return on July 26 (today), said yesterday that there was no leadership vacuum in the party.
“Of course, Ayu’s short vacation of two weeks ends this week, but can’t there be a flight delay? Can’t he extend his break? And there is a Sallah holiday before us. So, what if he decides to take advantage of it and resume his duties after the Sallah festivities?
“And, for emphasis, there is no leadership vacuum in the PDP. Dr Iyorchia Ayu handed over the mantle of leadership to the Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Damagum and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was duly informed about it,” he said last night.
Reacting, Paul Ibe, Atiku’s media aide said his boss was on a well-deserved break.
“This is because the window of the primary election was very short and it was gruesome. There was a time he was traveling to many states in a day and he would return at the end of his break.
“The vice-presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is on the ground, he is engaging in working with him. There is an ongoing mediation, the party has come in to resolve whatever differences and the process is going on very well. All the issues arising from the nomination process would be addressed and that is for sure,” he said.
By Ismail Mudashir, Baba Martins (Abuja) & Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano)