A fresh round of crisis is brewing in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over who succeeds the suspended National chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.
Since Ayu was suspended in March 2023 after the PDP had lost the presidential election, the deputy national chairman, North, Ambassador Umar Damagum, has been overseeing the party in an acting capacity.
However, efforts by stakeholders to replace Ayu have amplified the fault lines within with allies of the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and those of the suspended Ayu struggling to make sure that one of their own takes over.
But Daily Trust findings indicate that the moves are being checkmated by the loyalists and associates of the former Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike who has been nominated as a minister by President Bola Tinubu.
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Meanwhile, Ayu, the suspended chairman, is from the North Central zone and the understanding among party leaders and members alike is that the zone will still produce the national chairman.
Insiders told Daily Trust that two names are already being touted to continue from where Ayu stopped, namely former Senate President Bukola Saraki from Kwara State, favoured by the Atiku’s camp, and Professor Jerry Gana from Niger State, backed by the Wike group.
A highly placed source in the party said if the Atiku group fails to act immediately, the allies of Wike supported by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) might foist a national chairman on the party and “that will be the beginning of the end of PDP.”
It was gathered that the development might have led to the stakeholders meeting put together by loyalists of the former vice president and some governors in Abuja at the weekend.
A source said: “Ego by party leaders was responsible for defeat at the polls. Ayu did not really add any value to the party, but Atiku sacrificed the G5 Governors for him.
“As it stands today, Wike still has an impact on the PDP. Forget what people are saying; the minority leaderships in the House of Representatives and Senate are with Wike. Some people will tell you that it is not true. But what they cannot tell you is whether those people nominated by the party. No; they are loyal to Wike.
“He (Wike) supported Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas and both of them are now in charge of the National Assembly, and the people that PDP supported did not win. What did that tell you? If Wike becomes a minister under Tinubu; if care is not taken, he can destroy the PDP.
“His people in the PDP are projecting Professor Jerry Gana to be the next national chairman of the party. Saraki is the candidate of the Atiku’s camp and they have not even settled themselves yet. They are still talking and holding meetings.”
The source who spoke in confidence continued: “Let me even tell you how the situation favours the people rooting for Jerry Gana. The national chairman position is for the North Central, and it is the executive level of the zone that would decide who should take the position after Ayu, that is if they follow the rules.
“In the North Central, there is zone A and B. Zone A is Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states. Zone B is FCT, Niger, Kogi and Kwara.
“Kogi has produced the national chairman before in Ahmadu Ali, Kwara produced Kawu Baraje, and Benue produced Iyorchia Ayu, Barnabas Gemade and Audu Ogbe. In Plateau, there was Solomon Lar. Ayu is from zone A. Some people are insisting that zone B should produce the next chairman to complete the tenure. Also, Kamaldeen Ajibade, the national legal adviser, is from Kwara; a minus for Saraki.
‘We’ll inform Nigerians at the right time’
When asked about the development in the party and what the leadership is doing to get a replacement for Ayu, national publicity secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Trust that the party is focused on other issues now and will inform Nigerians at the appropriate time.
He said: “Our party is focused on what we need to be focused on right now. We are taking one thing at a time. When we get particular information, we will let Nigerians know through the media and our stakeholders too.”
Ologunagba also disclosed that reports that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party will meet this week was not correct as nothing of such has been slated.