Barring any last-minute change of plans, many leaders of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have agreed to support the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to replace the suspended former National Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Daily Trust reports.
Ayu was suspended from the party by a Benue High Court following allegations by his Igyorov Ward Executive Committee for anti-party activities and refusing to pay dues among others.
Subsequently, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party asked Ayu to quit in line with a court decision, but the decision is being challenged by Ayu at the appeal court.
However, following the outcome of the Presidential Election, which the party lost to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the crisis, which has refused to abate, the leaders of the party are now working behind the scenes to install another chairman.
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Daily Trust reliably gathered that many of the stakeholders, including former G-5 leader, Nyesom Wike, have zeroed in on the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki to take over from Ayu.
Reliable sources confided in Daily Trust that the Wike group has decided that they will not leave the party but rather remain and work to retain their influence within the party.
“One of the ways to do so is to be part of the power groups that will determine the future of the party by influencing who leads the party from next year.
“Since the train, which is working to elect, Saraki is moving fast and getting more passengers, they need to quickly jump on it and be part of the forces that will propel the train to a successful destination”, said a source close to Wike.
According to the source, failure to back Saraki would lead to the emergence of a hostile chairman who may move against them, adding: “They know Saraki as a reconciliation, a bridge builder and somebody they can trust to be neutral and had the capacity and resources to rebuild the party. The exchange of visits between Wike and Saraki last week is the first step the Wike group is making”, the source said.
Speaking on the issue a top chieftain of the party told Daily Trust that party leaders were looking for a strong character that can rally members of the party together after the Supreme Court judgement depending on how it goes.
He said, “The Atiku group is comfortable with Saraki because they know it will be difficult to put their own person as chairman now because of the Wike influence. The visit is all about Saraki now trying to get a foothold across the party before the real hostilities start. You cannot say Saraki is an Atiku man or a Wike man so both sides of the divide seem to be comfortable with his personality.
“Even though Ayu is in court, I believe when the time comes, he will be told to withdraw the case, so that the party can move forward”.
Originally, three names were being floated around, Jerry Gana by the Wike Group, and Babangida Aliyu by the Atiku Group. But Saraki seems to be the middle-of-the-road candidate for the two groups.
“From what we are hearing, Saraki is going around the party stakeholders to intimate them on his plans and the need for all to work together for the peace and unity of the party.”
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Reacting to the development in the party, a member of the NWC and the Deputy National Youth Leader, Hon. Timothy Osadolor said as far as members of the party leadership are concerned, there is no vacancy in the NWC.
He told Daily Trust that the suspended National Chairman (Ayu) is in court to appeal his suspension, “So, those thinking of burying a man who is not yet dead are out of the question.”
Osadolor said, “Except, if the man decides to withdraw the case himself, or he says he is no longer interested and the position becomes vacant. Also, the acting chairman is doing a good job at the moment holding brief for the chairman.
“So, for those that want to contest for the national chairman of the party, I believe soon, we will have our midterm convention or when the position becomes vacant, they can aspire. But for now, the office of the chairman is not vacant. Ayu is in court and for now, he is suspended and nobody has said he should go home.”
He also said: “I would not want us to read too much into the visit of Saraki to Wike and Wike to Saraki, because I believe this is a visit among friends irrespective of what happens during the PDP presidential primaries and the campaign. These are friends that met in their private residence and it does not indicate that there is pressure on the leadership of the party. That is not true.”