The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from an emergency meeting in Abuja on Tuesday and replaced the National Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu with the Deputy National Chairman North, Ambassador Umar Damagum as the acting Chairman.
But Daily Trust reliably gathered that Ayu had put up initial resistance, saying his ouster was in bad faith before he was prevailed upon by some members of the NWC to vacate his seat.
He was told to allow the legal process put in place by the ward executive of Igyorov In Gboko local government area to take its course, it was gathered.
A source privy to the development said that Ayu was not willing to step aside, insisting that his suspension was in bad faith and those behind it were not executives of his ward.
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An indication that Ayu was initially unwilling to vacate his office manifested when a parallel executive of his ward on Tuesday morning stormed the National Secretariat of the party, insisting that those that suspended him were not the executives.
They were led by one Barrister Stephen Shimihile, who said he was the leader of the expanded EXCO of Igyorov ward.
However, some members of the NWC were said to have prevailed on Ayu to step aside and pursue his reinstatement through the court.
The source said before arriving at the NWC meeting, it has been resolved that Damagum should take over as acting chairman of the party, hence the NWC meeting was brief.
Daily Trust also gathered that governors of the party were said to be in favour of Ayu’s replacement following the crisis that engulfed the party during his tenure.
Given the unanimous position at the NWC meeting in favour of his ouster, the embattled chairman later came into the party headquarters to carry out some of his personal effects.
Addressing a press conference after the emergency NWC meeting, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba said the party acknowledged the order of the Benue State High Court, dated March 27, 2023, with regards to the chairmanship position.
He said after careful consideration the NWC resolved that the Deputy National Chairman (North) Amb. Umar Ililya Damagum assumes in acting capacity with effect from Tuesday, March 28, 2023.
Daily Trust reports that a High Court sitting in Makurdi on Monday had granted an ex-parte order stopping Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from parading himself as the national chairman of the PDP.
Justice Wilfred Kpochi, who granted the order, directed that Ayu should henceforth restrain himself from acting as the national chairman of the party pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed.
The ex-parte application brought by the plaintiff, Engr. Conrad Utaan, sought an order restraining Ayu and the PDP from parading the former as its chairman having lost membership of the party in his ward.
The matter was adjourned to April 17 for a hearing.
Ologunagba said after a careful consideration of the court order and in line with section 45 (2) of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017), the NWC has appointed Damagum to take over from Ayu.
He said the NWC charged all leaders, critical stakeholders, teeming members and supporters of the Party to remain calm and united at this critical time.
Among the NWC members present at the press conference apart from Damagum were the national secretary, Samuel Anyanwu, national treasurer, Ahmed Yayari Mohammed, national organizing secretary, Umar Bature, national legal adviser, Kamaldeen Adeyemi Ajibade and the national youth leader, Muhammed Kakade Suleiman.
Road to Ayu’s downfall
The battle to remove Ayu started last year immediately after the former vice president Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 elections.
Ayu, party sources said, had promised to vacate his position if a presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 elections emerged from the north.
However, following the emergence of Atiku, Ayu was said to have reneged on his promise and insisted on continuing as chairman, a development that polarized the party and contributed to losing the presidential election in February.
All efforts by the G-5 Governors and their Integrity Group allies led by the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to sack Ayu failed.
Meanwhile, soon after losing at the poll, Ayu-led NWC went on a suspension spree, suspending leaders of the party like former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, former governors Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and referring his State Governor Samuel Ortom to the party’s national disciplinary committee.
Not happy with the development, the party stakeholders in Benue, especially in his Igyorov ward passed a vote of no confidence on him and suspended him for failing to pay his dues among other sins. Consequently, the Benue High Court sitting in Makurdi granted an order stopping him from parading himself as the national chairman of the party.
Ayu’s last moment in the office
Daily Trust reliably gathered that Ayu was in his office at the party headquarters in the early hours of Tuesday to pack his personal belongings.
The ex-national chairman who was in the company of the national secretary, Samuel Anyanwu was said to have moved straight into his office while his security aides took over strategic locations within the Wadata Plaza to move out after some minutes.
When asked whether Ayu was at the party headquarters, the acting Chairman Damagum who said he would be in acting capacity pending the determination of the court on the matter before it, said he might have been in the office to pick up his belongings.
He also disclosed that he would soon be having a meeting with the NWC, and that following the wave of suspension of members they would meet to possibly review the situation at the party.
Efforts to get the reaction of the camp of the former vice president and presidential candidate of the party Atiku Abubakar were not successful as his aides could not be reached for comment on the issue.