Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the crisis threatening the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party has shown no sign of abating as some National Working Committee members opposed to the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, have accused the leadership of the party of marginalising them in the ongoing presidential campaigns.
A few weeks ago, some NWC members including the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja; the National Woman Leader, Stella Effah-Attoe; National Vice Chairman, South-South, Dan Orbih; National Vice Chairman, South-East, Alli Odefa Olasoji Adagunobi-Oluwatukesi; National Vice Chairman, South-West and the Deputy National Secretary, Setonji Koshoedo, returned millions of naira into the party’s coffers, questioning Ayu’s powers to approve funds above N10m cap.
While Arapaja returned the sum of N36m, the other five returned N28.8m each, citing a report in the media alleging they had been bribed by the national chairman to silence them on questions bordering on Ayu’s financial accountability.
Although, the party in a statement absolved the former Senate President of any wrongdoing, noting that the disbursement of the controversial housing allowance passed through due process; the NWC members insisted that at no point were they part of a meeting where the issue was tabled for deliberations.
The party has since moved on with calls on Ayu to resign his chairmanship of the party falling on deaf ears.
As moves to get the party to form a united front intensify, the National Woman Leader of the party, Stella Effah-Attoe, has said there is a deliberate plot to undermine her office in the ongoing campaigns by the party.
In a memo, titled: “Deliberate attempts to undermine my office, Office of the National Woman Leader and to sideline my humble person: An unacceptable hindrance,” earlier published by PUNCH Online, she lamented the ill-treatment allegedly meted out to her at two campaign rallies recently.
“At the flag-off ceremony of the PDP campaigns in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on October 10, 2022, serious attempts were made to prevent me from addressing the PDP audience at the Uyo stadium. It must be stated here that it is a customary tradition in our party for the National Woman Leader and the National Youth Leader to address rallies in conjunction with party candidates, party chairmen, et al.
“Unfortunately, in Uyo, every attempt was made to prevent me from addressing party faithful. I was told that there was a clear directive not to allow me to speak to the crowd. It got to the ridiculous extent of these agents calling on Senator Uche Ekwunife to speak to the audience on behalf of PDP women.
“Senator Ekwunife was very embarrassed but she was prodded to do it. Iyom Josephine Anenih, a former PDP National Woman Leader drew the attention of some party leaders to this anomaly. It was then that I was reluctantly called to address the audience on behalf of the PDP women. This unfortunate development did not go unnoticed by the party faithful, who found the whole drama very embarrassing and childish.
“At the PDP Kaduna rally on Monday, October 17, 2022, the National Youth Leader was called upon to address the crowd on behalf of the PDP youths, which he did perfectly well, to the admiration of the populace. I was present at the event in Kaduna. I was even seated beside the National Youth Leader but nobody called me to address the audience on behalf of the PDP women.
“Rather, the spectacle was a very ridiculous announcement calling on Dr Baraka Sani (Director of the PDP Support Groups, in the Campaign Council), to address the crowd on behalf of the PDP women. The entire audience was surprised and confused.
“People started asking questions there and then. Many wondered why the National Youth Leader was called upon to perform his traditional and official role, while the National Woman Leader was deliberately prevented from doing hers.
“There and then, some people tried to explain that unfortunate scenario in different colourations. While a lot of people found the occurrence very offensive, I smiled over the unfortunate incident in total sympathy with the perpetrators of such childish displays.
“It may interest you to know that the happening has gone viral, to the disgust of many Nigerians. Specifically, the Kaduna occurrence has seriously painted our great party in a negative light. Very, very sad indeed!
“Well, on this note, it has become very obvious that there are some distracting elements within our great party who are determined to frustrate me in the performance of my statutory duties as the PDP National Woman Leader. This is very unacceptable. I state clearly here that I cannot and will never succumb to any unnecessary attempt to frustrate me in the performance of my official duties.
“I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability and to the benefit of our esteemed party, within the confines of my safety and the tolerance level around me.
“The purpose of this elaborate analysis is to bring the attention of the members of the PDP National Working Committee to these strange developments happening around my office and by extension, my humble person,” the memo read.
Also speaking, an NWC member who refunded his share of the housing allowance said he and five others who rejected the money had been branded “Wike’s people,” adding that they have been dumped by the National Chairman of the party.
Confiding in The PUNCH, he said, “Those of us who refunded money has been totally sidelined. They called us Wike’s people and they don’t want us to have anything to do with the campaigns.
“For now, the NWC is not functioning. The campaigns have taken over every other thing. The presidential candidate does not know what to do but it appears he wants Ayu to remain. As a result, Ayu is ready to fight Wike to the finish.
“Look, a lot of things went wrong. In the 2019 Presidential Campaign Council, the Financial Secretary then, Abdullahi Maibasira was the Chairman of the Finance Committee. In the Present PCC, the same Maibasira was named again as chairman of the Finance Committee, leaving out the current National Financial Secretary, Mr Daniel Woyengikuro, who is from the South-South. What is going on?”
Following the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s rejection of the recommendation by the Board of Trustees panel that Ayu should quit after the elections, a member of NEC and Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor has advised the party to move on, saying the governor and his four other colleagues were not bigger than the party.
This is against the backdrop of Wike’s description of the BoT panel’s recommendation as ‘ridiculous.’
In an exclusive interview with our correspondent, Osadolor said Wike’s rejection of the pleas by BoT members and eminent leaders of the party was unbecoming of a leader who sees himself as a party man.
Almost a week after the submission of a report by the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees ad-hoc reconciliation committee, the National Chairman of the party has yet to call a meeting of the NEC to deliberate on the recommendations therein.
Last week, the committee chaired by the acting chairman of the BoT, Adolphus Wabara came up with several resolutions aimed at reconciling the camps of the National Chairman and the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar on the one hand and the pro-Wike group on the other.
As the search for an amicable resolution of the crisis intensified, the Adolphus Wabara-led committee last week, called on Ayu to commit to quitting his seat immediately after the elections are over in 2023.
While Ayu attended the meeting where the BoT submitted its report, a member of the panel and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Tanimu Turaki said NEC is yet to be informed of a meeting by the National Chairman.
“We await his official communication in that respect (NEC meeting),” Tanimu told The PUNCH.
Meanwhile, a founding member of the PDP and ex-chairman of the BoT, Bode George has warned of a plot to sideline southerners, even as he called for unity within the party ahead of the 2023 polls.
Speaking with The PUNCH, George called for togetherness rather than division among party leaders and stakeholders.
He said: “This conception of a revisit to the amalgamation period must never be allowed. They are turning the PDP into the Northern Peoples Democratic Party. The National Woman Leader was refused to address the party because she is from the South. What does that portend?
“Our young man, the National Youth Leader from the North was allowed to talk. What are they driving at for God’s sake?”
Meanwhile, Wike has threatened to expose those who secretly halted the release of a loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria to Abia and Benue states.
He stated that the motive was to punish the two governors, Okezie Ikpeazu and Samuel Ortom, respectively, for standing with him in the demand for Ayu’s resignation.
Wike spoke at the 58th birthday celebration of the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu in his country home of Umuobiakwa community in Obingwa Local Government Area on Tuesday.
This was contained in a statement issued by Kelvin Ebiri, a media aide to the Rivers State Governor and made available to journalists in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
Wike, who was the special guest of honour at the event, was accompanied by former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Wike explained that the CBN loan was a facility that was made available to every state of the federation, pointing out that the Rivers State government had accessed and secured the loan already.
The statement further reads, “I will tell all of you how Abia and Benue states were denied their money that every state had gotten from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“I got it (the CBN loan). And anybody who dares to stop my money knows that I will not take it from them. You can see how people are wicked. They are not in office yet but they are fighting people, stopping state money.
‘’Even as much as we have criticised President Muhammadu Buhari, he has never stopped our money any day.”