The alleged delay by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Iyorchia Ayu, in convening a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee to deliberate on the report of the reconciliation panel set up by the Board of Trustees has irked members of the party’s advisory body.
This followed indications that Ayu was not ready to call a NEC meeting to deliberate on the BoT panel’s report, more than a week after it was submitted to him.
Recall that Governor Nyesom Wike and his Abia,Oyo, Enugu and Benue states counterparts -Okezie Ikpeazu, Seyi Makinde, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Samuel Ortom, respectively, were insisting that Ayu must resign from office over the alleged imbalance in the PDP leadership.
They said that Ayu had prior to the PDP elective convention in May promised to vacate his seat in the event of the emergence of a Presidential candidate from the North.
The party consequently set up a BoT committee to wade into the crisis between Wike and Ayu.
With Ayu showing no intent to honour his pledge, the Adolphus Wabara-led committee submitted a number of recommendations, one of which was that Ayu should commit to leaving his position after the 2023 elections.
In an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, a PDP BoT member, Bode George slammed Ayu for failing to honour his word, saying with or without a NEC meeting, the former Senate President should give peace a chance.
He said, “The truth is that the BoT panel said because Ayu made a pronouncement that if the Presidential candidate comes to the North, he will resign; he should resign. His words should be his bond if he is honourable. He ought to be a distinguished Senator.
“What is so sacrosanct about his fixated belief that he must be the chairman of the party? If he drops dead today, won’t the party continue?
“I am told that the report was that Ayu should honour his promise and vacate his seat. I am told that it was the chairman of the committee, Adolphus Wabara who said Ayu should make a commitment that he would go after the elections.
‘’What do they expect us to go home and tell our people? Are they saying ‘vote for us first and we will give you the chairmanship of the party?’ What crap! If the reverse was the case and the North is in our position, having nothing to take home, will they be happy? What you cannot accept, don’t do to other people. Ayu is destroying the fabric of PDP.”
George also blamed the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, urging him to “wake up now’’ because “he is now a national leader, having taken over the leadership of the party.”
The retired air commodore also noted that given the current state of affairs in the party, a time would come when NEC meetings would turn into a huge joke.
“We are gradually getting to a point where when they call meetings, only one zone will attend,” he declared, even as he gave notice of retirement from partisan politics.
“I am frustrated enough. I have given notice that by the end of this election, I would have spent 25 years in politics and 25 years in the military; that is 50 years of my life have been in public service. I need to go home and play with my family. I need peace but all of us cannot shut down at the same time,” he added.
On his part, another BoT member and ex-National Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Tsauri said only Ayu can decide whether to call a NEC meeting or not.
His words: “It is at the discretion of the National Chairman to summon a NEC meeting or if two-thirds of the members request for such a meeting. The BoT committee was not constituted by NEC. The NWC received the report and I believe they are studying it with the intent of taking the next line of action.
“The BoT committee did not advise the chairman to take the report to NEC because the same NEC during its last meeting passed a vote of confidence on the national chairman. So, those who expect Ayu to call the NEC meeting on the report may be doing so in their imagination,” he said.
Meanwhile, some BoT members are not happy over Wike’s recent endorsement of the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The Rivers State governor stirred controversy last week when he said “Any party contesting against APC in Lagos is wasting time. Sanwo-Olu is a super-performing governor. If Sanwo-Olu was in my party (PDP) and he is not doing well, I wouldn’t come.”
A BoT member who does not want his name in print told Sunday PUNCH that given the length the party has gone to placate Wike and his colleagues, it was high time the party considered other options to inject some sense of orderliness and discipline because “no man can be bigger than a political party.”
He said: “No one has said he (Wike) does not have a point in the argument he has been making. What we are saying is that we have a big assignment ahead of us as a party. If he continues to insist that things must be done his own way, then, there is a problem.
“Maybe it is time for sanctions, I don’t know but again, we need to look at the issue of timing. Can we afford to be talking about sanctioning stakeholders, and serving governors who are expected to play their part in ensuring victory for our party? That is the big question!
“When the BoT recommended that the chairman should make a promise to go after the elections, our belief was that this was going to get us somewhere. Do not forget that in all this, we are only an advisory body. We can’t force our position on the party. If the five governors continue to insist on this position (that they won’t be part of the Presidential Campaign Council unless the chairman leaves), then, they have wasted our time and our effort.”
Sharing similar thoughts, Tsauri noted that discipline is key to the success of any organization, warning however that no political party can afford to bring the hammer on five of its governors in an election year or a few months before the elections.
He told Sunday PUNCH, “The BoT is an advisory body shouldered with the responsibility of amicable reconciliation of aggrieved members. It has no power to punish party members. Governor Wike and his colleagues are very critical members of the party. Thinking of anything like punishment at this critical time will certainly not be good for the party.
‘’No serious political party can think of sacrificing five sitting governors, especially in an election year. We are still in the reconciliation process and are optimistic of success.”
The former party scribe however blamed advisers of Atiku and Wike for failing to make their counsels count.
As the debate rages as to whether it is time to sanction the five governors, former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, said those who set up the reconciliation committee are better placed to advise the party on what to do.
“Ask the person who set up the committee,” Lamido said in response to our correspondent’s inquiry.
The former Senate President could not be reached for comment as he said to be engrossed in the presidential campaigns.
When asked if he has been notified about the NEC meeting, former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Tanimu Turaki, said, “I am not aware yet. We await his (Ayu’s) official communication in that respect.”
Attempt to sanction Wike, Govs, will end PDP – Wogu
Meanwhile, Olaka Wogu, a close ally of the River State governor has said that any attempt to sanction Wike and four other governors would mark the end of the PDP.
Wogu who said this in an interview with our correspondent on Saturday explained that the decision of the party’s BoT does not placate Wike’s demand for the resignation of Ayu
He described the continuous stay of Ayu as the party’s national chairman as illegitimate, insisting on his immediate resignation.
He said, “Anybody who is not satisfied with the current problem faced in the party and decides he will escalate it by going to suspend or bring sanctions to bear on all of these governors would meet fire beyond their expectation.
“He would simply have completely buried PDP; it is not possible to do that and an attempt to do that would simply be the end because what you are telling these governors now if they say they would not leave PDP, you want them to leave PDP, and fight PDP. I think that will be the end of any aspiration to govern by PDP.’’
“I am not sure if anybody is contemplating it, thinking about it. I think that’s the worst that the devil can do for the party. That somebody will put in their head now and suspend five governors when you are looking for votes; even a military government will not have such a thought not to talk of Atiku, ”he added.
Speaking on the decision of the BoT, he said, “The decision of the BoT is nothing new. It’s just a reflection and a re-assertion of Atiku’s position. Atiku’s position has always been that Ayu will go after the elections. Initially, Atiku said Ayu will go within a time frame, later he said Ayu can resign on his own. But the BoT indicates that Ayu should go after the election because there were those who argued that it could be disruptive to party unity for Ayu to go now.
“However, the WIke group has said there are pre-election matters; there are fundamental balances that cannot wait till after elections, they are cardinal to the ticket we present. It’s fundamental to our party to show unity, our diversity by ensuring that the blocs of power are where they should be. You don’t do the right thing later, do it now and show that you are capable of doing it.
“The Wike group does not understand the impediment; Ayu himself said he will go, he recognised it before the primaries that it’s an unsustainable situation to put offices in one place. Now, our group is also trying to let everybody know, this is not about ethnicity, it is not about north vs south, south vs north.
“This is about putting the PDP as we want Nigerians to see it. A ruling national party that serves every part of the country and it’s sensitive to our inclusion, it agrees and understands at all times that we must be an inclusive country.’’
Speaking in a similar tone, the Coalition of United Political Parties spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, threatened that he would put all machinery in place to ensure that Ayu vacates office as national chairman before he could move against Wike.