The crisis in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), seems far from being resolved as state chairmen of the party are divided over the demand for party’s national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, to vacate office as part of the reconciliation process in the party.
The PDP state chairmen, who spoke exclusively to LEADERSHIP in separate interviews yesterday, also differed over the one-tenure demand allegedly made on the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, should he win the presidential election in 2023.
Party chairmen opposed to Ayu’s sack described the demand for Ayu’s removal as ill-timed as it was too close to the elections, especially as such a process involves constitutional action.
Other party chairmen said Ayu should step aside if that would be in the interest of the party. They noted that it would be his sacrifice for the party’s unity ahead of the polls.
However, the party chairmen are scheduled to meet soon to take a position over these contentious issues.
This comes as LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that the delay in setting up the PDP presidential campaign council is mounting, causing a push for the convening of a National Executive Committee (NEC).
Presidential campaigns begin on September 28.
The camp led by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, insists on Ayu’s sack and Atiku’s commitment to serving one term as part of the reconciliation process over the impasse arising from Atiku’s choice of Delta State governor as running mate.
Wike’s camp is said to have reiterated the call for Ayu’s sack at the recent meeting with Atiku in London. It was gathered that Atiku who raised issues over the constitutional issues involved in removing Ayu at the meeting is yet to take a position on the matter.
The Kwara State PDP chairman, Hon. Babatunde Mohammed, told LEADERSHIP in Ilorin yesterday that PDP chairmen in all the 36 states of the country would soon meet to take a decision on the call for Ayu to step aside.
According to him, the Ayu issue and one-term tenure for Atiku proposition would be discussed at the meeting.
However, special adviser, Media and Public Affairs to the Kaduna State PDP chairman/chairman, Forum of PDP State Chairmen, Mr. Edward John Auta, said the call for Ayu to resign is not a wrong call but ill-timed.
“The call for Ayu’s resignation is never out of place given PDP’s long history of zoning and power sharing among the six geopolitical zones of the country. There’s simply no justification for the BoT chairman, national chairman, and president to all come from the North; however, the timing for this particular demand by the Wike camp isn’t appropriate.
“The right thing to do is to demand for the national chairman’s resignation for a southerner immediately after the PDP must have won the 2023 presidential election. Otherwise, there will still be a crisis in the future in the event Ayu resigns and the PDP still loses the presidential election.
“Thus, I will advise Atiku and his team to agree to concede the national chairmanship to the south on the condition that Atiku wins the presidency. That will be a fair deal for both parties, the PDP family and indeed all Nigerians,” he said.
On the subject of a single term for the presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku, he said, “I think it is a matter that should be left for Nigerians to decide when Atiku comes into office. It should be based on his performance as president, because if he is able to do exceedingly well, no right-thinking member of the PDP should say he shouldn’t continue with the legacy of performance he would have started because of a previous agreement with Wike and his group.
“Even Nigerians will not forgive the PDP or Atiku if he’s prevented from contesting a second term in the event the first meets the expectations of the majority of the people,” he said.
The Osun State chapter of PDP also said the call for Ayu to resign is wrongly timed.
PDP’s media director in Osun State, Mr Oladele Bamiji, said the call for the removal of the arrow head of the party at the peak of preparations for the presidential election may be counterproductive.
He concurred that the best thing to do is to allow Ayu, at this crucial time, to complete the assignment successfully to avoid failure.
“God forbid, if our presidential candidate loses the election, what will happen. Scouting for the return of the chairmanship position to the north, or what?” he asked.
On single term tenure for the party flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar, Oladele Bamiji said Atiku is in the best position to answer the question, but he quickly added that the Constitution of Nigeria provides for a second term for president and governors.
The Akwa Ibom State chapter said it is yet to take a position on the matter.The state publicity secretary of the party, Comrade Borono Bassey, said “as a party, we have not taken any position on the matter”.
“Ayu remains the national chairman of our party for now, and as a party we are duty bound to accord him the respect and loyalty due to him and his office.”
On the clamour for Atiku to run for only one term if he wins the polls in 2023, the Akwa Ibom PDP spokesman noted that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has to be strictly followed given the fact that the relevance of the document concerning tenures of elected officials had yet to be amended.
Adamawa chairman of PDP, Barr Tahir Shehu, said the party should not succumb to intimidation on the matters of Ayu’s removal and single term for Atiku.
“With or without Wike reconciling with the flag bearer of the party Atiku Abubakar, the party will ensure victory in 2023.
“In as much as Wike is an important person in the party, that does not mean that our party flag-bearer, Atiku, will succumb to intimidating pressure by Wike by being given conditions, among which is that our party flag-bearer should serve one term in office as president, which we said no; and that the national chairman of PDP, should step down for Wike to bring his successor, which we equally said no.
“As a legal person, Wike being a lawyer himself, he should know the national chairman of the Party was elected, not appointed, by national convention of the party.
“There is tenure to the office of the national chairman; we would not agree to that, as far as my view is concerned,” Shehu added.
The PDP in Delta State is undecided over the calls for Ayu to step down as well as the single term for Atiku.
This may not unconnected to the fact that the governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, is the running mate to Atiku, coupled with the crisis over the governorship candidate of the party in the state.
Barr Kingsley Esiso, PDP chairman in the state, said the situation at the moment does not give him room to comment on such questions since reconciliation moves are ongoing both at the national and state levels.
In Rivers State, the party leadership said it stands with Governor Wike on his position on Ayu’s removal and single term for Atiku.
PDP publicity secretary in the state, Tambari Sydney Gbara, disclosed this yesterday while speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt.
Gbara said: “We, as a party, stand by the leader of our party, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Wherever he stands is where we stand. Whatever is his opinion is our opinion. Whatever he is saying is what we are saying.”
The Lagos State PDP chairman, Phillip Aivoji, said the issues at stake are constitutional matters.
“We have a party constitution and I think the constitution must be followed. There is a room for a mid-term convention, which will come very soon. My personal opinion is that we should not be in a hurry to do anything. The man Iyorchia Ayu brought a lot of integrity to the party; majorly we should win the election and I believe he can steer the ship.
“Immediately we win the election he will relinquish the position and all positions in the North will be brought to the South and the ones in the South are taken to the North so everybody is carried along. We should not do anything in a hurry.
“This is democracy; you don’t force people out of power like the military. Except he resigns voluntarily, nobody should force him to resign.”
In Oyo State, the public relation officer of the party, Akeem Adetunju warned against such purported demands and insinuations.
Olatunji, who noted that the meetings were held with the party’s leaders, including Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, said they were yet to disclose the final decisions to state executives.
He added that since it was meetings held by the leaders, “we should not insinuate. We are yet to be formally briefed. Whatever decision the leaders reached, they are leaders, we want the best for the party.
“They will brief us on the next step since they mean well for the party.”
The Plateau State PDP chairman, Mr. Chris Hassan, said the best option is for the elections to be conducted before a change of guard.
Hassan said they are preparing for election and as well making consultation with critical stakeholders on the best option for the party.
Speaking on the single term for Atiku, Hassan said, “Your performance should earn you a second term.”
In Niger State, the party chairman, Barr Tanko Beji said if Ayu’s stepping aside will help the party to win election, it is not too much sacrifice to make, adding that politics is about making compromises.
“If asking our national chairman to step down will bring the needed cohesion for our party to win the election, why not? Because it is not about him, it is about the survival of the party, and if the party finds itself in the current situation, no amount of sacrifice will be too much for anybody to make,” he said.
On whether former Vice President Atiku Abubakar should go for one term, he said, “When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. Who knows who will survive the next four years.”
A PDP stalwart in Gombe State, Hon Dahiru Kera, concurs that if Ayu’s resignation is the only alternative to bring lasting solution to the lingering crisis in the PDP, that sacrifice should be done.
Kera, who is a media aide of the former governor of the state, Ibrahim Dankwambo, gave this opinion while speaking with LEADERSHIP yesterday.
“I don’t see anything wrong in making sacrifices for the party to be united and win the 2023 general election. The unity in PDP ahead of 2023 general election should supersede any parsimonious and personal interest. The future of Nigeria lies in the party taking over the mantle of leadership to get the country out of the woods,” he said.
On the reported request by Wike that Atiku should serve for only one term if he emerges the president, Kera said this is purely a constitutional matter, but added that the fate of anybody getting a second term hinges on the collective decision of the electorate.
In Cross River State PDP spokesperson, Mike Ojisi, said since Ayu has in recent times come under so much pressure to step aside, he should do so in the interest of the party “so that the party can win the presidential election and reclaim the country from APC’s misrule and mismanagement of the country’s resources.”
According to him, the interest of one man cannot supersede the interest of the entire party.
One the issue of single term for Atiku, Ojisi said there was nothing wrong with the party to say that Atiku should go for a single term.
He, however, said if Atiku’s performance becomes so encouraging and spectacularly better than what the APC is offering to Nigerians at a moment, there is nothing wrong with the party allowing him to go for a second term.
The PDP in Ondo State said only the National Working Committee or the National Executive Council of the party can decide Ayu’s fate.
The party, in a reaction by the state publicity secretary, Kennedy Ikantu Peretei, said the issues are beyond the state.
In Kebbi State, the PDP secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa Kalgo, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Bello Suru, said the party opposes the single term condition for Atiku.
He also said the party in the state wants Wike and Atiku to resolve their issues rather than demand Ayu’s resignation.
He added that the party at state and national levels would collapse if crisis between Wike and Atiku continues, even as he called on stakeholders in the PDP to find an amicable way of solving the impasse internally.
To the Benue State publicity secretary in PDP, Bemgba Iortyom, the call for Ayu to step down would strengthen the party’s internal harmony and synergy.
According to him, “as a state chapter of the party, we don’t have a separate view on the call. We are aware that the leader of the party in the state, Governor Samuel Ortom, is involved in all of these transactions and, at the end of the day, we believe in his leadership because he has led us well at every point in time.
“We believe that even in the current happenings, the end of it will be in the best interest of the party, not just in Benue but the nation at large.”
On the issue of single term for Atiku, the Benue PDP spokesperson said, “Single or two terms for Atiku or any electoral official of the party is going to be the result of widespread and inclusive decision for the interest of the party.
“So, any decision taken by the party at the national level is binding on all chapters of the party, including the Benue State chapter and we will abide by it.”
On his part, PDP chairman in Borno State, Alhaji Zanna Gaddama, said members of the party in the state are solidly behind the resolution of the forum of the PDP chairmen from the 36 states of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
When LEADERSHIP sought to understand the actual stand of the Borno PDP on the Wike/Atiku saga, Gaddama referred the newspaper to the national chairman of the PDP Forum of Chairmen who is in Kaduna State.
When asked, the state publicity secretary of the PDP in Enugu State, Jude Ugwu, said it is not the appropriate time to demand Ayu’s sack.
He queried the activities of the camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, and stressed that it is not the appropriate time to call for Ayu’s removal.