AHEAD OF PDP MAKE OR MAR MEETING, PARTY NEC DIVIDED OVER CALL FOR AYU’S SACK

Ahead of the meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party National Executive Committee scheduled for Thursday in Abuja, the NEC members are divided over the clamour for the removal of the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu.

While some NEC members from the South argued that Ayu’s removal was the only way out of the lingering crisis confronting the party, the chairman’s supporters said Ayu would not step aside at this critical time when the PDP was preparing for election.

The opposition party had been engulfed in a crisis since a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar emerged the presidential candidate.

The loyalists of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had been demanding Ayu’s resignation, stating that the presidential candidate should not hail from the same region as the party chairman; and the Board of Trustees chairman.

Though the PDP set up a panel to resolve the crisis, Wike, supported by three other governors, had continued to insist on Ayu’s removal.

Resisting the pressure to leave office, the party chair vowed to stay till the end of his four-year tenure. He also dismissed those demanding his removal as youngsters who had little knowledge about the formation of the PDP.

Reinforcing their demand in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Oyo State, Mr Akeem Olatunji, stressed that Ayu’s removal would facilitate Atiku’s electoral victory.

While explaining that the state chapter of the party had nothing against Atiku and Ayu, Olatunji said their demand was borne out of their desire to see the party emerge victorious at the poll.

He said, “We are passionate about Alhaji Abubakar Atiku winning this presidential election and that is why we are calling for Senator Iyorchia Ayu to step aside and allow somebody from the South to take over.

“We don’t want Alhaji Atiku to just be a presidential candidate, we want him to transform from a candidate to the President-elect of this country by February 2023.

“We believe that part of what can make our job easier is for the national chairmanship of the PDP to come from the South. We don’t want our opponents to use that to campaign against us.

“It’s not that we have anything against Atiku or Senator Ayu, we are not their

enemies; we want the party to win. It is better we sort this out now and that is what we are saying. We want the national chairmanship of the PDP to come to the South for balance.”

Rivers PDP

On his part, the Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor called for the resignation of the national chairman, stressing that the party leadership and the presidential candidate cannot come from the same region.

He said, ‘’That is the commitment he (Ayu) made before we elected the presidential candidate, so he has to fulfill his commitment. He must resign; he should fulfill his commitment. We can’t have the BoT chairman from the north, deputy national chairman and presidential candidate all from the north. Other regions will feel relegated.

“How do we campaign for the people? The election is based on interest, how do we preach to them? Should we tell them when the presidential candidate wins things will normalize? Is that what we are going to preach to the people?’’

Akawor further stated that the power blocs were only seeking equity, justice and fair play, therefore, their quest should be regarded.

He noted, ‘’We don’t have different power blocs; they are people who are requesting equity and fairness, which is the fulcrum of the party.  How are we protected as a zone; how is our interest protected? That is what we are asking for?  So, when these questions are answered, I don’t think we’ll  have a power bloc; PDP is one party.’’

But the Osun PDP acting chairman, Dr Akindele Adekunle, said Ayu should not be made to resign, at least not now that the party was preparing for a general election.

Adekunle said, “There is no point asking Dr Ayu to resign a few months before the presidential election.  My take is to allow the status quo to remain and make changes after the 2023 elections.”

The Ebonyi State Chairman of the PDP, Okoroafor Okorie was of the view that the right thing was ‘’for somebody to make a sacrifice by stepping down from his position which provides a balance in the leadership of the party.’’

He noted, “The truth is nobody was born with any position. It is easier to say let’s balance the polity allowing the chairmanship to come from somewhere. If that is the sacrifice that someone has to make in the overall interest of the party, it is a sacrifice worth making.

For me, PDP is the only party that has a structure with a national outlook; forget that APC is occupying the presidency today. If you do not want to bury that national outlook, perception, or narrative and change the paradigm that the PDP is always making, I think it is a sacrifice worth making that somebody should step down.’’

Ortom’s aide

However, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, speaking through his Director of Press, Nathaniel Nkurr, noted that the crisis was best resolved at a roundtable in addition to placating the Rivers State governor.

“The position of the governor is that the party leadership will sit down and resolve the crisis in the party, calling for the pacification of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike,’’ he explained, adding that “all the blocs must agree to work together as a party; the leadership should sit down and resolve the crisis.’’

Chairman of the Lagos State PDP, Julius Akinsola maintained that an inclusive approach was needed to address the issues.

“We are in a democratic system; I think it has to be an inclusive decision so the national working committee, the NEC, the BoT, the three arms of the party have to resolve that kind of situation.

“I presumed they will take into consideration all the necessary parameters for choosing offices. If they find some imbalance; that is why they are there. But as individuals, we have to work within a democratic system,’’ Akinsola stated.

Reacting to the calls for a change of the party leadership, the Yobe State Chairman of the PDP, Sen. El-Gash Umar, insisted that the chairman cannot step down because he was elected for a four-year tenure.

He counseled those clamouring for Ayu’s removal to wait until the presidential candidate of the party wins, adding that he may step down then through persuasions.

Umar added, “He was elected for a four-year tenure, he has not committed any crime as a party chairman, and he was not indicted for anti-party (activity) or anything. He was being asked to resign because the presidential candidate is from the north. What if he (Atiku) doesn’t win; will the chairman be reinstated? That is what we are saying.’’

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