National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, yesterday, said those calling for his ouster were children, who were nowhere to be found when he and others struggled to form the party.
Ayu, who spoke in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, said he was not bothered by the calls for his removal.
Ayu’s comments came as indications emerged that his sacking might not address the concerns of the southern members of the party after all. According to the PDP constitution, if he leaves office, another northerner, Deputy National Chairman, North, Ambassador Umar Damagum, would take over.
Despite the internal misgivings, PDP revved up activities ahead of the commencement of the 2023 presidential election campaign. The party’s National Working Committee (NWC) had since Tuesday been engaged in lengthy meetings to try to foreclose possible obstacles to a smooth electioneering.
In Makurdi, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, spoke on his relationship with his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, saying he has proven to be a friend indeed.
Speaking with the BBC Hausa Service, Ayu characterised persons calling for his removal as “children”, saying, “When we started PDP, these children were not around. They are children who do not know why we formed the party. We will not allow any individual to destabilise our party.”
He added, “I was voted as PDP Chairman for a four-year tenure and I’m yet to complete a year. Atiku’s victory doesn’t affect the chairman’s position. I won my election based on our party’s constitution.
“I didn’t commit any offence. I’m only reforming the party, so I’m not bothered with all the noises. I know I’m doing my work and I didn’t steal any money, so I see no reason for all these talks.”
Wike had led a campaign for Ayu’s resignation or removal from office after losing the PDP presidential primary, which he believed he was poised to win, but for a last minute withdrawal in favour of Atiku Abubakar by Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal. The Rivers State governor felt the outcome of the PDP presidential primary was the product of a pre-planned conspiracy against him that was supervised by the national chairman.
The disagreements had seemed to worsen after the governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, emerged vice presidential candidate. This further enraged Wike and tended to embolden other voices accusing PDP of lopsidedness in favour of the north, and against the south.
However, ahead of the takeoff of campaigns for next year’s general election, PDP upped efforts to mend its divisions.
A camp sympathetic to Wike had called for the sack of the national chairman and his replacement by someone from the South-west.
But the PDP constitution says if Ayu is relieved of his job, it is the deputy national chairman from the North-east, Damagum, that will succeed him. So his removal would not solve the allegation of one-sidedness of the offices in the NEC.
At the meeting last week in London between Atiku and Wike, the Rivers State governor’s loyalists called for Ayu’s sacking. They wanted him to be replaced with a loyal member from the Wike group, most likely former Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The party does not seem prepared to accept such demands and might likely call the bluff of the Wike camp.
The marathon NEC meetings, which started on Tuesday, continued yesterday, as NWC tried to find a lasting solution to PDP’s internal problems.
A source told THISDAY that Ayu’s sacking was ruled out, as it only pandered to the wish of one man.
The source said, “Much as it is true that the leadership of the party is currently structured against the south, it is not deliberate. It would be fundamentally difficult to sack the national chairman at the moment.
“But something could be done to ensure that the Wike camp has their way on who will lead the presidential campaign and ensure that the camp of Wike is adequately represented.”
Two members of the party are being pencilled in to lead the PDP presidential campaign
A source said, “Ordinarily, the presidential campaign was to be led by the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. But the Wike camp opposed him as Director General of the party’s presidential campaign. The Wike camp wants former Senate President Bukola Saraki to lead the presidential campaign.
“They argued that both Ayu and Tambuwal could not be trusted to represent their interest, because of the roles they played during and after the PDP presidential convention.”
It was gathered that the ongoing series of meetings by the party’s NEC were focused on how to manage the crisis.
“Between Wednesday and early next week, there must be a national caucus and NEC meeting, where the issues involved will be trashed out for the party to move forward,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Ortom, who spoke during an interview, also reacted to Miyetti Allah’s claim that he had neglected his responsibilities and become an errand boy for Wike. The Benue State governor said his critics were pained by the good relationship he enjoyed with the Rivers State governor. He stressed that Wike had proved to be a good friend in his solidarity with Benue State when the Miyetti Allah people, allegedly, killed innocent indigenes of the state.
Ortom stated, “My relationship with Wike pains them. You know your true friend, when you are in distress. When the same Miyetti Allah came with their people and attacked and killed our people, Wike came here with stakeholders from Rivers State.
“I was not close to Wike before. We disagreed on a number of things. I looked at it and said this is somebody that can be a friend, and we are working together. Nobody will stop me from being friends with Governor Wike.
“We speak to ourselves frankly. He is not happy with what is happening in the country today, and nobody is happy about this, so we are on the same page. Birds of the same feather flock together. He has spoken to condemn this administration and what Miyetti Allah is doing.
“He followed us in Benue and established the law prohibiting open grazing in Rivers State. They are annoyed, because I have taken the lead in guiding people. I know that some states are already asking me about the process of establishing the Community Volunteers Guard, which they will adopt. Very soon, you will see it.
“If the federal government had listened to us, because the security men are doing their best, but they lack capacity, manpower, equipment, training and funding, they do not have it. We have been talking about restructuring and trying to have state police for a long time. The federal government does not want it. They want to control the security at the centre so they will do what they want.”