PDP Crisis: Plot To Prevent suspended National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu Return Thickens

 The suspended National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, may find it difficult to return to office as some prominent members of the party are against his reinstatement.

Drawn from both the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee, the PDP chieftains blamed Ayu for the party’s inability to win the 2023 presidential election and expressed their resolve not to allow him return to office following his decision to step aside on Tuesday.

A few days after Ayu was suspended by his Igyorov Ward in the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State, Justice Wilfred Kpochi of the state High Court in Makurdi granted an ex parte injunction barring him from parading himself as the chairman of the party.

In obedience to the court order, Ayu stepped aside on Tuesday and the Deputy National Chairman of the party (North), Umar Damagum, stepped in as the acting national chairman pending the resolution of the leadership crisis or emergence of a substantive chairman.

Loyalists of the suspended national chairman have vowed that he will soon be back to reclaim his seat.

“After a careful consideration of the court order and in line with Section 45 (2) of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017), the National Working Committee resolved that the Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagum, assumes the national chairmanship of our party in acting capacity with effect from today, Tuesday, March 28, 2023,” the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, had said in a statement.

Before the court order, the Ayu-led NWC had announced the suspension of some party chieftains including a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim; former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; and ex-Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema. It also referred Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State to the PDP National Disciplinary Committee for alleged anti-party activities. The actions were condemned by the affected people.

The Rivers State Governor, Nysem Wike, who led an onslaught against the national chairman in the build up to the general election, mocked Ayu and noted that he lacked the powers to suspend the party chieftains. Wike noted that Ayu, like some other party stakeholders, failed to win Benue State for the PDP, wondering why he would sanction fellow party members for not living up to expectations.

Barely 24 hours after stepping aside, Ayu’s successor, Damagum, reversed the suspension of Anyim, Shema, Fayose and others, stressing, “The NWC recognised the imperativeness of a total reconciliation among party leaders and critical stakeholders for a more cohesive party in the overall interest of our teeming members and Nigerians in general.”

Saturday PUNCH gathered that the decision to lift the suspension might not be unconnected with Ayu’s fading popularity among party leaders, with speculations rife that some NWC members did not want him back as the national chairman of the party.

Although Damagum declined to comment on whether the committee was divided on if Ayu should return to his seat or not, he told Saturday PUNCH that the action he took in reversing the suspension of the PDP leaders had not gone down well with some party members.

“Some people are not happy, but we hope that they will be,” he said, adding that the decision was taken in the best interest of the party.

Damagum’s argument was reiterated by a member of the NWC, Setoji Koshoedo, who blamed Ayu for failing to do the right thing shortly after the PDP lost the presidential election.

According to him, Ayu ought to avoid the path of war and think of a way that the party will bounce back.

Koshoedo, who is the party’s Deputy National Secretary said, “The party, the PDP ought to have been in a sober mood having lost an election. It was an error to walk the warpath in the first place. So, the Acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum has taken steps toward bringing peace back into the party and this is the way it should be.”

A member of the NWC told one of our correspondents in confidence that Ayu’s return would “not sit well with the majority of us because of his handling of the G5 crisis, which led to these issues we are discussing today.”

The NWC member said, “Some of us told him (Ayu) privately to resign so that Governor Wike and his group would return to the campaign council and work for the party and our candidate. I don’t know what was going on in his mind, but I think he believed the lies circulating in the media then that some All Progressives Congress governors were working with Atiku Abubakar to give him victory.

“Even if he stood a chance of winning his state for the party, which we knew he could not without Governor Ortom’s support, he should have given way so that the four other governors would team up with Atiku.

“We can’t openly come out and speak now, but the truth is that we are happy with the acting national chairman. I don’t know what will become of Ayu, but Damagum has the support of the majority of the NWC members.”

On his part, a National Executive Committee member and immediate past Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, blamed what he called “Ayu’s stubbornness” for the crisis rocking the PDP.

He stated, “Ayu knew he had nothing big to give the party by way of votes, but he stayed on. Even when the aggrieved governors warned that they would swing votes in favour of another party and candidate, he wasn’t worried. Perhaps, he believed that as chairman, he could easily tell Nigerians to go and vote for Atiku Abubakar and they would file out in obedience.

“But Atiku is not without his blame too. He should have prioritised between Ayu and the G-5 governors. We would have won this election, but Ayu and Atiku did what they did and that is why we are here. It is too late to cry now over the crisis sweeping Ayu away. His stubbornness is his biggest personal problem.”

‘Damagum, a placeholder’

However, Ayu’s loyalist and Deputy National Youth Leader of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor, described Damagum as a placeholder even as he commended the steps taken to stabilise the party since he became the acting chairman.

In a telephone conversation with Saturday PUNCH, Osadolor faulted those blaming Ayu for suspending Anyim, Fayose, Shema and others, noting that the decision to suspend them in the first place was a collective one.

He said, “We all sat down and agreed that those leaders should be suspended. We all agreed that they were engaged in anti-party activities. I am not aware of any NWC member who objected to their suspension. It is surprising that some of them are now singing a different song.

“But the decision to reverse the suspension is very good for the party. Our leaders and elders advised that the suspension should be lifted because we cannot be fighting to reclaim our mandate in court and be engaged in another internal fight.

“Like I said, the acting national chairman has done very well and he will continue to do well, because he is a very compassionate and competent leader. We will continue to support him till the national chairman returns to his seat, because whether we like it or not, Ambassador Damagum is a placeholder for Ayu.

Nwuke forecloses Ayu’s return

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the party in Rivers State and former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, has said any attempt to return Ayu to his seat will signal the end of the party.

Nwuke, who represented the Etche-Omuma Federal Constituency in the green chamber of the National Assembly, said the G-5 governors and mainstream members of the party would not allow Ayu to return as the chairman of the party.

Nwuke, who was the Director, Publicity and Communications, Rivers State PDP Campaign Council and an ally of Wike, blamed Ayu for the “colossal defeat” suffered by the party in the February 25 presidential election.

The former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications said it was unfortunate that Ayu could not offer constructive leadership while he held sway as the PDP national chairman.

“Supporting Ayu’s return to power is out of the question. How can we support that? See what Ayu’s ill-luck has done to the fortunes of the PDP. This man could not offer constructive leadership. He could not stabilise the party; he could not do anything. Ayu is simply responsible for the colossal defeat that our party suffered. Those rooting for Ayu to return want to bury the PDP. God will not allow him to return as the national chairman,” he said.

Asked what the state was doing to prevent Ayu’s return to power, Nwuke said, “The man is already on the way out. He is challenging the suspension delivered at his door post by his ward.

“Most mainstream members of our party do not want Ayu. People in Southern Nigeria are not and will not be comfortable with Ayu. The PDP deserves a strong leader, who is passionate about the job. People are talking among themselves and the consensus that is emerging from ongoing discussions show that Ayu isn’t the messiah that the PDP needs currently.

“Many Nigerians are hailing the G-5 governors. There is no way those governors will allow Ayu to occupy the chairmanship seat again. We will fight until Ayu gives back the party to all those who have laboured for the PDP.”

Similarly, the Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the party, Sydney Gbara, explained that the outcome of the February 25 and March 18 elections were proof that Ayu was not the right man for the job.

Gbara said Wike had been vindicated for pushing for Ayu’s removal before the elections.

He commended Damagum for his bold move in reversing the suspension of some chieftains even as he pointed out that those working behind the scene for Ayu’s return to power did not mean well for the party and Nigerians.

Ohuabunwa on suspension

A member of the party’s NEC, Sam Ohuabunwa, described the suspension of the embattled national chairman as a step in the right direction.

Ohuabunwa stated this in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja.

He said, “The suspension of Ayu followed due process as he was alleged to have been suspended by his ward. Again, somebody went to court to say that since he was suspended, he was no longer a member of the party. The order was served on the NWC. They looked at it and decided to do the right thing.

“Nobody is above the law and things must follow due process. All that we know in the world is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, whatever you do, expect that there will be repercussions.”

Another NEC member, Babandi Gumel, noted, “The matter of suspension of the national chairman is an order of the court and if any court rules, there is nothing else except to wait for what will follow. So, there is nothing to comment other than to abide by what the court says.”

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