The crisis rocking the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, took a turn for the worse on Wednesday as Governor Nyesom Wike’s camp pulled out of the campaign council of Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate.
The Rivers State governor and his camp explained why they pulled out of the party’s campaign council, saying the party failed to resolve the issue of the party chairman’s resignation first.
Wike; his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde; Bode George; and other stakeholders issued a statement, saying they resolved not to participate in the PDP presidential campaign until Iyorchia Ayu resigns as the national chairman of the party.
The statement signed by Wike’s media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, said they emphasised that the publication of the Presidential Campaign Council list without the resolution of the debacle over the party’s chairman translated to “putting the cart before the horse.”
The statement said the Wike camp rose from a crucial meeting in the early hours of Wednesday in Port Harcourt, quoting Makinde as saying they hoped that the powers that be within the PDP would listen to the voice of reason and do the needful.
The former PDP South-West national vice chairman, George, who read out the communiqué after the meeting, said they were concerned about the divisions in the party, and bemoaned the failure of the leadership to utilise the internal conflict resolution mechanisms to ensure inclusiveness of all and guarantee victory for the PDP.
It said: “The published presidential campaign council list translates to putting the cart before the horse. The pertinent issue before the party remains the resolution of the Ayu leadership debacle, which is a departure from the spirit and letter of our constitution which undermines the unity of our great party.
“We, therefore, resolved that Senator Iyorchia Ayu resign as the national chairman of the party for an acting chairman of Southern Nigeria extraction to emerge, and lead the party on the national campaign.
“Consequently, we resolved not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Senator Iyorchia Ayu.”
In the same vein, former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, said the description of Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, as the PDP presidential primary’s hero by Ayu was antithetical to the principle of justice, fair play and equity on which the party was formed.
He said: “It is true that everything is being done for us to have internal democracy in the party. But, for the national chairman to go and embrace Tambuwal, calling him the hero of the convention, which means there was a private arrangement that was done with Tambuwal to shortchange other contestants, including Governor Wike. Here was a referee who now helped one of the sides to score a goal, and then blew the whistle that a goal had been scored.
“This is not what we formed the PDP to do for Nigerians, and therefore, we unequivocally asked that Ayu has to step down so that having got the presidential candidate from the northern part of the country through his assistance, he should as well now step down so that a national chairman can move to the south, and the party can be united for the campaign towards 2023.”
Jang said that Wike and others’ call for Ayu to resign was aimed at addressing the structural imbalance in the party’s hierarchy.
On his part, Jerry Gana, former minister of information, said if PDP cannot restructure itself, it cannot restructure Nigeria.
“Therefore, this call for the chairman to step down or resign is not because any of us is aggrieved, but because we believe it is important to ensure a fair structure, a just structure, a principle structure, a constitutional structure for the party,” he said.
Gana said they would remain committed members of PDP, but would continue to insist that the right things be done. “We remain PDP, but we want things done justly, fairly, equitably.”
Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, former Gombe State governor, said they would work for the party to the extent that fairness, equity and justice were ensured in the party.
Others members at the meeting include Ayo Fayose, Olusegun Mimiko, Donald Duke, former governors of Ekiti, Ondo and Cross River; Dan Orbih, PDP South-South national vice chairman; and Mohammed Adoke, former Attorney General of the Federation.
Atiku insists Ayu won’t resign, seeks cooperation from party supporters
Reacting to the development in a statement he personally signed, a copy of which was made available to BusinessDay, Atiku insisted that Ayu would not resign.
He expressed surprise over the threat by the Wike group to pull out of the party’s campaign council.
Atiku said the council was “set up by our party to judiciously plan and prosecute the general elections set to hold in February and March 2023”.
He said: “As to the calls for the removal of Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organised and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done in accordance with, and conformity to, the law and our constitution. If Ayu is to be removed from office, it must be done in accordance with the laws that set out the basis for such removal.”
The PDP flag-bearer recalled how “the very body that is empowered by law to initiate this removal from office has already passed a vote of confidence in him (Ayu)”.
Atiku, who said the people that addressed the press must have their reasons for withdrawing from the Presidential Campaign Council, added: “I will not speculate as to what those reasons may be”
He said: “Personally, I am quite surprised with this withdrawal because, as I have been informed by officials of our party, apart from the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, all the remaining states of the federation submitted names of people who they wanted included in the Presidential Campaign Council.
“On the calls for the resignation or removal from office of our national chairman, however, I must reiterate what I have said severally in public and in private; the decision for Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him.”
Atiku, while calling on the supporters of the party not to abandon the party, reminded them that the nation was facing challenges which the PDP was out to address.
The former vice-president said: “Our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust and educational dislocations, to mention a few.
“I have a plan to address these issues and I have, graciously, been given the ticket to lead our great party in next year’s presidential elections, with the singular mandate to come and lead the efforts to cure these ills. It is in this light that I have reached out to every single member of our great party to join me in the massive undertaking required to reset the ship of state, and help rebuild our country.
“Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP. And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rebuild and reposition our beloved country.
“In this light, therefore, I will urge those members of our party that have stated their resolve to withdraw from the Presidential Campaign Council to have a rethink, retrace their steps, and join us in these efforts.”