Who benefits from Ayu’s resignation?
...Who gave PDP the unkindest cut- Wike, Atiku, Ayu?
Who gave the unkindest cut to the former ruling party, the biggest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the 2023 presidential election: Atiku Abubakar, Iyorchia Ayu or Nyesom Wike?
Did Ayu’s resignation from the exalted seat of national chairman make any meaning to the fortunes of the party or repair the damage done to the party?
Atiku was the presidential candidate of the party. Ayu was the national chairman, and Governor Wike of Rivers State came second to Atiku in the presidential primaries in May 2022.
Wike first complained that the rules were breached when his friend Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, another aspirant, was allowed to come back a second time to announce withdrawal from the race and to ask his followers to vote for Atiku.
When that did not sway the party, he seemed to suddenly remember that power should have gone to the south. And, he added, if the candidate was to come from the north, that the party chairman must come from the south. He thus demanded Ayu’s resignation to make way for someone from the south.
Ayu was adamant, saying the party’s constitution backed him. Wike asked Atiku to prevail on Ayu to step down, but Atiku stood his ground. Wike thus formed the G-5 (governors) who fought the party till elections were lost.
Now, the jury is out to hand judgment: Who gave the unkindest cut to the PDP?
Most observers say Ayu dealt PDP the unkindest cut. Wike was angry and seemed to look for who to blame for the havoc he was able to wreak on the party. He needed much pacifying.
The party almost gave him the position of running mate to pacify him, but seemed to change their mind last minute. This could only have angered Wike the more. So, was Atiku a good Knight, a good matador, and good fighter? Did he underate Wike like Goodluck Jonathan did before him and regretted?
Was Ayu dancing to his ego or did he also underate Wike who pushed his own kinsman out of the seat he collected. If a man could do that to his kinsman he helped to install, did Ayu believe Wike would not do it to any other person? Are these tactical chess players?
By Tuesday March 28, 2023, when Ayu caved in to the pressure to step aside, was there anything left to salvage? Could it be why many observers have been wondering if the resignation did not come too late. They liken it to an effort geared towards saving the head when the neck had already been cut off. Ayu bluntly refused to step down when the G5 Governors gave that as the major condition to work with the party’s presidential candidate. Now, people are saying that had Ayu resigned his position then to yield ground for Wike and others to work for the party, chances were that the umbrella association could have won the election.
Atiku and his inner caucus had reasoned that Wike as a vice president was going to be a difficult tenure. They also felt that giving in to Wike would show weakness. But losing the presidency cannot make Atiku or the PDP stronger.
Losing sight of what happened in 2015 when the PDP lost to Muhammadu Buhari’s All
Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be the undoing of the present crop of PDP leaders. The party looked confused and threatened to find itself out of Aso Rock, a situation they never faced in their existence. Many top members were said to be making contacts to decamp. Wike who rallied round to win Rivers State by any means possible began to infuse confidence into the deflated egos of the PDP hierarchy.
A workshop was organised in Port Harcourt ostensibly to prepare the former ruling party on how to be an effective opposition party but underneath, they were rebuilt to fight the APC and have hope to take over from the new kings later. This alone gave PDP huge life.
Also, Wike singlehandedly fought the APC over the years, putting the ruling party under media harsh light, pelting them, hitting them, until most Nigerians came to the conclusion that the APC was a threat to Nigeria. Wike felt that all that was needed was for the PDP to walk in and handcuff the APC.
What was therefore, needed was a strong PDP with a united front that would have given Nigerians the belief that it was the right party to rescue the nation, though many still believed it was the PDP that actually dug the nation’s grave that the APC pushed the country into.
Atiku’s likely first mistake, according most political analysts was failing to zone the slot to the South East to the only zone in the south that had not tasted power. Many expected Atiku to use his enormous influence to pick a candidate from the South (East) and win the heart of a zone that had voted faithfully for it since 1999. He did not do it.
Ayu replaced a southerner but when the presidential candidacy slot fell to a northerner, he did not read the mood of the nation; that a Fulani was going to succeed a Fulani, a northerner was going to succeed a northerner, and that both the presidential candidate and the party’s national chairman were now in one region. He seemed to trust Nigeria too much, despite warnings and shrill cries by Wike and the G-5.
Wike too gave his own unkind cuts. Many said he was behind the failure to zone the slot to the South East because he was eager to contest from the South-South that had had its own share (Jonathan) for six years. They argue that it was only when he lost in the primaries that he suddenly remembered national equity of power rotation.
Also, the mere fact that he did not argue for the SE seemed to damage whatever claim he laid hand on concerning rotation. They say power shift that shifted power back to the South West which had had eight years (Obasanjo) was no justice. Nigeria did not only agree on regional shift but zonal shift, which meant moving power between north and south as well as to a fresh zone out of the six geopolitical zones.
Read also: Ayu’s exit: PDP reverses suspension of Shema, Anyim, Others
Analysts believe that each of the three gladiators contributed hugely in causing the defeat of the PDP.
Even when Peter Obi who many said deserved backing of Atiku left the PDP to the Labour Party, all the top PDP leaders treated it with levity. It did not matter to them that the SE was the most loyal zone to the PDP and that taking their votes out of the PDP was going to be big anaemia.
It was clear at that point that sacrifice needed to be made. For Wike to demand for party chairmanship shift instead of presidential candidacy, many said it was a small sacrifice Ayu could have made to help Wike save face and return to the party. He did not.
Even when his own host governor joined the move, he did not see it as any threat. It meant he had no home base and no protection.
Many have however, argued that Ayu’s early resignation would not have saved the PDP. They based their claim on the fact that the ‘Obidients Movement’ was the reason, not the G-5 forces. Denying the SE was the first cut, but allowing the G-5 to work for other candidates seemed to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The N1billion scandal and the N100million gift matter concerning Ayu according to Wike seemed to poison the party inside. The claim by Wike that a candidate gave Ayu N1bn seemed to alert many party insiders. To make the matter worse, Wike revealed another N100m said to have been given to Ayo for renovation job that the party had paid for. These caused unseen cracks that affected the PDP toward the elections. Ayu denied these but Wike asked him to dare him to show evidence. He never did.
Many thus believe that Ayu did not add value to the party. His scandals rather seemed to hurt the party. If he had resigned when Wike demanded for it, the heat would have turned on Wike to help the PDP win in line with his boast. But by refusing to resign, he simply played into Wike’s trap. So, resigning now seems bland, analysts say. In local parlance, it is called medicine after death.