2023 PRESIDENCY Ayu, next victim of power play in PDP – Insiders

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… as power blocs lock horns for party’s soul
Old forces lose ground to new ones

Uba Group

BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE, AUGUSTINE AVWODE AND TIMOTHY AGBOR

As the incoming National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Iyorchia Ayu, and other national party officers prepare to assume duties on December 9, 2021, governors and elders of the party are locked in a battle of wits for the soul of the PDP.

The present national officers, led by the suspended National Chairman, Uche Secondus, will remain in office till December 8 when their four-year tenure expires.

Investigations by The Point show that old forces in the party are losing ground to new ones as the new executive members prepare to take over.

The emerging power brokers are governors, especially Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).

Some of the old forces still pulling weight are a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and a former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri.

While the Wike-Ortom/governors alliance had produced Ayu at the party’s October 31 national convention, the deal with the governors also led to the ceding of the office of the National Secretary to Wike.

However, it was alleged that it was to the embarrassment of all the stakeholders in the South East that Wike had again succeeded in anointing Samuel Anyanwu as the National Secretary of PDP.

In the power-sharing arrangement, all the PDP governors were said to have been accommodated in one way or the other under the consensus option which was adopted at the recent convention.

With Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State now firmly in control of the PDP in the South West ahead of the 2023 general elections, aggrieved chieftains of the party are said to be grumbling against his leadership of the party in the zone.

It was gathered that in spite of the Oyo governor’s success at installing his allies in all the PDP leadership positions zoned to the South West, he had been unable to placate most of his ardent opponents within the party in the zone.

Almost one month after the completion of the national convention of the PDP, some prominent members of the party in the South West are said not to be pleased with Makinde over the outcome of the convention.

The governor is alleged to have cornered all the National Working Committee positions zoned to the South West, leaving other leaders and groups within the party in the zone without any one.

This, they said, was contrary to the terms of the reconciliation preceding the convention.

About three weeks before the convention, Ortom had brokered peace between Makinde and former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.

Party sources claimed the meeting discussed the power struggle between the two PDP leaders in the South West and proffered ways to end the rift and avoid new ones.

“One of the things agreed at the meeting was the need to share party positions among leaders of the party. We were looking forward to the convention at the time and it was believed that positions given to the zone will be shared in that manner,” a source said.

The Benue State Governor was said to have impressed upon Makinde and Fayose to work together in the interest of the PDP in the South West.

At the convention, the positions of Deputy National Chairman (South), National Publicity Secretary and Deputy National Secretary were zoned to the South West. Amidst allegations that Makinde was working towards pocketing all the positions, his known allies emerged the winners of the three slots at the expense of other contenders, their leaders and their groups.

The emergence of Taofeek Arapaja, a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, and an associate of Makinde, as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the PDP, completed an alleged take-over of the control of the party structure in the zone by Makinde.

“With Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State now firmly in control of the PDP in the South West ahead of the 2023 general elections, aggrieved chieftains of the party are said to be grumbling against his leadership of the party in the zone

Arapaja had defeated Olagunsoye Oyinlola, an ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with over 1200 votes. Arapaja got 2004 votes against 705 by Oyinlola. Setoji Kosheodo, another candidate of the Oyo governor from Lagos State, emerged as Deputy National Secretary while Debo Ologunagba from Ondo State, rode on Makinde’s back to become National Publicity Secretary.

Similarly, there is dissatisfaction within the party’s hierarchy following a statement credited to Ayu that he was prepared to review the reports of various committees set up by the outgoing Uche Secondus-led NWC and ensure that their recommendations are implemented.

Ayu said this while presenting the communiqué of the two-day national retreat held for newly elected NWC members and other party stakeholders, in Abuja, on Thursday.

In response to a question on the concerns raised by a former National Chairman of the party, Okwesilezie Nwodo, about the lack of transparency in the management of party funds by successive administrations, Ayu promised to be different.

Nwodo, who left office in 2011, had in a paper titled ‘Political Party Funding,’ which he presented during the retreat, said, “Today, we seem to have lost it. I handed over N11 billion in fixed deposits and N800 million in the current account when I left as National Chairman after seven months.

“I don’t see what was done with that money. Millions were raised to finish our national headquarters; we don’t seem to have a trace of where all that money went. Our headquarters (has) yet to be completed. Today we don’t even have a party account.

“We have to get back to strict monitoring of our party accounts. Our internal audit department needs to be strengthened and supported by the party leadership.

“Very strict sanctions must be imposed on mismanagement of party funds; I suggest that we include inviting EFCC to probe erring officers and members and prosecution of those found culpable. This is the only way to create a deterrent.”

Responding to a question on the subject, Ayu said, “By the time we come to office, accountability will remain our watchword and I want to assure all of you that we will run the PDP administration as transparently as possible.

“The outgoing NWC has set up different committees to look into different areas; we shall take up all the reports, review them, look at the facts and then attend to each issue according to the facts available to us.

“I want to assure you that we shall try to clean our house no matter who is going to be affected, we shall try to clean our house following due process and that due process also includes exhausting all internal conflict resolving mechanisms before we bring in any external intervention when we cannot resolve the issue.”

In a move that clearly showed his mastery of the game of politics, insiders are alleging that Wike seemed to have struck again, and at the right time too, by attempting to use Ayu to achieve his aim.

Ayu’s comment was interpreted by many stakeholders to mean the likely prosecution of Secondus and a continuation of Wike’s hounding of the embattled outgoing chairman.

Barely 24 hours after the statement, Ayu reversed himself, saying he was quoted out of context.

In a statement he personally signed, the incoming National Chairman maintained that he had not seen the books of the party or received any handover notes, and so could not make any authoritative comment on any allegations.

An anonymous top leader of the party who is unhappy with the current development said, “From the way things are going, it is obvious that the PDP would soon be wracked with infighting, betrayal and greed.”

Allegations of corrupt offences, including financial indiscipline, bullying and poor leadership against Secondus had come to the fore, as this culminated into six national officers of the party tendering their resignation letters.

Another party stalwart noted that on top of the crisis was the 2023 presidential election.

A political analyst however believes that “Secondus is just a victim of power play, ahead of the 2023 presidency.”

The Point gathered that the Southern PDP governors, including Wike, who were interested in the 2023 presidency, believed the surest way of getting the ticket was to remove Secondus from the PDP Chairmanship position and also forestall his second term ambition.

He noted that the more the crisis in the PDP continued, the more it would lose its chances of winning the 2023 presidential election.

Known for troubleshooting and skillful resolution of intra-party squabbles, former Senate President, David Mark, was said to have to hit the ground running to resolve the brewing imbroglio.

Findings by The Point showed that chieftains of the party, who would not want their names mentioned because of the sensitive nature of the matter, were, however, not in agreement as to how they perceived the pronouncement by Ayu. While some hailed it as the right thing to do, others expressed reservation about its appropriateness.

A top chieftain of the party expressed exasperation, calling it a “potential double-edged sword” that could be wrongly exploited to the detriment of the party.

“I was alarmed when I read the story. I am sure the import of the statement is beginning to dawn on the new leadership. The media will report based on their interpretation. The opposition APC goons can swoop on it now and turn it around.

“It is a potential double-edged sword. Chief Nwodo led him into that corner following his presentation. It is an internal issue that could be dealt with internally without bringing it to the fore for public consumption. I pray to God to help us,” he said.

However, another hailed it as the right thing to do, saying, “The party needs rebranding, repositioning and re-engineering. It needs to rekindle the fire of confidence of the Nigerian people in it. The APC has failed woefully on all fronts. Forget that some governors, for whatever reason, ran into it.

Nigeria’s economy has never been this bad and disjointed; insecurity has never been this bad; migration out of this country has never been this pronounced, not even when Andrew was trying to check out in 1984 during Buhari’s first coming.

“Things are really bad. So, if PDP wants to really take over, it has to start with telling Nigerians it is a new party both in looks and in character. Let it start with purging itself of all forms of corrupt tendencies. Let the world and Nigerians know that it means business this time.”

“If APC is the haven for alleged corrupt politicians like their former chairman said ‘come to APC and your sins will be forgiven you’, PDP should be able to tell Nigerians ‘no, there is no hiding place for you here.’

With that, Nigerians, who are not fools, anyway, will know that, indeed, this is a new PDP,” he argued.

A third respondent gave a rather interesting angle to the subject matter. He said it was a direct message to the outgoing National Chairman, Uche Secondus, to the effect that he could not continue to hold the party to ransom. According to the source, it was a tacit call on the “belligerent ex-chairman to behave or face fire.”

“Things are really bad. So, if PDP wants to really take over, it has to start with telling Nigerians it is a new party both in looks and in character. Let it start with purging itself of all forms of corrupt tendencies. Let the world and Nigerians know that it means business this time

He said, “Don’t forget that the incoming chairman is a master of the game. PDP really got it right in picking him. In a way, to me, it was to make Secondus just stay quiet. His belligerent attitude won’t help the party and there is a need to make him stay quiet.

“He wouldn’t want the drag from an opposition (APC) he was quite fierce with. The PDP needs to move on. Sometimes, we just move on. If he doesn’t, the APC will munch him. I think that in a way, it is to make Secondus just stay quiet.

“So, it is a tactical pronouncement. The more he drags this thing through the courts, the APC can give it some steam, using the courts to scuttle the programmes and plans of the PDP and then cause a crisis. So, I see him being quiet, henceforth.

“Truth is that even his sympathisers want him to just go away. Meaning, just drop the fight and move on.”

But he exonerated Secondus on account of the gale of defection that hit the party in the last 12 to 15 months. He said there was little the ex-chairman could do since it was obvious the individuals were bent on leaving for very personal reasons that hinged on political ambition and self-preservation and nothing could have persuaded them to stay back.

“In fairness to him, nothing he could have done. Those who left had personal and overlapping ambitions. They couldn’t be stopped. They hardly hid their romance with the opposition. It was all too evident that these guys were PDP only by mouth and not at heart,” he concluded.

On his part, chairman of the PDP in Osun State, Sunday Bisi, said the party will dislodge the ruling APC in the state next year and during the general elections of the country in 2023.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Point in Osogbo, the party chairman said almost all issues in the party had been resolved and that it was poised towards victory in the forthcoming polls.

He said, “I can tell you that the crisis in Osun State PDP has been resolved amicably and to a large extent, other states and that’s why we had in attendance the leadership of all state chapters of PDP in the last national convention.

“This is with a view to wrestling power from the APC here in Osun and Ekiti in 2022 and across the country in 2023. If there is an issue anywhere in PDP, be sure that it wouldn’t stand in our way of victory in Osun, Ekiti and the 2023 general elections.”

The PDP vice presidential candidate of the PDP, in 2019 elections, Peter Obi, did not pick calls or respond to messages on the issue.

His spokesman, Valentine Obiayanwu, was also silent.