Ayu’s many battles as PDP National Chairman



Uba Group

When on December 10, 2021, former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, was sworn in as the 21st national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, it came with high hopes for the party faithful and stakeholders.

It was said that given his political experience, academic and sundry personal achievements, he was the right person to re-engineer, reset and lead the party in its bid to regain Aso Rock from where it was booted out in 2015 by the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Ayu emerged the new national chairman of the PDP on October 31, 2021, as a consensus candidate for the position. He took over the leadership of the main opposition party alongside 20 others who were elected into various positions within the PDP’s National Working Committee.

The new PDP national officers, who were elected at the party’s convention which was held on October 30 and 31, 2021 at the Eagles Square in Abuja, were quickly presented with certificates of return during the swearing in ceremony at the International Conference Centre in Abuja in anticipation of great and marvelous things to follow.

Ayu, in his acceptance speech, promised to reposition PDP towards emerging victorious in the 2023 general elections. He said he would return the party to the people.

“Our task at this auspicious moment is to return the party to the people. But to do that, the party needs to be reinvigorated, reinvented and repositioned.

“We are not unmindful of our missed steps and actions in the past, but we have learnt our lessons, both in government and in opposition.

“Today, we stand tall, and with a firm resolve to rebuild our great party and rescue our nation,” he vowed.

Unfortunately, fifteen months after his emergence as the leader of the PDP, the main opposition party under him carried on in a manner quite unmindful of its missed steps and actions in recent past, and woefully failed to learn any lesson from such actions before and as an opposition party.

Ayu’s ordeal started barely seven months after he was sworn in. In particular, the party’s convention at which the presidential candidate for the 2023 general election emerged marked the turning point for him.

On the night former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who was the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, won the right to fly the party’s flag for a second consecutive time, some actions and utterances attributed to Ayu were said to have infuriated a section of the party, especially the camp of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who lost the presidential primary election to Atiku.

A source described what happened as a “provocative faux pas and a clear indication that Ayu was not an unbiased leader and had a predetermined agenda which many of us then saw as an invitation to anarchy in the party.”

He was reported to have lavishly commended Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, for the role he played. Tambuwal’s decision to step down for Atiku in the very last minute before voting was said to have swung the votes in Atiku’s favour. On visiting the governor that day, Ayu reportedly patted him on the back and declared that he was the hero of the convention and that he saved the day.

While that was still causing some ripples within the party, the picking of Atilu’s running mate did more harm to the party’s unity than anyone ever envisaged. Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom was picked to head a committee to assist the party in picking the best possible candidate for the position of a vice presidential candidate. In the wisdom of the committee, it recommended Wike.

Our source said the choice of Wike by the Ortom-led committee was to ensure unity, inclusiveness and a strong personality in the general election’s presidential ticket.

“The choice of Wike was very predictable. But there were some devious oppositions to his choice because of selfish interests in the party. To start with, he came second. He could have won the primary but for the way Tambuwal stepped down. He was not supposed to be given the microphone the second time to address the delegates. The way it happened showed that there was a predetermined agenda to ensure the ticket remained in the North within the party.

“Second, we needed a strong character or personality and a man who can hold his own against the ruling party. Wike is a no-nonsense man. He is an action person. He may be guilty of talking too much or being an extrovert. But he is a man of action.


“Governor Ortom actually supported him during the primary. So, we were expecting Wike to be announced according to the recommendation of the Ortom committee. But when it turned out to be the governor of a neigbouring state, we all knew that the agenda was divisive. We knew that it was time to rein in the divisive tendency that was building up and ensure that a strong, formidable and united front was forged for the party to prosecute the impending campaigns and elections because all of us want the party to win the presidential election and be the government at the centre. And to do that, Ayu cannot be trusted to engender that united, strong and formidable family.

“Besides, it was not healthy for all the A-List offices to be from the North. So the request for Ayu to step aside became necessary.

“When the demand was made known, the party leadership responded with marked indifference. Rather than see it beyond “a gang up by the camp of losers”, there was also the concerted effort to dodge it as a responsibility only the national chairman or the NWC can address”

Unfortunately, the request was received with accusation and suspicion as if a particular plan was about to be scuttled.

“So, what was going on that cannot be to the knowledge of some governors and even a presidential aspirant? That was the genesis. Of course, they responded by insinuating that we could go to blazes and that the party was strong enough with Nigerians already fed up with the APC, they were already dreaming of being in Aso Rock and positions were allegedly being shared. It was not funny at all. So, people felt that if you want to unite Nigerians, start from your party. Let charity begin from home. That was all,” the source told The Point.


When the demand was made known, the party leadership responded with marked indifference. Rather than see it beyond “a gang up by the camp of losers”, there was also the concerted effort to dodge it as a responsibility only the national chairman or the NWC can address.

In a statement he caused to be issued on September 21, 2022, in apparent response to the decision by the Wike camp to withdraw from the party’s campaign council until Ayu stepped down, Atiku declared that neither he nor anyone else can force Ayu to resign as chairman. He rather appealed to the members of the group to retrace their steps and join forces with him to rebuild Nigeria.

The statement read in part, “Early this morning, my attention was drawn to a news clip in which several very senior and influential members of our great party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), addressed the press and, amongst other things, declared that they are withdrawing, forthwith, from the Presidential Campaign Council set up by our party to judiciously plan and prosecute the general elections set to hold in February and March 2023, on the one hand; and reiterated their earlier calls for the resignation or removal from office of the national chairman of our party, Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, on the other hand.

“The people that addressed the press must have their reasons for withdrawing from the Presidential Campaign Council, and I will not speculate as to what those reasons may be.

“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 Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Dr. Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him.

“As to the calls for the removal of Dr. 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, organized 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.”

Atiku’s position, described by our source as “hypocritical and just a time buying tactics” failed to save the party at the most important time of its recent history.

“Personally, I saw Atiku’s response as hypocritical. He was just trying to buy time. The Campaign Council was already constituted. You could see who the inner caucus members were. The same Tambuwal was made Director General. We know all these things.

“If he was serious with reconciliation, if he didn’t assume that he could do it without the aggrieved members, he would have quickly called the leadership of the party and as the candidate, led the party into taking decisions that would meet the yearning and expectations of all. It was a missed opportunity. We didn’t learn from history. It happened before in 2014 and the result was catastrophic. Atiku was the arrow-head of that rebellion against President Jonathan. He should have been able to read the handwriting on the wall. But we missed the opportunity.”

As for Ayu, he simply refused to back down. He boasted that he was elected for a four-year term and he had no intention of stepping down for whatever reason, not even as a result of the threat by five serving governors, chieftains of the party across the middle belt and southern part of the country.

More importantly, he shared the wrong notion held in some quarters that only a candidate of northern extraction can lead PDP back to Aso Rock.

It was a disdainful counter to the agitation by southern politicians that another northerner should not succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from the North, after eight years.

Whereas the ruling party perfectly understood this and was working assiduously to actualize it, Ayu and his PDP acolytes were deeply engrossed in entrenching a hegemonic system that has no regard for equity, fairness and justice.

Not even the sudden withdrawal of a frontline presidential aspirant from the South East, Peter Obi, who subsequently joined the Labour Party was enough warning to Ayu to be more circumspect in his dealings with members of the party.


Before the election, it was obvious that the possibility of the PDP taking home the diadem on a platter was off the table. It was badly divided and disorganized to win the election. Besides, as at January ending, the ruling party was determined to hold on to power while the now generally regarded Third Force, Labour Party, was ready to upstage the two dominant parties. From either way, PDP chances of winning the election were considerably slim before February 25.

When the presidential results were finally released, they were so unflattering to the PDP. The party, once again, kissed the political canvass for the third straight set in a presidential election. It struggled in areas considered as its traditional bases. In the final tally, it came second behind the APC. It lost strategic senatorial seats to both the APC and the Labour Party. Three governors belonging to the G5 group lost their senatorial bid while the Federal Capital Territory senate seat was snatched from it by the Labour Party’s Ireti Kingibe.

The party had hardly done a post mortem of the election when it went on sanction frenzy, suspending perceived erring members. Highly respected members, including former governors, senators and other chieftains of the party were slammed with suspension. The rash decision to suspend high stake members only further exposed the disunity in the party and the inflexible manner the Ayu-led NWC responded to it. It amply demonstrated Ayu’s poor crisis management acumen and the glaring lack of tact and diplomacy in handling such volatile issues.

Interestingly, the party had to deal with an Uche Secondus scenario when Ayu was suspended by his ward executive.

“Ayu met the party in the City of Sodom and tried his possible best and led it to the desert of Gomorrah”

The Igorov ward executive committee in the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State had last Sunday suspended Ayu for alleged anti-party activities and for failing to pay his membership dues.

In the aftermath of the suspension, a Benue State court restrained Ayu from parading himself as the chairman of the party following a suit filed by a former aide to the state governor, Conrad Utaan.

Ayu and the PDP were listed as the first and second respondents, respectively, with the case adjourned till April 17 for a hearing.

Ayu has vowed to fight his suspension by the Benue State High Court. His Special Assistant on Communication, Simon Imobo-tswam, disclosed this to newsmen last week after the party announced the appointment of the Deputy National Chairman, (North), Umar Damagum as the acting national chairman.

Damagum, in a brief interview with journalists in Abuja, explained that he was taking over the party leadership in an acting capacity “to fulfill all righteousness.”

He said, “We are here to fulfill all righteousness. We have a court order restraining our national chairman and we are law-abiding. I will be here with you in an acting capacity pending the determination of the court. I want to use this opportunity to enjoin you to give me the cooperation we all used to have with you.”

Wike in his reaction to the suspension of Ayu, asked him to come to terms with the reality that his ‘’calamitous reign has come to an end.’’
He spoke during the inauguration of phase one of the Trans-Kalabari Road last week, performed by another G5 member, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.

Wike stated that “Those lawyers telling you that the ward has no power to suspend you, that it’s only the National Executive Council, then you don’t understand what is happening. When you came, it was the ward that suspended (Uche) Secondus, and you went and took office, didn’t you?
“So, forget it, you are gone. You are wasting your time. We are ready for the battle. I am not from Benue, but I have interest and that interest is that Ayu must go,” Wike said.


Conrad Utaan, the plaintiff in the suit against Ayu said the step taken so far by the party’s leadership after the court pronouncement was the right thing to do. He said there was nothing special in complying with the court order.

The former aide to the Benue State governor said the suspended chairman had done more damage to the opposition party than any other person since its formation in 1998.

“Ayu has done the right thing; he is being proactive to take this step (of stepping aside). It’s the right thing for a democrat to do to respect the order of the court until April 17 when we shall meet in court.

“The truth of the matter is that Ayu has led the party to its worst outing since 1998. One expected him to have left the office as it’s done in other climes if you lead a party to such a disastrous election; you allow a new person to come on board.’’
Last week, Senator Shehu Sani at his sarcastic best, tweeted on his verified account @ShehuSani that “Ayu met the party in the City of Sodom and tried his possible best and led it to the desert of Gomorrah.”

Governor Wike was even more sardonic. Speaking on Monday during the inauguration of the remodeled Community Secondary School, Okoro-nu-Odo, in Obio-Akpor local government area of the state, he said “Ask them, those who want to be chairman of this party (PDP), what do you have to give to the party now?

“Presidential election, you took bribes, and lost in your unit, lost in your ward, lost in your local government and lost in your state. Which party will you preside over now?”

But in what looks like a concerted effort to quickly put the memory of the Ayu era behind it, the party took far reaching decisions last Thursday, reversing some of the decisions of the Ayu-led NWC that are patently inimical to the spirit of unity, peace and progress. How far and how soon the party will be able to reinvent itself from the current prostate position is left to be seen.