Ayu’s removal dangerous to Atiku’s chances – Aide, PDP chieftains

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Wike’s camp battles NWC over alleged misappropriation of N10bn nomination fees

Uba Group

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

As Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his camp are hell-bent on removing Senator Iyorcha Ayu as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the 2023 General Elections, an aide to the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and some party bigwigs have said Ayu’s resignation was dangerous for the chances of the party at the polls.

This was disclosed as Wike’s supporters within the National Working Committee of the party have reportedly been at loggerheads with Ayu and other leaders in the committee over the alleged disappearance of over N10 billion realised by the party from nomination fees paid by aspirants.

The NWC members, most of whom are aggrieved Wike’s loyalists, had demanded for accountability of the huge cash from Ayu who has been out of the country, and expressed fear that the money would have been misappropriated.

It could be recalled that a former member of its Presidential Campaign Council, Kassim Afegbua, had in 2019 dragged the party before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission, had accused the PDP of diverting the N10 billion realised from sales of forms and donations to the party, and demanded a probe into the allegation.

But the immediate past PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, had debunked the allegation and disclosed that the money realized after the sales of forms during the last general elections was N4.6 billion.

On the latest crisis, the Special Assistant on Digital Media and Strategy to the party’s presidential candidate, Mr Demola Olanrewaju, warned that antics by Wike and his supporters to remove Ayu would trigger lots of crises that the party may not be able to handle before the general elections.

Olanrewaju, in an interview, said, should Ayu resign, other principal members of the NWC would also resign because that would have affected the zoning formula of key positions in the party leadership.

Notwithstanding the crises, Olanrewaju said the former Vice President of Nigeria was not perturbed because Atiku was not interested in removing the National Chairman.

He listed the dangers in the removal of Ayu, barely 24 hours to the commencement of campaigns, saying, “we don’t want to go into thinking about who is going to be the chairman because the moment Iyorcha Ayu is removed, a lot of people will start scrambling for that position and there is a reason why the party in it’s wisdom ensure that the convention that produced the NWC came before the convention that produced the presidential candidate, so that you don’t have a presidential candidate who will resolve post-convention issues. If we have a convention today to bring the new chairman or a new NWC, there is going to be problem and we are going to be resolving that.

“Number two is that Senator Iyorcha Ayu is not in the country presently. He is on vacation. The Acting National Chairman is Ambassador Umar Damagum (Deputy National Chairman, North), who is a Northerner. The constitution of the party says that if the chairman of the party is not available, the person who takes over is the Deputy National Chairman and he comes from the same zone as the chairman. In other words, if Iyorcha Ayu resigns today, and the National Chairman becomes Amb. Damagum. If Amb. Damagum also resigns alongside Ayu, that is when Amb. Taofeek Arapaja (Deputy National Chairman, South) from the South can take over as chairman of the party.

“Now, if Amb. Taofeek Arapaja takes over as Chairman of the party, by the principle of zoning in the party, Senator Samuel Anyanwu from the Southeast cannot be the National Secretary. So, Samuel Anyanwu has to resign for you to bring in a new national secretary from the North. If you have a new national secretary from the North, Deputy National Secretary cannot come from the South, so, the Deputy National Secretary who is from the North also has to resign take over. It’s a complicated issue. And you have to wonder wether those who are pushing this thing understand the pragmatic of what they are saying. We all have to mean well for this party.

“There is no point in having multiple resignations just to satisfy a certain bloc from the party. I think people are missing this point which is that if Iyorcha Ayu resigns, we are going to have various crises, after various crises. In any case, the national leadership of the party has spoken and that’s the highest organ of the party, not any meeting held anywhere. The NEC meeting is the highest organ, you go there and make your arguments. So, for me, Iyorcha Ayu leaving at this time is not a wise action for the Peoples Democratic Party.

“Ayu’s removal will trigger lots of issues that the party may not be able to handle before the general elections.

“Those who are pushing this didn’t take it to the NEC, if they have taken it to the NEC, perhaps, the NEC might have considered it. Personally for me, the matter of the NWC should be left as it is until we win election. We have a Herculean battle to fight. Bola Tinubu is not a pushover. The party has to move on. Those who brought in this same Chairman (Ayu) as at that time are the people complaining.

“Some of the people with Governor Wike were interested in the Chairmanship position and as a matter of fact, Governor Wike and others compromised the chances of the Southwest in producing the National Chairman. When it was convenient, they brought in Senator Iyorcha Ayu. Now that they feel it’s no longer convenient, they are saying Senator Iyorcha Ayu should go. I think we deserve a measure of consistency,” he said.

Also speaking in an interview, a chieftain of the party, Dr Akindele Adekunle, kicked against call for resignation of Ayu and expressed concern that those calling for Ayu’s resignation may play into the hands of the opposition parties.

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Adekunle, the caretaker chairman of Osun State Chapter of the PDP, said, “Those calling for Ayu’s resignation at this point are not sincere and I want to sound a note of warning to some party members that if we are not careful, we are going to play into the hands of the opposition.”

For another stalwart of the party, Chief Niyi Owolade, Wike and his camp should defer their agitation till after the presidential election, adding that the dissolution of the NWC would not bear good fruits for the party as campaigns were around the corner.