Tension In PDP As Southwest Says Ayu Must Resign, But Atiku Says No
By Sam Egburonu, Editor
The tension from the crisis rocking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rose further on Wednesday when the party’s Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, openly disagreed with the position of the Southwest PDP leadership that the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, must resign in order to resolve the crisis in the party.
Responding to the Southwest’s demand that Ayu must resign his position as the party’s National Chairman, Atiku said clearly that “Ayu won’t resign just like that.”
Atiku made the statement in a crucial meeting he held with the Southwest caucus of the party in Ibadan.
Insisting that Ayu’s case must follow his party’s rules and regulations, Atiku told the caucus: “The Peoples Democratic Party is the oldest political party in Nigeria since the return of democracy and even before then.
“It is a party that has laid down rules and regulations. I have been a member of the party since when it was formed, and I am still a member of the party up to the point of what it has grown to become.”
But earlier in the meeting, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, had demanded, on behalf of the caucus, that Ayu stepped aside, saying: “Our party wants to rescue Nigeria and our candidate is a unifier. He wants to restructure Nigeria. Eight years of the All Progressives Congress have left us sharply divided. The issue is we must practice what we preach. If we want to unify Nigeria, we must unify the PDP first. If we want to restructure Nigeria, we must have the willingness to bring inclusivity to the PDP. Do we have the capacity? The answer is a resounding yes.
“The message from the Southwest PDP is that the Southwest is asking that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP should be restructured. We are asking the National Chairman to step down so that the South will be fully included. That is the message.”
But, in a statement by his spokesman, Paul Ibe, the former VP, was quoted as saying: “There is nothing any individual can do to change the outlook of the National Working Committee of the PDP. The PDP is a party where there are laid down rules and regulations.
“What Governor Makinde is asking for is possible only when we have amended our party’s constitution. As things stand today, no single individual has the power to tamper with the NWC of the party. Doing so will be illegal and it will be against our rules in the party.”
The current meeting was attended by leaders of the PDP from the six states of the Southwest geopolitical zone and some leaders from other zones.
It is believed that the meeting was part of the underground consultations aimed at resolving the disagreements that trailed PDP Convention and the nature of the party’s National Working Committee, especially, the ‘dilemma’ of Ayu’s continued stay as the National Chairman after Atiku’s emergence as the Presidential Candidate.
It would be recalled that a seemingly strong PDP group, led by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has insisted that Ayu must resign his position as the National Chairman of the party for a Southener since Atiku, also from the North, has already emerged the party’s Presidential Candidate.\
According to the group, this was part of the agreement they reached before the party’s Convention in which Atiku emerged.
But Ayu has said he can’t be forced to resign and that he was elected for a four years tenure.
This disagreement has remained one of the party’s major headache ahead of it’s 2023 Presidential Election preparation.
Since Atiku, the presidential candidate, kept silent over the matter, many observers had speculated that the party leadership was working underground to resolve the matter amicably.
But with Atiku’s current response, it seems the crisis has become deeper than many observers had thought.
“With the open disagreement between Atiku and Southwest PDP leadership, it is now clear that the crisis in PDP is getting out of hand,” Kehinde Oladeji told NewsOrient in Lagos.
According to Mr Oladeji, who is a PDP member, “I am afraid our party leadership is playing with fire here. This is unfortunate because other parties will easily take advantage of this insensitivity to campaign against us.”
NewsOrient learnt that PDP leaders who attended the strategic meeting between Southwest caucus and Atiku that ended in stalemate over this critical issue included Oyo State Governor Makinde, the Chief host; Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who is Atiku’s running mate in the 2023 Presidential Election, Osun State Governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.
Others at the meeting included the PDP Governors’ Forum Chairman and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; former Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke; PDP Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagum, and PDP National Deputy Chairman (South) Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja.
Also present at the meeting were PDP governorship candidates of Southwest states, their running mates and other leaders.