By Tunde Opalana, Abuja and Amaka Agbu, Port- Harcourt
The crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reached a crescendo yesterday as a block loyal to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, pulled out of the party’s presidential campaign council.
Wike and some other aggrieved stakeholders hinged their withdrawal from Atiku’s campaign on refusal of the national chairman, Senator Ayu Iyorcha, to resign as repeatedly demanded by the group.
This is coming one week to commencement of campaign by political parties across the country.
However, Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar said the party is set to move on with planned activities of the nationwide campaign ahead of the February 25, 2023 presidential election, irrespective of declaration by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and his loyalists to pull out of the campaign.
Reacting to the latest development, Atiku in a personally signed statement yesterday afternoon urged PDP members to join hands and move on with the task of nation building.
The candidate in specific terms said he cannot accede to the demand by the Wike group that PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu must resign.
He alluded to the fact that there is a constitutional process for removal of any national officer of the party, adding that he cannot force Ayu to resign.
Atiku in the statement Wednesday afternoon said: “My attention was drawn to a news clip in which several very senior and influential members of our great party, the Peoples 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, the presidential candidate said: “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, organised 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.
“If Dr. Ayu is to be removed from office, it must be done in accordance with the laws that set out the basis for such removal. In any event, you will all recall that the very body that is empowered by law to initiate this removal from office, has already passed a vote of confidence in him.”
On the need to move ahead irrespective of the latest development, Atiku said: “Our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust and educational dislocations, to mention a few.
“I have a plan to address these issues and I have, graciously, been given the ticket to lead our great party in next year’s presidential elections, with the singular mandate to come and lead the efforts to cure these ills.
“It is in this light that I have reached out to every single member of our great party to join me in the massive undertaking required to reset the ship of state, and help rebuild our country. Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP.
“And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rebuild and reposition our beloved country. In this light, therefore, I will urge those members of our party that have stated their resolve to withdraw from the Presidential Campaign Council to have a rethink, retrace their steps, and join us in these efforts.
“The above notwithstanding, and for the sake of our country, our children, and those yet unborn, we must not, for one minute, shirk in our responsibilities to rebuild this beloved country of ours.
“Accordingly, we must forge on with the task and the mandate that we have been bestowed with. It is time, therefore, to move on with the formidable tasks of nation building ahead of us.”
Arising from a crucial meeting in the early hours of Wednesday in Port Harcourt, one of the strongest stakeholders calling for Senator Ayu’s resignation, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said they hoped that the powers that be within the PDP would listen to the voice of reason to do the needful.
The party chieftains emphasised that the publication of the Presidential Campaign Council list without the resolution of the Senator Ayu lingering debacle, translated to “putting the cart before the horse.”
The former PDP South -West national vice chairman, Chief Olabode George, who read out the communique after the meeting, said they were concerned about the divisions in the party and bemoaned the failure of the leadership to utilise the internal conflict resolution mechanisms to ensure inclusiveness of all and guarantee victory for the PDP.
He said: “The published presidential campaign council list translates to putting the cart before the horse. The pertinent issue before the party remains the resolution of the Ayu leadership debacle, which is a departure from the spirit and letter of our constitution which undermines the unity of our great party.
“We, therefore, resolve that Senator Iyorchia Ayu resigns as the national chairman of the party for an acting chairman of Southern Nigeria extraction to emerge and lead the party on the national campaign.
“Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Senator Iyorchia Ayu,” he stated.
In the same vein, former Plateau State governor, Senator Jonah Jang, said the description of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal as the PDP presidential primaries hero by Senator Ayu, is antithetical to the principle of justice, fair play, and equity on which the party was formed.
Jang noted: “It is true that everything is been done for us to have internal democracy in the party. But, for the national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, to go and embrace Tambuwal, calling him the hero of the convention, which means there was a private arrangement that was done with Tambuwal to short-change other contestants, including Governor Wike. Here was a referee who now helped one of the sides to score a goal, and then blew the whistle that a goal had been scored.
“This is not what we formed the PDP to do for Nigerians, and therefore, we unequivocally asked that Ayu has to step down, so that having got the presidential candidate from the northern part of the country through his assistance, he should as well now step down so that the national chairman can move to the south, and the party can be united for the campaign towards 2023,” he said.
He said Governor Wike and others call for Senator Ayu to resign is aimed at addressing the structural imbalance in the party’s hierarchy.
On his part, former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana said if PDP could not restructure itself, it could not restructure Nigeria.
He insisted that as committed PDP members, they were sincerely desirous that the PDP returned to power and provided Nigerians excellent governance.
“But that cannot be achieved unless we have a proper structure of the party as designed by the founding fathers. We are men and women who are committed to the issues of justice, fairness, equity. You cannot build on a faulty foundation.
“Therefore, this call for the chairman to step down or resign is not because any of us is aggrieved, but because we believe it is important to ensure a fair structure, a just structure, a principle structure, a constitutional structure for the party.
“If we want to restructure Nigeria, we should have the courage to restructure our party. And that is why we have met and decided that this is extremely important, and therefore we want Nigerians to know,” he continued.
Gana maintained that they would remain committed members of PDP, but would continue to insist that the right things be done.
“We remain PDP, but we want things done justly, fairly, equitably,” he concluded.
Former Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who also spoke, declared that they would work for the party to the extent that fairness, equity, and justice were ensured in the party.
Those who attended the meeting were Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; former governors of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose; Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo; Donald Duke, Cross River; PDP South -South national vice chairman, Chief Dan Orbih; former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN; Senator Olaka Nwogu; Senator Lado Danmarke; Senator Mao Ohuabunwa; Senator Sandy Onor; Sulaiman Mohammed Nazif.
Others include Rt. Hon. Chibudum Nwuche; Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau; Hon. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje; Hon. Mohammed Maifada; Hon. Bayo Lawal; Mohammed Jamu; Caleb Mutwang; David Emmanuel Ombugadu.