From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
There is no reprieve yet for embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu, as more chieftains have allegedly joined the move to oust him.
Dr Ayu, who has been away since June 21, returned to the country early yesterday, amidst the thickening plot to sack him from office. This is as members of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) are reportedly divided over the plot to replace Ayu as the party’s national chairman.
Multiple sources told Saturday Sun yesterday that forces opposed to the national chairman are unrelenting in the quest to get him replaced. It was gathered that more party leaders from the South have allegedly joined the ‘Ayu must go’ crusade.
The PDP has been enmeshed in crisis since the unveiling of Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the PDP vice presidential candidate. Loyalists of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, had expressed misgivings over Okowa’s choice, stating that the former who came second in the presidential primary ought to have been named the vice presidential candidate.
Last weekend, the party announced the constitution of a peace panel, consisting of Atiku, the PDP governors and other party leaders to reach out to Wike and other aggrieved party members. However, highly placed party sources stated that members of the Wike group are insisting on the replacement of Ayu as national chairman as the number one condition for peace in the party.
“That is the first issue – the removal of the national chairman. That is their own condition for discussion. Other things can come later. As we speak now, they are unrelenting. They are going on with the move to replace him. The South is insisting that the North cannot have the presidential candidate and also have the chairmanship ahead of the election. They are insisting that there should be a balance of power,” a dependable source told Saturday Sun,” he stated.
Similarly, a member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) told Saturday Sun that the plot against Ayu was being supported by party leaders across board, adding that they see the move as an opportunity to reposition the party for victory in the 2023 polls. Besides, the party leader added that the rising profile of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, is one of the factors fuelling the agitation for the replacement of Ayu with someone from the South.
According to him, Obi’s popularity is a cause for concern for the PDP, especially in the South East. Consequently, he added that some stakeholders in the zone are of the view that the national chairman must be replaced with someone from the South East, so the party will have something to campaign with in the zone.
He said: “This thing Peter Obi is doing is not a joke. Listen, it is not a joke. It is a very serious thing. No matter how anybody looks at it, Peter Obi’s fame is spreading like wild fire. But if there is nothing the South East is holding going to that campaign, the message will not be delivered. Ayu may consequently be a victim of the political re-engineering the PDP would do to balance the act.
“It has gone beyond the Wike group. Even some Atiku’s men are buying into it. The concern is that Atiku wins the election.
“Atiku himself will not be averse to Ayu’s removal. What is important to him is what will make us win the election. If Wike is one of those who will help him win, what does Wike want? We foresaw this a long time ago.” The NEC member confirmed to Saturday Sun that the party organ is divided on the move to replace the national chairman but insisted that the interest of the party was supreme.
Said he: “I personally want Ayu to stay, because I don’t like upheavals. But as a PDP man, I think Ayu should sacrifice that position for PDP to secure its victory.
“The issue is that PDP needs to cede a position of prominence to South East. That will make them be on that table. But a situation where there is no South East man on the table, it will not augur well for the party in the zone.
“But Ayu may decide to make things easy for the party by throwing in the towel. The only thing you can give to the South East is the national chairman. This is what will cement the wound and bring everybody together.”
However, the Special Assistant to the PDP National Chairman on Communication and Strategy, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said Dr Ayu had earlier made it clear that in the PDP party positions are not tied to executive positions. Imobo- Tswam stated: “What Ayu said before he became chairman is in public domain. As a matter of fact, journalists asked him, ‘you are from the North, if a candidate emerges from the North, what would you do? Would you step down? And Ayu was very clear in his answer. He said in the PDP, party position are not tied to executive positions. He was very clear. But he said as a democrat, he was sensitive to issues of geopolitical balancing, and that if a candidate emerges from the North, and the party says he should step down, he said he will do so for the sake of party unity and party stability and overall interest of the party.
“What is the interest of the party? To win election. As we are talking, what has the party said? The party in its wisdom may not have spoken. Because the party understands that you cannot leave a battle in the middle of a war.”