By Chinelo Obogo and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The pressure on Senator Iyorchia Ayu to resign as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the interest of fairness has continued with former vice National chairman (South West) of the party, Chief Olabode George and a member of the House of Representatives, Solomon Bob, lending their voices. to the call even as former chairman, Kawu Baraje, called for caution.
The camp of Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, had tabled the resignation of Ayu as one of the key demands to be met before it sheathe its daggers following the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to Atiku Abubakar.
George said he expected Ayu to have honourably resigned based on his promise.
“I remember what Ayu said and want to take him on his words because for honourable men, your word must be your bond. He said once a presidential candidate emerges from the north, ‘I will resign.’ I want to take him on that because I know him to be a respectable and responsible man.
“The founding fathers decided that once the presidency comes from the northern zone, chairman of the party must come from the southern zone, and vice versa.
“They created six geo-political zones for inclusivity, whether you are majority or minority. There was some kind of a woolly thing that happened. We had a meeting and the party said they have zoned only party positions. Where is the presidential position to be zoned?
“It created so much mayhem. That was how (Uche) Secondus was removed, and then Ayu became chairman. They zoned chairman to the north but it was at that time they should have pronounced that the presidential candidate must also be zoned to the south but they refused.
“At the NEC meeting, we agreed to revisit the report of that zoning. With what APC has done to Nigeria, the zoning is even more important now than in 1999. He said the compromise then was that since the presidency zoning was not so clearly pronounced six months earlier, and people had gone ahead to spend money preparing, they had to accommodate open contest among every zone.”
According to him, the founding fathers of the party came together in the interest of peace and equity to curb friction by giving a say and a way to the minorities in the north and south, who were “perpetual onlookers.” He appealed to all parties to sheath their swords in the interest of the party and work to achieve common ends.
“In democracy, you must always exchange ideas, agree and disagree without being absolutely disagreeable. No matter the organisation, once made up of humans, you must have disagreements, all kinds of positive and negative issues. The ability to manage those crisis and arrive at a positive destination will be a measure of your capacity. As we prepare for elections, those problems are not insurmountable.
“I want to appeal to all shades, all sides to sheath their swords. We must convince the people that we have the capacity to manage the resources of this country for the benefit of all. All cacophonies coming from all corners, we can achieve more by talking.”
He urged an end to all “tantrums, statements that are not necessary and have absolutely destroyed this party; statements of arrogance, innuendos, name-calling.
In his reaction, Bob, who is from Rivers State, said there was need to rejig the National Working Committee ( NWC) to achieve a North/ South balance.
“The national chairman, himself, is on record to have committed himself to stepping down the moment a Northerner emerged as (presidential) candidate. What is him waiting for?”
On the argument in certain quarters that it was not in the interest of the party for the national chairman to quit before the 2023 polls, he said Ayu has nothing special to add to the campaigns. He added that if anything, the national chairman’s continued stay in office is causing resentment within the party.
“That is a self-serving argument. By the time Iyorchia Ayu made the commitment to step aside, the moment Atiku emerged, he knew that the stepping aside will be midway before elections. He knew. And he weighed the political consequences. In any case, what is that special thing that Iyorchia Ayu will bring to the campaign that no one else can bring? What is special about him that cannot be replaced in the run-up to the campaigns? Anybody can be there and do the job, he is doing. So, there would be no disruption…If he can’t even honour his basic words, as elementary as it is, what is sincerity in all this talk about reconciliation? And he is a key player in what has led to the current rift in the party.”
However, Baraje said though the PDP has a tradition of power sharing between the North and South, there are processes and procedures in achieving balancing in the party.
He acknowledged the contributions of Wike to the party over the years, but said it would be wrong to breach due process because of the agitation by supporters of the Rivers State governor. He said the party cannot circumvent its rules because of one member or a group of members.
“The PDP has a tradition, and that tradition is well known to all members and even the entire Nigerians. So, it is not new thing to us that if the presidential candidate comes from the North, definitely the national chairman comes from the South.
“In 2008, when I was elected as national secretary of the party, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua was also elected as presidential candidate. The then chairman was Col. Ahmad Ali from the North as Yar’Adua…The elders of our party and leader of our party in Lagos and generally in the South, Bode George was one of the national vice chairman… I remember very vividly…a transition has to happen, Col Ali has to go, because the presidential candidate was from the North, but in doing that, there are processes and procedure. Ahmad Ali had to stay to deliver the president . And immediately after the election, the new executive came in and we took over. Vincent Ogbulafor took over from Ali as Chairman and I took over the office of national secretary.”
On Wike, he said: “Yes, Governor Wike is an individual in the party, but he is not just an ordinary individual, we agree to that, and he is someone who has been standing in for the party, we agree to that. But that does not say that we are kind of going to wave the law because one member or a group of people in the party. The party is greater than anybody, the party is greater than any group,” he said.
Baraje appealed to all vexed members to be patient and give the leadership of the party time to utilise the right channels to resolve their problems grievances without hurting the party.
“There are other inclusiveness tradition that we must follow. To hasten that process might injure the party, we know it, it had happened and we will not want to do such a thing that will hurt the party. We still have the time. And if you think time is not on our side, I say time I’d one time. We have a lot time to settle the quarrels within the party. The issue of Wike is gaining momentum because people do not wait, people are in haste, not just ready to wait a bit and wait for things to be put in order so that we can settle the situation. However the organs of the party are at work.”