State chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party have rejected calls by loyalists of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike for the sacking of the National Chairman of party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, over the brewing crisis in the party.
Asking Ayu to step aside, they said, would affect the party’s chances of winning the 2023 presidential election.
Embittered by the loss of the vice-presidential slot to Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, the pro-Wike camp had accused Ayu of supporting the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who allegedly failed to follow democratic practices in his selection of his running mate.
Atiku had selected Okowa over Wike despite the nomination of the Rivers state governor by 14 of the 17-member selection committee.
The development had polarised the main opposition party with the aggrieved members calling for Ayu’s head on the premise that the presidential candidate and the party chairman should not hail from the northern zone.
Chairmen of the party in Plateau, Delta, Kaduna, Benue, Ekiti, Katsina, Zamfara, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Gombe and Cross River states, in separate interviews with The PUNCH faulted the call for the immediate resignation of Ayu.
They said although like Atiku, Ayu is a northerner; he could only resign after the PDP’s victory at the 2023 presidential poll.
While canvassing for the zoning of the party offices for equity, the Edo State PDP Chairman, Tony Aziegbeme hinted that this should be done after the presidential poll.
According to him, the party is sorting out several issues, noting that the clamour about zoning would also be resolved.
He said, “We definitely have a presidential candidate who is from the North who has not become the President. I think if we have an elected president on the platform of our party, it becomes glaring that the national chairman of the party should come from the South.
“While I strongly support fairness because if there is no fairness and sense of justice, that is a problem. However, we ensure our presidential candidate wins next year’s election before we take this step.”
The Chairman of the PDP in Kaduna State, Felix Hyat kicked against any change of guard in the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
According to him, removing the national chairman of the party would constitute a distraction to the PDP ahead of the polls.
The PDP Chairman in Ekiti State, Alaba Agboola, stressed that the geo-political zone that the party national chairman comes from cannot impede the progress of the party.
He expressed support for Atiku and Ayu, noting that the country should be concerned with competence and not ethnicity.
The Zamfara state party chairman, Col. Bala Mande (retd.), said asking Ayu to step down for the South to ensure geo-political balancing would be the collective responsibility of the entire party members.
The Cross River State Chairman of the PDP Venatius Ikem, says Ayu doesn’t need to be forced out of office following the emergence of Atiku.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Tuesday in Calabar, Ikem said,
“The National Chairman’s promise is in the public domain. He doesn’t need to be forced out. Nevertheless, we have a crucial election at hand to deal with so we have to be very circumspect about how we deal with issues. The state chairmen’s forum will be meeting tomorrow in Abuja. “
The Director, Media and Publicity of PDP in Osun state, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said asking Ayu to step aside would affect the party’s chances of winning the presidential election.
According to him, those pushing for Ayu’s removal are only trying to please their selfish desires, adding that if Atiku emerged the President, it would then be correct to demand the PDP’s chairman’s removal.
But the party’s Chairman in Rivers state, Desmond Akawor, said, “That is what he (Ayu) said when he was elected; that even for the North to retain president that he wouldn’t mind sacrificing his position.
“So it is not a strange thing, it is what he said. If he does it, that means he has only fulfilled what he said.”
But the Plateau State chapter of the party faulted the demand for the PDP leader to step down, describing it as unfair.
In an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Tuesday ,the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, John Akans ,said although the party recognises geopolitical balancing in sharing of the party’s positions, those calling for Ayu to vacate his seat should wait until after the 2023 general elections
The Akwa Ibom State chapter of the party claimed it was not aware of any plot to force out Ayu. The state publicity secretary of the party, Mr Borono Bassey, explained that he would remain the chairman.
The Katsina PDP Chairman, Alhaji Salisu Majigiri, said the party members in the state would comply with the decision of the national leadership on the issue.
Speaking at a news conference in Kano on Tuesday, the state PDP Chairman, Shehu Sagagi, called for the resignation of the party’s national chairman.
Endorsing Sagagi’s stance, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Oyo State, Mr Akeem Olatunji contended that the right thing is for the national chairman of the party to come from the South since the presidential candidate of the party emerged from the North.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondent in Ibadan on Tuesday, Olatunji argued that this would give the South a sense of belonging “because the PDP is a national party and not a sectional one.”
The Delta state chapter of the party also dismissed the calls for Ayu’s resignation, saying they were not in support of the plot to force the party boss out of office.
“You know that Okowa is the leader of the party in the state and he is in charge of the party and as PDP in the state, we are not part of the calls for Ayu to step down,” a source said.
The state chairman of the party, Mr. Kingsley Esiso, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his phone. The Publicity Secretary of the party, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza said in a text message, “I am not aware of where your permutations are coming from.”