Ayu as Latest Casualty of PDP’s Unending Crisis

Post election periods are usually time for political healings but for the main opposition’s Peoples Democratic Party, the reverse is the case as the crisis rocking the party is far from abating. Emameh Gabriel Reports

The embattled National Chairman of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyorchia Ayu, became the latest casualty of the protracted crisis that has engulfed the party since its presidential primary election held in June last year.

Ayu, the former Senate President who became PDP National Chairman in October 2021 in an elective convention, like others before him never had respite since the party’s presidential primary that saw the election of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the party’s standard bearer for the 2023 presidential poll.

Ayu on Tuesday stepped down from his position as PDP National Chairman 24 hours after a Benue High Court restrained him from parading himself as the National Chairman of the party.

He had initially after the ruling, called the sack a bluff, but made a U-turn amid pressure and threats from his traducers.

He had since been replaced with the Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Illya Damagum, who will act as the party’s national chairman until the final determination of the suit.

The former Senate President during the ill-fated Third Republic of Ibrahim Babangida administration, took over from Uche Secondus who was also unceremoniously removed from office in 2021 over allegation of poor management of the party’s affairs.

His removal has seen the party parading three national chairmen in less than three years.

The chairmanship of the party has witnessed a high turnover rate in its 25 years history of existence since 1998, with most of them leaving in controversial circumstances and without completing their terms in office.

The only two that completed their tenure were Chief Barnabas Gemade and Dr Ahmadu Ali. Gemade served as chairman between 2001 and 2003, when the Chairmanship was a two-year term, and due to misunderstanding with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, he could not renew his term, giving way to Audu Ogbe, who like his predecessor subsequently fell out with Obasanjo.

Ahmadu Ali who succeeded Ogbe after the latter was forced to resign, enjoyed congenital relationship with the president, whom he had earlier served as federal commissioner for education, during the military era, in what observers came to describe as garrison democracy, went on to enjoy a full term after he was elected party chairman.

The tenures of Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Dr Okwesileze Nwodo and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur were tumultuous, which eventually consumed them.

While Ogbulafor was removed by President Goodluck Jonathan’s pro – northern stand during the interregnum that occasioned the death of  President Umaru Yar’adua, both Nwodo and Tukur fell under the pressure from the party’s governors who resisted their authorities, in the struggle for influence.

Like Secondus whose removal was orchestrated by Wike and his camp in the PDP, Ayu has been served the same meal by the same Wike-led faction in the party.

Since the party lost power at the centre in 2015, Ayu is the fourth person to have assumed that position, succeeding Secondus who stepped in after Ahmed Makarfi who replaced Ali Modu Sheriff. Ironically, Sheriff took over from Secondus who was the deputy national chairman, south, after Adamu Muazu was forced to resign as atonement for the 2015 presidential defeat.

The chief protagonist in the plot to unseat Ayu is Governor Wike, who together with his fellow governors in the G-5 group continued to exercise disproportionate influence on the party in the main time through the power of the purse, a factor that was crucial in foisting Secondus on the party in 2017.

As events unfold in days to come, it will become clear which faction could muster the legal dexterity to keep the other side at bay. Whether Atiku and his faction in the party will be able to sustain his slippery hold against Wike to control the structure of the party, is a topic for another day.

The Peoples Democratic Party has been engulfed in a protracted crisis following the outcome of the party’s presidential primaries which produced Atiku Abubakar as its candidate.

The crisis is deeply rooted in the allegation of imbalance in the composition of the Party’s leadership positions which seems to have northern dominance with  Ayu as national chairman of the party and former vice president Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate.

The rebellion in the party is spearheaded by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state, with the support of four other governors and some prominent leaders of the party, who have since been calling for and are still insisting that the chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu (from the north) must resign for a southerner to take his position.

Love is lost and trust broken between the warring camps in the party, which signals that the party may not be redeemed any time soon.

Wike had wanted a pound of flesh from Ayu, the man who allegedly rigged the PDP presidential election against him. PDP’s presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, was not ready to make Ayu, a sacrificial lamb for Wike’s presumed vendetta.

It would be recalled that Wike who contested the party presidential primary election and lost to Atiku in the most controversial manner, and some Southern PDP stakeholders had insisted on the resignation of the national chairman of the party as the only condition to bring them to the table for talks.

They had hinged their argument on two conditions; the constitution of the party on rotation must not only be respected but for the sake of equity and justice, the national chairman of the party should be zoned to the South. But all these fell on deaf ears till Ayu was eventually sacked by the court and of course his subsequent stepping aside.

The presiding judge, Justice W.I. Kpochi, gave the interim order in the suit No. MHC/85/2023 filed at the court by Terhide Utaan (the Applicant) with Ayu and the PDP as Defendants/Respondents.

The application was supported by a 15-paragraph affidavit to which it was annexed three exhibits A1, A2 and B which were the applicant’s membership card, of the second defendant, receipts for payment of dues and a vote of no confidence passed on the 1st Defendant/Respondent by the Igyorov Ward PDP leadership of the 2nd defendant in Gboko local government area of Benue State.

The court order had read: “Upon hearing Mr. M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel ably move the application and upon a dispassionate consideration of the facts placed before me in the pool of the affidavit evidence, and again, upon the consideration of the issues distilled in the written address by M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel, it is my candid view that this is a proper case to grant the interim injunction as craved”.

Speaking shortly after the ruling, Mr. Utaan explained that he approached the court to have Ayu removed from office because “we naturally expected that out of the performance that we have just recorded as a party in Benue we expected Dr. Ayu, like it is done in saner climes, to step aside honourably because he wasn’t able to lead the party to victory; and allow the party to move on without him.

“Unfortunately he has refused to show or display that kind of honour and I thought it wise to approach the court to to see how to agree with the position of his ward who only 24 hours ago, suspended him from the party. Our expectation is that you cannot be the National Chairman of a party that you are not a member of.

“Fortunately for us as a party, Dr. Ayu is no longer a member of the PDP as declared by his ward and under normal circumstances, he has no reason whatsoever to continue as the National Chairman of our party.”

Ayu who was adamant after pressure from the five PDP  governors (G-5) led by Governor Wike, was ambushed by 12 out of the 17 member Executive of Igyorov Council Ward of the PDP in Gboko LGA on Sunday when they suspended the National Chairman from the party after passing a vote of no confidence on him over alleged anti- party activities.

The PDP in Benue state had during last weekend accused Ayu of being responsible for the failure of the party in the state.

The PDP in the state also questioned why the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party will single out Governor Samuel Ortom from the G5 for investigation and for meting out punitive measures against some persons, including Professor Dennis Ityavyar over alleged anti-party activities without facing any disciplinary committee.

The party in a statement signed by the state publicity secretary, Bemgba Iortyom, had explained that the action of the NWC was in contempt of a subsisting court injunction restraining PDP at all levels from taking any punitive action against the Benue state governor pending the determination of a substantive suit which is lying before a court of competent jurisdiction on the matter.

The state chapter of the PDP said going by the mood within party’s ranks in Benue, it was the expectation that the emphasis now would be on mending bonds of unity and internal cohesion, which were badly damaged in the build-up to and during the 2023 elections leading to the huge losses recorded by the party at the polls against an evidently weaker opposition.

Ayu had earlier described his suspension by the Executive Committee of Igyorov council ward of Gboko local government area in Benue State as  null and void.

Special Adviser to the National Chairman on Media and Communications, Simon Imobo-Tswam, had said in a statement shortly after the pronouncement of a Benue High over Ayu’s status as PDP national chairman said the purported suspension by executive members of his ward leading to his sack by the court was an exercise in futility as it derived its strength majorly from gross illiteracy, ignorance, gambling and desperation from mischief makers.

Ayu alleged that the suspension letter was written and only given to the members who he said were coerced, to sign somewhere in Makurdi. He added that the chairman, his deputy and legal adviser didn’t sign the purported suspension letter.

He, however,rescinded his earlier position after Wike declared war on him few hours after a court that sacked him as the national chairman of the PDP.

Wike had moments after Ayu’s sack declared that the embattled National Chairman of the PDP had lost the right to remain in his position having lost his polling unit, ward, local government and State at the just-concluded general elections.

Wike warned Ayu to get prepared because the war against him in the party had just begun.

The Governor said it had become unthinkable to allow someone unable to deliver his political unit, ward, local government and State to the PDP during the last general elections to preside over the party.

Wike said it would be morally offensive for Ayu to remain as the national chairman of the PDP after the catastrophic defeat of the party under his watch in his unit, ward, local government, state and national level insisting the suspension of Ayu was the beginning of the fight to save the party.

According to him: “Those of you who are fighting that they have suspended him, you have not seen anything yet. The fight has started. Ayu, the fight has just started. If you know him, those of you who are close to him, tell him, Iyorchia Ayu, the fight has just started.

“Will you preside over the one (Rivers PDP) I have secured victory for? You want to come and preside over this state (Rivers) so that we will begin to donate money to the party? You, bring your own state to the party too, so that your state can contribute money to the national. If you don’t deliver your state, you can’t preside over us. You cannot.”

Wike warned party members thinking of siding Ayu to fight the suspension slammed on him to stay aside otherwise they would do so to their detriment.

He said: “Look at somebody, who did anti-party, he is suspending people. The chief priest of the anti-party, native doctor of the anti-party suspended those who have worked hard for this party.

“All of you who are joining Ayu, be prepared. Now, I have no other job, the job I have now is to put more heat on them and I will continue to do that.”

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