Wike Backs Damagum to Retain Seat as Govs Scramble for His Replacement

•PDP won’t implode, poised to regain power come 2027, Wabara declares

Ologbondiyan: Tomorrow’s NEC is all about acting national chairman

•North central leaders endorse Suswam for party’s number one office

Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia

As the  National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  meets tomorrow in Abuja,

the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike is alleged to be pulling all the stops  to help  National Chairman of the Party, Umar Damagum, retain his office.

Already, governors elected on the platform of the PDP are said to be divided on the main agenda of the meeting, which is to either retain Damagum or replace him as some members have demanded.

While some of the governors are believed to support the idea that Damagum should go and allow someone from the North Centra zone to replace him, since the suspended national chairman,  Iyiorcha Ayu is from the zone, a larger chunk of them are alleged to have been won over by Wike to support the elongation of Damagum’s reign.

This, nonetheless, the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Dr. Adolphus Wabara, has said the party would neither implode nor explode despite the challenges buffeting it. 

He said the former ruling party was poised to regain power come 2027, adding that, “those expecting the party to explode would be disappointed.”

But confirming what Thursday would look like, a former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, has said the PDP NEC was going to be all about whether Damagum, would continue in office or replaced.

Also, ahead of the NEC, some leaders of the party in the North Central zone, have endorsed a former governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam, for the position of national chairman of PDP.

Unfortunately, attempt to ensure that the PDP caucus  in the House of Representatives closed ranks ahead of the meeting was thwarted yesterday after it ended in a deadlock.

Interestingly, tomorrow is not looking good for the anti-Damagum camp, after Wike has allegedly stepped-in in his usual manner, and ‘persuaded’ a majority of the governors, who have now allegedly consented to work with him to retain Damagum.

A section of the PDP leadership had long alleged that Damagum was under the direct influence of Wike and that through him, the FCT minister, has maintained indirect control of the party and some of its structures, the same manner he is believed to have held down the structures of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State. 

Although Wike had since maintained some curious silence since the battle to replace Damagum started, with the NEC billed to hold tomorrow, he is said to have rolled out his arsenal in support of the acting national chairman, a development believed to have further created more confusion nay division in the party. 

Speculations that Wike has been able to influence some of the governors has begun to manifest in the disagreement amongst them. While some still believe Damagum should go, those with Wike are said to have stamped his decisions and are standing with him all the way.

Apart from Damagum, party sources also claim that Wike has over half of the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party on his side, who would readily do his bidding anytime, as far as the PDP politics is concerned. 

But Wabara, a former President of the Senate, who expressed his feelings concerning the future of PDP during a chat with journalists, and insisted that a bright future was awaiting the party. 

“Whatever people think is happening in PDP today is not strange nor peculiar to the PDP. Political parties all over the world especially the big parties will always have challenges from time to time,” he said. 

Wabara argued that PDP would not receive mortal blows from the party crises because according to him, the party “is richly blessed with many mature minds capable of resolving any crisis.” 

While acknowledging the existence of “internal issues” in his party, the BoT chairman exuded confidence that things would be sorted out peacefully. 

“PDP has come a long way and has weathered bigger storms in the past. All those expecting PDP to explode will surely be disappointed. We will come out stronger and ultimately rebound as the ruling national party come 2027,” he stated. 

He said the NEC meeting would provide the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues. 

“The interesting thing is that whatever issues we have today in our party will only make us stronger and more united. 

“I’m confident that whatever grievances any member has, will be trashed at the NEC meeting on Thursday. Our party elders will use the elders’ lens to look at them and have them resolved,” he added. 

National Chair: NCentral Endorses Suswam 

Some leaders of the party in the North Central geo-political zone region, have endorsed a former governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam for the position of national chairman of the opposition Party.

The leaders on the aegis of ‘Platform of North Central PDP Stakeholders Forum’ announced the endorsement of Suswam on Monday night at the end of their meeting, which took place at Ibeto Grand Hotel, Abuja.

Suswam, however, did not attend the meeting.

The meeting attended by prominent political leaders and stakeholders, including former and serving members of the State and National Assembly, former ministers, appointees and party leaders, women, youths, and observers from the zone expressed the desire for the need for the party to allow the zone complete the tenure of the suspended National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.

The position of the North Central stakeholders was confirmed by a former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, when he featured on Arise Television programme.

He said the zone wanted to complete its tenure following the suspension of Ayu, adding also that the PDP did not have to wait for court litigation, stressing, too, that based on available information at his disposal, he did not think that Ayu was in court.

“I do not think the meeting on Thursday is going to be about ‘are we electing a leader or are we discussing leadership’? What the meeting is about, from what I am picking among leaders and among members, is would Damagun remain in office or will he be replaced?

“There are those who have come up with the argument that the vacancy does not exist in the office of the chairmanship and they argue that Damagun is there because the constitution provides that where the chairman ceases to exist, either by resignation, by death and by all the conditions put forward by the constitution, the deputy national chairman from that zone, that is from the north south dichotomy would be the one to stand in office pending when a substantive chairman is brought forward.

“So, the north central is saying we want to bring forward a replacement which would be the substantive chairman. I think that is the major issue that the party will have to contend with on Thursday,” he stated.

Speaking at the meeting, the former senator representing Benue North West, Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev, said, in line with the constitution of the party, it was only right to return the position of the National Chairman to Benue State.

Orker-Jev noted that the chairmanship position currently subsists in Benue after what he described as “the unfortunate suspension” of Ayu about a year ago.

Similarly, a former minister from Plateau State, Chief Damishi Sango, said the time had come for the genuine members of the PDP to correct the mistakes of the past by throwing their weight behind Suswam.

Other stakeholders that spoke along the same line from the six states and the FCT that make up the North Central zone, unanimously said the endorsement of Suswam was a wise decision.

PDP House Caucus Meeting Deadlocked 

Efforts the PDP caucus  in the House of Representatives  to close ranks ahead of the NEC was thwarted yesterday as a meeting  held held to that effect ended in deadlock. 

A group of 60 lawmakers under the auspices of opposition lawmakers led by a member  representing Ideato Federal constituency, Hon. Imo Ugochinyere, recently demanded the resignation of Damagun to pave the way for a North central person to emerge chairman pending the conduct of convention as required by the party’s constitution.

But in a counter move, the PDP caucus in the House, dissociated itself from the coalition of opposition lawmakers, saying the group was unknown to the parliament. 

At a meeting yesterday was summoned by the leader of the Caucus and House Minority leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, both factions were sharply divided as they could not reach a middle ground. 

Interestingly, the main agenda of the Pre-NEC meeting which was to pass vote of confidence on Damagun by lawmakers loyal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, also hit the rock. 

The coalition of opposition lawmakers calling for Damagun’s resignation stood their ground, insisting that someone from the North-central zone take the position.

The lawmakers also insisted on the expulsion of Wike and any other politician involved in anti-party activities.

Meanwhile, the national caucus of the PDP will today decide whether to allow Damagum to continue to act as the national chairman of the party till December next year.

Damagum, who is the deputy national chairman for North has been in acting capacity since March 2023, when Ayu was suspended by his ward in Gboko, Benue State.

Announcing tomorrow’s NEC in a statement by the  National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP informed all members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that the 98th NEC meeting scheduled for tomorrow, April 18, 2024 will commence at 2pm.

Ologunagba said, “By this announcement all NEC members are expected to arrive promptly at the NEC Hall of the PDP National Secretariat, Abuja for the commencement of the meeting.

“For the purpose of accreditation, only Constitutionally Accredited members of NEC will be allowed into the meeting. All members of the party should please take note and be guided accordingly,” Ologunagba said. 

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