September 08, (THEWILL) – As the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meets for a crucial meeting in Abuja, on Thursday, there are indications that the party stakeholders may ask the National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, to step aside, to fulfil one of the key demands by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, for peace to return to the party.
THEWILL reports that some PDP governors, led by the Rivers State governor, have been agitating for Ayu’s sack for peace to reign, following a friction with the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, for picking Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, as running mate, over Wike, who was preferred by party leaders for the position.
While the meeting is expected to discuss issues relating to the composition of the presidential campaign council and appraise the state of affairs in the party, THEWILL learnt that more members of the National Working Committee (NWC) from the South have joined the push for Ayu to resign his position as a condition for the reconciliation process.
Although Atiku has refused to commit to Ayu’s sack, some south and northern leaders, including PDP BoT member, Chief Bode George and former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, have joined the call for Ayu’s exit, in ensuring that the party’s leadership structure reflects a North/south geopolitical spread.
Again, while the national chairman had declared that he would not vacate the seat because he has a four-year term in office to serve, the situation assumed a fresh dimension on Wednesday, as most members of the NWC at the meeting presided by Ayu were said to be weighing in on the national chairman to vacate the office for peace to reign.
A source, familiar with the development, said 15 out of the 19 member NWC, mainly from the southern part of the country, support Ayu’s removal from the office.
The source noted that the NWC members blamed Ayu for escalating the crisis with the aggrieved governors, rather than pursuing a peaceful resolution of the matter. They also cited his recent provocative reactions to the issues at stake.
“Unlike before, most of the NWC members, especially from the Southern part of the country, have expressed their displeasure at the way the national chairman was handling the matter. They expected that he would be more peace-embracing in handling the matter”, the source said.
Another source said the NWC meeting did not end on a cordial note, following the suggestion to Ayu to resign. The reaction to the call for his resignation prompted Southern members of the NWC to stage a walk-out from the meeting in protest. After the NWC, those who backed Ayu’s removal from office assembled for another meeting at the residence of a national vice chairman, to consolidate their position ahead of the NEC meeting.
Similarly, it was learnt that Ayu met with some of his backers, like former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, former Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu, and former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, at his residence for over an hour to restrategise.
When asked, the national publicity secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said Ayu’s resignation was not discussed during the NWC meeting.
Ologunagba said the NWC discussed arrangements for the Caucus and NEC meetings.
Speaking with newsmen, Ologunagba said that the major issues discussed at the meeting were the reconciliation of members of the party, the composition of the campaign council, and the situation of the party in Osun State.
Meanwhile, some presidential aspirants were absent at a consolidation meeting called by the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in Abuja.
Those absent at the meeting are Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, former Senate President, Pius Anyim, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The presidential aspirants who attended the meeting include Dele Momodu, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, Tari Oliver, Charles Ugwu and Kalu Chikwendu.
Commending those who attended the meeting for accepting the outcome of the convention that produced him as the PDP standard bearer, Atiku promised to work with all of them ahead of the 2023 general elections. He assured them that they have various roles to play in his victory at the polls.
In a related development, the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, is alleged to have offered to resign from his position as a peace offering for the resolution of the crisis in the party.
Speaking on this development, a member of the BoT said, “He told some of us, even though we appealed to him to be patient.”
The BoT chairman, who offered to resign for peace to reign in the party, had said he had only six months left in his tenure, which he was ready to sacrifice.
However, indications that all might still not be well with the party manifested on Wednesday, as Wike and his colleagues were absent at the caucus meeting, which precedes the NEC meeting.
The caucus meeting is usually regarded as the main meeting before the NEC, which ratifies decisions taken at the caucus meeting. While Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, was away in London, Governors Wike and Seyi Makinde were in Rivers State.
Some of those who attended were Atiku, Ayu, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, his Bayelsa State counterpart, Douye Diri, and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed. Deputy governors of Edo and Benue States were also present.
Interestingly, unlike the past, the PDP governors’ forum did not meet ahead of the meeting.
Reacting, the director general of the PDP governors’ forum, CID Maduabum, said the governors have been playing their roles behind the scenes.
He said, “The governors have been quite active and playing their role in resolving the issues from behind the scenes. You can see that Governor Fintiri is part of the reconciliation process which has recorded some good outcome so far, even though discussion is still ongoing.”