Connect with us


Cracks widen in PDP as N/Central insists on chairmanship

As the April 18, 2024, National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) approaches, apprehension has gripped members over who will take charge of the party afterwards, with stakeholders and interest groups engaged in a battle for the structure and soul of the party.

Daily Trust reports that stakeholders of the party from the North Central recently rose from a meeting in Abuja with the charge that one of their own should take over from the acting chairman, Iliya Damagum, and complete the tenure of the suspended national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu. Ayu hails from Benue State in the North Central, where the position is zoned, while Damagum is from Yobe State in the North East.

A source told Daily Trust that stakeholders, mainly from the North Central and other parts of the country, want the acting chairman to revert to his original position for several reasons.

He said, “The inability of the party to have a substantive national chairman has really impacted the state of the party. There is a consensus among members, even though others may not want to admit it, that we have not lived up to expectations.”

A group of members of the House of Representatives, led by Ikenga Ugochinyere (Imo), also added their voice, insisting that, going by the constitution of the PDP and in line with its zoning formula enshrined in its constitution, the position of the party chairman ought to remain in the North Central to conclude the unserved term of Senator Ayu.

Daily Trust further reports that the PDP has been embroiled in a leadership crisis since the aftermath of the party’s presidential primary election in 2022, which ultimately resulted in the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, losing the presidential election to the incumbent President Bola Tinubu. The crisis led to the suspension of Ayu and the appointment of Damagum as acting national chairman.

Since Damagum took over, agitations have been rife for the NWC to convene a NEC meeting, which has the power to act on some of the issues relating to the national chairmanship and others.

With the announcement of a date for the NEC meeting, stakeholders are already in contention over who will replace Damagum as the substantive chairman, while others are working to ensure that the acting chairman should continue in office.

A former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, who has been eyeing Damagum’s position, lamented that the party had failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians as a viable opposition since the 2023 general elections.

Suswam blamed the party leadership for the state of the party, saying unless there was an overhaul of its leadership, the party would “go nowhere” because the current leadership had lost focus.

He regretted the inability of the party to resolve the fallout of the 2022 presidential primary election, which saw five governors of the party work against the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 presidential elections. He also criticised the acting national chairman for occupying the position of the North Central following the removal of the substantive chairman, Senator Ayu, who hailed from the zone.

Suswam said, “PDP is comatose now, and nothing can happen now,” adding that it was regrettable that politicians were now preferring to hold talks with smaller parties and not the PDP.

He further said, “Until we provide that leadership, the PDP will not be a viable platform. We need to overhaul the leadership of the party. There is no pretence about it; everybody in the PDP knows it. Without discipline and reconciliation, the party goes nowhere.”

Daily Trust gathered that the move to get a substantive chairman is already on, just as those who want the present leadership to continue have been holding meetings to convince stakeholders that they have what it takes to turn things around for the better.

Atiku and Wike battle for the soul of the PDP

Observers have noted that unless there were last-minute efforts to rally stakeholders, there might be a serious crisis after the party’s NEC meeting.

Indications are rife that those loyal to Atiku want Damagum to go for a total overhaul of the party, while on the other hand, the loyalists of Wike in the party are working to maintain the status quo.

Atiku and Wike’s rivalry dates back to the presidential primary of the party for the 2023 elections, which was won by Atiku. The subsequent refusal of the presidential candidate to make Wike his running mate has seen the two bigwigs not see eye to eye since then.

Consequently, Wike worked against the election of Atiku by throwing his support behind Tinubu, a decision for which he has been rewarded with the position of Minister of the FCT.

While working with the APC government, Wike has insisted that he remained a member of the PDP and was working behind the scenes to control the apparatus of the party.

Many party insiders believe that the acting National Chairman, Damagum; the National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu; the National Vice Chairman (South), Dan Orbih, and many others are loyal “Wike men” and that continuing with the status quo would benefit the FCT minister.

If that is to happen, the hope of those threatening to sanction the FCT minister and others who worked against the party in the last elections will be dashed, pundits noted.

Moreover, the minister previously stated that he took permission from the Damagum-led NWC to participate in the Tinubu administration.

On the other hand, those loyal to Atiku and allegedly hoping to use the PDP as a vehicle to dislodge the APC in 2027 will want the status quo to change. They believe that a new national chairman will rejuvenate the party and position it for the task ahead.

A chieftain of the party, who is not happy with the status quo, told Daily Trust that “I don’t think what is happening is about Atiku or Wike. We should not reduce the party to the situation between two individuals. The general belief among members is that the party has become too weak to act as the main opposition party or even do anything for that matter, and it appears that the leadership is helpless.

“They are not doing what they are expected to do; many people believe that if a substantive chairman should come on board and see how they can turn things around, the party might be strong again and viable to operate. Maybe they can change the fortunes of the party and position it to win elections.

“So, I believe that is what many people are saying rather than reducing it to an Atiku, Wike situation.”

On the allegation of Wike backing the NWC, the PDP North Central Youth Leader, Ismaila Aruwa, told Daily Trust that all those were allegations, saying, “They have no evidence to back it up; it is just an allegation, except if they can prove it, then we can act on it. This is a political party, and we are all members, so no one has the power to say he is sponsoring this or that.”

Aruwa noted that naturally, as human beings, people had their allegiance to one person or another, but that what people should be talking about was if what was happening in the party was constitutional.

He said, “Division is normal in any organisation like a political party; what matters is the interest.

“What I expect people to be asking is whether what is happening in the party is constitutional or not. That is all. Are we following the laid-down rules and regulations? If it is about camps, that one is not an issue. It has become a normal thing in the PDP now that when people say Wike Camp or Atiku Camp, it is all about interest.

“People are already aligned to camps, but we are not surprised; all the leadership needs to do is do the right thing; that is all. The party is bigger than any individual, so the right thing needs to be done. If there are disagreements, there might be a vote, and the majority will carry the day.”

Ayu’s replacement is a constitutional issue; deviation requires consensus – Ex-officio

Sharing his view, a National Ex-Officio and former Nasarawa State Chairman of the party, Yunana Iliya, told Daily Trust that the issue was not open for discussion as it was a constitutional matter, adding that the party’s stakeholders would take the necessary steps to address the issue before it escalated.

He said, “The issue of the North Central producing someone to take over from Ayu is a constitutional matter. Where there is a vacancy due to death or resignation, the replacement should come from the same region as the former occupant.

“If that is what the constitution says, who am I to go against it? Who am I to go against the party?”

He acknowledged that in exceptional circumstances, stakeholders might need to deviate from the constitution, but that this would require a consensus among all party stakeholders; otherwise, the constitution would prevail.

He further said, “For those who want to oppose the party’s constitution, my hope is that we reach the NEC meeting where the final decision will be made. The critical stakeholders of the party, including the governors, BoT members, and various party caucuses, are aware of the situation and will act accordingly.”

Another senior member of the party, who asked not to be named, informed Daily Trust that Damagum and his supporters could not disregard the party’s constitution.

He noted that the North Central Caucus would soon convene to formulate their position and nominations.

He said, “In the past, when the party lost its woman leader, the South South presented a replacement in line with the constitution. The North Central situation should not be any different.”

author avatar
Ola Imole
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *