Some stakeholders have begun a search for a replacement for the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Iyorchia Ayu, amidst rising tension over the face-off between supporters of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and leadership of the party, indications emerged, at the weekend.
It was gathered that the anti-Ayu group, who are insisting he must be removed before the 2023 polls were looking towards the South East for replacement.
Multiple sources alleged that the move is spear-headed by supporters of the Rivers State Governor, in the National Executive Committee (NEC), and leaders of the party, who voted for Wike as their preferred choice for the vice presidential candidate, at a panel set up by opposition to shop for a suitable running mate for former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
The opposition party has been in crisis since the unveiling of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as vice presidential candidate. The choice of Okowa has not gone down well with loyalists of the Rivers State governor.
According to them, Wike ought to have been the vice presidential candidate, especially as 14 out 17 members of a special panel to shop for a running mate for Atiku reportedly voted in favour of the Rivers governor.
The aggrieved party leaders accused Ayu of bias in the processes leading to the emergence of both the PDP candidate and his running mate. Besides, the party chairman is also accused of running the party as a one man show.
The PDP chairman’s case, it was gathered, is worsened by his recent face-off with his state governor, Samuel Ortom, over nomination of party candidates in the just-concluded primaries.
Daily Sun gathered that the development has polarised different organs of the PDP, including the Governors’ Forum and the National Working Committee (NWC).
On the one side are Wike, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Okezie Ikpeazu, Samuel Ortom and Seyi Makinde governors of Rivers, Enugu, Abia, Benue and Oyo states respectively; while on the other side are governors Okowa, Aminu Tambuwal, Darius Ishaku, Diri Douye, Udom Emmanuel, Godwin Obaseki and Ahmadu Fintiri of Delta, Sokoto, Taraba, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Adamawa states. Though Bauchi Governor, Bala Mohammed enjoys good relationship with Wike, it could be immediately ascertained which side of the divide he belongs.
Similarly, it was gathered that members of the PDP NWC are split into two groups led by Ayu and the deputy national chairman (North) on the one hand and the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Alapaja, and National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu, on the other hand.
A party source told Daily Sun that the anti-Ayu group has vowed to stop at nothing to ensure he is removed.
The source said: “They have started looking for a replacement for the national chairman. And they are looking towards the South East, as a way of placating the zone, which is aggrieved that it has lost out in the party.
“Most of those who voted for Wike at that panel as their preferred vice presidential candidate are part of them. The NWC is equally split. Atiku may not want Ayu to go. But he will not come out to defend him.”
A source close to one of the governors told Daily Sun that it is only a matter of time, before the PDP chairman is sent packing.
According to him, “you will remember that when Ayu became a national chairman, at a thanks giving that was held for him in Makurdi, the governors came and Wike told Ayu, Mr. National Chairman, you have come to the party at the time that the party needs to heal itself. But if you begin to do otherwise, me, I will ‘shout o’. He said it three times. I will not keep quiet. It is flowing from there, it is expected that when you are able to help someone, he should be dealing with you with a open hand.”
The source also said: “Ayu went into the competition (nomination exercises) with a biased mind. He had a candidate in mind. And he worked against the very people that worked for him to be chairman. To make matters worse for Ayu; he was fighting Ortom over a House of Representatives seat.”
However, in his reaction, Ayu, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Communication and Strategy, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said the alleged plot to oust him is in the realm of rumour.
Imobo-Tswan told Daily Sun that the PDP chairman was neither biased in the nomination processes nor is he ‘running a one man show’.
“If anyone or group is truly pushing for Ayu’s removal, such a person or group is/are operating from a position of gross ignorance. Do they know what Ayu’s removal entails? If Ayu resigns now, who takes over? A northern candidate? It changed nothing. So, let’s suppose it’s a southern candidate because the presidential candidate is from the North.
“Okay. So, he resigns and the chairmanship goes to the South. Will the South have the national chairman and national secretary? That is an unseen disruption.
“Those calling for Ayu’s resignation are not thinking these things through; they are being driven largely by emotions,” he said.
When contacted, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said there is neither a crack in the opposition party nor in the NWC. Nevertheless, Ologunagba told Daily Sun that the party has a robust conflict resolution mechanism to resolve any issue in the PDP.
According to him, “there is no division whatsoever in the party and in the NWC. Any report or idea whatever will be in the realm of fake news intended to divide the party. Knowing fully well that we are united in our mission to rescue and rebuild Nigeria.