The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) Tuesday replaced the suspended National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, with the Deputy National Chairman (North), Mr Umar Iliya Damagum.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who disclosed this in Abuja, said Damagum was appointed in an acting capacity by the NWC.
Call for Ayu’s removal gained momentum last year shortly after the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the PDP candidate for the just concluded presidential election.
And prior to the poll, the G-5 governors, led by Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, insisted Ayu must go to pave way for a North-South balance in the opposition party.
However, in a surprise move, weeks after the presidential election and days after the governorship poll, the Ayu-led NWC suspended former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, former Ekiti state Governor Ayodele Fayose, former Katsina state Governor Ibrahim Shema, Dennis Ityavyar (Benue state), Dr. Aslam Aliyu (Zamfara state) over their alleged involvement in anti-party activities and referred Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom to the party’s National Disciplinary Committee for the same offence.
Ortom, Anyim, Fayose, and other suspended party leaders berated Ayu-led NWC and called his bluff.
And a few days after, the leadership of Ayu’s PDP Igyorov ward in Gboko local government area of Benue state, Sunday, suspended the national chairman, accusing him of anti-party activities.
Barely 24 hours after the suspension, the Benue state High Court in Makurdi ordered Ayu to stop parading himself as the PDP chairman following an ex-parte application from a party chieftain in his home state, Terhide Utaan.
And in obedience to the Justice W. I. Kpochi’s order issued Monday and dated March 27, 2023, , the party’s NWC, after an emergency meeting complied and upheld Ayu’s suspension.
Damagum, party scribe speak
Briefing journalists Tuesday in Abuja, Ologunagba, who was flanked by the PDP National Youth Leader, Muhammed Sulieman, National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, National Treasurer, Ahmed Yayari Mohammed, National Organising Secretary, Umar Bature, National Financial Secretary, Daniel Woyegikuro, National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and Damagum, said the NWC’s action was in line with the court order and in line with Section 45 (2) of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017).
The NWC charged all leaders, “critical stakeholders, teeming members and supporters of our great Party to remain calm and united at this critical time.”
In his brief remarks, the acting national chairman hinted that the NWC would meet today (Wednesday) to review the party’s past actions.
A credible source who craved anonymity, exclusively told Blueprint that the NWC would also fix a date and send a notice for the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to enable the apex body rectify its actions.
Damagum, who confirmed that Ayu was in the office Tuesday, clarified that “Yes, he was suspended by the court, but he has every right to come and pack his belongings.”
According to Damagum, he would be in an acting capacity pending the determination of the court on the matter before it.
On what his action would be on the suspended members, Damagum said “What you are asking me is already on my mind, the NWC is meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), in that meeting we will discuss and possibly review some of the past decisions.”
It’s end of your reign, Wike tells Ayu
Commenting on the development, Governor Wike urged Ayu to accept his fate, saying his reign had ended.
Speaking during the inauguration of the Trans-Kalabari Road at Degema Krakrama Bridge, Degema local government area Tuesday, the governor said: “Ayu said nobody can suspend him but today, he has packed out from the national office. We have an acting chairman. I told him he will go whether you like it or not, he will go.
“Those lawyers telling you the ward has no power to suspend you, that only National Executive Council (NEC) can, then you don’t understand what is happening. When you came, it was the ward that suspended (Uche) Secondus, and you went and took office, is it not?
“So, is it now that you know that it is only NEC that can suspend you? Let me tell you, since they’ve not told you, the court has struck off that section of our constitution that says it’s only NEC can suspend (chairman). PDP did not even appeal the judgement.
“So, forget it, you are gone. You are wasting your time. We are ready for the battle. I am not from Benue, but I have an interest and that interest is that Ayu must go.”
Mocking the embattled party chair, Wike said: “Look at it, a national chairman, your own ward will be suspending you. Does it not tell you that you are not on the ground? Your own ward will be suspending you and you go to television to say only NEC can suspend you. Stay, wait for NEC, but then know that you’re gone.
“Ayu, the man you supported for president, you didn’t give him a vote, he lost. We supported a Southern president and we won in our states for equity, justice and fairness.
“A man who lost his unit, a man who lost his ward, a man who lost his local government, a man who lost his state and he is coming to preside over us who won our units, won our wards, won our local governments, won our state, something must be wrong.
“You cannot reap where you never sowed. If all of us have lost our states, what will you be chairing? You want to use Rivers State to be chairman; we are not a party to that. Go and bring your own local government.
“Here (in Rivers), we won 32 over 32 seats for House of Assembly, Ayu, how many did you win? Here, we won the 3 seats for the Senate too, Ayu, how many did you win? We won 11 out of the 13 seats for the House of Representatives, Ayu, how many did you win?”
Inaugurating the road project, Oyo state Governor Seyi Makinde noted that Governor Wike had done so well for Rivers people because of the spread of his development projects in virtually every community, priding himself as following the footsteps of the Rivers governor.
He’s an evil that befell PDP – Nnamani
Also in a reaction, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani said Ayu’s “deception and abysmal performance is unmitigated.”
He said the former Senate president’s leadership had brought misfortune to the PDP because of his ineptitude, greed and wickedness.
Nnamani, who was expelled from the party, said: “Ayu is just an unmitigated disaster. His leadership is an evil that befell the PDP. The only option left is to show him the exit door.
“How can Ayu be relying on the PDP constitution section 57 (7) to seek refuge when he had flagrantly subverted the same section to sack key stakeholders of the party including me.”
Section 57(7) of the PDP constitution stipulates that “Notwithstanding any other provision relating to discipline, no executive committee at any level, except the National Executive Committee (NEC), shall entertain any question of discipline as may relate or concern a member of the National Executive Committee, Deputy Governors or members of the National Assembly.”
“Ayu lacks the moral right to stay a day longer in office as National Chairman. If he still has any modicum of honour, he should quit immediately. Look at the shame he has brought on the PDP. Look at the array of key stakeholders Ayu has sacked or forced to leave the party.
“Except Ayu is a man without shame or honour, he has no business remaining in office,” Nnamani said.
He therefore called on the PDP NEC and its Board of Trustees (BOT) to show Ayu the way out to save the party from complete extinction.
PCC queries sanction
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Mr. Charles Aniagwu, has described Ayu’s suspension as illegal.
In a statement Tuesday in Asaba, Aniagwu said those behind the suspension were ignorant of the provisions of the party’s constitution.
He said that section 57(7) of the PDP Constitution was very clear on who had the power to suspend or discipline a member of the National Working Committee or National Executive Committee of the party.
“When they proceeded to ask the Ward of the National Chairman to take disciplinary action against him, assuming that they have the power, they ought to have given him fair hearing by summoning him to give him the opportunity to defend himself.
“But the Section 57 did not give them the power to carry out such action against a member of NWC.
“So, if anyone is proceeding to court with such illegal suspension, he is just making unnecessary troubles for the party,” he said.
The spokesperson said the exparte order from the court restraining Ayu from carrying out his duties as national chairman was most unfortunate as the basis for granting the said order was faulty.
He, however, expressed optimism that the party would come out stronger from its current travails. (NAN)
Earlier, some members of the PDP Igyorov (Iyorchia Ayu’s ward) PDP expanded Ward Executive Committee had passed a vote of full confidence on Senator Ayu and pledged their full support for his leadership style.
Barrister Stephen Shimahile who addressed the press conference on behalf of the group in Abuja, Tuesday said: “We, the undersigned PDP Ward Executive Committee Members of Igyorov Council Ward, have categorically disclaimed and disassociated ourselves from the purported letter of vote of No confidence and suspension of Senator Dr. Iyorchial Ayu as a member of PDP in Igyorov Council Ward of Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State dated the 24th day of March 2023.”
He continued: “The executive committee has never discussed in any of our meetings before the election or post-2023 General Election about the conduct of the National Chairman. Chapter 10 section 57 of the party’s Constitution 2017 as amended.
“The Executive Committee Members have stated clearly that they have no knowledge about the letter and have not authorized anybody whatsoever to generate such mischievous letter on behalf of the Executive Committee.
“The purported signatures on the letter were forged and no member of the PDP Executive Committee of Igyorov Council Ward has signed that letter nor caused it to be signed on his or her behalf.
“The names of the Executive Committee Members are wrongly written and spelled, which shows the desperation of the mischief makers.
“Igyorov PDP Ward Executive Committee hereby passes vote of full confidence on Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and we also pledge our full support for his pragmatic leadership style (as the National Chairman of the Party).”