The crisis between the Peoples Democratic Party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, deepened on Thursday with the governor taking a swipe at the PDP national chairman.
Wike, at the inauguration of Omerelu internal roads in the Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, alleged that Ayu’s actions had clearly shown that he did not want the party to win the 2023 election.
The governor said that the national chairman wanted the party to lose, “we’ll help you, (Ayu).
Ayu, had in an interview BBC Hausa Service on Tuesday dismissed the clamour for his resignation by Wike and his loyalists, describing them as youngsters who lacked the knowledge about how the party was formed.
The governor and his loyalists at a meeting with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in London last week, reportedly demanded Ayu’s resignation as one of the conditions that must be fulfilled to resolve the post-presidential primary crisis rocking the opposition party.
Atiku defeated Wike in the presidential primary of the party.
Although a panel set up by the party recommended Wike as the running mate, Atiku settled for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State to the chagrin of the Rivers governor and his supporters.
Wike’s supporters argued that it was unfair for the party’s chairman and its presidential flag bearer to hail from the same region.
Speaking in the interview with BBC Hausa, Ayu said, “I didn’t commit any offence, I’m only reforming the party so I’m not bothered with all the noises. I know I’m doing my work and I didn’t steal any money so I see no reason for all these talks. When we started PDP, these children were not around. They are children who do not know why we formed the party. We will not allow any individual to destabilize our party.”
Wike berates Ayu
But on Thursday at the inauguration of Omerelu internal roads by a former South-West Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, Wike said the action and utterances of Ayu could jeopardise the party’s fortunes in the 2023 elections.
The governor explained that he expected Ayu, as party chairman, to unite all aggrieved members and galvanize them for the 2023 elections without division, so that PDP could win the poll.
Instead of showing appreciation to governors who supported him to emerge as the party chair, Wike said Ayu demonstrated ingratitude by describing them as children.
Wike said, “Dr Ayu said we are children. Yes, the children brought you to be chairman of the party. The children brought you from the gutter and made you chairman. Ayu, you were impeached as Senate president.
“Ayu was sacked by (ex-president Olusegun) Obasanjo in his administration two times. Arrogance cannot take you anywhere. Now, we have seen that you don’t want the party to win the election, we’ll help you.”
He dismissed the claim by Ayu that he was one of the founding fathers of the PDP, pointing out that he once abandoned the party, moved to another party and therefore cannot have equal stakes with those who stayed back to rebuild the PDP.
The governor explained that Ayu voluntarily promised to relinquish his chairmanship as a northerner if an aspirant from the north emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
Wike asked Ayu to be a man of honour and keep his promise by relinquishing his position.
He pointed out that if the party chair carries on ‘’with his arrogance,’’ the PDP governors he described as children would prove to him that he is a prodigal father.
“A man who is inconsistent and ran away from the party, telling those of us who spent our time, sleepless nights to make sure this party does not go down, we are children.
“Now, you have the temerity, the audacity to tell us we are children.”
Wike further said Nigerians were watching the unfolding events, adding, ‘’Nigerians have seen how ungrateful some of you can be, and that’s why also Nigerians must be careful. If we give this man power, if we give these people power, are you sure they will also be grateful to Nigerians?’’
“As you make your bed, so you will lie on it. I’ve been quiet thinking that we will reconcile. Now that you have brought in arrogance to say you were elected, where did you campaign? Show me where your poster was anywhere in this state,’’ he challenged Ayu.
Inaugurating the project, George declared that the chairmanship issue must be addressed before the commencement of the campaign for the 2023 general election.
He contended that it was against the norm and culture of PDP for the positions of the presidential candidate, national chairman and the chairman of the Board of Trustees to be occupied by persons from one section of the country.
Bode George explains
He noted, “Party members from the South are already feeling alienated. PDP is not a private company. So, before we start the presidential campaign at the end of this month, the national chairman must go to the South.
“That is what Governor Wike is saying and as a life member of the Board of Trustees of our party, I support this position 100 per cent.
“Statutorily, it is the national chairman who hands over the party’s flag to our presidential candidate. How will party members from the South feel when they see that at all political rallies Southerners have no public political representation?”
George maintained that this constituted a fundamental flaw and lack of inclusiveness which he said is diametrically opposed to the original thinking of the founding fathers of the PDP.
He urged party members to be united in their determination to ensure that the PDP returns to the Presidential Villa in Abuja by May 29, 2023.
“But we can only go back to Aso Rock if we are united and not divided. Some people are abusing Governor Wike; he is a trouble shooter. Those abusing him, as an elder and as a father in this party, I am directing them; they must stop immediately because Governor Wike is only fighting for injustice, for equity, for fairness in our party.
“He is not only a strong pillar in this party, but a mobiliser, a financier and an actualiser. Since he joined the PDP, he has not left this party. I’m also a founding father of the party and since 1998 I have not left this party,” he added.
Reacting to the war of words, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologbunagba stated, “We recognise the contribution of every member of this party. What is key is that the entire leadership of this party has agreed on one thing and that is, the Nigerian issue is the big issue including Governor Wike. How do we rescue and rebuild the country?
“I can speak authoritatively that the party is solid, the party is moving ahead with its programmes, it is moving forward with its mission to rescue and rebuild Nigeria.”
When contacted, the Special Assistant Media to Iyorchia Ayu, Simon Imobo-Tswam, asked, “Did he (Wike) said so? I am indisposed, so I am in the dark about this. As it is, I can’t say anything now.”
Several calls and SMS to both Ayu and Spokesperson for the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Daniel Bwala, were not replied.
But a former Governor of Plateau State, Fidelis Tapgun expressed concern over the feud between the PDP presidential candidate and Wike, saying it may pose a challenge to the party’s quest to reclaim power in 2023.
Tapgun in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Thursday particularly lamented that the verbal exchange between Ayu and Wike marked a sad chapter in the party’s quest for unity, describing the statements attributed to the two party leaders as wrong and condemnable.
Tapgun , a member of PDP Board of Trustees said, “I think what the PDP national chairman and the Rivers governor said was wrong. They should not have said such things publicly because they are leaders.
“What we need in PDP at this time is unity of the party and not crisis, especially as we are entering into the 2023 election. So our leaders should learn to conduct themselves in ways that will help the party achieve its aim to emerge victorious during the forthcoming poll.”
Clarifying Wike’s statement on Ayu’s impeachment as senate president, Tapgun added,” I must also add that the PDP national chairman was not impeached because he did anything wrong as Senate President. He was impeached because he did not compromise over MKO Abiola’s issue. So, it is wrong for anybody to use it against him.”
Bafarawa, Babatope warn
A former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, admonished the party leaders to handle the crisis carefully.
He said, “We have our leader, our leader is our party chairman. He is the custodian of our party, so if any of the sons becomes whatever he wants to become, all of us are also sons like him. So, we have to wait to hear what the parents have to say.’’
He described the crisis as an internal issue which the party leaders should resolve.
A BoT member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope frowned on Wike’s threat to work against the party in the next election, expressing surprise over his statement.
He said, ‘’I’m surprised that Wike is behaving this way. We have appealed to him and he still wants to go ahead and work against the party; so good luck to him.’’