Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, his Oyo and Benue states counterparts – Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom – are to boycott the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign launch today in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, it was learnt yesterday.
The three aggrieved governors had similarly boycotted the inauguration of the campaign council at the Conference Centre, Abuja on September 28 along with their two colleagues – Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Okezie Ikepeazu (Abia).
Also yesterday, Ortom said he would not succumb to intimidation and blackmail by supporters of PDP National Chairman Senator Iyorchia Ayu, who hails from Benue State.
He maintained that since the chairman had promised to resign, if a northerner emerged, he should fulfill his promise.
A protracted post-presidential primary had hit the main opposition party, following Ayu’s refusal to resign after Atiku Abubakar emerged as candidate.
Both Atiku and Ayu have maintained that resignation by Ayu shold follow constitutional guidelines.
But, the governors have insisted that Ayu should quit to pave the way for a Southerner in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.
Atiku, Ayu and the campaign Director-General, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, are from the North.
Former Senate President Adolphus Wabara was appointed as Ayu’s replacement, in a move to reflect a semblance of balancing in power in the party.
However, the Wike camp had rebuffed the move, saying that the BoT was an advisory body and its chairmanship inconsequential.
The reconciliation moves initiated by Wabara in recent time to resolve the rift between Atiku and Wike have failed to yield the desired results.
The festering crisis of confidence has spilled to the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) as members are also split along the Atiku/Wike camps.
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The division in the NWC reached a climax a few days ago when four members returned monies totaling N122.4 million paid into their bank accounts by the leadership.
While the party leadership said the monies were meant for the members’ housing allowance, the four NWC members had expressed reservations about the propriety of the lodgments.
Apparently piqued by the actions of the four members, the party leadership last Tuesday set up an in-house committee to investigate the matter and submit a report within one week.
On September 21, Wike’s supporter resolved to pull out of the Atiku campaign council unless Ayu vacates office.
Chief Bode George, who read the communique after the meeting said:
“Senator Iyorchia Ayu must resign as the National Chairman of the party for an acting Chairman of the Southern Nigerian extraction to emerge and lead the party on the national campaign.
“Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu”.
Makinde’s aide, who clarified that the Oyo governor will not attend the Uyo event, also emphasisied that he will not be represented.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he could not speak for others four governors.
He said: “I can confirm to you that my governor will not be attending the campaign flag off. I can also say that I don’t see any of his four other colleagues in the same camp attending.
“You may recall that the five of them boycotted the official inauguration of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in Abuja a few days ago. And if the five governors did not attend the Abuja inauguration, I don’t see any of them attending the Uyo event”. Ortom, who said he will not trade the interest of the state to gain political power, spoke during an enlarged meeting with Jemgbagh PDP Elders Forum comprising Gboko, Tarka and Buruku Local Government Areas held at the Gboko residence of Mike Mku.
Jemgbah is made up of Tivs, spread in Tarka, Gboko and Buruku local Government area in Benue state.
Dr.Ayu hails from Gboko Local Government Area of Benue.
The meeting sought clarifications on the cold war between the governor and Ayu.
Ortom rejected that insinuations that he was pulling down a Jemgbagh son, explaining how he rallied support for his election against all odds.
The governor said he will never succumb to blackmail and keep silent in the face of injustice perpetrated by the PDP under Ayu’s leadership.
He said: “No one should blackmail me because of my senatorial ambition. Nobody should think he will intimidate me because of the senate election.”
“If God ordains me to be elected senator for the Benue Northwest zone, no amount of blackmail or intimidation could prevent me from winning.”
Ortom alleged that Ayu mounted a smear campaign and blackmail against his person when he met members of the PDP BoT.
He recalled his advice for Ayu to reach out to aggrieved leaders of the party and plead for their understanding over calls for his resignation.
Ortom said instead of listening to his counsel, Ayu chose to take the ignoble path of disuniting the party by his actions and utterances.
The governor accused Ayu of partiality during the PDP convention, which produced Atiku as presidential candidate.
He said: “Ayu himself committed to resigning should a northern presidential candidate emerge at the northern caucus at the Bauchi State lodge.”
Ortom wondered why Ayu reneged on his promise, which he voluntarily made before the northern leaders.
He insisted that despite the betrayals, intimidation and blackmail, he would continue to stand for justice for his people.
Chairman of the Jemgbagh PDP Elders Forum, Sam Tsumba said the Forum will invite Ayu and Ortom to resolve the conflict.