Today’s crucial National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is one that could end the ongoing party crisis as the party needs a united front to succeed at the 2023 general elections. However, a poor outcome today could further divide the party and weaken it ahead of the elections.
Matters in the party got heated yesterday, when some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) protested against the continued leadership of Iyorchia Ayu as national chairman.
The regular meeting of the NWC was held in preparation for today’s expanded NEC meeting. A source at the meeting revealed that some members, particularly, from the Southern part of the country, protested against the manner Ayu is leading the party, especially during the present crisis.
Discussion on the way out of the party’s crisis, however, suffered setback following the abrupt end of the meeting after the aggrieved members staged a walkout.
Ayu, on hearing the introductory remarks against his style of leadership, was said to have quickly excused himself from the meeting. Following his movement out of the meeting, other NWC members, particularly from the South, immediately staged a walkout, led by the party’s deputy national chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja.
It was also gathered that NWC members had blamed Ayu for escalating the party crisis with his provocative actions and comments.
Thereafter, a group of 15 NWC members met in the residence of a prominent member last night in Abuja and resolved to pass a no confidence vote on Ayu.
But the national publicity secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said yesterday that issues around Ayu’s removal never occurred at the meeting. He said throughout the time he was at the meeting, no motion was moved or passed on the national chairman.
According to Ologunagba, issues discussed at yesterday’s NWC meeting included reconciliation, organogram of the party’s campaign council and the party’s situation in Osun State.
The PDP has been embroiled in crisis over the ‘Ayu must go’ call championed by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The call had been based on allegation of dominance of the North in top positions of the party with the presidential candidate, national chairman, chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum all coming from the North.
Sources have informed that the BoT chairman, Walid Jibrin, may resign from his position, to douse tension in the party. Jibrin has held the position for six years after taking over from Haliru Bello, who was removed in 2016.
Sources close to the BoT chairman said yesterday that Jibrin has already briefed senior members of the party on his decision to quit. “He said it is in the best interest of the party since there are complaints of regional lopsidedness,” one of the sources said.
Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the party, is from Adamawa (Northeast), Jibrin hails from Nasarawa (North-central), and Ayu is from Benue (North-central).
While some stakeholders welcomed Jibrin’s decision to stepdown, they also insisted that Ayu should resign from his position too “in the interest of equity.”
They also said Atiku must commit to stay in office for one term if elected president, because power has been in the north for eight years.
A party officer, who attended the NWC meeting, said many members have lost confidence in Ayu. He said many are unhappy that Ayu called aggrieved members of the party children in the midst of peace efforts.
With the cloud of opposition to Ayu remaining thick ahead of today’s decisive NEC meeting, Wike was absent as Atiku met the 2023 presidential aspirants of the party at his Asokoro residence in Abuja.
Present at the meeting were publisher of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; former Managing Director of the now-defunct FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; the only female aspirant, Tariela Oliver and Charles Ugwu.
The PDP’s standard bearer appreciated them for accepting with good fate the outcome of the convention that produced him as the party’s candidate.
Also absent at the meeting were Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State governor.
Atiku, at the meeting, promised to work with all of them ahead of the general elections, adding that they have various roles to play in his victory at the polls.
No reason was given for the absence of the key aspirants from the meeting, which was the first to be convened since the conclusion of the primary.
Atiku had earlier met with a delegation of PDP leaders from Niger State, led by former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana.
In his remarks, Gana said they were in Atiku’s house to congratulate him and to assure him of their support as well as commitment toward ensuring that he wins Niger State.
Gana also disclosed that much success is being achieved with the ongoing reconciliation between Atiku and Wike.
Meanwhile, Kaduna State PDP governorship candidate, Isa Mohammed Ashiru, has said the issues between Atiku and Wike have been resolved and they were now ready to meet with the party’s NWC to take a decision.
Ashiru spoke after Tuesday night’s meeting he and 16 other PDP governorship candidates had with Wike in Port Harcourt, days after first meeting with Atiku.
Ashiru, speaking of behalf of the team of PDP guber candidates, said: “It was fruitful and an open discussion with sincerity. We are home and dry. We discussed issues that border on the situation within the party.”
Ashiru, who declined giving details of the meeting, said: “But we are through. We have discussed with the presidential candidate. We are here with our brother and friend (Wike). Issues that border on what has happened have been sorted out.
PDP faithfuls and the entire nation will hope that the party is able to shelve this crisis today at the NEC meeting with the All Progressives Congress (APC) already boasting a united front and Labour Party gaining more recognition and acceptance.