Ahead of the meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party National Executive Committee scheduled for Thursday in Abuja, the NEC members are divided over the clamour for the removal of the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu.
While some NEC members from the South argued that Ayu’s removal was the only way out of the lingering crisis confronting the party, the chairman’s supporters said Ayu would not step aside at this critical time when the PDP was preparing for election.
The opposition party had been engulfed in a crisis since a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar emerged the presidential candidate.
The loyalists of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had been demanding Ayu’s resignation, stating that the presidential candidate should not hail from the same region as the party chairman; and the Board of Trustees chairman.
Though the PDP set up a panel to resolve the crisis, Wike, supported by three other governors, had continued to insist on Ayu’s removal.
Resisting the pressure to leave office, the party chair vowed to stay till the end of his four-year tenure. He also dismissed those demanding his removal as youngsters who had little knowledge about the formation of the PDP.
Reinforcing their demand in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Oyo State, Mr Akeem Olatunji, stressed that Ayu’s removal would facilitate Atiku’s electoral victory.
While explaining that the state chapter of the party had nothing against Atiku and Ayu, Olatunji said their demand was borne out of their desire to see the party emerge victorious at the poll.
He said, “We are passionate about Alhaji Abubakar Atiku winning this presidential election and that is why we are calling for Senator Iyorchia Ayu to step aside and allow somebody from the South to take over.
“We don’t want Alhaji Atiku to just be a presidential candidate, we want him to transform from a candidate to the President-elect of this country by February 2023.
We believe that part of what can make our job easier is for the national chairmanship of the PDP to come from the South. We don’t want our opponents to use that to campaign against us.
“It’s not that we have anything against Atiku or Senator Ayu, we are not their enemies; we want the party to win. It is better we sort this out now and that is what we are saying. We want the national chairmanship of the PDP to come to the South for balance.”
On his part, the Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor called for the resignation of the national chairman, stressing that the party leadership and the presidential candidate cannot come from the same region.
He said, ‘’That is the commitment he (Ayu) made before we elected the presidential candidate, so he has to fulfill his commitment. He must resign; he should fulfill his commitment. We can’t have the BoT chairman from the north, deputy national chairman and presidential candidate all from the north. Other regions will feel relegated.
“How do we campaign for the people? The election is based on interest, how do we preach to them? Should we tell them when the presidential candidate wins things will normalize? Is that what we are going to preach to the people?’’