Barring any last-minute change of mind, the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party will this week meet to deliberate on the crisis rocking the party.
This is part of a larger plan to rescue the campaign of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, following the boycott of its campaign by some aggrieved governors of the party.
The PUNCH learnt the advisory body is worried by the growing feud between the party and loyalists of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and may ask the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to resign.
Although details of the meeting and date were sketchy as of the time of filing this report, the immediate past BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, disclosed to The PUNCH on Monday that members of the board were truly disturbed as the crisis showed no sign of abating.
He said, “There is a (BoT) meeting this week but I don’t know the date yet. What we are interested in is that we must speak with one voice and stay with the party’s plans and objectives to enable us to win the elections in 2023. We must encourage our members to rally other Nigerians to come out and vote for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa.”
Against the backdrop of calls for Ayu to resign, the BoT is expected to take a categorical stand on the matter, including possible demand for Ayu’s removal in the interest of the party.
Speaking exclusively to The PUNCH, Jibrin enjoined party organs to remain united even as he took a swipe at the National Working Committee over what he called the “division” in its fold.
“We must not allow division like we are now witnessing in the NWC. All other organs must understand that the party constitution is supreme,” he said, warning that “Once the NWC members accommodate loopholes in the administration of the party, the PDP is finished.”
Jibrin’s diplomatic stance, however, contrasts with his fellow BoT member and former Minister in the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The ex-minister who does not want his name in print so “as not to preempt the outcome of the meeting” said, “We will look at the bigger picture and that picture is what is good for the party. We can’t be going into a major election with our house in disarray. Whatever sacrifice is needed for us to move forward, we will do it but I can’t be categorical so as not to preempt the outcome of the meeting.
“We must not be afraid to speak the truth. We must speak truth to power, though not everybody will like it. Whatever will affect our chances of winning the elections must give way.”
Speaking in the same vein, a former principal officer in the National Assembly wants the BoT to be guided in its deliberations by “those things that matter including justice, fair play and equity.”
Pleading for his name not to be mentioned, he stressed, “Treat the South as equal partners in this project. Interpret or process this and draw your conclusion on whether I want Ayu to go or remain in office.
“I have just an issue to emphasise here. If the chairman is quoted as making a promise that if a northerner emerged as the party’s presidential candidate that he will quit, what are we still talking about here?”
Although Ayu enjoys the support of over two-thirds of the members of the NWC as of now, there are chances things may change in the weeks ahead as five of the governors elected on its platform have vowed not to have anything to do with the Presidential Campaign Council unless Ayu is removed from office.
The governors; Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Rivers, Abia, Oyo, Benue and Enugu states have since turned their backs on Atiku, insisting on the resignation of Ayu and his replacement with a southerner.
BoT meets Atiku
In a related development, the Wabara-led BoT committee on Sunday met the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar over the crisis rocking the party and the way forward for the party.
The BoT committee, it was learnt, met Atiku in Abuja where discussions were held on how the crisis of confidence threatening to bring down the party was discussed.
The BoT, which is due to meet the Rivers State governor on Tuesday, emphasised the need to resolve the crisis facing the party ahead of the poll. They also discussed the various options the party could explore to resolve the crisis and placate the Wike-led aggrieved governors as soon as possible and begin campaigns for the 2023 poll.
A top PDP chieftain privy to discussions at the meeting said, “The BoT members met Atiku in Abuja on Sunday. Remember they had met the vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa on Saturday. The meeting with Atiku was important because they needed to know the presidential candidate’s mind ahead of the meeting with Wike in Port Harcourt on Tuesday. “During the meeting, they discussed how the crisis could be resolved and how the party can placate the aggrieved governors before the campaign begins in earnest. But as usual, the presidential candidate said he was ready to work with the aggrieved governors. Remember he also had met with Wike on Thursday. So, he explained the challenges the party is having about asking Ayu to go, especially the constitutional crisis it may create. However, they also held some private discussions on what to do to placate the Wike faction.”
Also, it was learnt that the Special Reconciliatory Committee of the PDP would meet with Wike on Tuesday, (today).
The Chairman of the PDP BoT and former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, made the disclosure in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday night.
He also dismissed speculations that the five PDP governors who met in Enugu on Sunday were plotting to quit the party and work against its interest in the 2023 election, saying “nobody is leaving the umbrella.”
When asked to give details of his meeting with the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku, he said, “We should exercise some patience because the Special Reconciliation Committee is completing its assignment now. That is why we visited our principal (Atiku) on Sunday; He is our President in waiting.
He added, ‘’But as I will always say, we will get to resolve all these problems. The PDP is a party and we have problems here and there and no family would want to disintegrate. We are on course.”
Asked when the report of the reconciliation meeting would be ready for submission, he said, “The fact that I am the party chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP does not make me a dictator. I am only first among equals.
“There will always be a chairman and in this case, I am only acting. I do not think I have any authority to state the decision of the BoT. I belong to a larger camp. It is really going to be a win-win situation; we want to win the 2023 election. Nigerians want us in the Aso Villa.”
The BoT chair also gave the assurance that the aggrieved governors would not defect from the party.
Wabara said, “The election is about four months away and we should exercise some patience. It is not yet Uhuru, but we will get there. The five governors are meeting to find solutions to the PDP problem.
“Nobody is leaving the umbrella. The governors have said repeatedly that they will remain in the party. That already is a victory for the party. But for them to remain, there could be some constitutionality, frayed nerves will be pacified, which is what they are doing now.
“As I said, the BoT will make its report known. the Special Reconciliation Committee led by me would be meeting with Governor Wike on Tuesday (today) and we pray and hope that the meeting will be successful and further guide the BoT on what decisions to take.”
Meanwhile, Wike has insisted there will be no peace deal until Ayu resigns his position.
The party has been plunged into crisis since its presidential primary in May. Wike, who lost to Atiku, had expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise, stating that he was unfairly treated by the PDP and was not carried along.
Reports said he was further dissatisfied with the emergence of Governor Okowa of Delta State as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike had insisted that Ayu must resign if his camp must reach a truce with the candidate but Atiku had said he had no powers to remove the chairman.
Atiku also said if the chairman must be removed, due process must be followed by the party’s constitution.
After a series of meetings between them and their representatives failed to address the crisis, Wike and some of his colleagues and allies boycotted the inauguration of the party’s presidential campaign council on September 28.
Others who also boycotted the event were Prof Jerry Gana; and former governors Ayo Fayose, Jonah Jang, Donald Duke and Olusegun Mimiko. A former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, was also absent.
NWC addresses crisis
Meanwhile, the National Working Committee of the PDP will today (Tuesday) meet to discuss the crisis threatening its Ogun State chapter.
Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, last week nullified all the primary elections held by the party in the state even as it ordered fresh primaries within two weeks.
This was based on a suit filed by one Segun Seriki and others who claimed to have emerged from the primaries conducted by a faction of the party.
In another suit instituted by one Taiwo Olabode and others on behalf of over 380 ad-hoc delegates who alleged disenfranchisement at the governorship primary election held on the 25th of May, 2022, the same court nullified the governorship primary election and ordered the party to conduct a fresh exercise within 14 days, using the delegates list certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as duly elected – in line with Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Party officials said the national leadership had earlier fixed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the court-ordered primary elections but Ayu who returned from a medical trip abroad days ago stopped the plan, opting rather for the NWC to wade in.
“Most of the NWC members are in support of the rerun to fulfill all righteousness and cure whatever wrong that made the court make such sweeping decisions. We have to be careful not to fall into the risk of what happened to the All Progressives Congress in Zamfara and Rivers states.
“On this Ogun State PDP issue, I recall that one of those sent to conduct the ward congress in April warned in his report that if the right thing was not done, we might have the Zamfara and Rivers scenario in Ogun State.
“Already, there are talks within the political circle in Ogun State that those who instituted the suit that led to the nullification of all the party primaries were being used by the APC administration in the state to frustrate the PDP from fielding candidates in the 2023 general election,” a party official disclosed.
Another PDP source said, “While it is within the personal rights of the parties to appeal the judgment and no one can foreclose that, it is in the overriding interest of the party and its teeming members to comply with the order of the court. Any aspirant that is not pleased with the court judgment and the decision of the party can still pursue their appeals while the party goes on with the campaigns.
“For any aspirant who may still wish to go on appeal, if the appellate courts rule in his favour, he would replace whoever has emerged. It is better than not fielding candidates at all or waiting till when the Supreme Court will determine the matter. By then, it is either the campaign would have ended or it would be too close to the elections like it happened to our party in Ogun State in 2019.”