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Southwest PDP resolves to back Atiku as Makinde insists Ayu must go

By Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje, Moyosore Salami (Ibadan) and Timothy Agbor (Osogbo)
15 September 2022   |   3:51 am
Critical stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are yet to back down on the agitation for the resignation of the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as the PDP presidential...

[FILES] Makinde. Photo/twitter/seyiamakinde

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Critical stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are yet to back down on the agitation for the resignation of the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, tackled each other, yesterday, on the ‘Ayu Must Go’ controversy in Ibadan.

Makinde, who hosted an interactive session of Atiku with stakeholders of the party in the Southwest, insisted that Ayu must step down for a Southerner to emerge as national chairman, since Atiku, a Northerner, is the party’s presidential flag bearer.

But the former vice president quickly responded that Ayu’s resignation must be done in accordance with the party’s Constitution, rules, regulations and practice.

Makinde, in his address, maintained that the stance of Southwest PDP is for the national chairman of the party to resign for fairness and equity.

The Oyo governor, who has been championing the agitation for Ayu’s resignation along with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, admitted that there are still issues to address in the party before the 2023 election if the party must win the presidency.

The governor stated that Southwest leaders were ready to back the presidential aspiration of Atiku, but the zone had classified its demands from Atiku into two – pre-election and post-election demands, adding that for the region to feel reassured that the party is being inclusive, the lopsided sharing of its national positions must be reversed before the elections.

“The Southwest leaders believe that Atiku is capable of moving Nigeria out of the present doldrums. Atiku is a unifier and we are confident he has the capacity to reposition the country, but he must look inwards by first supporting the restructuring of the party and uniting its members before the elections.

“If we want to unify Nigeria, we must unify PDP first; if we want the government of national unity, it must reflect in PDP; if we want to restructure Nigeria, we must restructure PDP first.”

But Atiku said what Makinde was requesting is achievable, if it is backed up by the party’s Constitution, adding that the call for the re-composition of the National Working Committee (NWC) was not impossible, but only when the party’s Constitution has been amended to accommodate such demand.

According to him, “we cannot do anything outside our Constitution, except it is amended, we cannot do anything unless the laws are amended. Ayu must go through our Constitution, rules, regulations, and our practice, otherwise, we cannot give the kind of leadership Nigerians want.

“What Makinde is asking for is possible only when we have amended our party’s Constitution. As things stand today, no single individual has the power to tamper with the NWC of the party. Doing so will be illegal and it will be against our rules at the party. Nigerians will not trust us to govern by the tenets of rule of law if we take such arbitrary action against our own party,” he said.

Atiku, however, urged PDP not to allow the issue to derail them from winning the next elections. “It is possible, it is achievable, we have done it before and we have started doing it.”

The PDP deputy national chairman (North), Umar Damagum, while speaking on behalf of Ayu, urged members of the party to commit themselves and work diligently for the emergence of the party in the coming elections.

He noted that the choice of the venue was deliberate because Ibadan is the capital of politics in Southwest and Nigeria at large.

He applauded Makinde for hosting the programme irrespective of the minor differences.

The chairman of, the PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, said the meeting was a sign of good things to come, adding that Southwest will come back to PDP in 2023.

But a member of the party in Lagos State, Dr Olatokunbo Pearse, and former national vice chairman, Southwest, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who spoke with The Guardian on the telephone, appealed to members, especially those from the South, to exercise patience pending when PDP would oust the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from power next year.

Pearse said the lingering agitation for Ayu’s resignation is potent enough to stop PDP from winning next year. “If we lose, it is not only Atiku, Ayu or those calling for the resignation of the incumbent national chairman, but all of us and we would have failed Nigerians who are yearning for change.”

Olafeso, on his part, said what PDP should be concerned about now is how the party wants to bail the country out of all the numerous challenges APC has plunged it into.

Dignitaries at the event were a vice presidential candidate and governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Governor Bala Mohammad of Bauchi State; Osun State governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke; PDP governorship candidates, ex-Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko; ex-Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; ex-Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; ex-Cross River State governor, Liyel Imoke; national deputy chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja, Senator Dino Melaye and Chief Raymond Dokpesi, and others.

ALSO, Osun governor-elect, Adeleke, has called on the warring leaders to embrace peace, warning that their continuous disagreement may be inimical to the total victory the party expected at the general elections. He made this known while receiving Atiku in Osogbo, yesterday.

He said Nigerians see PDP as their messiah at the forthcoming polls and warned that infighting and crisis among party chiefs might truncate the hope of victory.

“I use this platform to call on Yoruba and Nigerians as a whole to rally round PDP and Atiku, who is ably supported by Okowa. An Atiku presidency will restore peace, stability and prosperity to every home in Nigeria.

“I must also call on all party chiefs to sheathe their swords and embrace common agenda to ensure the total victory of the party at the general elections. Nigerians are waiting for us, eager for Atiku’s presidency. We must rise above the past and embrace the future in the best interest of many Nigerians who see us, the PDP as the messiah,” he said.

Addressing Atiku, the governor-elect stated: “In your foray into politics, your best confidants are again from this region. From the Yar’Adua era to date, your trusted foot soldiers and associates are not just from the North, but South-South, East and Southwest. You are a pan-Nigerian leader.

“Nigeria, therefore, needs you, a unifier, a bridge-builder and a tested leader as the next president. Your candidature is the tonic Nigeria needs to regain her vitality. Your economic blueprint is the best in term of its workability and applicability. Waziri is the man to salvage the sinking ship of Nigeria.”

MEANWHILE, the absence of Wilfred Okoi, counsel to Rivers State governor, Wike, in a suit challenging the validity of the candidacy of Atiku as the PDP standard bearer, was yesterday, stalled at the resumed hearing of the suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Okoi, who entered his name on the cause list earlier in the day, could not be found when the matter was called for hearing. The lawyer, who was in court earlier in the day, was said to have suddenly developed sickness and had to hurriedly leave the courtroom.

A PDP chieftain, Newgent Ekamon, who instituted the suit, alongside Wike, informed Justice Ramat Mohammed that the lawyer had to leave when his health challenges deteriorated. Ekamon pleaded with the judge to grant an adjournment in view of the development.

The PDP National Legal Adviser, Adeyemi Kamaldeen Ajibade (SAN), did not object to the request for adjustment on the ground that anybody could fall sick at any time. Justice Mohammed subsequently fixed October 7 for the hearing of the suit.

Wike had sued the PDP, Atiku, Tambuwal and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the conduct of the presidential primary of the party held in Abuja on May 28 and May 29, 2022. In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/782/2022, Wike and the PDP chieftain, Ekamon are the two plaintiffs.

Wike, in the suit, sought among other prayers, the court’s pronouncement declaring him the PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 election. He had faulted the process that produced Atiku as the party’s candidate.

But the PDP and others urged the court to dismiss the suit as it was unknown to law and not cognisable under a pre-election matter.

When the matter was called and Okoi’s whereabouts were not known, Justice Mohammed asked Ekamon why their counsel was not in court despite entering his name for appearance. Ekamon said Okoi “ran serious stomach upset.”

According to him, he (Okoi) was in court this morning and he complained of a running stomach and he had to be rushed down for medication. “I insisted that he (Okoi) stays but he said we should rush him down,” he added.

“We wish him a quick recovery. We are all human beings and prone to getting sick at any given time,” Mohammed said.

Counsel to the PDP and Tambuwal, Ajibade, did not oppose the request. “I have listened to the request of the plaintiff. The reason for the absence of his counsel borders on ill health.

“We don’t need to go verifying. It can happen to anybody as my lord has said. But we want the court to take notice because this is a pre-election matter of which time is of the essence,” he said.

No counsel appeared for INEC.