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PDP obeys court order, replaces Ayu with Damagum

By Godwin Ijediogor (Asaba), Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
29 March 2023   |   4:30 am
A day after a high court in Benue State granted an interim order restraining Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from parading himself as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition party..

PDP National Secretary, Senator Sam Anyanwu (left); representative of the National Chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagum; Deputy National Chairman, South, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja; vice presidential candidate, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, during the inauguration of the 2022 Osun Governorship Election Campaign Council in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

• Damagun: I’m taking office to fulfill all righteousness
• Ayu’s suspension illegal, court order unfortunate, says Aniagwu
• Your reign is over, no coming back, Wike tells Ayu 
• Olafeso, Pearse, Odeyemi say Ayu’s removal won’t make a Southerner chairman

A day after a high court in Benue State granted an interim order restraining Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from parading himself as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition party, yesterday, appointed its Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Umar Damagum, as acting national chairman.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, which announced the appointment after a brief meeting, explained that the action was in line with the court ruling.

A Makurdi High Court, presided over by Justice Wilfred Kpochi, had on Monday issued the interim order following an ex-parte application brought before the court by a PDP stalwart, Mr. Conrad Utaan, against Ayu and PDP.

Reading a statement during the presentation of Damagum as acting national chairman, the national publicity secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, said: “The NWC, at an emergency meeting today (Tuesday), acknowledged the order of the Benue State High Court, dated March 27, with regards to the chairmanship position of our party.

“After a careful consideration of the court order and in line with Section 45 (2) of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017), the NWC resolved that the Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Ililya Damagum, assumes the National Chairmanship of our party in acting capacity with effect from today, March 28.”

The NWC charged all leaders, critical stakeholders, teeming members and supporters to remain calm and united. Responding to questions on why Ayu came to the office earlier on Tuesday, Damagum said Ayu had every right to visit the office to pack his personal belongings.

Damagum further stated: “We are just here to fulfill all righteousness .We are acting in line with the court order. I will be here in acting capacity pending the determination of the suit in court. I will soon meet with the NWC to be briefed about affairs of the party”

A spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, has described the suspension of Ayu as illegal and not in conformity with the party’s Constitution, adding that the ex parte order from the court restraining Ayu from parading himself or performing his duties as national chairman was most unfortunate, as the basis for granting the order was faulty.

Speaking on a television programme, yesterday, Aniagwu, who is also the Delta State Commissioner for Information, said those who attempted to suspend Ayu in Benue State, were ignorant of the provisions of the party’s Constitution, as amended in 2017. He accused Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom, of being behind the suspension, in what looks like the Adams Oshiomhole kind of treatment in the All Progressives Congress (APC), arguing that APC Constitution was different from PDP and no organ of the party, aside the National Executive Committee (NEC) can suspend a member of NWC.

He stated that Section 57(7) of the PDP Constitution was very clear on who has the power to suspend or discipline a member of the NWC or NEC, adding: “When they proceeded to ask the Ward of the national chairman to take disciplinary action against him, assuming that they have the power, they ought to have given him fair hearing by summoning him to give him the opportunity to defend himself. The Section 57 didn’t give them the power to carry out such action against a member of NWC.”

The Commissioner was, however, optimistic that the party would come out stronger after its current travails.
BUT the Rivers governor has advised Ayu to accept that his reign has come to an end. The governor said Ayu’s claim that only the NEC can suspend him is not correct.

Wike stated this yesterday at the inauguration of the phase one of the Trans-Kalabari Road, adding that Ayu cannot reap from a party, by presiding over its affairs, where he has not sown, by securing any electoral victory for it.

“Ayu said nobody can suspend him but today, he has packed out from the national office. We have an acting chairman. I told him he will go whether you like it or not, he will go.”

Wike added that, peradventure, Ayu is unfamiliar with the party’s Constitution, that the court, some time in the past, struck out in its judgment the section that bestowed powers on NEC only, to suspend national officers.

“Those lawyers telling you that the Ward has no power to suspend you, that it’s only NEC, means you don’t understand what is happening. When you came, it was the Ward that suspended Uche Secondus, and you went and took office.

“So, is it now that you know that it is only NEC that can suspend you? Let me tell you, since they’ve not told you, the court has struck off that section of our Constitution that says it’s only NEC that can suspend chairman. PDP did not even appeal the judgment. So, forget it, you are gone.”

A former PDP National Vice Chairman, Southwest zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso; a leader of the party in Lagos State, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Diran Odeyemi, yesterday, expressed different opinion over the removal of Ayu.
In a separate telephone conversation, the trio said the development cannot collapse PDP as some people are saying. They also said it has not justified the demand of anybody or group of persons as some are insinuating, especially the G-5 governors, who had demanded that Ayu must vacate the position for a Southerner to take over for justice, equity and fairness in the party.

In his comment, Olafeso said though the development was not as serious as many people think, “I will rather ask for time to study the development and make necessary contacts before I react.” Pearse said the court suspension of Ayu is a joke. He said the reason is that party issues are matters to be decided by the party, wrongly or rightly. 
He said the court cannot suspend Ayu but that if the court has ruled now, “Ayu has no choice than to step down so that he won’t be confronting the court. The court has no jurisdiction to suspend Ayu.”
He also said where the G-5 governors missed the point is that if Ayu had stepped down voluntarily before the election, that also would have generated another constitutional crisis because the party’s Constitution says if a national chairman resigns or leave office for whatever reasons, someone from his zone, as it happened now, would have stepped in. 
“That’s the reason I said Wike and co have no case. They were just being emotional and childish because the Constitution of the party is very clear. Whenever the national chairman steps aside for whatever reason, the person who takes over according to the Constitution would be someone from his zone.”
For Odeyemi, the court removal of Ayu does not vindicate the demand of the G-5 governors and neither would the development collapse the party. 

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