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ANALYSIS: Will PDP’s NEC quench party’s prolonged internal crisis?

ANALYSIS: Will PDP’s NEC quench party’s prolonged internal crisis?
April 17
16:52 2024

After a hiatus of a year and a half, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will, on Thursday, hold its national executive committee (NEC) meeting.

The NEC is the highest decision-making organ of the PDP, comprising state governors, serving and former presidents, former vice-presidents, chairman and secretary of the board of trustees (BoT), principal officers of the national assembly, all state chairmen, members of the national working committee (NWC), former governors, and founding members, among others.

Party stakeholders, including the PDP Governors Forum, had repeatedly urged the national working committee (NWC) of the PDP to convene a NEC meeting. Segun Sowunmi, a former governorship hopeful of the PDP in Ogun, took legal action against the NWC to enforce this demand.

Section 31 (4) of the PDP constitution states that a NEC meeting must be held once in three months. The last time the party convened its NEC meeting was in September 2022 when Iyorchia Ayu was the national chairman of the party.

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FLASHBACK… HOW AYU WAS SUSPENDED

Iyorchia Ayu

Ayu’s plight began after his comments on the outcome of the PDP presidential primary election in 2022

Ayu was elected into office in October 2021 after the acrimonious exit of Uche Secondus as PDP chairman.

Ayu’s woes started when he hailed Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state at the time, as the hero of the PDP presidential primary election of May 28, 2022.

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Tambuwal, who was screened to contest the presidential ticket, made a last-minute withdrawal from the race and asked his supporters to back Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president.

Atiku would later clinch the party’s ticket after polling 371 votes.

“Thank you. You are the hero of the convention,” Ayu told Tambuwal a day after the primary election.

The remark didn’t resonate positively with certain party members, particularly Nyesom Wike, then Rivers governor, who also ran in the election and advocated strongly for power rotation to the south.

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Wike, who is the current minister of the federal capital territory (FCT), came second at the convention with 237 votes.

Believed to have taken sides over the “hero” comment, some party stakeholders vehemently opposed Ayu’s leadership, demanding his resignation, while arguing that both the party’s head and presidential candidate cannot be from the same region. Ayu and Atiku are from Benue and Adamawa respectively — both in the northern region.

Wike and some governors, who formed the G5 at the time, insisted that Ayu’s resignation is a prerequisite for resolving the crisis rocking the party.

The G5 members were Wike of Rivers state, Samuel Ortom of Benue state, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state, and Seyi Makinde of Oyo state. All were governors at the time. Makinde is currently serving his second term in office.

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Ayu declined requests to step down.

The turmoil within the PDP deepened significantly when Atiku opted for Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta state, as his running mate, bypassing Wike, who had been endorsed by a panel consisting of NWC members and governors.

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Snubbed for the second time, Wike, together with the G5, doubled down on their demand for Ayu’s resignation, refusing to campaign for and support Atiku’s presidential bid.

Their reluctance to throw their weight behind Atiku, coupled with other factors, culminated in the PDP’s defeat in the February 2023 presidential election.

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Ayu was finally suspended from office in March 2023 after the executive members of Igyorov ward, Gboko LGA of Benue, passed a vote of no confidence on him over alleged anti-party activities. The court upheld his suspension.

Umar Damagum was subsequently appointed as the acting national chairman of the party.

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‘DAMAGUM MUST GO’

Umar Damagum

Damagum came on board after Ayu was ousted

Insiders say under the leadership of Damagum, the NWC’s efforts to address the turmoil within the beleaguered party has yielded little results.

Party stakeholders, including some members of the house of representatives, are clamouring for Damagum’s resignation.

Among a litany of accusations hurled at Damagum, legislators alleged that he tampered with the caretaker committee member lists in Rivers and ten other states.

During a press conference, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who represents Ideato federal constituency of Imo, on behalf of his colleagues, said since the removal of Ayu as the national chairman, the party has only known “misfortune” and has “abdicated its responsibility” as the leading opposition party in the country.

“That role which Nigerians would have loved the PDP to play as an institution it truly is has been abdicated for a plate of porridge,” the lawmakers claimed.

They said Damagum should have set up structures to review “what, why, and how” the party failed to win the last presidential election and also failed to secure a majority in both chambers of the national assembly.

“Rather, the Umar Damagum-led NWC is assiduously working to hand over the party to the ruling APC and their agents. A serious leadership would have looked into the acts of open anti-party activities, established why they happened and set up measures to ensure that it never happened again in the party,” the lawmakers said.

“A serious party leadership would have since the end of elections or even the tribunal matters gone around to thank members and rally them for the challenge ahead of being the opposition and offering a credible alternative to the people. We do not have any of these. But again, imagine if we had such with the current state of the nation.”

The lawmakers said Damagum should resign to allow a member of the party from the north-central geopolitical zone to complete Ayu’s tenure.

“Not only did Damagun hold tight unto the seat for well over a year now, but he has also abdicated every responsibility of the office of the chairman of PDP and is very comfortable serving APC interests,” the lawmakers claimed.

THE WIKE ‘QUANDARY’

Abuja rail mass transit

Wike remains a force to be reckoned with in the PDP despite serving in the APC-led federal government

The PDP is a party torn apart by internal strife, with groups vying for control. It has been a series of internal conflicts after another for the opposition party since the 2023 presidential election.

There are groups that want Wike suspended as a member of the party over alleged anti-party activities because he did not support the party’s candidate in the presidential election.

According to the members, the first move towards resolving the party’s crisis is to expel Wike who, as a PDP member, took up an appointment as the minister of the FCT under the APC.

But Wike seems to be a hard nut for those canvassing for his expulsion.

The minister spearheads a group advocating for close ties between the PDP and the APC-led government. Wike holds a significant influence in the party. In December, 25 PDP members in the Rivers state house of assembly loyal to him defected to the APC.

Siminalayi Fubara, governor of Rivers, is in the crosshairs of potential impeachment, besieged by the pressure of the 25 lawmakers.

The FCT minister and Fubara are locked in a struggle for control of Rivers’ political structure.

Sources familiar with the backroom politics told TheCable that the Damagum-led NWC is loyal to Wike.

Wike is pushing for Damagum to continue in his position and is working with his allies in the party to actualise his plan.

On Tuesday, the NWC passed a vote of confidence on Damagum.

THE ISSUES BEFORE THE NEC

As the NEC convenes on Thursday, a myriad of issues crucial to the party’s fate will be deliberated upon.

The focal point of discussion will be the national chairmanship of the party, TheCable understands. Will a vote of confidence be passed on Damagum to endorse his continuation in office? Will he be asked to relinquish his position to pave the way for a member from the north-central region to ascend to the chairmanship position?

The NEC may address the lingering political turmoil in Rivers state, in addition to scrutinising the caretaker committees list allegedly manipulated by Damagum.

The NEC is also expected to review the party’s performance in the 2023 presidential election and possibly ratify the suspension of members said to have been involved in anti-party activities.

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