Embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Iyorchia Ayu appears to have now lost the battle between him and the G-5 governors led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Newspot reports that in a quick succession, two chairmen of the main opposition party have been disgraced out of office.
Before Ayu was Uche Secondus who was brought into office through Wike’s support. But things soon fell apart for the two politicians, leading to Secondus’s suspension by his ward and his eventual removal from office.
He was, precisely on September 2, 2021, suspended by his Ward 5 of Andoni Local Government Area of the state, leading to his total removal on October 31, 2021.
Although he contested his suspension and eventual removal from office, he never returned to office.
A former national chairman of the party, Chief Okwesileze Nwodo from Enugu State also suffered a similar fate. While the national convention of the party was going on, Nwodo was asked to step aside following an injunction obtained by a member of the party from his home state. His fight with then governor Sullivan Chime was what consumed him in office.
Now, history is repeating itself. This time, Ayu is not just contending with his governor, Samuel Ortom, but Wike and his G-5, as well as other leaders of the party.
Just last week, the party in Igyorov Ward, Gboko Local Government Area of Benue state, suspended Ayu.
According to one Kashi Philip, who addressed the press on behalf of the Ward Chairman, Ayu was suspended for alleged anti-party activities.
The development may not be unconnected to the lingering face-off between Ayu and the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
It was earlier alleged that Ayu, a former Senate President, took part in the inability of the governor to secure his senatorial bid in the February 25 elections.
Newspot recalls that Ortom, who intended to represent the Benue North-West Senatorial District at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, lost the election to Titus Zam of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
While Ortom polled 106,882 votes, Zam had 143,151 votes, Labour Party, LP, candidate, Mark Gbillah garnered 51,950 votes.
Similarly, Ortom’s anointed candidate and flagbearer of the party for the Benue Gubernatorial poll, Titus Uba was defeated by Hyacinth Alia of the APC.
Recall that prior to the general elections, the governor had dumped his party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to support the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi.
Ortom’s move was sequel to the decision of the G-5 Governors, who include Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and their leader, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike to work for a Southern candidate.
During the election, Atiku failed in all the five states leading to a rift between the National Working Committee of the party led by Ayu and the governors.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State on Monday claimed that Ayu worked for the emergence of Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and winner of the February 25 poll.
Soon after the election, the PDP National Working Committee led by Ayu had suspended former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, former senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, Prof Dennis Ityavyar and Aslam Aliyu and referred Ortom to the party’s National Disciplinary Committee over alleged anti-party activities.
But in what looks like a retaliatory action, the Igyorov ward also suspended Ayu over the same allegation on Sunday last week.
Ayu initially ridiculed the suspension, but he later stepped aside when the State High Court in Makurdi stopped him from parading himself as the National Chairman of the party.
Although Ayu’s Special Assistant on Communication, Simon Imobo-tswam, said his principal would challenge the suspension, Deputy National Chairman (North) Umar Damagum Ayu is not holding the position in acting capacity.
The acting chairman quickly reversed some of the suspensions imposed on key members by the Ayu-led NWC.
A source close to the Benue State government told Newspot yesterday that Ortom and other members of the G-5 have proposed a national convention to elect a new chairman.
According to him, the G-5 led by Wike have informed the acting National Chairman of the plan to ensure Southwest gets the position.
He said, “Ayu is gone. Plans are on top gear to hold a national convention that will produce his successor. The truth is that Ayu is biting the fingers that fed him.
“If not for governor Ortom and Wike, who knew Ayu before? Even within the state he was not popular. They made him who he is today but now he has turned against his helpers.
“He was busy suspending people because of so-called anti-party activities while he was the one guilty. Even members of APC testified that he worked for them; so who should be suspended?
“Ayu destroyed the party, Nigerians would have voted PDP during the presidential poll if the party had given its ticket to a Southerner”.
Similarly, a chieftain of the party, Aondoakaa Micheal, who spoke with our correspondent, expressed optimism that the leadership crisis would soon end.
“All we need right now is reconciliation among members. Whatever happened before or during the election should be a thing of the past.
“The party needs to re-energize to tackle obstacles that may come in future. Remember that some states have governorship elections this year. We also have cases in court. We need unity to win”.
“When Secondus was removed, heaven didn’t fall; so even if the same thing happens to Ayu, the party will still move on and if Ayu’s removal will restore the lost glory of the party, then why not”, he stated.
Newspot recalls that Wike’s onslaught against Ayu was not unpredictable as he was fingered in the removal of the former National Chairman, Uche Secondus.
Wike had also, while reacting to Ayu’s removal, said it was all over. He ruled out the possibility of the embattled national chairman regaining control of the party.
According to Wike, “Ayu said nobody can suspend him, but today he has packed out from the office. We have an acting chairman now. I told him, you will go, whether he likes it or not.
“Those lawyers telling you that the Ward has no power to suspend you, that it is only NEC, then you don’t understand. When you came, it was the Ward that suspended Secondus. And you went and took office, it is now that you know that it is only NEC that can suspend.
“Let me tell you since they’ve not told you, the court has struck out that section of our constitution to say that NEC only can suspend the National Chairman. So you don’t know what you are talking about. PDP did not even appeal the judgement. So, forget, your own is gone. You must be wasting your time.”
The Rivers Governor said he will continue to fight for Ayu’s removal till the end of his administration, adding that, “We are ready for the battle. I’m not from Benue but I have interest, that interest that Ayu must go. And I’m going to carry it till May 29 when I leave the office.”
It is now left to be seen whether Ayu would bow to pressure or fight on to possibly get reprieve from the court.
The restraining order in the suit between Conrad Yerhide Utaan as the plaintiff and Senator Ayu as defendant granted “an order of interim injunction restraining the 1st defendant Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from parading himself as the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) having lost membership of the party, pending the hearing and determination of Motion on Notice already filed.”
“The application is supported by a fifteen (15) paragraph affidavit to which is annexed three exhibits as Exhibits A1, A2 and B which are the Applicant’s membership card of the 2nd defendant, receipts for payment of dues and a vote of no confidence passed on the 1st Defendant/Respondent by the Igyorov Council Ward of the 2nd Defendant in Gboko Local Government, Benue State.
“Upon hearing Mr. M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel ably moved the application and upon a dispassionate consideration of the facts placed before me in the pool of the affidavit evidence, and again, upon the consideration of the issues distilled in the written address by M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel, it is my candid view that this is a proper case to grant the interim injunction as craved.
“Consequently, this application is hereby granted in terms of the reliefs captured in the motion papers as herein before reproduced. It is so ordered.”
The suit was adjourned to April 17, 2023, for hearing.
With an acting national chairman in place, Ayu has remained mute. It is left to be seen if he would appear in court on the adjourned date to challenge his suspension.