The infighting in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shows no sign of abating following a confusion over Dr Iyorchia Ayu’s continued leadership of the party.
Following the party’s failure at the recently held general elections, the party had started disciplinary actions against certain prominent members of the party who it accused of anti-party activities.
However, in a twist two days ago, Ayu himself was suspended by his local Igyorov Council Ward in Benue State, while a court in Makurdi yesterday barred him from parading himself as the national chairman of the party. He has vowed to vacate the order.
But more drama was to emerge yesterday after the Igyorov Council Ward executives of the party disowned the suspension letter, claiming their signatures had been forged and reposing confidence in Ayu’s chairmanship of the party.
A Makurdi High Court presided over by Justice Wilfred Kpochi has issued an order of interim injunction restraining Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from parading himself as the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after he was suspended by his local ward in Benue State.
The plaintiff, Engr Conrad Utaan, also asked the court to stop Ayu, who is the first defendant, from parading himself as national chairman of the party pending the hearing and determination of the court case. In the suit filed yesterday before Justice Wilfred I. Kpochi, Suit No. MHC/85/2023 and Motion No. MHC/633M/2023, Engr. Utaan is the plaintiff while Dr Ayu and the PDP are the first and second defendants respectively.
The application is supported by a 15-paragraph affidavit to which is annexed three exhibits – 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 Area of Benue State
Justice Kpochi granted the interim injunction as craved and adjourned the case to April 17, 2023 for hearing. Meanwhile, the executive committee members of the PDP in Igyorov Ward of Benue State have distanced themselves from the suspension of the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu. In a surprising turn of events, the PDP executive committee members in Igyorov council ward said they did not endorse Ayu’s suspension and had no part in it.
The letter signed by the deputy chairman, Igyorov council ward, Ortese Helen, and organising secretary, Atema Iorde, and 14 others, in a disclaimer to the Gboko Local Government chairman, and made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, said the suspension was made without due process and proper consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
They further passed a vote of confidence on Ayu, claiming that their signatures on the “mischievous letter” announcing Ayu’s suspension had been forged. The letter reads in part: “The executive committee has never discussed in any of our meetings prior to election or post-2023 general election about the conduct of the national chairman.
“The Executive Committee members have stated clearly that they have no knowledge about the letter and have not authorised anybody whatsoever to generate such a mischievous letter on behalf of the Executive Committee.
“The purported signatures on the letter are forged and no member of the PDP Executive Committee of Igyorov Council Ward has signed on his or her behalf. The names of the Executive Committee Members are wrongly written and spelled which show the desperation of the mischief makers.”
It said the content of the purported letter itself is contradictory to the holding of the presidential and National Assembly elections on March 25, 2023 as the letter itself is dated 24th March, 2023. It further said the letter was written before the purported Commission of the offence which shows clearly that it is the handiwork of the mischief makers.
The party executives further passed a vote of confidence on Ayu while also declaring “full support for his pragmatic leadership style (as the national chairman of the party) by taking our party to higher heights.”
Earlier, Ayu had declared that based on provisions in Article 57(7) of the PDP constitution, party executives at the state or ward levels lack the powers to suspend him or take any disciplinary measure against any member of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
“The purported suspension is, therefore, an exercise in futility as it derives its strength majorly from gross illiteracy, ignorance, gambling and desperation. It has only mischief, drama and propaganda value,” it further declared.
I Will Vacate Court Order – Ayu
The national chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, has said he will go to court to vacate the order barring him from office. Ayu, who spoke through his special adviser on Media and Communications, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said: “We will go to court to vacate it timeously.”
We’re Yet To Receive Court Order – Party
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday said it cannot comment on the implication of the court order stopping Ayu from parading himself as national chairman until it gets a copy of the order. PDP national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba said it will be not right for him to comment on the matter since he has not seen the order.
Ologunagba, while responding to a question from LEADERSHIP, said the party will give a proper reaction after it gets a copy of the court order. “I can only comment on the issue after I have seen the document. I do not doubt your source but I have to see the document. It will not be right to comment without seeing it,” he said.
However, according to the party’s constitution, the deputy national chairman from the chairman’s region is expected to take over the office, albeit in acting capacity until a National Executive Committee (NEC) is called to take a substantive position on the matter. The deputy national chairman of PDP (North) is Umar Iliya Damagum. The unfolding scenario smacks of a deja vu of sorts at the party.
In 2021, a court in Port Harcourt had ordered then national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to stop parading himself in that capacity. This followed his suspension from the party at the ward level. Following Secondus’ adherence to the order, his then deputy national chairman from the South, Yemi Akinwonmi, took over as chairman in acting capacity. However, Ayu has vowed to vacate the court order barring him from office.
The War Has Just Begun, Says Wike
Interestingly, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday declared that the fight against Dr Iyorchia Ayu, who was suspended by his political unit in Benue State, has just started. The governor said it had now become unthinkable to allow any person who was unable to deliver his political unit, ward, local government or state to the PDP during the last general elections to preside over the party.
Wike made the comment yesterday during the inauguration of the remodelled Community Secondary School, Okoro-nu-Odo, in Obio-Akpor local government area of the state. Wike stated that it was God who hardened Ayu’s heart not to resign when the G-5 governors and members of Integrity Group demanded his resignation after the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate.
LEADERSHIP reports that Group of 5 governors of Rivers, Enugu, Benue, Abia and Oyo led by Wike had insisted that Ayu step down as party chairman after Atiku emerged as presidential candidate in adherence to the zoning principle of the party as both were from the north, but Ayu had refused.
Speaking yesterday, Wike said if the PDP national chairman had resigned at the time, his cohorts, who were vehemently opposed to the zoning of elective and appointive offices, would have used that as an excuse for the party’s abysmal performance in the just concluded general elections.
The governor said it will be morally offensive for Ayu to remain as the national chairman of the PDP after the catastrophic defeat of the party on his watch in his unit, ward, local government, state and national levels.
Wike said, “The suspension of Ayu is the beginning of the fight to save the party. Those of you who are fighting that they have suspended him, you have not seen anything yet. “The fight has started. Ayu, the fight has just started. If you know him, those of you who are close to him, tell him, Iyorchia Ayu, the fight has just started.”
The governor insisted that instead of Ayu using his position to strengthen the grip of PDP in Benue State, he allowed it slip off him, saying that other PDP controlled states cannot sustain the party financially and tolerate him as their chairman.
He said, “Will you preside over the one (Rivers PDP) I have secured victory for? You want to come and preside over this state (Rivers) so that we will begin to donate money to the party? You bring your own state to the party too, so that your state can contribute money to the nation. If you don’t deliver your state, you can’t preside over us. You cannot.”
Wike, who noted that, already, some persons within the party were thinking and acting to side with the PDP national chairman to resist the suspension slammed on him, even as he warned such persons that they will be doing so to their detriment because they would have consequences to face.
The governor said, “Look at somebody who did anti-party, he is suspending people. The chief priest of anti-party, native doctor of anti-party suspending those who have worked hard for this party. “All of you who are joining Ayu, be prepared. Now, I have no other job, the job I have now is to put more heat on them and I will continue to do that.”
He described as a nullity the purported summoning of members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP to Abuja in order to pronounce the suspension as illegal. Wike said, “If you like, let the national secretary rush to Abuja. Let them meet this afternoon and say the suspension is illegal: you will see what you will face. You are calling us small boys; you will see what small boys can do to you.”
The governor stated that those who thought they could toil with Rivers State and not be dealt with squarely can begin to lick their wounds because they have been “peppered”. He dismissed the claim by the former governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi that he constructed five flyovers during his tenure and yet cannot list them for identification.
Wike restated that his administration, within four years, constructed 12 flyovers, handled by reputable construction company, Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, and went ahead to list the flyovers to clear any public doubt. He bemoaned the N50 billion squandered by the Amaechi administration on a less than two-kilometre monorail project that was never realised. He thanked the people for voting no massively to elect Sir Siminalayi Fubara, who is now Rivers governor-elect.
Inaugurating the project, Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi described Governor Wike as a man who loves his people, which has informed the sustained delivery of projects across sectors to better their life. Umahi insisted that given such massive infrastructural revolution so delivered, it will be a joke taken too far for any opposing political party to challenge PDP in Rivers State.