Governor Seyi Makinde-led South-West Peoples Democratic Party has continued to battle the internal crisis amid efforts by party chieftains to resolve the challenges threatening the foundation of the party, BOLA BAMIGBOLA reports

The drama in the Peoples Democratic Party continues to take a new twist with the call by some staunch chieftains in southern Nigeria for the resignation of the national party chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.

Several resolution efforts put in place to placate the aggrieved region have yet to yield any desired result.

Again, the Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde demanded Ayu’s resignation at a stakeholders’ meeting with the presidential candidate of the party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar last Wednesday in Ibadan.

The Oyo State helmsman, who is the highest PDP elected office holder in the South West region and holds the party’s regional leadership, has been active in the push by the Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike’s camp for Ayu’s resignation.

However, the rejection of Makinde’s call for Ayu’s resignation by five out of six states in the region, a few hours after he placed the demand before the party’s presidential candidate, purportedly on behalf of the PDP family in South West at the Ibadan meeting, was an indication that all may not be well in the ranks of the party, as it heads to the 2023 general elections.

The PUNCH reports that the call for Ayu’s resignation was a result of the party’s zoning of the presidential candidate seat alongside its national chairmanship to the North, which members in the top echelon in the party’s Board of Trustees and the Southern leadership (South-South and South-West) had described as against the party’s constitution. They argued that since Ayu is from the North; when the presidential seat was won by Atiku, another northerner, Ayu as the chairman was expected to resign and the position taken over by a southerner.

Interestingly, all of the state chapters in the South West region were represented at the meeting, and there was no disagreement when Makinde told the gathering that the party needed to reorganise to regain balance because it is presenting a northern presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.

It was learnt that Makinde’s demand even drew applause from those present at the meeting, which had in attendance the Osun governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke; the former Osun state governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; a former Ekiti State deputy governor, Abiodun Olujimi; candidates of the party in the 2023 general elections across the region, as well as South West and state executives of the party, among others.

Makinde at the meeting had declared, “The message from the South-West PDP is that the South-West is asking that the National Working Committee of the PDP be restructured. We are asking the national chairman to step down so that the South will be fully included. That is the message.”

The PUNCH reports hours that after Makinde’s demand, Osun PDP was the first state chapter to reject his position over Ayu, in a statement signed by its acting caretaker chairman, Dr Akindele Adekunle, claiming that the call was not a mainstream position of the party in the region.

The party in Osun also apologised in the statement to the National Working Committee of the party for whatever embarrassment Makinde’s demand may have caused, describing the PDP’s stakeholders’ meeting as a solemn assembly where factional rhetoric should not have surfaced.

The statement further read in parts, “There was no meeting where the South West agreed to call for the removal of the national chairman, noting that “the call is not a mainstream position of the party in the region.

“The leadership of the PDP in Osun State wishes to affirm that we are not part of any revolt against the national leadership of the PDP. We remain guided and loyal to the PDP constitution, which stipulates processes for leadership election and removal.”

Consequently, following their meeting in Lagos State on Saturday, the spokespersons of four state chapters of the PDP in South West issued a press statement reaffirming their support for Ayu and distancing themselves from the call for his resignation as the party’s national chairman.

The PDP spokespersons that signed the press statement were Hakeem Amode, Lagos State; Kennedy Peretei, Ondo State; Raphael Adeyanju, Ekiti State; and Bankole Akinloye, Ogun State.

Their statement partly read, “On behalf of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party State Chapters in Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, and Lagos states, we the publicity secretaries in these states respectively dissociate ourselves from calls for the resignation of Dr Iyorchia Ayu as PDP National Chairman.

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“We do not see any justification for the resignation of our National Chairman, especially at this very critical stage of preparation for elections.”

PDP South West exco, state chapters differ

Reliable party sources, who confided in The PUNCH said Ayu/Atiku’s camp decided to counter Makinde’s narratives starting from Osun, which already has a governor-elect in Senator Ademola Adeleke, who is expected to join Oyo’s governor in leading the PDP through the presidential election next year.

It was further learnt that forces working to reduce Makinde’s influence in the South West discovered Osun as a fertile ground to plant seeds of discord that would prevent common ground in the region’s push for Ayu’s resignation, having discovered that the Oyo governor played no significant role in Adeleke’s victory at the last July 16 governorship poll.

Since launching counter-narratives to “Ayu must go,” it has become clear that only Oyo State Chapter is with Makinde in the struggle, a development that has somehow divided the push for Ayu’s exit.

Findings also revealed that the South West zonal executives of the party led by Mr Soji Adagunodo had aligned with Makinde on the call for Ayu’s resignation but the same cannot be said of the members of the State Working Committees of the party, which had reportedly been hiding behind their spokespersons to distance themselves from the struggle to oust the party’s national chairman.

During an interview with The PUNCH, a member of the PDP’s South West Zonal Working Committee, who preferred anonymity because he was not authorised to comment on the disagreement over Ayu’s resignation, admitted that Makinde did not formally consult the SWC in states across the region.

He did, however, say that Oyo’s governor does not need to call the state leadership of the region’s six states before making such a demand on their behalf because he was able to persuade members of the ZWC, which represents all state chapters of the party at the regional level.

He further said, “The chairmen of state chapters are only hiding behind one finger on this matter. They were all there at the meeting, where Makinde tabled the demand for the re-organisation of the party leadership at the national level. There was no dissension. They even applauded the governor for the courage he displayed at the meeting.

“But a few hours later, they are now coming out to dissociate themselves from the call for Ayu’s resignation. It is true that Makinde did not consult them as individual state chapters. He, however, told us, members of the Zonal Working Committee of the PDP, and we all supported him.”

Giving insight into why leaders of the party at the state level backtracked on the call for Ayu’s resignation, the Director of Media and Publicity in the Osun PDP, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said such tampering with the national leadership of the party may create constitutional crises.

Olawabamiji said beside the fact that Makinde did not consult them, the need to avoid constitutional crisis that may arise if an elected official with a fixed term of office was asked to go was also considered.

“The leadership of the PDP in Osun State wishes to affirm that we are not part of any revolt against the national leadership of the PDP. We remain guided and loyal to the PDP constitution, which stipulates processes for leadership election and removal,” he said.

When asked why PDP SWC in the region chose to go against Makinde’s position on Ayu rather than comment directly on the controversy, the PDP South West Zonal Publicity Secretary, Mr Sanya Atofarati, said meetings were being held to address the situation.

He further said, “For now, I choose not to respond because there are meetings going on and I am not unaware that the leadership of the party at the zonal level will be meeting. I choose not to respond so that we don’t create contradictions.

“PDP is the only democratic party in Nigeria and as such, people are free to vent their divergent views and opinions. However, this is an intra-party affair, and it is a sensitive situation that requires reasoning with caution.”

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