The Peoples Democratic Party has said it is possible to remove its national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu through a mini-convention.
The party, however, stressed that it was not considering such a move because it is focused on its preparations for the campaign scheduled to begin on September 28, 2022.
The party disclosed this to The PUNCH against the backdrop of the demands by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; former PDP Board of Trustees Chairman, Bode George, and other aggrieved governors that Ayu must resign before the commencement of the campaign.
However, the party via its National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade, SAN, and the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said a mini-convention was achievable but not feasible before the campaign.
The main opposition party had been enmeshed in crisis since the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate.
Atiku’s decision to choose Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate over Wike reportedly created a schism in the party with Wike and his allies calling for the removal of Ayu over alleged imbalance in the leadership of the party.
Last week, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, also restated the demand for Ayu’s removal during a meeting with Atiku in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
But responding to the demand, Ajibade noted that the time was too short to remove the embattled chairman considering the fact that the campaigns would commence in less than nine days.
The senior advocate also submitted that the crisis in the party could worsen if Ayu stepped down as he would still be replaced by someone from his geo-political zone.
Ajibade said, ‘’Nobody says it’s not achievable, but at least you know it’s constitutional. You know that going by our constitution, going by article 47/ 6, if Ayu steps down, somebody from his zone is coming to step in and that person has to be the national vice chairman, north and it will even be worse if the national vice chairman were to step in as the deputy national vice chairman, north is from the same zone with the candidate himself.
“On what Chief Bode George said, maybe you need to ask him how it is possible before 28 September because if he has a way that it can be achieved, that will require a mini-convention, where offices have to be swapped. The mini-convention will not be possible before September 28.’’
While admitting that the party’s National Executive Committee could effect the PDP chairman’s removal, the legal adviser noted that the time was too short for such a venture.
‘’But in my own opinion, if the NEC chooses at all costs to make it possible, that will be achieved. Nobody will hold anybody. Considering the circumstances surrounding the timeframe between now and September 28, I really doubt if it is achievable. But as the legal adviser, I don’t know how to achieve that. They are talking of balancing; is that not right?,’’ he said.
Recalling how a similar crisis was handled in the past, the senior advocate said, ‘’What I know about the PDP in the past is, if this kind of a thing occurs, when the president emerges, they always correct it. That has been done in the past during the time of (former presidents) Musa Yar’Adua and Obasanjo and I’m sure the PDP will correct it.’’
But the PDP National Deputy Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor, categorically foreclosed the idea of a convention.
“The party is not considering any mini-convention this year; rather, we are considering going into the elections and returning the party to victory come 2023,’’ he said with finality.
Speaking to our correspondent, Ologunagba said the legal adviser merely expressed his personal opinion, noting that the mini-convention proposal could only be discussed if it was presented before the party.
He said, “The proposal of a mini-convention has not come before the party. The legal adviser spoke from the perspective of the law. He was saying that should the party decide to do a mini-convention to determine the fate of Ayu, it would be in order.
“Because we don’t have such a proposal, we can’t be commenting as this will amount to speaking on speculation. Of course, the party can decide this at a convention but other considerations must be put in place. Is it expedient? Is it politically wise? Whatever decision the party takes, there are various organs to discuss whether this is acceptable or not.”
Ayu’s exit vital
But the loyalists of the Rivers State governor contended that a convention was not required to remove Ayu from office.
The South-South Zonal Legal Adviser of the party, George Turner, dismissed the proposal for a mini-convention, stressing that Ayu could be removed without such a forum.
In a telephone conversation with The PUNCH, he said, “We have had reasons to remove party chairmen in the past without going to mini-conventions. The way out of this crisis may not necessarily have to be a convention.
“By the provision of the PDP constitution, the National Executive Committee can take a decision on Ayu’s fate subject to ratification by a convention that will come up later.”
Continuing, Turner noted that “in the past, chairmen were removed without going to conventions. If it is in the interest of the party that Ayu should go, the time to do it is now.”
He recalled that Ayu’s predecessor, Prince Uche Secondus, was eased out of the office without recourse to a convention.
“The man that was removed from office before Ayu was elected, Uche Secondus was not removed at a convention. He was removed less than three months to the end of his tenure,” he added.
That said, Turner, a loyalist of the Rivers State governor urged Ayu to keep faith with his words by doing the needful without further delay.
Also, a former federal lawmaker, Ogbonna Nwuke, said the issue in the PDP was not about a mini-convention, but the exit of the party chairman.
Nwuke, who represented Etche-Omuma federal constituency in the National Assembly, argued that the only acceptable solution was for ‘’Ayu to step down for a southerner to step in since the presidential candidate for the 2023 election is from the North.’’
The former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications reasoned that this would give the South a sense of belonging and restore harmony in the main opposition party ahead of the elections.
He noted, “We are not talking about what is acceptable or not. What Wike and his friends are saying is simple: Ayu should go; we are not speaking ‘turanchi’ (English).
BoT meets Atiku
In a related development, the newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Adolphus Wabara, has said the BoT will meet with Atiku to discuss issues relating to Ayu and his comments on the reported amendment of the party’s constitution.
The Wabara-led BoT has been holding consultations in a bid to resolve the crisis in the party
He was reacting to a question by our correspondent on why the PDP presidential candidate said there was a need to follow the party’s rules and regulations in removing the PDP chair.
Asked about the plans to amend the PDP constitution, Wabara said the decision would be finalised by the presidential candidate of the PDP.
He said, “We will need to speak to the presidential candidate for clarifications on that statement (on constitutional amendment). He has to let us know the constitutionality of the issue, so we can’t comment on that now until we ascertain the constitutionality of the issue.
“There is no problem without a solution but we queue behind our leader who knows where we are headed.”