Governor Wike and his allies have demanded the resignation of the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as their condition for sitting down to negotiate with Atiku for their support in the 2023 presidential election.
The camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, in the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has proposed the appointment of Taofeek Arapaja as acting national chairman of the party.
PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported on Friday that the group, at a meeting it held on Thursday in London with the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, demanded the resignation of the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as its condition for sitting down to negotiate with Atiku for the support of the group in the coming presidential election.
Members of the group who attended the meeting held over dinner at the Carlton Hotel in Park Lane, London include Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue, Seyi Makinde of Oyo and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia as well as former governors Donald Duke of Cross Rivers, Segun Mimiko of Ondo and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.
The group gave two main reasons for its demand for Mr Ayu’s resignation. The first is to correct the imbalance in the leadership of the party in which all the top national positions in the PDP are being held by members from the northern zones of the country.
It said Mr Ayu himself had foreseen such imbalance before he was elected by consensus last year and had pledged to step down should the party also nominate a northerner as presidential candidate.
The second reason the group cited was the alleged divisiveness of Mr Ayu, saying his leadership style has worsened crises in the party.
The Wike group believes that Atiku can prevail on Mr Ayu to step down because they are allies and that the national chairman had clandestinely supported Atiku in the party primaries.
At the meeting, Atiku had pointed out to the group that Mr Ayu’s resignation would not correct the imbalance in the leadership, as the Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagum, would be required to fill the vacancy such a step would create, in line with the provisions of the the constitution of the party.
The constitution of the party prescribes that the deputy national chairman from the home region of the national chairman would act in the absence of the national chairman or take the office if it becomes vacant before the end of their tenure.
But the Wike group said the that constitutional obstacle could be circumvented by both Mr Ayu and Mr Damagum resigning to give Mr Arapaja a clear path to the seat.
Mr Arapaja is a former deputy governor of Oyo State and assistant national chairman of the party for the South West until his election to his current position. He is an ally of Governor Makinde, one of the governors in the Wike camp.
It should be noted that the South West zone has never produced the national chairman of the PDP.
The Wike group also noted that a precedent for its proposal had been created in 2010 when Haliru Mohammed, who was then the deputy national chairman (North), took over as acting national chairman after Okwesileze Nwodo from Enugu State in the South East zone was forced to step down after Goodluck Jonathan became president, following the death of President Umar Yar’adua.
The group proposed that Mr Arapaja should take the office on an interim basis until after the general elections when the party could then decide on a substantive national chairman.