Umar Sani is former Senior Adviser on Media and Publicity to ex-vice president Namadi Sambo and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on the crisis rocking the party and its chances in the 2023 general election, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
What is your take on the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over calls by some aggrieved members of the party for the removal the national chairman?
This is not the first time things like this have happened in the party. The PDP has a long history. In 2010, when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was acting president and in 2011, when he was elected as the president, he came along with the national chairman of the party, who is Okwesilieze Nwodo.
At the same time, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party. It is a tradition that once there is a transition, this type of thing normally happens. You will have somebody from the same part of the country but when the transition is completed, the correctness would be done.
This means that Iyorchia Ayu will have to leave if Atiku Abubakar becomes the president and somebody from the southern extraction will now become the national chairman of the party and a new national convention would be held. But as it is now, the process is so cumbersome and the timing is not right. We are approaching elections and there are two or three ways somebody can be removed as national chairman as provided for by the PDP constitution.
The first is that he can resign. Secondly, an allegation is placed on him before the National Executive Committee (NEC) and then he is found wonting and the NEC passes a vote of no confidence in him and removes him.
The third is Umar Sani is former Senior Adviser on Media and Publicity to ex-vice president Namadi Sambo and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on the crisis rocking the party and its chances in the 2023 general election, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU reports when his tenure expires.
Now, if we have all these issues before the party and the Governor Nyesom Wike group is asking that Ayu should go because he made a promise; that promise is not a promise between the party and group. It is a promise, perhaps, between individuals. If it was done within the party, the party will not go ahead at the last NEC to pass a vote of confidence on Ayu and that he should continue.
So, if we are talking about resignation, we have seen our party chairmen right from Solomon Lar up to Ayu, only two national chairmen resigned and they were all prevailed upon to resign. As it is now, it is a difficult for Ayu to resign because the constitution has been amended in 2017 to accommodate some key certain issues that makes it difficult even if he resigns for anybody from another side of the country to take over.
For instance, we have two deputy national chairmen, one from the North and the second one from the South. You will remember that when Uche Secondus was taken to court and the court said he should step aside, the next person that came in was from the southern part of the country.
So, it is the same thing that will happen if Ayu resigns unless a national convention is held because even before that arrangement was made a zoning committee headed by Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, actually zoned these positions based on North and South. So, if he has to resign, the positions also have to be swapped and then a national convention will be held to be able to elect somebody that will steer the affairs of the party.
I believe that the timing is very wrong because as it is now, we are going into the campaigns. We cannot afford to go for another national convention to change the national chairman before we continue with the campaigns. It will be a tedious process and it will tell on the party finances and even members of the party.
Governor Wike said Atiku told him that Ayu must go and Atiku’s camp has not been able to deny that, what do you say about that?
There are certain things that you say in private that we don’t have any evidence to say he actually said it or not. It is a matter between the two of them and if he says Atiku told him this and Atiku at this point in time does not feel he has to be contradicting Wike to further aggravate the matter, I think the best thing for him to do at this point in time is for him to be silent and in this case, silence is golden.
Governor Wike said his group is fighting for unity, inclusivity, equity and peace in the PDP and that he will mobilize the Rivers State campaign Council of the party to make sure that PDP wins every available seat in that state. Does that settle the matter, is it possible for him to win at the state level and play neutral when it comes to the presidential election?
I think Governor Wike is only trying to say that he has some grievances with the party and the party is yet to settle those grievances.
And because of that I don’t want to be part and parcel of the campaign but he would also do his best because he is a PDP and he will ensure that PDP does not lose but nobody should attach his name to the presidential campaign council. If he says he wants to ensure that the party wins all available seats in the state, it includes the presidency because the election of the president will be done on the same day with the election of the senators and members of the House of Representatives.
So, he cannot separate the three and say let me work for House of Reps and Senate but will not work for the president. I believe that Governor Wike is just trying to say he has grievances and that the party should settle the grievances so that he can be part aand parcel of the victory or if you refuse to settle the grievances, he will just stay aloof and watch.
Governor Udom Emmanuel said the reason for the crisis is that people are not walking their talk, is PDP fast becoming a party that doesn’t walk its talk?
I don’t think that anybody can be accused of not walking their talk. If you take a holistic look of the situation from the beginning, most people have made promises which they have reneged on. Even Governor Wike from the beginning said that he will never interfere in Rivers PDP primaries but most of the governorship aspirants have come out to accuse him of interference and imposition.
So, it is a general thing within the party. For instance, most of our conventions are done on the strength of unity lists. People are not allowed to canvass for votes and campaign and states are not allowed to vote on the basis of their convictions. But a unity list would be crafted and they will say every state must vote for a particular person for chairman, this one for secretary and so nobody is walking the talk generally.
There is a group in the PDP called PDP Stakeholders for Justice and its members are saying that Dr. Iyorchia Ayu will be a hero if he resigns in the interest of peace. Will that solve the problem of the party?
I’m not aware of any group called by that name because in our party before you are recognized as a group, you have to be registered if you are operating under PDP. I’m not aware I have seen any group of such nature within the registration of groups that form PDP groups.
But again, if they are making that suggestion that if Ayu resigns at this point in time, he would be a hero, the point is that the resignation is Ayu’s issue. It is not anybody’s issue because he has the right to resign or not to resign. If he believes he would be a hero, then he can resign but if he believes that by staying put is what will make him a hero; that is his own decision.
However, his resignation will not solve any problem, because if he resigns, the next person that will take over is the deputy national chairman (North), which will still not solve the problem because the agitation is that the seat of the national chairman for equity, fairness and justice should move to the South.
Some PDP stakeholders have admitted that mistakes have been made, who made more of the mistakes?
We can’t really say but both sides have really made mistakes. And apportioning blame as to which side made more mistake is a difficult thing for anybody to do. For instance, it is not proper for a national chairman after a convention to call somebody a hero of democracy. That is not proper. I’m not in support of that because it shows that you are supposed to be an umpire and should not take side.
I know that Ayu is part of the founding fathers because if you go to the G18 and G34, he is part of the G34 of the party. But again, in politics, you cannot come out in public and say that some members of your party are small children. That is also undermining them and they are naturally going to feel aggrieve.
However, coming back to Governor Wike, the party is greater than any individual or group of individuals. We are talking about the supremacy of the party because you cannot lambast members of the party everyday in Port Harcourt and expect them not to respond. He has made so many statements.
He has threatened the party and has done so many things to undermine the party. These are all mistakes both sides have made but it doesn’t mean that the matter cannot be resolved internally. It is not for public consumption and it is not something that cannot be resolved.
We have enough elders within the party and respected persons within the party who can actually resolve this matter. And I think that if this matter is treated under closed doors, the matter will be amicably resolved and the party will move forward and win the presidential seat in 2023.