PDP chairmanship: Deals, compromises that threw up Ayu

•How politics of 2023 presidency influenced North’s decision •Why other contenders stepped down

COMPROMISES and permutations over the 2023 presidential ticket, political expediency and need to present a common front reportedly threw up a former president of the Senate, Professor Iyorchia Ayu, as the consensus candidate of the northern caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

The contest had generated a lot of controversy, as various power blocs and tendencies in the three zones in the North embarked on claims and counter-claims over which zone should produce the candidate for the position. 

No fewer than nine prominent politicians of the PDP extraction cutting across the North-East, North-West and the North-Central indicated interest in the race. 

According to sources, Ayu emerged as the consensus candidate after intense power play between the governors and other main stakeholders in the northern caucus of the party, especially in the last three days. 

It was gathered that his emergence was based on agreement and undertaking by the major interests that he and the governors gave that his emergence would not preclude anybody from any zone from contesting the 2023 presidency. 

The sources also claimed that they agreed that if the emergence of PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 favoured any zone, it was the chairman that would resign and work for the candidate. 

It was learnt that it was after the agreement that two of the chairmanship aspirants, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema and Suleiman Nazif, agreed to withdraw from the contest. 

Nigerian Tribune had reported that a power bloc in the northern caucus of PDP had pushed for a northern Christian becoming the next national chairman of the party. 

Ayu, a Benue State indigene, had earlier been endorsed by party stakeholders in the North-Central. He emerged as the consensus candidate on Thursday at a meeting convened at the Bauchi State Governor’s Lodge, in Asokoro, Abuja, clearing the way to be ratified at the October 30 convention as the successor to Prince Uche Secondus. 

Before his choice was announced, the North-West was lining up behind Shema while the North-East was pushing forward former Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi. 

National Deputy Chairman (North) of the PDP, Senator Nazif, who is from the NorthEast, had also insisted on running for the position, irrespective of what other leaders were saying. 

The other aspirants, however, stepped down for Ayu, following talks with the party caucus at the meeting. 

Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State announced the decision to present the former Senate president in the Third Republic as the candidate of the North, saying that the caucus was intent on keeping the party stronger, northern Nigeria united and Nigeria united. He appealed to the rest of the country to support him in the convention slated for Abuja. Fintiri, who is the chairman of the PDP national planning committee, stated: “There is no vanquish, there no victor in this meeting. We all came out united. “Out of the three northern candidates that all the three zones produced, the candidates themselves, in the spirit of unity and togetherness, in the spirit of ensuring that PDP emerges and benefits from our efforts, so that we can win together for Nigerians in the 2023 general election, Distinguished Senator Iyorchia Ayu has emerged as a consensus candidate of the North. “With this, we are fully prepared, we are ready. We will be talking with our colleagues from other parts of the country, especially the South that they see reason for this consensus candidate and give us support during the October 30 and 31 convention of PDP. 

“All of them (aspirants) were immensely qualified but through discussion and reconciliation, we have emerged with consensus list that was endorsed by the candidates themselves. There was no election and there was no selection.” 

In his acceptance speech, Ayu vowed to lead the effort to recapture power and rebuild Nigeria, whose condition he said was now worse than that of Somalia. 

He promised to run an all-inclusive party administration and produce policies that would be acceptable to Nigerians. 

Ayu thanked leaders of the PDP in the North for standing united and willing to work with him. He added: “I am a foundation member of this party. I worked in the party before, but I know that you cannot do it alone. We shall work as team. And I believe with the support of Nigerians, we shall achieve victory and administer this country to the greater glory of God.” 

The meeting, which was hosted by Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, had in attendance Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Sam Ortom (Benue), Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Fintiri (Adamawa). 

Former Senate presidents Bukola Saraki and Ayu; the national secretary of the PDP, Senator Unaru Tsauri; chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, as well as former governors, serving and former members of the National Assembly, among others, were also in attendance. 

Horse-trading 

On Wednesday, the governors had intensified spirited efforts at breaking the stalemate over the choice for a consensus candidate for the post of the national chairman. 

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party ratified the recommendation of the zoning committee presided over by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State that the next chairman of PDP should come from the North. 

However, the governors and other vested interests could not hold the much-expected meeting of members of the northern caucus of PDP scheduled for Wednesday in Abuja due to tension. Some of the leaders were said to have mobilised other party buffs to the venue of the meeting because of alleged plot by the governors to raid-road the process of producing the consensus candidate. 

There was also an accusation that one of the interests propped a new contestant in the bid to checkmate the chairmanship aspiration of Senator Nazif. 

Ayu’s antecedents 

Ayu was elected in the Third Republic on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and president of the Senate between 1992 and 1993. 

Later, he served as minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. In November 1993, the Senate impeached Ayu, ostensibly because of his disposition against the then Interim National Government (ING). 

Nonetheless, he later became minister of education in the Abacha military government and played a major role in the 1998-1999 campaign to elect Obasanjo on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

Obasanjo appointed him the Industry minister from 1999 to 2000. Ayu was appointed minister of internal affairs in July 2003 and during a cabinet reshuffle in June 2005, he was reassigned to become minister of environment. 

In December 2005, Obasanjo dismissed Ayu. He left the PDP for the Action Congress (AC) and led the presidential campaign organisation of ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar in April 2007.

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