Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has revealed that he is not among those calling for the removal of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
This is in sharp contrast to the demands of his close ally, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Speaking on Monday, Ortom said it is not possible for him to support the call for the removal of the person he helped bring to power.
He also reiterated that Ayu has the ability to lead the party to victory in the forthcoming general election.
The governor’s comment was a reaction to accusations by a group, Jemgbagh Development Association, that he was part of those calling for the removal of the PDP national chairman, a fellow Benue man.
Meanwhile, more PDP stakeholders have continued to pressure the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to persuade Ayu to resign in the larger interest of the party.
Ortom’s position directly contradicts that of the group he belongs to in PDP, the camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike. The Wike camp’s irreducible minimum condition for resolution of the crisis that started after he was by-passed for Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in the selection of presidential running mate was Ayu’s ouster.
The group, which Ortom is an active member of, has for months insisted that Ayu must resign for a southerner to occupy the PDP chairmanship post.
Observers are, however, unsure of what Ortom’s latest statement represents, even as the Wike camp continues to demand that Ayu must go.
On their part, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council said the party was not threatened by other candidates in the 2023 presidential election. The council said its candidate, Atiku, and his running mate, Okowa, stood tall above other candidates in the election.
The campaign council also dismissed some recent outbursts of the Rivers State governor as frivolous and senseless.
The council’s reactions came as Atiku appointed some prominent members of the party as special advisers, an idea he said was aimed at strengthening his presidential campaign team.
Those appointed included former Senate Presidents, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Senator Pius Anyim; former governor of Kano State, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau; former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Senator Ehigie Uzamere; and former national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus.
Ortom, in a statement in Abuja by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, said it was an open secret that he worked tirelessly, alongside other prominent Benue citizens, to ensure that Ayu was elected “as the national chairman of our great party even against all odds.”
To this extent, the statement said, “The governor could not, therefore, turn around to work against him to be removed from office.”
It described as mischievous “allegations by an amorphous, little known group parading itself as Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja chapter, that the Benue governor has a hand in Ayu’s current travails”.
Ortom maintained that with the backing of many leaders of the PDP, who believed his sense of judgment, they worked relentlessly in the run up to the party’s national convention to market Ayu as having the requisite capacity to lead PDP, especially, in the 2023 general election.
The statement said, “Governor Ortom vouched for the integrity and capacity of Dr Iyorchia Ayu to lead and rebuild the PDP to victory and rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the APC maladministration. That is why Ayu was returned unopposed by the northern caucus of the party and got elected as the national chairman of the PDP at the party’s convention.
“Where was Jemgbagh Development Association, when Governor Ortom galvanised support from across the leaders of the party to make Dr. Ayu PDP’s National Chairman? What was their contribution to that project that they now want to use clannish stance to blackmail the governor?”
He further described as laughable how “this amorphous and emergency Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, which has never been heard of before, is now masquerading as the voice of Jemgbagh to embark on campaign of calumny against Governor Ortom, who has worked selflessly for the people of Benue State.
“Governor Ortom is more Jemgbagh than most of the people claiming it now. This is fact, because he has done more for Jemgbagh, both in terms of appointments and projects executed as well as patronage in the area, than even one of the Jemgbagh sons, who was governor. Besides, Governor Ortom has consistently worked for the unity of Benue State and will never stand in the way of any of her citizens, either here in the state or in the diaspora
“For those, who claimed to be leaders of this Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, we urge them to be truly developmental in their drive to build cohesion among the people and attract real development to their area rather than engaging in mischief or blackmail.”
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered last night that the number of those now asking Ayu to go had increased exponentially. This was as many stakeholders across the different categories of leadership in the party considered the constant vituperations of the Rivers State governor as dangerous to their collective interest if not decisively addressed.
According to sources, at the last count, of the 13 PDP governors, eight had agreed to the demand that Ayu should go. But the governors of Sokoto, Taraba, Edo, Bayelsa, and Delta states remained supportive of Ayu’s continuation as national chairman.
The source stated that this latest development was the reason the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, had been unable to call a meeting of the forum, knowing that majority of the governors were now of the view that Ayu should go and they might assert this position in their next meeting.
Apart from the sitting governors, the source stated further that of the 17 governorship candidates of the party, 12 had also bought into the idea. They realised Wike’s hard stance could harm their own election if the situation was not addressed and they are, therefore, speaking out more.
Similarly, former senate presidents of the party, except one, THISDAY leant, had agreed to the position that Ayu should go as a sacrifice for the party. They believed, however, the situation could have been better managed.