PDP crisis: Oshiomhole scenario looms as court halts Ayu’s leadership

A Benue state High Court sitting in Makurdi Monday granted an interim injunction asking  the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyorchia Ayu, to stop parading himself in that capacity, even as the party chair insisted only the national body of the party could suspend him.

The court declared that with his suspension by the PDP Igyorov ward in Gboko local government area of Benue state, Ayu has lost his party membership.

Secretary of the ward, Vangeryina Dooyum, who announced the suspension while addressing the press on behalf of the ward chairman, Kashi Philip, had said Ayu was suspended for alleged anti-party activities.

The suspension came few days after the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) had dragged the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, to its disciplinary committee over alleged anti-party activities.

Oshiomhole, Secondus’ scenario

With the party’s crisis taking a legal twist, Ayu might go the way of former Edo state governor, Aliyu Adams Oshiomhole whose suspension by the Edo state chapter of the party, was also upheld by Justice Danlami Senchi of an FCT High Court sitting in Jabi.

However, in Oshiomhole’s case, he was ordered to stop parading himself as the party’s national chair since he did not challenge his suspension in court.

The former governor had boasted, like Ayu, that only the party headquarters could suspend national officers of the party, including the chairman.

Although Oshiomhole appealed the ruling, he, however, lost out at the Court of Appeal which affirmed the lower court’s decision.

A similar path was followed by Ayu’s predecessor in office, Prince Uche Secondus, who was also suspended by his ward in Rivers state, and ultimately booted out of office.   

Court’s declaration  

Ruling on an ex parte application brought before it by a member of the party in the state,  Engr. Terhide Utaan, to stop Ayu as the party’s chair, Justice Wilfred I. Kpochi said  by the suspension, Ayu had lost his membership of the party.

The case in suit No. MHC/85/2023 MOTION NO. MHC/633M/2023, is between Utaan, (plaintiff) vs Senator Dr Iyorchia Ayu as 1st respondent and the PDP as 2nd respondent.

The plaintiff had prayed the court that “having lost membership of the party, through the suspension by the Ward Executive members, Ayu was no longer qualified to lead the party and must stop parading himself pending the hearing and determination of Motion on Notice already filed.”

Granting the interim injunction, the court declared:  “By this ex-parte application the Plaintiff/Applicant principally seek the order couched thus: “An order of interim injunction restraining the 1st defendant Senator Dr. lyorchia Ayu from parading himself as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) having lost membership of the party, pending the hearing and determination of Motion on Notice already filed.”

“The application is supported by a fifteen (15) paragraph affidavit to which is annexed three exhibits as Exhibits A1, A2 and B, which are the Applicant’s membership card of the 2nd defendant, receipts for payment of dues and a vote of no confidence passed on the 1st Defendant/Respondent by the Igyorov Council Ward of the 2 Defendant in Gboko Local Government, Benue State.

“Upon hearing Mr. M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel ably move the application and upon a dispassionate consideration of the facts placed before me in the pool of the affidavit evidence, and again, upon the consideration of the issues distilled in the written address by M. T. Assoh of Learned Counsel, it is my Candid view that this is a proper case to grant the interim injunction as craved.
“Consequently, this application is hereby granted in terms of the reliefs captured in the motion papers as herein before reproduced. It is so ordered,” the judge declared.
The matter was adjourned to 17/4/2023 for hearing.

Ward disowns suspension letter

In a sudden twist, party executives in Igyorov Ward, Monday, distanced themselves from Ayu’s suspension.

In a letter to the PDP chairman in Gboko local government area, the executives said they never endorsed Ayu’s suspension.

They said the suspension was made without recourse to due process and proper consultation with all relevant stakeholders, adding that their signatures were forged to issue the “mischievous letter” announcing Ayu’s suspension.

The letter signed by the party’s deputy chairman in the ward and 15 others, reads in part: “The executive committee have never discussed in any of our meetings prior to election or post 2023 general election about the conduct of the national chairman.

“The executive committee members have stated clearly that they have no knowledge about the letter and have not authorised anybody whatsoever to generate such mischievous letter on behalf of the executive committee.

“The purported signatures on the letter are forged and no member of PDP executive committee of Igyorov council ward have signed that letter nor caused to be signed on his or her behalf. The names of the executive committee members were wrongly written and spelled which shows the desperation of the mischief makers.”

“The content of the purported letter itself is contradictory on the holding of the presidential and National Assembly Elections on the March 25, 2023 while the letter itself is dated March 24, 2023.

“The letter was written before the purported commission of the offence which shows clearly that it is the handiwork of mischief makers,” the executive members stated.

They lack the power – Ayu

In all of this, the embattled party chair Monday  insisted only the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) can suspend him as a national officer.

Ayu, in a statement by his media aide, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said those “goading Ward Exco ignorant.”

It said “the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, has not been suspended by his Ward. Some members of the Exco are only being teleguided by political gamblers to cause mischief and nothing more.”

The statement said: “For starters, Article 57(7) of the PDP Constitution as Amended in 2017 expressly prohibits any organ of the party or executive committee of the party at the Ward or State Level from taking any disciplinary measure against any member of the party’s National Executive Committee.

“The purported suspension is, therefore, an exercise in futility as it derives its strength majorly from gross illiteracy, ignorance, gambling, and desperation. It has only mischief, drama, and propaganda value.

“But more than this, the so-called suspension letter was written by an illiterate beforehand, and only given to the coerced members to sign somewhere in Makurdi.

“This is why the original date is typexed and 24 March imposed on it. And this is also why it states that the presidential/NASS and Governorship/State Assembly elections were held on the 25th and 18th March, 2023 respectively.

“From what we know, the document itself is fraudulent as the signatures of the Ward Executives were forged or obtained under duress.

“The chairman, his deputy, and legal adviser didn’t sign. The 14th person on the list didn’t sign too.  She was at NKST Ambighir for the Holy Communion. 

“In fact, the same applies for Nos. 5, 8, and 16. At the time they were supposed to be in Makurdi with the other coerced, intimidated, and induced members of the Exco, they were actually in their villages, going about their normal businesses.

“Up till now, about nine members of the Ward Exco are still being held hostage in a location in Makurdi for obvious reasons. And expectedly, their mobile numbers have been switched off. It is instructive.”

We just started – Wike

Commenting on the development, Rivers state Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike said Ayu’s travails had just started.

The governor said it was unthinkable to allow any person who was unable to deliver his political unit, ward, local government or state to the PDP during the last general elections to preside over the party.

Governor Wike spoke Monday during the inauguration of the remodeled Community Secondary School, Okoro-nu-Odo, in Obio-Akpor local government area of the state.

He said: “Ask them, those who want to be chairman of this party (PDP), what do you have to give to the party now? Presidential election; you took bribe, and lost in your unit, lost in your ward, lost in your local government and lost in your State. Which party will you preside over now?”

Governor Wike said it was God who hardened Ayu’s heart not to resign when the G-5 governors and members of Integrity Group demanded for his resignation after the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate.

He noted if Ayu had resigned then, his cohorts who were vehemently opposed to the zoning of elective and appointive offices, would have used that as an excuse for the party’s abysmal performance in the just concluded general elections.

The governor said it would be morally offensive for Ayu to remain as the national chairman of the PDP after the catastrophic defeat of the party under his watch in his unit, ward, local government, State and national.  According to him, the suspension of Ayu is the beginning of the fight to save the party.

“Those of you, who are fighting that they have suspended him, you have not seen anything yet. The fight has started. Ayu, the fight has just started. If you know him, those of you who are close to him, tell him, Iyorchia Ayu, the fight has just started,” Wike said. 

Governor Wike insisted that instead of Ayu using his position to strengthen the grip of the Benue PDP, he allowed it slip off him.

“Will you preside over the one (Rivers PDP) I have secured victory for? You want to come and preside over this State (Rivers) so that we will begin to donate money to the party? You, bring your own State to the party too, so that your State can contribute money to the national. If you don’t deliver your State, you can’t preside over us. You cannot,” the governor further said.

Specifically, governor Wike said: “Look at somebody who did anti-party, he is suspending people. The chief priest of anti-party, native doctor of anti-party suspending those who have worked hard for this party.

“All of you who are joining Ayu, be prepared. Now, I have no other job, the job I have now is to put more heat on them and I will continue to do that.

“If you like, let the National Secretary rush to Abuja. Let them meet this afternoon and say the suspension is illegal, you will see what you will face. You are calling us small boys, you will see what small boys can do to you.”

Governor Wike stressed that those who thought they could toy with Rivers state and not be dealt with squarely can begin to lick their wounds because they have been “peppered”.

In his address, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Chinedu Mmom noted that the premises once looked like an abandoned poultry farm but had been restored to a conducive educational facility.

On his part, chairman of Obio-Akpor local government area, George Ariolu, said the remodeled community secondary school was one in the series of magnificent projects Governor Wike delivered across the state.

About John Shiaondo, Makurdi, Chizoba Ogbeche and Abdulrahman Zakariyau, Abuja and Dennis Essang, Port Harcourt

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