Monday, May 20, 2024
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PDP governors warn against illegality as NEC meets today

Ahead of the National Executive Committee meeting scheduled for today (Thursday), governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have warned the party members against illegality.

Today’s NEC meeting is set to address whether the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, should retain his position or be replaced.

Damagum, who was the PDP National Chairman (North),   became the acting  National Chairman following the suspension of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, in March last year by a court in Benue State.

The court gave the judgment following a suit filed by Terhide Utaan, a PDP member in the Igyorov ward of Gboko Local Government Area of the state.

The party executive in the ward had earlier passed a vote of no confidence in Ayu.

On Tuesday, 60 members of the House of Representatives called for Damagum’s removal and demanded the appointment of a substantive chairman from the North Central, where Ayu hails from.

But the House minority caucus led by Kingsley Chinda distanced itself from the group, labelling it an unrecognised entity within the parliament.

The PDP caucus meeting in the House of Representatives on Tuesday ended in disarray, with lawmakers sharply divided between those supporting Damagun’s tenure and those opposing it.

On Wednesday, governors elected on the platform of the party met at Akwa Ibom State Asokoro’s Governor’s lodge in Abuja ahead of Thursday’s (today) NEC meeting

Shortly after the meeting, the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, affirmed the commitment of the forum to upholding the party’s amended 2017 constitution.

Section 47(6) of the PDP Constitution provides that “Where a vacancy occurs in any of the offices of the party, the executive committee at the appropriate level shall appoint another person from the area or zone where the officer originated from to serve out the tenure”.

The Bauchi State governor asserted that the forum would assume control and prevent any attempt by marauders to factionalize the party.

In response to inquiries about the stance of the governors regarding Damagum, he stated: “I mentioned that the issues have been resolved, and our focus is on operating within the constitutional provisions of the party.

“Therefore, this meeting is not convened to discuss a change in leadership. Our priority is to address all outstanding matters and move forward so that all activities outlined in the party’s constitution, including congresses, are completed within the stipulated timeframe.

“While the public is free to speculate and discuss, it’s important to note that NEC, comprising the PDP Governors’ Forum and other stakeholders, will ultimately make decisions on such matters. As governors, we understand our leadership role, but we recognise that the NEC will determine whether it is appropriate to fill the leadership vacancy, taking into account legal considerations due to ongoing litigation.

“We are committed to unity within the party and will not allow any factionalisation attempts by external forces. Our goal is to address all issues and ensure the party is unified for optimal performance and success in the upcoming elections.”

He also explained that the meeting reviewed recent developments in the party and urged the National Working Committee of the party to set in motion the machinery to conduct credible congresses in all the states where the tenures of party officers had expired.

Meanwhile, a member of the NEC, who prefers not to be named due to lack of authorisation to speak on the matter, revealed that whether Damagum would remain in his position or not would be the central topic of discussion in the NEC meeting.

He said “ Damagum stands a strong chance of remaining in his position. The governors fully support him. The NEC is expected to approve the decision made by the NWC to extend the tenure of state executives acting beyond their original tenure by three months. Additionally, to pacify the North-Central zone advocating for a chairman from their region, a person from Benue is set to be named as the Director General of the party’s governors’ forum, and a replacement from the North-Central zone will be announced as the PDP Deputy Chairman (North).

“The agenda for the 98th NEC meeting encompasses discussions on the National Chairman’s position, constitutional amendments, the 2023 review committee, reconciliation committee, disciplinary committee, state congresses, and various other topics.”

Earlier, the NWC of the PDP passed a vote of confidence in Damagum.

The PDP NWC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Wednesday, stated that the NWC praised the dedication and endeavuors of the acting National Chairman in stabilising and revitalising the PDP as Nigeria’s primary opposition party.

The statement read in part “The National Working Committee  of the Peoples Democratic Party has passed a Vote of Confidence in the party’s Acting National Chairman, Amb. Umar Iliya Damagum.

“The decision of the NWC which came at the end of its 584th meeting at the party’s national secretariat on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, is in commendation of the efforts and commitment of the Acting National Chairman to stabilize and reposition the PDP as the main opposition Party in Nigeria.

“The Deputy National Chairman (South) Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja presided over the motion for a vote of confidence in the Acting National Chairman which was moved by the National Vice Chairman (South East) Chief Ali Odefa and seconded by the National Treasurer, Yayari Mohammed.”

The PDP NWC reaffirms its dedication to ensuring the ongoing stability, expansion, and prosperity of our esteemed party at all times.

But during its caucus meeting on Wednesday, the North-Central zone of the party unanimously decided that the zone should produce the next national chairman.

A source at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to comment on the matter, said “ The PDP leaders from the North-Central rose from a crucial meeting at the Grand Ibro Hotel Abuja on today (Wednesday, April 17, 2024), with a unanimous decision directing the party’s zonal Vice- Chairman (North Central) Theophilus Dakkas Shan, to transmit to the position of the zone to the National Working Committee ahead of the NEC meeting tomorrow.

“A motion to that effect was moved by Senator Tunde Ogbeha and was widely supported without dissent as the North-Central zone of the party is said to have perfected arrangement to name Ayu’s successor for necessary inauguration processes at the NEC meeting on Thursday, he stated.

In a related development,  Ayu has withdrawn a lawsuit challenging his removal from the party to pave the way for the former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, to replace him as the party’s substantive chairman.

The lawsuit was believed to be an impediment for the PDP to have a substantive national chairman since 2023 when a high court sitting in Makurdi, the state capital stopped Ayu from parading himself as the party’s leader.

In a notice of withdrawal of appeal tagged CA/MK/88/2024 SUIT NO: MHC/85/2023 dated April 15, made available to The PUNCH on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal in Makurdi, Benue State capital revealed that Ayu had withdrawn the appeal against the respondents.

The lawsuit was between Ayu (appellant) and  Terhide Utaan and the PDP as the respondents.

Meanwhile, 60 lawmakers opposed to  Damagum have said that the group is not supporting former Suswam or ex-Kogi State Deputy Governor, Philip Salawu or any other person for the PDP chairmanship.

The lawmakers had last week, called for the resignation of Damagum, threatening to consider their continued membership of the party if their demand was not met.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, the spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere noted that though the issue of who should succeed Ayu came up in their pre-NEC meeting, they resolved not to get involved in who would succeed Ayu given the calibre of persons that had shown interests in the position from the North- Central.

He said, “We the G-60 lawmakers had an online meeting on Tuesday. The issue of supporting a candidate came up, but we advised ourselves that we should remain on the path of advocacy for the right thing to be done because we enjoy cross-sectional alliance.

“We believe that narrowing it down to any candidate will divide us because we have interested persons from Kogi State like the former Deputy Governor, Mr Philip Salawu, and former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam. There are persons from Kwara begging Bukola Saraki to run. There are many others but we don’t want to get involved. Anything decided at NEC, they will have our support.”

Meanwhile, the lawmakers commended Ayu for withdrawing the suit against the party he filed at the Court of Appeal in Makurdi, following his removal from office in June 2023.

Speaking on the development which came barely a few hours before the NEC meeting of the PDP, Ugochinyere said, “We the opposition G-60 lawmakers received the news with so much excitement and this has also brought to rest the argument of why we should not have Damagum as the PDP acting chairman tomorrow (Thursday).

“With this position, Damagun would revert to his position as the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the party and the party would move ahead to appoint an acting national chairman of our great party. This is in line with article 47 (c) of the PDP constitution which mandates the NEC to choose an acting or permanent replacement from the zone or area where the former occupant originates from.”

The group also commended the Court of Appeal for intervening in what it called “An attempt by persons hobnobbing with the ruling All Progressives Congress to stop the former chairman of the party, Mr Uche Secondus, and the former Rivers state Governor, Celestine Omehia, and other leaders of the party from attending the NEC of the party tomorrow (Thursday).

“We appreciate the Court of Appeal for ending the madness to stop rightful members of the party from attending the NEC which is a childish desperation by people who feel the decision of the judiciary can be used in advancing their political abracadabra,” Ugochinyere added.

(PUNCH)

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