The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has reacted to the withdrawal of some party members, led by the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, from his campaign team.
After a long meeting, which started Tuesday evening and ended Wednesday morning in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the group said they will not participate in Atiku’s campaign activities unless the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, vacates his seat for a southerner.
This, they believe, will ensure ‘balance’ in the party.
Some members of Wike’s camp were appointed into the PDP presidential campaign council (PCC) last week.
Some of them are the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who was named as the Vice Chairman (South) of the same committee; former governor of Ondo, Olusegun Mimiko and his counterpart in Ekiti, Ayo Fayose, among others.
The trio were also part of the meeting where the decision to withdraw from the campaign was made in Port Harcourt.
However, Atiku, in a statement signed on Tuesday, said he was shocked by news of the withdrawal of Mr Wike and his allies but added that he cannot force Mr Ayu to resign unless the chairman agreed to do so.
“The people that addressed the press must have their reasons for withdrawing from the Presidential Campaign Council, and I will not speculate as to what those reasons may be,” he said.
“Personally, I am quite surprised with this withdrawal because, as I have been informed by officials of our party, apart from the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, all the remaining states of the federation submitted names of people who they wanted included in the Presidential Campaign Council.
“On the calls for the resignation or removal from office of our national chairman, however, I must reiterate what I have said ‘severally’ in public and in private; the decision for Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Dr. Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him.
“As to the calls for the removal of Dr. Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organized and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done in accordance with, and conformity to the law and our constitution.
“If Dr. Ayu is to be removed from office, it must be done in accordance with the laws that set out the basis for such removal. In any event, you will all recall that the very body that is empowered by law to initiate this removal from office, has already passed a vote of confidence in him.”
The party leadership crisis can be traced to its presidential primaries where Mr Wike and other aspirants lost to Atiku, a northerner from Adamawa State.
His emergence caused a perceived imbalance in the geo-political sharing arrangements. With Atiku as the presidential candidate, there were expectations from Mr Wike’s group that Mr Ayu, who is also from the north, would step down for a southerner to take over.