Frederick Adebayo: Ayu rent bonanza: Ortom, Wike vindicated

As a close observer of recent political developments in the country, I must state emphatically that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu has woefully failed integrity test and therefore lacks the moral grounds to continue to preside over the affairs of the PDP especially if the party is serious about wrestling power from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

At a time the unity of the country is being threatened, only a united political party front offers hope for the restoration of the much needed unity. It is rather unfortunate that Ayu who presides over the affairs of the PDP, which is the main opposition party in Nigeria today, is by his actions and inaction, pushing the party’s ship to hit the iceberg particularly in the presidential polls scheduled for next year.

For a well established party like the PDP to allow its current National Chairman to wreck its vessel at a defining moment as we approach the 2023 general election spells doom, particularly if urgent steps are not taken to correct the impression that Nigerians are already having about the party’s leadership. No doubt, what the leadership of the party offers is ultimately being interpreted as what will happen when such a political party takes over power at the federal level.

It is no longer news, that some PDP stalwarts including some serving Governors on the party’s platform like Governors Nyesom Wike, Samuel Ortom, Seyi Makinde, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Rivers, Benue, Oyo and Enugu states respectively, have expressed reservations about the party’s leadership, particularly with regards to the handling of its activities during and after the presidential convention, which led to the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate.

Although many persons may have dismissed the genuine concerns raised by some of the PDP governors, it is however becoming more glaring that Ayu’s underhand deals to sabotage the party’s success at the polls clearly vindicate the PDP bigwigs who are sincerely committed to seeing that the party gets it right to redeem the nation from the maladministration of the APC-led Government.

To a discerning mind, unfolding political happenings within the ranks of the PDP have proven that the National Chairman, Dr Ayu is solely the architect of the internal wranglings rocking the party. His travails are many but nothing is more damaging than the scandalous revelations about Ayu’s bazaar or call it rent bonanza if you like, with regards to the man’s handling of the party funds. I shall return to this as I reflect on why the PDP governors are vindicated concerning their misgivings about Ayu’s leadership.

It must be pointed out in clear terms that, Ayu actually became his own albatross when he openly took sides before, during and after the party’s presidential primaries, and subsequently reneged on his promise to vacate the position of National Chairman as he had declared he would if the party’s presidential candidate emerged from the Northern region of the country. I consider that Ayu had based his promise to resign on grounds of equity, justice and fairness as well as a sense of inclusiveness in the PDP. Where has Ayu’s integrity to do the right thing gone now, if I may ask? Why is the man insistently holding onto the party’s Chairmanship when it is obvious that other regions of the country do not feel a sense of justice and inclusiveness given that the presidential candidate is from the North at the same time with the party Chairman?

One would expect that Ayu who enjoyed the enormous goodwill of Governors Wike and Ortom to emerge as National Chairman would at least not betray these gentlemen, but he blatantly did when he celebrated Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State as the “hero” of the PDP convention. As an umpire Ayu was biased and his indiscretion and lack of political maturity to preserve his integrity by stepping aside amidst the controversies only portrays him as someone who would lead the party to its doom.

In the build up to the PDP convention during which Ayu emerged as National Chairman, Governor Ortom and his Rivers state counterpart, Wike had worked assiduously to have other strong candidates like former Senate President David Mark step down to pave the way for Ayu to emerge through consensus, but Ayu in a careless manner of ridiculing these gentlemen and further exacerbating the post presidential convention crisis, referred to them as “children who were not there when we were founding the PDP” but now want to be calling the shots. What an insensitive and insulting comment.

Now let’s turn to the financial scandals perpetrated by Ayu since assuming Chairmanship.
Facts as they say, are sacred. I should think Ayu himself knows what he did wrong during and after the presidential primaries. It is therefore not surprising that members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP are beginning to cast doubts and ask questions regarding the handling of funds belonging to the party. When Governor Wike revealed in his recent media chat that Ayu collected the sum of 1 billion Naira from a certain PDP presidential candidate in Lagos without remitting the money to the party’s bank account or giving proper account of the funds, the disclosure sounded outrageous but a few days later, more shocking revelations are being made on how Ayu is crudely and mismanaging the party’s funds.

According to the media reports, no fewer than four members of the PDP National Working Committee have returned the sum of N122.4 million paid into their accounts by the National Chairman, Ayu. The money was said to be part of the over N10 billion realized by the party from nomination fees paid by aspirants.

The PDP NWC members who returned the money are the National Vice Chairman (South-West) Olasoji Adagunodo, the Deputy National Chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja; National Vice Chairman (South), Chief Dan Orbih and National Women Leader, Prof. Stella Affah-Attoe. While Arapaja got N36 million, Adagunodo, Orbih and Effah-Attoe got N28.8 million each. Obviously, the monies were meant to compromise or induce some of the party’s national officials who, out of integrity in their respective roles, formally wrote to the national Chairman and declined the funds for whatever purpose it was meant.

The letters which went viral on the social media space indicated the National Woman Leader, Prof. Effah-Attoe in her letter stated that when she inquired about the N28,800,000,00 paid to her account, she was told by Ayu’s office that the amount was for house rent for two years as NWC members. Perhaps it is Ayu’s sole responsibility to spend or allocate party’s funds as he pleases. This too is indicting the man as running a one man show in the NWC which really calls to question the motives behind such a practice.

“Since after the lodgment of the money into my bank account, I have been inundated with many phone calls from party members, friends, family members and the general public, insinuating that the said money has been given as a bribe to bring me and other NWC members on the side of the National Chairman, following the crisis between him on one side and the Governor of Rivers State, H.E Governor Nyesom Wike/ Wike’s group on the other side,” the National Woman Leader particularly stated in her letter.

In all this, what example of leadership is Ayu showing to Nigerians when his party the PDP comes into power at Federal Government level? If he is shamelessly displaying this high level of corruption in running the party just to fight and dislodge Governors Wike and Ortom who helped him ascend the Chairmanship, what will he tell Nigerians on the campaign trail of Atiku Abubakar in whose favour he flagrantly compromised the presidential convention?

It is high time that Ayu stepped down and allowed room for investigation into the corruption allegations of mismanaging party’s funds leveled against him. This could only be PDP’s way of regaining the confidence of Nigerians who are sick and tired of APC’s misrule and see a better alternative in the PDP.

*Adebayo, a political affairs commentator writes from Lagos.

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