National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Iyorchia Ayu, quietly retuned to Nigeria yesterday after his two weeks trip to Europe.
His absence at many functions of his party had been attributed to ill health but Sentry gathered that the Benue- born politician, aside the need to attend to his health, may have also embarked on the trip as a way of escaping some of the brickbats being hauled at him by angry PDP chieftains as calls for his resignation heightened.
Checks at the weekend revealed that the returnee PDP boss is displeased that he came back to meet the crisis rocking his party heightened rather than abating. “He is a human being. He is naturally displeased with the condition he met the party,” a close associate said.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State have been leading other aggrieved chieftains to prevail on presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and other party leaders, to make Ayu vacate his seat so that someone from the southern part of the country can take his place ahead the 2023 general elections.
Their argument is that the candidate and national chairman cannot come from the same zone. However, Atiku has insisted that this is not a good time to ask Ayu to leave.
The disagreement over whether he should leave or stay has been generating tension within the party, leading to the boycott of the unveiling of the party’s presidential campaign council by Wike and four governors.
Sadly, Ayu’s returned to the country amid a fresh scandal concerning alleged ‘mysterious’ money sent to some National Working Committee (NWC) members of the party. Four of them NWC returned a total sum of N122.4 million paid into their accounts. Sentry gathered that the money, which was transferred to the NWC members after the PDP primaries, was said to be part of the over N10 billion realised by the party from nomination fees paid by aspirants.
The Deputy National Chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja, the National Vice Chairman (South), Chief Dan Orbih; the National Vice Chairman (South-West) Olasoji Adagunodo, and National Women Leader, Prof. Stella Affah-Attoe, are among NWC members who returned the controversial money.
Officials of the party have tried explaining that the money was given to the beneficiaries as entitlements and not any form of bribe. It’s an explanation that has left many cold. It’s also been a PR disaster of the worst possible kind, with the worst possible timing.
No doubt, Ayu’s first public appearance would be widely watched within and outside his party as he tries to put the many fires threatening PDP’s 2023 campaign.