- Damagum denies taking sides with ex-Rivers gov in party crisis
The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is due to take a definite decision on the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike, following his nomination as minister by President Bola Tinubu.
The Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagum, told The Nation on the phone yesterday that consultation was already in progress on the Wike issue.
“We are already consulting with the PDP Governors Forum on the matter and the National Working Committee (NWC) will be meeting on Monday to take a definite position on it,” Damagum said.
The chairman said that contrary to allegations that the PDP has gone to bed since the outcome of the elections, the leadership has been engaging the various party organs in consultations with a view to addressing the various challenges confronting the party.
Damagum said: “There is no lull in the PDP like you said, just because you have not seen us moving to the streets. Consultations are ongoing with key stakeholders.
“Among those we are consulting with are state chairmen, the PDP Governors Forum, past National Chairmen and a select group of PDP elders.
“We are also meeting with the leadership of the PDP Youth organ next week. So we have not been idle as some people might think.”
On why the party has not convened its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in the last 10 months, Damagum said there were still issues to be resolved before NEC meeting can hold.
The PDP constitution stipulates that NEC meeting must hold every quarter (three months) and vests the National Chairman with the power to convene the meeting. The last NEC meeting was convened on September 8, 2022.
But Damagum said he alone cannot take the decision to convene NEC meeting.
He said: “The fact that I am the chairman does not make me the Alpha and Omega in the PDP. There are stakeholders in other organs of the party who are also critical to any decision to convene the NEC. Among them are the organs I mentioned earlier.
“And don’t forget that we still have our case in court”, referring to the ongoing presidential election petition where the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, are challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Asked to clarify media reports that he was receiving backing from the Wike camp, Damagum said he was neutral in the entire fray and that he would remain neutral in the overall interest of the PDP.
The chairman said he was not aware of any moves by some interest groups within the party to remove him from office.
Some online publications had reported yesterday that the Atiku camp was plotting Damagum’s removal from office over his alleged romance with the Wike group.
The nomination of Wike for ministerial position in the APC administration is causing ripples in the PDP.
The former Rivers State governor and four of his fellow PDP governors, Seyi Makinde (Oyo),Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia ),Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuayi (Enugu) opted not to work for the party in the presidential election on account of the issue of national chairman and presidential candidate coming from the same part of the country.
Our correspondent learnt yesterday that Wike has been working in the background to draw his four other friends in the G-5 closer to President Tinubu.
A source close to ex-Governor Ortom confirmed the development to our correspondent in a telephone chat on Friday.
According to the source, who does not want his name in print, Ortom had resolved his differences with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume. The SGF is the leader of the APC in Benue State.
Akume, who was Benue governor from 1999 to 2007, used to be Ortom’s political godfather before they parted ways shortly before the 2019 general election.
Akume was instrumental to how Ortom joined the APC and got elected governor in 2015 on the party’s platform.
The two politicians, however, had a disagreement that led Ortom to later defect to the PDP where he secured the party’s ticket for his re-election in 2019.
The source confirmed that Ortom and some of the G-5 members were in Abuja yesterday for a scheduled meeting with Akume.
According to him, Wike was billed to be part of the scheduled meeting where some key decisions were expected to be taken.
The source said Akume might lead the group to meet with President Tinubu after the meeting.
“You must be aware that ex Governor Ortom has already reconciled with Senator Akume. The initial arrangement was for President Tinubu to reconcile them. But they have made the President’s job easier by being able to settle their differences on their own,” said the source.