Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom has reportedly debunked speculations that he was in support of the removal of National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
Ortom said it is impossible for him to advocate the removal of someone he helped to appoint. Ortom reasserted his confidence in Ayu’s ability to lead the party to victory in next year’s general election, in a surprising contrast to the position of his close ally, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.
This was in reaction to accusations by a group, Jemgbagh Development Association, that he was involved in the ouster moves against the PDP national chairman, a fellow Benue man.
However, more PDP stakeholders have continued to mount pressure on the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to persuade Ayu to resign in the larger interest.
Ortom’s position directly contradicts that of the group he belongs to in PDP, the camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike. The Wike camp’s irreducible minimum condition for resolution of the crisis that started after he was by-passed for Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in the selection of presidential running mate was Ayu’s ouster.
The group, which Ortom is an active member of, has for months insisted that Ayu must resign for a southerner to occupy the PDP chairmanship post.
Meanwhile, critical observers are not sure of what Ortom’s latest statement represents, even as the Wike camp continues to dig its heels in, maintaining that Ayu must go.
Relatedly, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council said the party was not threatened by other candidates in the 2023 presidential election.
The council said its candidate, Atiku, and his running mate, Okowa, stood tall above other candidates in the election.
The campaign council also portrayed some recent outbursts of the Rivers State governor as frivolous and senseless.
The council’s reactions came as Atiku appointed some prominent members of the party as special advisers, an idea he said was aimed at strengthening his presidential campaign team.
Those appointed included former Senate Presidents, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Senator Pius Anyim; former governor of Kano State, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau; former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Senator Ehigie Uzamere; and former national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus.
Ortom, in a statement in Abuja by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, said it was an open secret that he worked tirelessly, alongside other prominent Benue citizens, to ensure that Ayu was elected “as the national chairman of our great party even against all odds.”
To this extent, the statement said, “The governor could not, therefore, turn around to work against him to be removed from office.”
It described as mischievous “allegations by an amorphous, little known group parading itself as Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja chapter, that the Benue governor has a hand in Ayu’s current travails”.
Ortom maintained that with the backing of many leaders of the PDP, who believed his sense of judgment, they worked relentlessly in the run up to the party’s national convention to market Ayu as having the requisite capacity to lead PDP, especially, in the 2023 general election.
The statement said, “Governor Ortom vouched for the integrity and capacity of Dr Iyorchia Ayu to lead and rebuild the PDP to victory and rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the APC maladministration. That is why Ayu was returned unopposed by the northern caucus of the party and got elected as the national chairman of the PDP at the party’s convention.
“Where was Jemgbagh Development Association, when Governor Ortom galvanised support from across the leaders of the party to make Dr. Ayu PDP’s National Chairman? What was their contribution to that project that they now want to use clannish stance to blackmail the governor?”
He further described as laughable how “this amorphous and emergency Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, which has never been heard of before, is now masquerading as the voice of Jemgbagh to embark on campaign of calumny against Governor Ortom, who has worked selflessly for the people of Benue State.
“Governor Ortom is more Jemgbagh than most of the people claiming it now. This is fact, because he has done more for Jemgbagh, both in terms of appointments and projects executed as well as patronage in the area, than even one of the Jemgbagh sons, who was governor. Besides, Governor Ortom has consistently worked for the unity of Benue State and will never stand in the way of any of her citizens, either here in the state or in the diaspora
“For those, who claimed to be leaders of this Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, we urge them to be truly developmental in their drive to build cohesion among the people and attract real development to their area rather than engaging in mischief or blackmail.”