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Atiku Supports Suswam in Damagum’s Ousting Plot

The rivalry between Atiku Abubakar, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Nyesome Wike, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, has intensified leading up to the 98th National Executive Committee meeting of the party.

One of the key topics expected at the NEC meeting on Thursday, April 18, is the debate over whether Umar Damagum, the party’s acting National Chairman, should continue in his role or be replaced.

There have been demands for Damagum’s removal and the appointment of a permanent Chairman.

Damagum, previously the PDP National Deputy Chairman (North), assumed the acting National Chairman position following the suspension of Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s National Chairman, by court order in March last year.

Ayu’s suspension resulted from a court action initiated by a PDP member, Terhide Utaan, based on a vote of no confidence passed against Ayu by his ward’s executives in Igyorov ward, Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State.

Last week, 60 members of the House of Representatives called for Damagum’s removal and suggested a chairman from the North Central region be appointed.

Investigations by NewsNow revealed that Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State, and Dr. Emmanuel Agbo, a former Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, are vying for the position of PDP National Chairman.

NewsNow sources indicate that while Atiku’s faction is backing Suswam, Wike’s faction, supported by some PDP governors, is advocating for Damagum to be confirmed as the substantive chairman to complete Ayu’s tenure.

An anonymous member of the PDP North Central Caucus shared that Wike and his associates are in favor of Damagum’s continuation.

According to the source, Wike’s group also aims for the North Central to produce the National Deputy Chairman.

In the lead-up to the 2023 general elections, Atiku and Wike’s relationship soured after Atiku secured the PDP presidential ticket over Wike and chose Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate, rather than Wike.

This led to Wike supporting Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, who eventually won the election and took office as President.

Consequently, Atiku and Wike’s factions have conflicting objectives.

Discussing the power struggle ahead of the NEC meeting on Thursday, a party chieftain from the North Central informed our correspondent, “We are aware of the support our zone is receiving from Atiku. Many stakeholders from within and outside the zone, including Atiku, are backing Suswam. Consultations are ongoing, and the North Central is committed to nominating Ayu’s successor.

“Wike and some PDP governors are advocating for Damagum to be confirmed as the PDP substantive chairman. They are promoting a candidate from the North-East to complete the North Central’s zoned tenure for their own motives. They want the North Central to propose a candidate for the National Deputy Chairman (North) role once Damagum is confirmed. Their aim is to undermine the party.”

A high-ranking member of the PDP National Working Committee, unauthorized to speak on behalf of the party, reiterated that the position of the PDP National Chairman is presently occupied and not vacant.

He explained, “Since Ayu’s case is in court, the position is not vacant. The PDP Constitution does not specify a time frame for someone in an acting leadership role. Therefore, Damagum will continue in his capacity.”

When approached, Atiku’s Media Aide, Paul Ibe, expressed unawareness of the former Vice President’s support for Suswam.

Ibe stated, “It is not solely about Atiku as an individual; it requires the collective effort of well-meaning party leaders to navigate the party’s current challenges.

“Atiku will collaborate with party leaders. He will not act independently; he will never do so. It is crucial for the party to unite and strategize for its revitalization. I believe he is engaging with key party stakeholders to make the right decisions for the party.”

Attempts to reach the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Damagum, for comments were unsuccessful as he did not respond to calls or messages.

Suswam highlighted Atiku’s leadership role within the party as a former presidential candidate and emphasized that Atiku is regarded as a leader by those who have faith in the PDP.

The ex-Benue State Governor asserted that the North Central region should nominate Ayu’s successor and affirmed that Ayu is not involved in any ongoing court case.

During a recent media interaction in Abuja, Suswam explained his candidacy based on his North Central roots and stated that the consensus nominee from the region would assume the PDP National Chairman position.

He noted, “I believe it would be beneficial for the party if I complete the tenure, but I am not adamant that it must be me. The North Central should not be overlooked. Precedents exist for similar transitions within the party, and this situation should be no exception.

“We anticipate that following the National Working Committee’s consultations, a decision will be made, and one of us will be chosen to succeed Ayu and complete his tenure.

“I aspire to fulfil that role. Intensive consultations have indeed taken place within the North Central region. Originally intended to be a solely regional matter, the nomination of a replacement in the North Central is not a competitive election but rather a collaborative process to select a successor for Ayu’s tenure.

The contention surrounding the position of National Chairman, given the significant influence this role holds within a party like the PDP, has resulted in varying interests among stakeholders. While some may favor specific candidates, others may not, giving the impression of a national-level contest when it is fundamentally regional in nature.

The anticipated North Central gathering to choose a candidate is expected to lead to discussions and consensus-building rather than a direct election, aligning with the typical approach in such scenarios.

The upcoming NEC meeting on the 18th is seen as a crucial juncture for making a definitive decision, reflecting the mounting impatience within the North Central region.

Emphasizing his extensive experience within the PDP, Suswam highlighted his profound grasp of the party’s intricate structure, enabling him to effectively address the myriad of concerns and grievances within the party.

When asked about his allegiance within the party, Suswam dismissed the idea of factions within the PDP, emphasizing a unified focus on strong leadership. Regarding figures like Wike and Atiku, he acknowledged their influential positions within the party for distinct reasons.

Regarding the G5 group of governors-turned-ex-governors, Suswam clarified their evolution from a pressure group during previous elections to their current status, suggesting a transition in their nomenclature to “ex-G5 governors” if they wish to maintain their association.

Founded on inclusivity, a core principle Suswam strongly upholds, the PDP’s ethos align with his own values since joining the party in 1998. With a rich history of serving in various party capacities, Suswam believes his comprehensive understanding of the party positions him well to address present internal challenges and grievances.

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