PDP NEC retains Damagum, asks Tinubu to rejig economic team

• NEC outcome wasn’t a life and death issue, says Damagum
• Ugochinyere slams PDP govs, leaders for allowing Wike to attend caucus meeting

The Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, yesterday had the last laugh at the highly staked National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which retained its acting national chairman, Umar Damagum, against pressure from its members in the House of Representatives and stakeholders loyal to former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

Damagum will continue in office until the conduct of the national convention. This was the resolution announced by the party at the end of its 98th NEC meeting.   Earlier, the national caucus and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP passed a vote of confidence on the under-pressure chairman who had been told by the PDP House of Representatives caucus to resign. Damagum had been accused of pandering to Wike with raging calls for his resignation during the NEC meeting to allow for a substantive national chairman.

However, the NEC followed up on the decision of the national caucus and that of the PDP governors, which was held on Wednesday, with the resolution commending the leadership of the party. Wike, a cabinet member in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government, had attended the national caucus meeting on Wednesday, which was heavily criticised by party members and supporters with a major group staging a protest to the national secretariat of the party when the meeting of the Board of Trustees (BoT) was being held.

But in a communiqué issued after the NEC meeting, Debo Ologunagba, national publicity secretary of the party, said the NEC urged all members of the party to continue to work together for the success of the PDP for the benefit of Nigerians, just as he declared that Damagum retains his position as the acting chairman of the opposition party.

The gathering at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja was the first time all PDP leaders will be attending the party’s meeting since the 2023 election. The choice of Atiku as the presidential candidate of PDP tore the party into two, with Wike and some other then-serving governors forming a G-5 movement, insisting then that power must shift to the South, and significantly withdrawing their support for Atiku.

The poor performance of the PDP at the polls also led to some internal wrangling that climaxed in the ousting of the PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu. That division has continued to haunt the party one year after the general election.

The Atiku camp had insisted on the removal of Damagum to pave the way for the election of a substantive national chairman from the North Central zone to complete the remaining tenure of Ayu till next year. But when the meeting commenced at 2:30 p.m., the issue of leadership change was completely not on the agenda.

However, the National Caucus of the party had at an earlier meeting that lasted till the early hours of Thursday disclosed that another NEC meeting would be convened in August. It was learnt that the issue of leadership could be canvassed at the next NEC meeting.

In an interview after the meeting, Damagum said the matter was not a life and death. “This is not a matter of life and death. I am still an elected member of this NEC. Even If I revert to deputy national chairman, I’m still a member of NWC. The issue of surviving or not does not emerge.”

Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, said the meeting was peaceful all through.

“You can see there was no dissension and rancour. It was speculated that the party would have an implosion. PDP is more than that, we have risen beyond all these idiosyncrasies. This party is a united party that is guided by experience and constitutionality. There were a lot of permutations and mischievous thinking outside there. But we looked at all the issues and we worked along our guidelines and constitution.”

On the possibility of producing a new chairman for the party, Muhammed said: “In the next two months we will see a lot of activities. Leadership is a responsibility. We said by September we would have come out from our congresses. We will look at the issue of leadership and look at the issue of our constitution. And we will do it with no rancour.”

But a member of the House of Representatives representing Ideato North and South Federal Constituency of Imo State, Ikenga Ugochinyere, slammed the PDP National Caucus and governors for allowing a serving APC government official in their closed-door meeting. Ugochinyere accused the PDP of being weak, wondering how it wanted to capture power in 2027 when it allowed a person campaigning for APC to stampede its meeting.
The lawmaker’s assertion was contained in a post on his X handle on Thursday.

He said: “Is this happening to us? PDP governors and National Caucus members sat helplessly without anyone standing up to stop a serving APC government official from entering their closed-door caucus meeting in Abuja. How weak can a party that claims that it wants to capture power in 2027 be by allowing a man campaigning for APC to stampede their meeting?”

The former River’s governor led five rebel governors who worked against the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku, in the last presidential election.

Ugochinyere, who is the spokesperson of the group of lawmakers against Damagum, said he was privy to the report of the pre and post-caucus meeting on the plot to give Damagun a soft landing up to August 2024, and by so doing elect APC members as PDP state executives in over 19 states.

According to him, Ayu’s case was used as an excuse for Damagun to attempt to elongate his ‘illegal’ stay but to their shock, Ayu made a huge sacrifice by withdrawing his case.

The group alleged the plan to use Damagum, who is allegedly working with G-5 governors to elect APC come 2027 to now fill up those expiring excos like the failed attempt in Rivers with APC members whose names have been supplied by a serving APC minister.

According to Ugochinyere, this means that by the time a North Central person comes, all state congresses will have been held for a fresh four-year tenure for over 19 states with APC officials planted into the heart of the party, thereby burying the party and suffocating it and killing any survival attempt.

MEANWHILE, the PDP NEC has asked President Bola Tinubu to immediately rejig his economic team to salvage the country’s economy.

Ologunagba, who read the communiqué released after the NEC meeting, said the party thoroughly assessed the state of affairs of the nation and came up with the following resolutions: “NEC demands that President Tinubu should immediately rejig his economic team to bring in persons of proven integrity and competence without bias and vested interest to assist in repositioning the economy.

“NEC further demands that the Federal Government should review all policies and programmes which are stifling the economy with suffocating effects on the lives of citizens, including the increase in the price of fuel without cushioning measures, hike in electricity tariff, increased taxation and implementation of adverse fiscal policies.

“NEC expresses concern over the ill-implemented policies of the insensitive APC administration, leading to worsening insecurity, harrowing economic hardship, soaring unemployment rate, high cost of food and other necessities of life with pervading misery and despondency across the country.”

The NEC also asked the President to urgently convene a special National Security Council meeting to proffer a holistic solution and measures to curb the disturbing insecurity with its attendant negative consequences in the country.

“NEC expresses serious apprehensions over the spate of acts of terrorism and violence, including the escalated cases of mindless killings, mass abduction of innocent Nigerians, and marauding of communities in various parts of the country.

“NEC condemns the insensitivity, nonchalance, incompetence, and arrogance in failure of the APC administration which continues to conduct itself in a manner that shows that it has no iota of interest or commitment towards the wellbeing of Nigerians.

“NEC also condemns the creeping totalitarianism and tendencies towards a One-Party State which is inimical to the peace, stability and corporate existence of our nation as well as the development of Democracy and good governance in the country,” it added.

The PDP NEC, however, urged all organs of the opposition party to “put aside every personal or group interests and work together in the overall effort to reposition and return the PDP to power at the center in the interest of the Nigerian people”.

“NEC charges all party members to continue to work together for the success of the PDP for the benefit of Nigerians and sustenance of Democracy in our country,” it added.

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