For Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, a former President of Senate of the Federal Republic and one time Minister of Education and Youth Development, this return to main-stream politics, this time as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), is a home-coming to a familiar terrain, albeit after more than a decade in political limbo.
His antecedents has cut his jib for him, be-ing one of the nine prominent foundation political figures, later referred to as the G-9, which morphed into G-34 that transmuted to the PDP in 1998, consequent upon General Abdusalami Abubakar’ s signal for the return to civil rule before the 1999 elections.
Equally remarkable is the timing of this re-turn, which is not only historic to the former lecturer, activist and erstwhile Branch Chair-man of the Academic Staff Union of Universi-ties, (ASUU), but also presents a labyrinth of gargantuan challenges as he leads an opposi-tion party whose membership is depleting daily, and its leadership was at near cross-roads ahead of the 2023 elections.
His largely rancor-free emergence, first as consensus candidate of the North, and sub-sequent ratification at the convention of the party which commenced yesterday, however, bore eloquent testimony to the fact that the PDP, once the largest political party in Africa, might jolly well be on the party of revitaliza-tion.
Perhaps his ascendency to office in the twi-light of the tenure of the substantive chair-man of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, in the face of litigations is of huge concern to many a party leader and indeed political pun-dits. They argued that PDP should have al-lowed Secondus to serve out his tenure.
More worrisome was the fact that the party had witnessed a high leadership turnover in the last 22 years, as rarely had any of its chairmen from Solomon Lar till date complet-ed their term in office. They were abruptly offloaded for various reasons.
However, the dismissal of Secondus’ appeal by the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt which gave nod to the PDP to hold its convention and the party’s productive consensus ar-rangement whereby only about four of the 21 positions would be keenly contested gave credence to the party’s road to a rebirth.
Nigerians would not forget in a hurry Ayu’s pedigree as a highly principled former Senate President whose anti-establishment posture during the President Ibarahim Babangida diarchy earned him an impeachment only to be succeeded by Ameh Ebute.
Ayu, a British trained Sociologist with a preference towards Political Sociology and Sociology of the media, is not a stranger to party leadership, having served as Director-General of Atiku Abubakar Campaign Or-ganisation in the 2007 elections even against the then Governor of Katsina State, Umaru Yar’Adua, the appointed candidate of the PDP, who enjoyed the full support then in-cumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo.
His public administration experience as a former university lecturer, former Minister of Education, Environment, Industry and Inter-nal Affairs, tenacity, commitment to equity, party loyalty, national influential, strength of character, astute negotiator are some strong factors which would come handy for in lead-ing the party out of the woods into the next elections.
Coming as the third PDP National Chair-man from Benue State, after his kinsmen Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbe, and the sixth from the North-Central, invigorating the PDP, a party that ruled the nation for 16 years, to regain the control of majority states and the National Assembly seats should be topmost on Ayu’s agenda Besides the immediate herculean task of helping PDP to win the Anambra election, Ayu’s other challenge might be to liberate the party from the stranglehold of the governors who currently fund it, and truly return PDP to the people. The party must create avenue to generate its own funds, perhaps through investments, like the ANC in South Africa and even the NLC that owns a fleet of shuttle vehicles services.
As regards reconciliation of members and chieftains across the country, it goes without saying that the former Senate President, Sena-tor Bukola Saraki-led Committee must recog-nize the fact that many aggrieved members of the party who lost out in the power equa-tion at all levels are surreptitiously working against the interest of the party.
Under Ayu’s leadership, observers believe pacifying and compensating these chieftains in order to re-ignite their passion and com-mitment to the ideals of the PDP and return it to winning ways would receive greater fillip.
Interestingly, his expressed commitment to party supremacy and success will count form him. This much he expressed in a recent interview, stating “I’m a very democratic per-son and I will do everything to promote the interest and image of my party.
“If the PDP says I should step down after a presidential candidate emerges and happens to be from the North, I will be very glad to do so because what we want is to take over the government and run the government in the interest of Nigerians. So, I’ll sacrifice anything to ensure that my party wins.”
Adewunmi writes from Lagos