The former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar Baraje said Dr Iyorcha Ayu, the present party chairman must resign.
Baraje said the agitation for Ayu’s resignation was not “out of place.”
He said: “We have a tradition of zoning our party offices. It is not a new thing to us that if the presidential candidate comes from the North, the chairman comes from the South.”
Baraje, who cited a similar scenario in 2008, said the then national chairman, Ahmadu Ali, had to go after the elections had been conducted and won.
Ayu has come under fire recently as the call for his resignation intensified.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has been vocal on the call.
Also, Southwest PDP leaders, including former Deputy National Chairman Chief Bode George, have joined the push for Ayu’s resignation to foster fairness and equity in the party.
George, a former military governor of Ondo State told reporters in Lagos that the founding fathers of PDP never envisaged a time when the national chairman and presidential candidate will come from one bloc zone.
George said Ayu should honour his promise to resign if the presidential candidate is picked from the North.
However, the opposition party has restated confidence in the national chairman.
Its Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said in Abuja there was no need for Ayu to resign.
Reacting to the agitation, Baraje, who was featured on Arise TV Morning Show, said the PDP has a tradition that is well known to all the members and other Nigerians.
The former chairman said the party had agreed earlier in the year during its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja that party offices should be shared between the North and the South and that whichever zone produced the presidential candidate should not produce the chairman.
Baraje stressed: “What am I trying to say with those examples? It is to reinforce the fact that we have a tradition without people clamouring for it.
“We don’t kill the tradition of our party. We operate in accordance with our processes and I can tell you that the processes of putting things in order have started.
“It is not as a result of agitations or cries from any corner that the chairman should resign. We have a tradition and the party must keep to that tradition.
“This is a tradition of balancing, of all-inclusiveness, of carrying every member of the PDP across the board along without fear or favour.
“We have a tradition and law and we will behave in accordance with our law. We are saying that the process is to ensure that we keep the balance in accordance with our constitution. It is a process and we can’t hurry that process beyond necessary.”
On the rift between the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Wike, Baraje said: “The problem of Governor Wike is not extraordinary and should not throw the party apart.
“The issues of grievances and annoyances are part of the fallout from the congresses and primaries and we are working to solve these issues.”
George maintained that Ayu cannot justify his continued stay in office, adding that the emergence of the chairman and flagbearer from one zone has violated the principle of inclusivity.
George, a retired Naval Commodore, also urged the main opposition party to put its house in order ahead of next year’s polls.
He advised the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to sheathe their swords in the interest of the party.
George, who reflected on the PDP crisis, urged Wike to emulate him by making a sacrifice for the platform.
The party elder said although he aspired to serve as national chairman, he had to bury the ambition when it was not zoned to the Southwest, contrary to the expectation of party faithful in the region.
George said: “Ayu said once the presidential candidate emerged from the North, he will resign. I want to take him for his word. Why are you now trying to reverse the role? Your word must be your bond.”
George recalled that the PDP founding fathers had promised the distribution of six core positions among the six zones to foster equity and unity.
He listed the positions as president, vice president, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and National Chairman.
In his view, their proposal heralded the culture of zoning and rotation in a bid to give the six regions a sense of inclusion and belonging.
George also noted the sentiment in the South over the likelihood of a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari from the North in 2023, lamenting that PDP never anticipated the scenario.
He explained that while party positions were being zoned initially, the party permitted the entry of aspirants from the South and North into the contest for a presidential ticket.
He stressed: “When the chairman was zoned to the North, they should have zoned the presidential slot to the South. I said with what APC has done to Nigeria, zoning is now more important than in 1999.”
However, George called for dialogue and peace in the party, saying that the warring chieftains should calm down.
He urged Wike to maintain an abiding interest and fidelity to the PDP, stressing that it was still the best in terms of national outlook, format and reputation.
George said politicians should bear in mind that “in politics, you win some, you lose some.”
The former deputy chairman also advised Atiku not to relent in continuous consultations and reconciliation because it is in his interest and the collective interest of the party.
He said: “I appeal to all sides to sheathe their swords. National elections are coming. PDP must convince Nigerians that it can manage the resources of the country in the best interest of the people.
“They should avoid statements of arrogance, innuendos and name-calling that can destroy the party. The Board of Trustees must rise to the occasion and the warring chieftains should calm down.
“There have been mistakes. I also suffered from mistakes during the contest for national chairman.
“I never became chairman and I did not fade away. Those who did not get the presidential ticket should not think it is the end.”