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How Damagum survived opposition onslaught



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From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

There are indications that the plot to oust Umar Damagum, as acting chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at the Thursday meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party failed because of the reluctance of governors elected on the platform of the party to effect a leadership change.

A top party source told Saturday Sun that the governors were concerned that if the tussle for the replacement of Damagum was not well managed, it could plunge the party into a major crisis.

Indications that the governors were not favourably disposed to the removal of Damagum, as acting national chairman, emerged immediately after a meeting of the PDP Governors Forum on Wednesday.

The chairman of the forum, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, while briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, had said that the governors did not discuss a change of leadership in the party.

Before the NEC meeting, supporters of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, and Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, had engaged in a supremacy tussle over the control of the party.

While Atiku’s supporters were pushing for the appointment of a substantive national chairman to take over from Damagum, who took over the leadership of the party, last year, following the ouster of Senator Iyorchia Ayu as chairman; Wike men wanted the acting chairman to continue in office, or in the alternative to produce the substantive chairman.

Recall that Atiku and Wike had fallen out in the aftermath of the nomination of former Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as PDP vice presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections.

Consequently, when the PDP announced the date for last Thursday’s NEC meeting, supporters of both men, who have their gaze on the 2027 polls, returned to the trenches to battle for the control of the party.

But the PDP NEC, at the last meeting, deferred the issue of the appointment of a substantive national chairman for the party to its next meeting, scheduled tentatively for August. 

The source said:  “The governors were more interested in party stability. If you look at LP, they are in crisis. In APC, there is a crisis too. PDP is where you have a semblance of political stability.  They (governors) believed if the Damagum issue was not well managed, it could degenerate and the party could be plunged into crisis.

“Essentially, they wanted to ensure everyone is on the same page. The governors believed that the stability of the party is more important than any other thing they are talking about; looking at what has happened in LP.  They looked at what is happening in LP and APC to guide us.”

Saturday Sun also gathered that besides the reluctance of the governors to support moves to oust Damagum, the inability of the North Central, which is expected to produce the substantive national chairman to unite, also worked in favour of the acting chairman.

Prior to the NEC, PDP leaders in the North Central had insisted on producing the substantive chairman at the meeting. Nevertheless, the stakeholders from the zone were divided between the two divides in the party.

Five aspirants from North Central had indicated interest to serve as the next national chairman of the PDP. They include Suswam (Benue); former PDP national secretary, Emmanuel Agbo (Benue); Humphrey Abba from Kogi, former deputy governor of Kogi State, Philip Saliu, and former PDP governorship candidate in Nasarawa, David Ombugadu.

A member of the PDP NEC, from the South West, told Saturday Sun that “the North Central could not put themselves together. There is also a division among the North Central leaders. So, it made it difficult for them to speak with one voice.”

Another party top shot also told Saturday Sun, that stakeholders wanted all issues about a substantive chairman to be sorted out before Damagum is asked to quit as acting chairman.

“The process of producing a change is not as easy as people think. So, party stakeholders, including governors, x-rayed all that. They looked at the stability of the party. That was what gave Damagum a breather for now. “