Ask ZiVA 728x90 Ads

 

OPINION: AYU: PROVERBIAL CAT WITH NINE LIVES MAKES DRAMATIC COMEBACK

Dr Iyorchia Ayu
His name is Dr. Christopher Iyorchia Demenongo Ayu, and he is something of an enigma. As an egghead, he is trained in some of the best traditions of Western scholarship; as a calculative politician, he embodies the mythical nature of the legendary phoenix; and as a master strategist, he is seasoned in the alchemy of Fabian tactics.
But there is more to this personage. As a senior journalist, he is a calculated newsmaker who knows when to talk and effortlessly connect himself to the news grid; and as a quintessential power-player, he knows the superior wisdom of subterranean operations even when the strings are his to publicly pull.
Not for him the brash posturing of boastful godfathers, the sophomoric exertions of pompous benefactors or the braggadocio of tactless kingmakers.
With a sober bearing, calibrated steps and a contemplative mien, Ayu exemplifies the enigmatic: inscrutable, unpredictable, imaginative, thorough, strategic and yet subtle. If you can’t read him, you can’t predict his next move.
It is the foregoing that makes him dangerous to political opponents or rivals. As someone who is versed in both the psychology and the sociology of power, this  quintessential master-strategist doesn’t inspire love, but fear and anxiety.
Someone may say: Vintage Niccolo Machiavelli. Yes, the Italian diplomat and military strategist who opined that it’s better for a prince to be feared rather than loved. But haven’t we, in order to instill fear, given practical credence to this prescription by giving our political leaders such jagged nicknames as  “Juggernaut,” “Bulldozer,” “Strong man,” “Bulldog,” “Last man standing” etc.
And curiously, Ayu’s middle name “Iyorchia” translates as “People are afraid.” And, indeed, APC should worry – both in Abuja and Makurdi.
He is arguably Nigeria’s Golden Boy, her Number 1 Comeback Kid, who is always rebounding on the national scene. His continuous “reincarnations” in the public space make him the proverbial cat with nine lives.
But in all the rebounds, Ayu follows a functional template that is, by now, very familiar. He moves behind the scenes: No convoys, no armoured tanks, no interviews, no press conferences, no hired crowds and no drama … just strategic alliances and dangerous, indecipherable moves.
Once you see his hand or face, it means: Game over. And his opponents or rivals are left stupefied, stunned and gasping. If you call him the Submarine, no one will query you!
But Dr. Iyorchia Ayu is a man of intriguing contradictions too. For instance, he refused every negotiated compromise with the Babangida junta, insisting on an MKO Abiola presidency, but he had no hangups accepting to serve under the Abacha junta as  minister! And where politicians are verbose, this sociologist is laconic.
But there is a deeper irony. This great Benue ambassador to Nigeria launched out in the 80s on the radical, Marxist platform: social critic, fiery leftist, firebrand unionist, non-conformist intellectual and revolutionary writer.
However, once he found accommodation in the elite boulevards of power, he is said to have wasted no time in changing his social  address. There are some who accuse him of committing class suicide, and they point at his love for hilltop mansions as the physical symbolism of the class somersault.
And, indeed, for someone who started life in the Valley and on the side of the Valley People, living life on the hilltops is dialectically curious. But this is only so far as appearances go: Ayu is true to his beliefs.
But, in a way, like other converted Marxian revolutionaries, namely: Messrs. Akin Omoboriowo, Kanmi Ishola Osubu and Ebenezer Babatope (all chiefs now), Ayu only came to realize early that Nigeria is not Eastern Europe; and those who keep mouthing revolutionary rhetorics do not make it into the guilded palaces of power.
Nevertheless, truth be told: he has kept faith with his Marxian roots. Ayu is, perhaps, the only Nigerian of his socio-political stature who is not chief and has consistently shunned chieftaincy titles! It may be added that in this climate of abbreviated political morality, Ayu remains one of the few senior politicians still married to principles.
He rivets public attention today as the North’s Consensus Candidate for the National Chairmanship of the PDP ahead of the party’s Special Convention holding shortly. In 2006, the PDP-led Federal Government accused him of terrorism, a charge that crumbled fast before judicial scrutiny. It’s instructive that the same PDP has turned to him at this critical junction of her history for the redemption of both the party and the nation.
His emergence followed his pattern of silent, strategic networking. Those who were in the race with him were imminently qualified and eminently prepared personalities. For instance, Chief David Mark, is not only a retired general, but Nigeria’s longest-serving senate president. And he is neither a pushover nor a novice when it comes to scoring political marks. But he stepped down for Ayu.
The same thing can be said of Dr. Bukola Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara state and himself, too, a former senate president. The scion of the Saraki political dynasty in Kwara is adept at solving difficult political equations. Still, he is said to have stepped down for Ayu.
How he got them, including Ibrahim Shema, the former governor of Katsina state, to step down for him is the story of high-wired politics midwifed by Gov. Samuel Ortom and his governor-colleagues, but that’s a topic for another day.
What one can say now is that the position is not new to the North-Central Zone, in general; and Benue state, in particular. The late Chief Daushep Solomon Lar (Plateau), Chief (Dr.) Amadu Ali (Kogi) and Alh. Kawu Baraje (Kwara) are all distinguished Middle Belt sons who have variously chaired the PDP.
And in Benue state here, before Ayu, there was Engr. Barnabas Gemade, who chaired the party between 1999 and 2001 as there was Chief Innocent Audu Ogbeh, who succeeded Gemade from 2001-2005.
So, Ayu is not the first Benue son to take over the leadership of the PDP. But, whereas the duo of Gemade and Ogbeh took office when the PDP was in glorious, presidential incumbency, Ayu assumes office when the PDP is not only in opposition, but is equally convulsing from its internal contradictions, to wit: power-struggles among its governors, endless rivalries between its henchmen, ex-Vice President Abubakar Atiku’s perennial presidential quest, the North-South permutations for 2023 and the myriad of court cases that are heamorhaging it from within.
The challenge before him as he takes office is to successfully manage the centrifugal contradictions and reposition the party to what he has described as “its winning ways.”
Specifically, he will need to retrieve the soul of the party from the vicious grip of its powerful governors; deftly manage the North-South contentions for power; lead the party on the path of reconciliation by getting its chieftains to withdraw pending court cases and get Atiku to mitigate his eternal presidential ambition which has not only entered its menopause, but is holding the party hostage.
These are, doubtless, daunting challenges, but Ayu has the credentials, the experience, the national exposure, the temperament and the will to mobilize his National Working Committee (NWC) to do it. As a former trade unionist and former Senate President who ran a relay through the Ministries of Education, Industry, Internal Affairs and Environment, he looks good to deliver the goods.
And as a founding-father of the PDP, Ayu is not new to the founding ideals of the party. So, after Engineers, Farmers, Surveyors, Doctors, Welders, Bureacrats etc have headed the party, it’s time for the  Sociologist to step out, step up and change the game.
Imobo-Tswam, a Communications specialist and public space commentator, writes from Abuja