Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has said he has no regret being a member of the G-5, a group of five aggrieved governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were opposed to their PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and the party’s national leadership.
Mr Ikpeazu stated this on Thursday when he appeared as a guest on Channels TV’s Politics Today.
The governor said despite losing his senatorial bid in the 25 February National Assembly election, he remains proud to have supported the emergence of a Nigerian president from the Southern part of the country in 2023.
“I think that (being a member of the G-5) is one of the most brilliant decisions I have taken as a politician,” he said.
Mr Ikpeazu was the PDP candidate for Abia South District. He lost the senatorial election to Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
His preferred successor, the PDP governorship candidate, Okey Ahiwe, also lost in the 18 March election to the eventual winner, Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP).
But the governor said he was “okay” with the electoral losses he experienced in the state if they were sacrifices for his “principled position” for the presidency to return to the Southern part of the country.
The G-5 was being led by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Apart from Messrs Ikpeazu and Wike, other members of the group include Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State) Samuel Ortom (Benue), and Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
The group came about after the PDP presidential primary, where Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku, defeated Mr Wike and others to become the party’s presidential candidate.
The group had demanded the resignation of the then PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to pave the way for a southerner to lead the party to achieve a “regional balance”.
The governors’ argument was that both Mr Ayu and Atiku hail from northern Nigeria.
Atiku later lost in the 25 February presidential election after coming second with 6, 984, 520 votes behind the eventual winner, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, who polled 8, 794, 726 votes.
The G-5 governors’ withdrawal of support for Atiku was said to be among the reasons for the PDP candidate’s loss at the poll.
While Governor Ortom supported the LP candidate, Peter Obi, Governor Wike backed the APC’s Mr Tinubu, now Nigeria’s president-elect.
This newspaper reported that Mr Ayu was on Tuesday, dropped as the national chairman of the PDP in response to a court judgment which barred him from parading himself as the party’s national chairman.
The PDP, consequently, appointed the party’s Deputy National Chairman, Umar Damagum (North), as its acting national chairman.
‘Otti lied. I am not owing salaries’
The Governor-elect in Abia State, Mr Otti, recently accused Mr Ikpeazu of not paying salaries to civil servants in the state for “several months”.
The governor-elect claimed he sought to govern the state thrice because the current government “failed” to address issues that motivated him to run for governorship for the first time, including the “non-payment” of workers’ salaries.
But reacting during the programme on Channels TV, Mr Ikpeazu denied the allegation.
He claimed that there was no “core civil servant” being owed any salary and that those that have “issues with salaries” were working in parastatals.
“I have 31,000 workers in Abia workforce and 29,000 of them are up to date as we speak in salary payment. Parastatals receive subvention. I don’t pay their salaries because they are revenue-generating agencies of the government,” he said.
He said the issue of non-payment of pensions and salaries had been in existence long before he assumed office.
“I don’t run away from responsibility. The issue of pension has been there perennially since the past 24 years. I did as much as I could, this government since its inception, passed through two to three recessions.
READ ALSO: Abia: Ikpeazu’s automatic promotion to workers not captured in 2023 budget – Lawmaker
“When I came, within three months of my administration, I paid 11 months arrears of salary. Those 11 months were there while I was governor. So, if you take up a position as governor you have accepted to take over both liability and assets and I don’t like to complain,” he added.
“I didn’t have to talk about what my predecessors did not do because what gave me my job in the first place was that there were things they didn’t do. So, for somebody to come and make a sweeping statement that no salary is being paid is a lie, I am not owing any core civil servant salary.”
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