The Abia State Governor-elect, Okezie Ikpeazu, has given indication that he would not be a stooge of the outgoing governor, Theodore Orji, who was instrumental to his emergence.
The governor-elect stated this in an interview with Saturday Punch Newspaper.
Mr. Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was declared winner of the governorship election held on April 11 and 25.
His victory in the December 10 primary election of the party and in the main election was attributed to the support he got from Mr. Orji, thus leading to speculations that he would be teleguided by the outgoing governor upon assuming office on May 29.
The outgoing governor is a senator-elect for Abia Central while his son, Chinedum, won election into the Abia State House of Assembly; both on the PDP platform. The younger Orji is already canvassing support to be the Speaker of the Assembly.
Though he was helped to become governor by his predecessor in 2007, Mr. Orji soon fell out with his benefactor and predecessor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
In the interview with the Saturday Punch Newspaper, Mr. Ikpeazu said he would not allow Mr. Orji, his acclaimed benefactor, to dictate to him when he takes over power.
He said, “I want to assure Abians that there is no one example of a sitting governor that is under the influence of his predecessor.
Everybody is aware that Bola Tinubu supported Tunde Fashola. We are also aware that Governor Peter Obi supported Willie Obiano and if in the midst of my struggle that I got the endorsement of the incumbent governor among others, I think I will say thank you to him for supporting me but that is where it stops.
“No person will attempt to dictate to a sitting governor. It is a very difficult thing to do. And I pray that nobody attempts it here and I am not that kind of candidate. And for those who say it, I regard them as enemies of progress because their fears are unfounded. Their fears have no historical support and cannot be substantiated. Because I don’t see anything around me that suggests the fact that I will allow another person’s signature on the document that I have drafted.
“So what you are going to see in Abia State in the days ahead will be my stamp and my authority, and I will take full responsibility for my actions and inactions. His administration will end on May 29 and I will take over. When history will be written, I won’t be allowed to make apologies for things I did not do. Orji won’t have any influence whatsoever on me apart from the fact that he is going to the senate. If I’m consulting senators and there are three of them, I will consult him along with the other two.”
Asked if he envisaged a repeat of the scenario where Mr. Orji fell out with his predecessor, the governor-elect said though he does not know the details of the disagreement between them, he would place the outgoing governor where he belongs and accord him the necessary respect.
“I do not know the exact elements and the ingredients that precipitated the problem between both of them, and I do not even think that should be my preoccupation as somebody that is going to take over in the next few days,” Mr. Ikpeazu said.
“I am a very positive person but I also know that wherever there is life, people should also consider death. I think that Governor Orji is a gentleman. I don’t think he is going to attempt to be overbearing. And I’m not going to be disrespectful just as I won’t be disrespectful to all elders in Abia State. I will place him where he belongs, accord him respect as a former governor.
“If I need advice, I will seek his advice as a former governor. If he gives me an advice, it is my responsibility to decipher and choose whether or not I will make use of it. If I don’t take his advice, I don’t think he will be angry because he knows that the bulk stops at my table. I assure Abians that I will not brew trouble where it doesn’t exist. I don’t envisage any problem between us.”
Mr. Ikpeazu refused to be drawn into the issue of the younger Orji becoming the Speaker saying he had not been informed about it. He, however, said he believes the young Orji would be able to run the business of the House.
He said, “That is a pre-emptive question and I do not think it is fair for me to begin to comment on that. Whether he will become the Speaker is a matter for another day- that will be for the House of Assembly members-elect to decide.
“Unless you people have a way of making somebody Speaker on the pages of the newspapers. He hasn’t even told me that he wants to be Speaker.
“If he becomes Speaker, that is okay. As far as I am concerned, Engineer Chinedum Orji is younger than I am by age. I am more experienced. I took a Ph.D. almost two decades ago. At that time, I don’t think he had sat for JAMB.
“If he’s elected speaker, he will run the business of the House but he hasn’t told me so. He hasn’t sought my support and I am not bothered about that. I’m thinking about how to manage Abia State in the days ahead.”