The All Progressives Congress (APC) is set to harvest another state governor from the camp of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu is already in talks to join his counterpart in Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi who defected to the ruling party few weeks ago.
Despite persistent denials by the governor and his camp, credible sources said talks between Ikpeazu and the APC has reached advanced stage while some of his foot soldiers are already in the party as a prelude to his defection.
Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Senate Chief Whip and former governor of the state had earlier hinted that Ikpeazu has promised to join the APC like Ebonyi state governor, Dave Umahi did.
It will be recalled that shortly after Umahi’s defection, Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello had also predicted that more PDP governors will join the APC.
“Umahi is with us, others are coming. Other governors are already knocking. They are on their way. We will be unveiling them one after the other” Bello had said.
Last month, two former commissioners in Ikpeazu’s cabinet, Obinna Oriaku, former Finance Commissioner and George Nnanna Kalu, his counterpart in the Works and Transport Ministry dumped the PDP for APC where they were received by Kalu.
While serving as Commissioner for Finance under Ikpeazu, Oriaku was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged financial misappropriation.
While the Abia state chapter of the PDP had denied report that the governor has plans to defect, an associate of the governor who spoke in confidence with our correspondent said that while Ikpeazu still remains a staunch member of the PDP, he is “under intense pressure to join the APC owing to his desire to attract federal presence to Abia state”.
According to him, the governor has been facing serious criticisms from the people of the state over the massive underdevelopment in the state, especially on the dilapidated condition of roads in the state which has crippled commercial activities in the state.
“ Following Umahi’s defection to APC, I can confirm that serious pressure are being mounted on Governor Ikpeazu by major stakeholders in APC to join. He has remain resolute and has remained in the PDP. However, I won’t be surprised if he joins if doing so will better the lives of Abians, especially in terms of infrastructures and economic development”.
However, another source, a former House of Representatives member in the state who is a member of the PDP claimed that the governor may be under pressure to join the APC owing to issues he has with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“It is not a surprise to me if he joins. Umahi of Ebonyi also denied but eventually what happened? The reality is that joining APC is political suicide in the South-East. All the second term governors flocking to APC is for self-preservation. They are trying to avoid being tried by the EFCC. For Governor Ikpeazu, I wish him goodluck if he joins them” he said.
Addressing newsmen recently, the governor lamented that there is a conspiracy against the state, adding that all his efforts to carry out developmental works are being frustrated by the federal government.
“Aba/Port-Harcourt road is 34 kilometre road. Why should it take 30 years to do it?” he had asked. I wanted to fix some of these roads but they told me, if I don’t get papers, they won’t refund me. But, I cannot wait.”
When contacted, Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP said the party is united and none of the governors are joining the APC.
“ Our party is intact and united. None of our governors are joining the APC. There is no iota of truth in the rumours that Governor Ikpeazu is on his way to APC. He remains a committed member of our party” he said.
While responding to the speculations few days ago on a radio programme, Ikpeazu said “I do not see any reason why I should leave the PDP for any other political party. The music of politics as it plays differs from one State to another. Here in Abia, the people are comfortable with the PDP and I think the aspirations of Ndi Abia will be met and achieved under the platform of the PDP.
“Nobody has been able to convince me that there is a better party for us here in Abia than the PDP. I am a strong member of the PDP and a leader in the party. In fact, I am the Deputy Chairman of the PDP Governor’s Forum. I will rather be a conductor in a moving vehicle than be the driver of a stationary vehicle.”
Also speaking, the State’s Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said those waiting for the governor to join APC will have to wait till eternity.
“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and, indeed, the leader of the party in Abia State. He won two major elections under the banner of the party and we are currently preparing for council polls in Abia on the 18th of December with the Governor working hard, along with other party members and stakeholders, to ensure victory for all PDP candidates. The rumor of his defecting to any other party must be emanating from a mind that is worried that PDP has remained unbeatable in Abia State and will remain so especially with Governor Ikpeazu at the helm of affairs of the party as its leader. We thank the rumor mongers for the acknowledgement of Governor Ikpeazu’s high performance, his public acceptability and the love of the good people of our state for him regardless of the sponsored attacks against him with malicious lies from the pit of hell as orchestrated by the same rumour mongers”.
“Recall that before 2019 polls, the same characters went to town with similar rumors while we were busy working for the people of the state and at the end of the day, Governor Ikpeazu ran under PDP and defeated them by a landslide where it matters most, at the polls”.
On the claim by Senator Orji Kalu that the governor is in talks with the APC, Okiyi said :If you ask me, I will say that our former Governor apparently has soft spot for the Governor and believes that without him the opposition party will never make any headway in the state. Interestingly, he never said Governor Ikpeazu told him he is joining APC or any other party, so he is free to wait for Governor Ikpeazu till thy kingdom come.
“In any case, what exactly will attract anyone to the APC that has unleashed unprecedented suffering on the people of this country? The Governor’s current focus is how to add to the 97 road projects he has already completed in the state, solve the remaining issues with payment of workers in ailing state parastatals and, of course, continue to deliver fully on his mandate to the people of Abia State. He cannot be distracted with old lady tales of someone told someone that someone told him that someone will decamp in 2016 whereas we are in 2020”.
Speaking in a similar vein, the Abia state chapter of the PDP In a statement signed by the State Publicity Secretary, Abia PDP, Chief Fabian Nwankwo, described the allegation as a mere attempt to achieve cheap popularity and distract the public from commending the Governor on his numerous achievements. The PDP added that electoral matters at the Supreme Court of Nigeria have never been decided on the basis of the defection of a politician from one party to another.
He disclosed that the PDP reposes much confidence in the Abia Governor to continue leading the party to greater heights, stressing that Ikpeazu has never considered leaving the PDP to another party.