Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom has said his Rivers State counterpart Nyesom Wike would remain in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ortom said despite the treatment he got from Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential flagbearer for the 2023 election, he, Wike, Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde and others would remain in the party.
Speaking on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ monitored by DIPLOMATIC DIARY on Thursday, Ortom said Wike remained a pillar for the party.
He said he had a meeting with Wike, Makinde and Abia State governor Okezie Ikpeazu in the United Kingdom, recently, where they agreed they would not leave the PDP.
His words: “One thing I want to assure Nigerians is that we are not going to defect to any political party. We are members of PDP; Wike in particular has been very instrumental to the growth of our party in the absence of any former President produced by our dear party.
“You are aware that President Olusegun Obasanjo that was produced by this party, you are aware that President Goodluck Jonathan that was produced by this party also has issues. They decided not to get involved in what is happening in the party.
“So, Wike was the anchor man. We discussed this matter in our meeting in London, and we all agreed that we are not leaving the party. But let there be due process and the need to ensure that everybody is carried along.
“You’re aware that since the emergency of PDP in Nigeria, Wike has been there. Even some of us, because of the injustice that was meted out on us in 2015, left for APC, until APC started dancing in the wrong direction. Then, we left back to PDP. Who was instrumental in my coming back? It was Wike”, the governor said, adding that Atiku also left the PDP, while the party’s national chairman Iyorchia Ayu left for another party while Wike remained in the party.
According to him, he was among the people who convinced Wike to accept to be running make to Atiku, after he lost the 2023 presidential ticket in June, but the plan did not work out.
The governor appealed to Atiku to reach out to Wike and pacify him. He also disclosed that Atiku had met with him, where he told him to reach out to Wike.
Reacting to his absence at the PDP grand rally for the just-concluded Osun State gubernatorial poll, Ortom said he was in the UK and America during the campaigns and the election.
He also said he met with Makinde, Wike and Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in the UK during the campaigns.
Ortom said the PDP’s victory in Osun would be replicated across the board in the 2023 election.
“I can assure you that what you saw last Saturday in Osun State is what is going to be replicated in other elections as we move to 2023 because Nigerians are fed up with excuses on insecurity, economy, social life and everything that will add value to humanity and make things work. Nigerians are really worried about what is happening.”
The Governor also admitted that he has been unable to pay salaries since March and the arrears of pensions, gratuity and salaries owed have been put on hold.
Ortom had revealed that his government inherited N70bn debt comprising salaries, gratuity and pensions arrears but said despite the difficulties in sourcing funds, he has reduced the debts to N38bn as at July 2022.
He said: “When I came in 2015, it was a problem. Accumulated salaries over the years beyond the governor that I took overt from, I inherited N70bn arrears of salaries pension and gratuity. And I have been able to deplete this during my time from 2015 to date and the arrears now stands at just about N38bn which I’m sourcing funds. Other states too have the same problem and the federal government came in and approved not bailout but loans for them to pay.
“And people said that you cannot bailout by borrowing. That is why even this current federal government is borrowing money everywhere. The way the economy is today, you cannot do without borrowing to solve your problems in states and all that. Go back, I am not the only one. Several states are suffering the same problems. You heard that over 30 states cannot pay salaries as at when due as at today.
“From 2018, I have been paying salaries until when NNPC because of the fuel subsidy said they cannot remit money into the Federation Account and then we started having problems. It is a general problem that is affecting more than 30 states.”
The governor explained that the revenue generated in his state is insufficient to offset his bills, adding he can only fund the state through special federal government interventions or borrowing.
He said, “In my state, the IGR how much is it? It is in an average of N500m, but go and check other states that today are comfortable and paying salaries, there IGR is in the region of over N17bn, N20bn and N30bn and so on.
“This is the challenge that we have. If federal government had allowed me to borrow as I requested, this problem would have been solve. But it is a something that I inherited. I have done my best, I have run a transparent governance procedure in my state.
“The leadership of the workers union are in my joint account. They know what comes in and they know what goes out. The issue of salary is a general problem, it is a national problem in this country.
“But you see, the federal government have reduce to support me because each time, I speak truth to power, they come out and say you are not paying salary you should not talk. I didn’t accumulate N70bn of salary. It is not that we have not paid for all this while, when money comes we will pay. We have the challenge of paying the arrears until recently about four months ago which the NNPC could not remit money.”