The time was 1am and the event was just coming to an end. Venue was the International Conference Centre, Umuahia and the occasion was a 1st of its kind public performance review session for Commissioners in Abia State. Present were elders of the state from various strata of the society. The template was 10 minutes given to each Commissioner to present in Powerpoint slides, what he or she had done in their Ministry in the last 2 years and afterwards, take questions, suggestions, queries and inputs from the audience.
Present were Senators Enyi Abaribe and Mao Ohuabunwa. Senator T.A. Orji had earlier taken his leave to attend to a pressing matter. Members of the House of Representatives Uko Nkole, Darlington Nwokocha, Ossy Prestige, Sam Onuigbo and Nkem Abonta were there. The Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly across party lines and the Chief Judge and President of the Customary Court of Appeal were there. So too were Elder Emma Adaelu, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Col. Austin Akobundu, Dr. Gershom Amuta, Vice Chancellor of the Abia State University, Prof. Uche Ikonne, Prof. Chibuzo Ogbugu and wife, Prof. Mrs. Stella Ogbuagu, Senator Emma Nwaka, Chief Uzodunma Okpara, Chief Theo Nkire, Hon. Udo Ubeji, State PDP Chairman Chief Johnson Onuigbo and several innumerable leaders of Abia State.
Archbishop Raphael Chibuzo Okpoko of the Methodist Church led an intimidating galaxy of clergy and the security agencies were represented by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police Zone 9, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, the Commandant of the Army Brigade at Ohafia and the Comptrollers and Sector Commander of Immigration, Prisons and the Federal Road Safety Corps. The Chairman, Abia State and South East Council of Traditional Rulers, His Eminence, Eze Eberechi Dick led other traditional rulers in the state to the event.
Elder Adaelu and Prof. Anya are in their 80s. Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Dr. Gershom Amuta are in their 70s. They were awake until the early hours of the morning for the good of their state. They could only have stayed outside until that time because of the love they have for their state and the confidence they have in the person at the helm of affairs. That is the new paradigm in Abia State.
These same leaders accompanied the Governor by 8am the next morning on a grueling tour of projects all around the state from Arochukwu to Aba.
The above is the style of governance obtainable in Abia State since the advent of the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. That he has excelled beyond expectations in the last two years on the saddle as Governor of Abia State is no longer debatable. What is being discussed is his style of governance and the fresh air it has ushered into Abia State.
While assessing political office holders especially of the executive branch, a lot of emphasis is often placed on the tangibles especially as it relates to the roads and other infrastructure built. Scant attention is paid to the sustainable policies put in place to ultimately improve the living standards of the people.
In his Democracy Day broadcast to the people of Abia State, Governor Ikpeazu mentioned that in the face of all the visible infrastructural projects that he has executed in the last 2 years, what he would count as his greatest achievement would be the pride of place he has restored Abia State. Abia can no longer be ignored in the scheme of things in Nigeria. The Governor upon assumption of office made the promotion of Made In Aba goods a cardinal priority of his administration and today, the project is a roaring success.
Nigeria now takes Aba seriously. Aba was mentioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in his Budget 2017 Speech where he said that “In 2017, we shall pay special attention to Aba and other manufacturing hubs of the country”. It was not political talk. Ag. President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in January, visited Aba to hold direct talks with the producers of Aba to understand their needs.
Recently, the Ag. President signed 3 Executive Orders into Law and one of the Orders on Local Patronage specifically directed Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies to look to local producers for procurement of goods and services. The Armed Forces and Paramilitary organizations were also directed to patronize local producers for their uniforms, boots and accessories. Without spelling it out, Aba is a direct beneficiary of that directive as Aba has taken the lead and the Governor has positioned Aba as the destination of first instance for local goods in Nigeria.
In October 2016, the Nigerian Army procured 50,000 Boots from Aba with a promise of more orders this year. The Naval High Command recently sent a delegation to the Governor to explore production of Navy Uniforms, Boots and Accessories in Aba while the NYSC, the Police, Immigration, Customs and Civil Defence Corps are all discussing with Aba for their productions.
In 2016, the Made In Aba Campaign of the Governor led to direct orders of N1.5 Billion worth of goods to Aba. The target is to triple that number by the end of 2017 and the initiative is on course. Incidentally, the Governor is not a shoe-maker. He simply creates these opportunities and the producers in Aba are the direct beneficiaries. He is creating wealth and opportunities the effect and impact of which will transcend his administration. That is what leaders do. They provide opportunities for the businesses of their people to thrive.
In road infrastructure, apart from Lagos and Rivers States, you will be hard-pressed to find other states within the same economic bracket with Abia State where 3 Grade A contractors are at work. In Abia State, Setraco are building Faulks Road in Aba in addition to tackling the Ifeobara/Ukwu Mango Basin challenge which hitherto caused the city to be flooded. The rains have since come and within 30 minutes of the end of every rain, Aba is dry unlike what obtained in time past where streets will remain flooded all year round as there are no outlets for rainwater. Those days are now in the past in Aba. Every road that has been constructed comes with standard dual-side drains and the storm-water channelization project has been completed ensuring that rainwater drains away to the Aba river after every rain.
The same Setraco have been mobilized to move into Port-Harcourt Road, another hugely important economic road in the city where most of the fabricators have their shops. Although a Federal Road, the Governor has abolished the Federal-State Road dichotomy in Abia State as he believes that all roads in Abia are being used by Abians are there is no need to wait indefinitely for Abuja to come and fix the roads being used by his people.
There is also the Chinese Company building the first of its kind interchange (flyover) at Osisioma Junction which upon completion, will ease vehicular traffic at the junction. Piling has been completed for the base of the pillars that will hold the superstructure while the overhead slabs are being produced nearby.
In Umuahia, Arab Contractors have done a commendable job of fixing the Aba road which had a history of collapsing at Stanpol Junction every rainy season due to improper rainwater channelization. The company has raised the elevation of the road which was hitherto below surface level and have built a wide drainage channel underneath for rainwater to pass earning the admiration of all who have witnessed the ongoing work.
A lie will shortly be put to the centuries-old saying that onwegi uzo eshi aga Aro di nfe (there is no easy road to Arochukwu). As an alternative to the perennially impassable Ohafia-Arochukwu Federal Road, the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is constructing the Bende-Arochukwu Road which has shortened the journey from Umuahia to Arochukwu from 4 hours on a good day to 40 minutes. By December 2017, Arochukwu indigenes going home for Christmas will find that enwetala uzo eshi aga Aro di nfe ( There is now an easy road to Arochukwu).
Abia State is today a reference-state in Agricultural production. The administration is aggressively planting new variety Tenera Palm Trees (4.5M seedlings have been planted to date with a target of 7M seedlings by 2019). More noteworthy is the novel mushroom revolution going on in Abia State. The state has pioneered commercial mushroom production and the Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi who recently visited the state with his officials, had to invite the Commissioner for Agriculture to Abakaliki to come and teach Ebonyi Agriculture-sector officials how the ‘Abia Magic’ was done. This is in addition to on-going large-scale poultry farming and mechanization of agricultural processes in Abia State.
From Education to Health, Sports to other Social indices, the story has changed. Abia State has taken the lead in several sectors.
The Ag. President was again in Abia State in March 2017 to commission the brand new One Stop Investment Centre which ensures that investors in Abia State are able to commence operations within one month of arrival in the State.
The Governor was recently in China where he held meetings with several manufacturers. A week after his return from China, the manufacturers he met in China started arriving Abia State to identify land to set up their industries. This includes a $1.5B Industrial City by Huajian Group Guangzhou for the manufacture of Shoes, Garments, Electronics and ICT Gadgets. By July 2017, 100 Abia youths will be departing for China to train on mechanized leather and garment works production and these youths upon return, will form the fulcrum upon which the state will launch her mechanized production revolution.
The lines are falling in pleasant places in Abia State. The leadership style of Governor Ikpeazu has ensured that his lieutenants express themselves optimally and this has led to appreciable developments.
The Governor is a visioner. He articulates his vision for every sector and empowers his officials to implement his vision for that sector. He holds periodic engagements and advocacy visits with the people and feels their pulse directly through various channels of informal interactions.
Quite remarkably, the Governor would not acknowledge the 2 years he has spent in courts battling to retain his mandate as Governor. He asks not to be pitied as he would rather concentrate on the task ahead. He has since reached out to all those who challenged him for his seat and invited them to join hands with him to move the State forward.
If morning shows the day, the last 2 years of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia State has heralded a beautiful dawn and one can only look forward with healthy optimism to the remainder of his tenures for of a truth, great impact has been made in the last 2 years and Abia State is definitely on track to achieve her full potentials.
Sam Hart wrote in from Umuahia