‘I’ll find political will to transform Abia’
Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Abia State, says he needs to be his own man to take the state to the next level where current Governor Theodore Orji will leave it in May. He spoke to some journalists in Umuahia, including Southeast Bureau Chief, Kodilinye Obiagwu.
THE theme of your campaign vis-a-vis emerging realities in economic and political needs of the state
We will take a cue from the larger Nigerian environment both politically and economically. The trend is that oil prices are going down, thereby raising the need to look at other sources of revenue and innovative ways of managing the national economy.
In Abia, we think our challenge is to keep pace with this turn of events. If we are talking about infrastructure in Abia, we should therefore be talking about infrastructure designed towards economic advancement and development.
There is a new focus on the economy of Abia and what we have in mind is to pioneer a private sector-led or driven economy, where we can lay hands on natural pillars.
The first plan is people. Abia is endowed with people with capacity in various areas. Our human capital is second to none. We are the best traders and we are very good in commerce and with things we can do with our hands.
We want to leverage these advantages to make sure that the state economy rests on a strong pillar of trade and commerce, small and medium scale enterprises.
Secondly, although we are in the oil sector, we want to let the advantage of oil and gas recede to the background. As we are just marginal producers of oil, it should not be on the front burner of our economic decisions in the days ahead.
We want to also leverage agriculture to create jobs as we aim at creating 50,000 jobs within the first three years. The integrated farming model and a modification of the Songhai model will offer us what we need in this sector.
To achieve these, we will embark on a mass reorientation to change the thinking of our people. We want to say that we are the best in the world and that we will attract the attention of not only the best in Nigeria, but also in Africa in the days ahead.
There are enablers, factors, which must drive this economic agenda. For instance, we have the railway line again. Abia is one of the few states with a full complement of rail line crisscrossing five towns — Aba, Umuahia, Umuoba, Nbosi and Ovim. From these cities, you can access Port Harcourt and Enugu.
What it means is that when our dry port, located between Aba and Umuahia, comes on stream, we can get goods cleared. Railway can do a lot in terms of volume evacuation of goods and services and we are going to leverage on that.
Another enabler is security. If an investor comes to Abia with one billion naira, he deserves a secured place to supervise his investment; security must be paramount. Today, Abia is the third most secured state in Nigeria and there is no reason it should not be the first most secured state in the country.
The view on hospitals is that they must dovetail into this economic agenda. You can’t invest one billion naira in Abia and then be going for medical checkups in India. We, therefore, need world-class medical centres in Abia.
Already, there are 700 primary health care institutions in various communities and we need to link them up to the secondary and tertiary health institutions.
Essentially, we will create the linkage and provide facilities. The hospitals in the villages will be comparable with what obtains in America and Europe so Abia can be a destination for healthcare delivery.
We anticipate that Abia will be one of the first states that will benefit from steady supply of electricity in the Southeast. Presently, the Geometrics Power Plant situated in Aba has the power but there is no evacuation because of a problem with the distribution company.
We expect that government can play a role in initiating a resolution of the conflict between the promoters of the Geometrics and the distribution company so that Abia people will have electricity. Once that happens, our industrial clusters will be one of the best in Africa. It means that our shoe works, garment industry, the textile industry can return on stream.
Plans for Aba, a commercial town in dire need of urban renewal and structural development
Aba is a special town; this city is at the confluence of about seven cities in the Southeast and South-South. The city is about 30 minutes’ drive to Ikot Ekpene, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Umuahia, among others. The plan is to leverage this strategic location of Aba to place world-class infrastructure around it.
Our plan for Aba is a rebirth and reengineering that will drive our economic agenda. So far, what we see is that people talk about Aba because they are thinking about votes. I talk about Aba with passion because I come from there.
No one is more interested in Aba or has a better plan for Aba as myself. First, a proper diagnostics of the Aba problem shows that it is rooted in the fact that infrastructural stock, in terms of drainage, houses and roads have been static for awhile and the population has grown geometrically.
When that happens, it means that there will be more pressure on the roads and the drainages and they will start collapsing. What we want to do first is to construct a ring road around Aba while we revisit the existing roads, remodel them and redesign them.
Aba is in the centre of our plans; our industrial clusters are going to take off from there. What we can get in Aba, for example, in terms of internally generated revenue can help develop other parts of Abia.
The problem with the drainage and flooding is surmountable. We have two options there. One, there is an underground drainage system, which has been silted to the brim and that is why each time it rains, there is flooding.
The question is, do we use open drainage system or do we continue with the underground system where we have to get experts to open the underground drainage for it to evacuate into the Abia River?
But draining straight into the Aba River is also not environmentally sustainable; so, we are thinking about a secondary water plant around Aba River that would capture the storm water, treat it up to secondary level and return it to the River so that aquatic life can thrive.
Increasing internally generated revenue (IGR)
I was a member of the state IGR committee that raised the monthly IGR from N200 million to N500 million. To increase the IGR, we must strengthen the institutions of service.
For example, we are going to strengthen our domestic waste management template, our service delivery institutions and plug leakages. The target is a monthly revenue of two to three billion naira.
What to do differently from Governor Theodore Orji, if elected
The governor has enormous goodwill and he has carried himself as a gentleman. He has a lot of respect among the elders, and the common people of Abia.
He is a huge challenge. I will try to be as meticulous as Orji, but I will run faster because I am younger.
On co-governorship candidates calling him a stooge
It is not possible for someone to think of me as a stooge. All this can only exist within the realms of political propaganda.
Almost every candidate in the governorship race was once in the PDP; so apparently, they all wanted to be stooges. But now that the PDP people have said that they want change into certainty and the civil servants are saying, “we want to change to someone who can keep our jobs and pay us and not for us not to have the jobs at the end of the day,” they are calling me a stooge.
There is no example of a governor in Nigeria that is anybody’s stooge. And if you played a role in canvassing for votes or helped a person to become a governor, you can’t expect the governor to be your stooge. You can only bring your beautiful ideas on the table, hoping that it falls into the main frame of a focused administration.
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