Dissecting Ikpeazu’s politics, policies and Abia agenda
Public position begets public scrutiny and it opens up a vista of shared opinions, assumptions and commentaries on the affairs of governance and public trust. Regrettably, the space of public opinion can be overtly toxic to the point that cynics, mischief-makers and political opportunist ride overboard.
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, is an accomplished academician turned politician who currently holds the trust of the people in the state. Since his foray into politics, this gentleman has been grossly misrepresented and called unprintable names, even by those with zero knowledge of his giant strides. Ikpeazu is the man in the arena, whose only sin may be that he hasn’t pandered to the whims and caprices of naysayers not been the regular boisterous politician and may have done little to blow his own trumpet. It is not uncanny to see people throw jibes at him and ride on the bandwagon of naysayers who see everything bad but nothing good, who go to town resuscitating dead woods and invoking petty sentiments to undermine the lofty achievement of his administration and politicised everything to score political point.
Criticism is an essential element in public affairs and it is of extreme significance because it is the dressing mirror of public officeholders, a means through which leaders are put in check, especially those dressed in borrowed robes. However, criticism has to be constructive, balanced, fair and unbiased. But, when it degenerates into the abyss of propaganda, misinformation and even disinformation then it gives great concern to well-meaning citizens to wonder what may be the intentions or antics of the merchants of propaganda who concoct stories to drag Ikpeazu down.
The governor has consistently become a target of thriving lies from an unrelenting camp that is determined to undo the narratives of his modest efforts. Irrespective of their detraction, the governor has remained steadfast and unperturbed in the midst of the discordant voices.
Abia State like every other state in Nigeria has its own fair share of developmental challenges that the governor has taken head-on since assuming office in 2015. His commitment to the social contract he has with the people and the trust the people have in him saw him emerge for another term in office in 2019. As his administration is at the twilight of its tenure, a significant number of gains have been achieved in the last seven and half years. The state, which he inherited, was one infamous for abductions and other crimes carried out by daredevil criminals with a near-total collapse of infrastructure and deteriorating economic activities, payroll, wage-bill, pensions and other emoluments challenges.
Today, Abia State is wearing a new look in a number of facets and radiating peace and tranquillity with a thriving industrious business atmosphere. The governor is known for delivering many first indelible landmark infrastructural projects across various sectors of the state. This government came at a time when finances weren’t steady, the country has gone through three recessions in the life of this government.
The global economy has been unsettled by the negative impact of COVID-19 and more recently, the Russia-Ukraine war and also the problem of crude oil theft that has greatly resulted in the dwindling allocation of revenue. In the midst of these daunting challenges, the governor has been able to leave a savouring taste in the mouth of many Abians.
Owing to the diligent and efforts of the governor, Abia State is a departure from its gory days of insecurities where hoodlums and notorious gangsters reigned supreme. The state has remained relatively peaceful and politically stable compared to what obtains in neighbouring states.
Understanding the significant implication of human capacity development, in the past seven and half years, the governor has made unprecedented investment in human capacity development as a number of young Abians were sent to China to train in the craft of shoe making, imported cutting-edge equipment for shoe-making and established the first automated shoe factory in the history of Nigeria. This initiative has improved the quality and standard of products. Today, Abia State export shoes in large quantities and enjoy the patronage the Nigeria military and police among others. And the governor is the chief promoter of made in Aba goods. Your guess on the ripple effects of this initiative is as good as mine.
With a thriving business ecosystem of small and medium scale businesses particularly in the area of shoe, bag and leatherwork, the governor created an Abia SMEs Bank, which provides funding at the micro level even for traders that sell on the table on the streets. This is done understanding that funding is a critical element in commerce. The need open up market opportunities and create visibility, the governor is tirelessly involved in aggressive marketing for Made-in-Aba, and Made-in-Nigeria products. This has led to the mounting of Trade Fairs in Abuja and even in New York after similar efforts has been done in other countries.
In the transformation efforts of the governor, education is not left out as over 650 new classroom blocks have been constructed, in a bid to redefine and modernise educational infrastructure and among them are four modern schools; this has been consolidated with tweaking the curriculum and method of teaching, which has effectively transited into digital teaching. Abia State can boast of smart boxes that can teach over 125 subjects, which are used in the modern schools. Four technical schools in Aba, Ohafia and Umuahia have been remodelled and since the state embraced the school-feeding programme from Primary One to Six, it has been consistent with it and it has effectively reversed enrolment in public schools from private schools. Scholarship has been given to a number of students to enable them study in the finest universities abroad, laying a solid foundation for a greater Abia of tomorrow.
As part of the initiative to better the lives of Ndi Abians, particularly in the area of enhancing seamless and hassle free production process, the state government collaborated with the Federal Government to provide Araria Independent Power Plant and most importantly, on a better and wider scale, the Geometric Power, which the state supported Geometrics to provide. What this means is that Abia will be among the first state to enjoy uninterrupted power supply in no distant time and the governor has been working hard to make sure that it happens because he understands the implication of power. If power is unlocked, the potential of the people will be unleashed. The government intervention in the SMEs has put smiles on the faces of Abians and that is what has created the new millionaires and hope for the people of Abia in the midst of harsh economic reality.
His administration’s desire to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of the people has commenced and delivered over 150 roads in the past seven years. Deliver the iconic Osisioma flyover, which incidentally is the first flyover in Abia State. The Okezie Ikpeazu government recently commissioned the Anne-Marie Jackson Children’s Specialist Hospital in Umuahia, as well as constructed an ultra-modern 150-bed Hospital with a kidney and heart specialist centre at the old site of the Aba General Hospital, among other numerous interventions carried out by the governor in the health sector and other sectors of the economy.
To borrow the words of Theodore Roosevelt, I will end by saying: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Maneke is a public affairs analyst residing in Lagos.