Ikpeazu: Pushing for Igbo renaissance
The Governor of Abia State Dr Okezie Ikpeazu turned 58 on Tuesday October 18. He marked it not with a lavish champagne party but with an assembly of Igbo intelligentsia and public intellectuals that were asked to sink their teeth into the place of Ndigbo in the Nigerian political, social and economic firmament. As part of the ceremony Ikpeazu also commissioned the Ismael Ikpeazu Memorial Library and Centre for Scientific Leadership in his village, Umuobiakwu in Obingwa Local Government Area of the State.
His father will be smiling in the grave for the unique gift of love by his son. The Governor made his father proud by rising to the pinnacle of excellence as an academic and by venturing into the murky waters of politics where he has made his mark as the Governor of Abia State. A book was also launched that was dedicated to his late father Ismael and his late mother Deaconess Bessie Ikpeazu. The book written by Obiora Nzekwu is a 1036 page affair that chronicles the developmental strides of Dr Ikpeazu as Governor. The title of the book Okezie Ikpeazu, Raising the bar of Governance in Abia reflects vigorously on Ikpeazu’s laudable achievements in various areas of human endeavour in Abia State.
The high quality of the book complements the acclaimed achievements of Governor Ikpeazu in such areas as education, infrastructure, agriculture, trade and commerce, oil and gas as well as health. Of special note is the Abia Tele-Health Initiative which was launched by Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo. The scheme, first of its kind in Nigeria provides for Abians to be able to dial a doctor direct when they need medical attention and or advice. In education the State is noted to have topped the chart in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) for four consecutive years. Agriculture has also received attention in the book because of its Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme an empowerment tool for youths to make a living from poultry farming.
Professor George Obiozor, President of Ohaneze Ndigbo had described Ikpeazu a few years ago as the emerging high priest of Igbo renaissance. Ikpeazu who can be described as a scholar in governance had used his birthday to bring Igbos to the table for a jaw-jaw session that can be a form of introspection for what the Igbos have achieved, can achieve and ought to achieve if all things are equal. The colloquium was centred on the socio-economic future of Ndigbo. It did not stray into the area of politics either because that area is very controversial or because politics will take care of itself or because it is more profitable to focus attention on what the Igbos can achieve on their strengths based on their comparative advantage. But politics determines to a large extent what is achievable in socio-economic terms. For example politics puts electricity supply in the domain of the Federal Government.
Eventhough billions of dollars have been spent on electricity there is no flicker of light at the electricity tunnel. We are still talking of 4000 megawatts of electricity for 216 million Nigerians. That is why the manufacturing sector is shrinking; companies are folding up or relocating to saner environments because generating power is extremely expensive. Most manufacturing companies in Nigeria depend on diesel for their operations. Now a litre of diesel costs 800 naira or more and for manufacturers that depend on generators as their main source of energy supply the situation is horrendous.
I suspect that the purpose of the colloquium was to tell Ndigbo that political power is not necessarily the only power available and that if the Igbos leverage on their excellence in trade, commerce and industrialisation they can make the right impact even in political situations. That is partially correct. The Nigerian political situation is a winner takes all arrangement that seems to ignore the country’s diversity and the need for the federal character provisions in the constitution to be upheld.
The emergence of IPOB and MASSOB was apparently aimed at either fighting for the reduction in the margin of marginalisation in the polity of Ndigbo or as an alternative to let the Igbos go and manage their affairs. But IPOB or MASSOB was dead on arrival because the referendum they have been asking for is not available in the 1999 Constitution. The alternative was to take up arms and fight for what they wanted.
That too was dead on arrival for two reasons. One, there is a stiff-necked government at the Centre headed by someone who fought in the Nigerian civil war to keep Nigeria one. To accept the idea of a separate country called Biafra was to admit that the civil war was fought in vain. Secondly, there are legitimate governments operating in the five Igbo states and the rulers of those states cannot accept the idea of miniaturising their hold on power in the states they run. Also, to get self-determination for Biafra without the consent of constituent groups was likely to be a tall order because it could only happen through the use of arms.
Emeka Ojukwu, a certified soldier tried it and raised an army that resisted Nigeria for 30 months but it ended in ruin for Biafra. One million lives were lost. But all of these arguments do not mean that Ndigbo is not, like some of the other territories, a marginalised territory. I suspect that Ikpeazu accepts this as the true situation of things but believes that Ndigbo have enough comparative advantage in socio-economic sectors to survive and thrive in Nigeria. That is the truth.
The Igbos are big investors in the manufacturing sector and in trade and commerce. In particular, the Igbo entrepreneurship or apprenticeship model has been studied globally and accepted as a magic formula for mercantilism. Harvard University has described the Igbo apprenticeship model as the most formidable and robust entrepreneurial incubation platform in the world. A number of Nigerian universities have also made the model a subject of study in their Business faculties.
Apart from the entrepreneurial model the Igbos made significant achievements in science during the Nigerian civil war, manufacturing all kinds of things from nothing and creating the dreaded Ogbunigwe. Instead of accepting those crude innovations as worthwhile and setting up a team to refine them after the war, we allowed them to go to seed because of the politics of regional and ethnic suzerainty.
Ikpeazu is a clinical biochemist and intellectual who has made the transition from the academy into politics. It is by using science to solve some of the existential problems of Abia State that he has earned the sobriquet “kinetic governor.” He has proved that academics can become outstanding achievers if they utilise their knowledge of science to solve contemporary problems. That must be why he favours another intellectual, Professor Uche Ikonne as his successor, a choice he has defended stoutly. Perhaps one of Ikpeazu’s most significant achievements is the Enyimba Economic City where commerce, trade and industrialisation meet. Aba is likely, in the near future, to become a much cherished business and investment destination due to the creativity that Ikpeazu has brought into the transformation of the future and fortune of the city.
The presence of Mr Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, Mr Ayo Fayose, former Governor of Ekiti State and Chief Adolphus Wabara former Senate President and now Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees had set some tongues wagging. Ikpeazu is in the same PDP camp as Wike and Fayose while Wabara is in a somewhat neutral corner, seeking to bring peace to their troubled party. Ikpeazu feels that Wike has been treated badly and that the party is unwilling to take definite steps towards inclusivity so that the party can go out there and fight for the presidential trophy as one. That is a matter of principle. For that principle which is bereft of any hint of selfishness Ikpeazu gets full marks for selflessness.
Nigerian politics is awash with selfish men who want nothing but power and power by hook or crook. That has been the norm in Nigeria. That is why the youths seem to be revolting against the status quo and are gravitating towards Mr Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State and now presidential candidate of the Labour Party. If Obi wins the election, the Igbos would have come inside from the rain that has been beating them for years politically. But that is a story for another day.