Ikpeazu: A hidden legacy
In the end, when the curtains close on us and father time bows out, legacy is how we live on as though we were never gone. Relative to all spheres of life, the unavoidable questions lie; how will we be remembered and what did we leave behind? Famous or otherwise, some legacies may not be forgotten but only a special few are respected.
To the people of Abia state and Abians nationwide, the aftermath of the recently concluded governorship election gives a moment of appraisal and scrutiny of the incumbent Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration, an interaction privy to those who made it thus far.
The famous line “This is the worst government ever” has been bandied around from the days of our heroes past, but if we take a step back and deepen the discourse independent of previous administrations, is this truly the worst government the people of Abia have ever seen, was it all bad? Or is this the age-old use of propagandistic stratagems in place.
Surely a viral video defending a fast food restaurant such as Chicken Republic (KFC) as a monumental state achievement left a lot to be desired. But what was intentionally omitted from the equation was the fact that the World Bank published a report ranking Abia state as the third best in foreign direct investment. Even more damning is the disingenuous suggestion that 500 Naira, as of today, is classified as a whooping sum and a life-changing experience for a puerperal.
In his defense, what wasn’t emphasized upon was the free healthcare initiative called the Basic Health care Provision fund put in place by the state for expectant mothers, a precursor to the earlier statement, which caused an uproar among Nigerians nationwide. An altered clip edited to make one look bad, surely that sounds like propaganda.
Unwavering for any citizen of a democratic state is the right to question, the right to speak up in times of grievances. One insurmountable take is that bad governance destroys. As thoughtfully stated by the legendary French Philosopher and political Scientist, Alexis de Tocqueville, “The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins its reform”
In all fairness, Gov. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Phd, of Abia State, in the spring of 2015 inherited a deplorable state of affairs with a backlog of unfulfilled promises, debts and a volatile hotbed for insecurity looming large.
Indeed what is most bewildering is how a man with over 200 road projects completed; the osisioma flyover, the aba-owerri road, okigwe road, ezeukwu road, to name a few. 700 new classrooms, 4 new model schools, a federal government collaboration of the Ariaria power plant initiative and many others achievements could be classified as the worst governor in the South-east.
Bound by his five modalities to establish a successful approach to government, Ikpeazu set focus on Trade and commerce, oil and gas, agriculture, small and medium scale enterprises, and education.
Gov. Ikpeazu, clearly prudent in his ways, erected a permanent structure for the Abia state Independent Electoral Commission (ABISEC), institutionalizing a base of operation for electoral officials, a feat as democratic as they come for the benefit of all, especially those yet to come.
While Detractors could attempt to dismiss some of his achievements as hearsay, the one undoubted mark of excellence comes in the form of the educational sector. The state’s dominance in the secondary school level has taken the nation by storm, with Abia leading the performance charts of all Nigerian states in four of his eight-year tenure in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Such success isn’t achieved by the wave of a wand, groundwork had already been laid in the form of investing in teacher training, and installing scientific and digital learning equipment that improve students’ learning.
Notwithstanding his obvious input into his state, interesting is the fact that the narrative levelled against his government appears rather conflicting. It might be that Okezie Victor Ikpeazu is many things in one; misrepresented, misunderstood, misjudged, misreported and under-reported. Ikpeazu’s fatal mistakes in his eight years in office had been the downplaying of adequate publicity required to showcase his landmark achievement and services to the state of Abia.
However, no state is perfect, not the least Abia. According to figures published by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in January 2023, Abia is ranked as the worst among states within the south-east region with regards to development, with a poverty rate of 31 percent and an alarming unemployment rate of 51 per cent to buttress the point being that Gov. Okezie isn’t without blame nor blemish but anyone who knows a thing or two about Abia politics would understand that most of these inadequacies have been an accumulation of perennial negligence from administrations past.
Every state or in most cases region has its demons yet exorcised. Just like the state of Kaduna with its religious crisis and the people of south-south with the issues of oil theft. Abia’s two-pronged demon head comes in the shape of Bad roads and lack of salary and pension payment.
Quizzed on both topics in a recent revelatory interview on channels television, he seemed disappointed at the falsehood of the stories in the public domain claiming that he was owing for an inordinate period of 66 months. He divulged that he cleared as much as 11 months deficit from the previous government upon his arrival.
As many as 29000 of 31000 government employees have been paid thus far with the exception of 2000 who work for non-remitting parastatals whose responsibilities are to pay their workers with their internally generated funds in addition to the subvention provided by the government.
In a bid to combat the massively eroded roads caused by flooding issues in the state, Gov. Ikpeazu aggressively embarked on a dredging mission of the waterside area, Urata pond, Umuagba Pond and many others which prevented Abia from being major victims of the renowned nationwide flooding experience that hit the nation in last year.
Bearing some electoral grievances towards the conduction of the recently done election, Gov. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has decided not to pursue his dissatisfaction at a failed senatorial seat bid in court. This further underlines what type of man he is, noble in defeat and appreciative of the opportunity given to serve his people.
Although many may be of the opinion that the Abia State governor is waking up too late to challenge his political opponents and traducers who have already dealt him a heavy political blow he may never forget. Even at that he did not lose his right of self-defence and still has the opportunity to let the world and indeed Abia people know the great things he achieved for the state.
• Marcus is a public analyst