By Jude Ndukwe
As Dr Okezie Ikpeazu commences his “Second Missionary Journey” as Executive Governor of Abia State from May 29, 2019, people of the State already seem to know what to expect from their governor. With the resoundingly successful performance in his first tenure, and the promise to cover more ground, the people had no hesitation whatsoever to keep faith with him when it was time for the 2019 governorship election, and did so in an overwhelming manner to the extent that his closest opponents came distant 2nd and 3rd respectively. It was indeed one election that has been adjudged the freest, fairest, most peaceful, most transparent and most credible in the history of the State. It was an election where the people did not only speak but spoke loudly about their choice to stick with the incumbent despite a cacophony of calumny and deliberate misinformation that became the hallmark of his political opponents in the period leading to the election.
But having seen what Dr Okezie Ikpeazu was capable of doing in his first tenure despite multiple baseless and bitter litigations instituted against him that lasted for three years, the booby traps of propaganda, half-truths and outright falsehood launched against him by his political opponents, lean resources accruable to the state and such other challenges, the people refused to be swayed by any other factor except the plethora of incontrovertible evidence of strong sociopolitical and economic policies and verifiable projects that have etched the name of the Governor indelibly in their hearts as the right man to lead them on the next phase of Abia’s journey to The Promised Land. An Igbo saying has it that when the first journey is sweet, we embark on it a second time even with enthusiasm. That is exactly what Abians have done with the reelection of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu with massive numbers at the last election.
There is hardly any other state government in Nigeria that can boast of having completed over 70 road projects with 90 others at various levels of completion in just four years especially with Abia’s well documented lean resources. Ikpeazu has not just built those numbers of roads, he builds roads that are of strategic importance to the people especially as a state renowned for its unmatchable and age-long prowess in trade and commerce.
For example, the seemingly incurable Faulks Road at Aba, though still undergoing top notch engineering surgery, now wears a new look and cured of its incessant tempest of seasonal flooding. Before now, people of Abia and those who ply that road had thought that there were some supernatural forces dwelling at Ama Ikonne and Ife-Obara that were resisting all previous efforts at totally eliminating the perennial flooding that militated against the solid construction of Faulks Road until those “supernatural powers” were arrested by the superiority thinking and engineering masterpiece deployed by the Governor. Today, Faulks Road has been delivered of its “principalities and powers”; it is now a beauty to behold and a joy to ply.
To achieve this feat, not many know that Dr Okezie Ikpeazu had to sack the contractor that was hitherto handling the project when it became obvious that the scope of the work was beyond his ability. Probably the enormity of what was expected of him by the governor overwhelmed him. Then SETRACO, an A-list construction company was awarded the contract while the Governor specifically requested for a site engineer from the Netherlands who are the best in underwater management to come work with local consultants and then give a plan for the job. That plan came with a 6.5km underground drainage with pumps designed to pump water intermittently along the way to Waterside from Ife-Obara. This also culminated in the dredging of Waterside and Ife-Obara to ensure that they can take water in their full capacities without spilling to the roads and cause flooding.
It is important that these details are highlighted to underscore the importance Governor Okezie Ikpeazu places on scientific assessment of such challenges, the meticulous planning that goes into tackling them and the political will to do novel things that bring world class lasting solutions to local challenges.
The reason why any governor would go this far in tackling any challenge in a state is because such a governor does not want to do just any job, shoddy and cheap, to hoodwink the people for political purposes, only for the roads to collapse shortly after. Such a governor like Dr Ikpeazu takes his time to ensure quality job is done every time because he has not the next election but the next generation in mind. And this mark of quality is etched on every of his project. This is why the ongoing Osisioma flyover is imbued with quality; this is why the renovated Enyimba International Stadium reeks of quality; this is why the new Model Schools that dot different parts of the state ooze quality, etc.
Talking about the model schools in particular and the education sector in general, Governor Ikpeazu has rolled out policies and projects that guarantee Abians of continued top performances in both local and international exams. For example, it is on record that Abia State is not only first in WASSCE among states of the federation, she has maintained this position for four consecutive years: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and still counting. Despite efforts by far more financially endowed states to overtake her in this regard, Ikpeazu has ensured that does not happen, to their continued chagrin.
The latest JAMB/UTME results show that a 16-year-old Abian is among the best two out of over a million candidates that sat for the exam across the nation.
With the construction of 359 new classroom blocks, 70 of them reconstructed and 4 new model schools spread across the three senatorial districts of the state, locally manufactured furniture deployed for use in them, equipped with modern libraries and laboratories, feeding of pupils in Primary 4 – 6 every school day making Abia the only state in the entire federation where all her pupils are fed in school since the federal government feeds pupils of Primary 1 – 3 nationwide, etc it becomes so easy to decipher the mindset of the Governor about our children and youths. As leaders of tomorrow, Dr Ikpeazu who himself is a scholar, knows the importance of giving children of the state a befitting learning environment to bring out the best in them always, prepare them for the onerous task of leadership and nation building, and give them a future that ensures they are able to compete favourably anywhere in the world and be the best they can be without fear or doubt. Little wonder school enrolment rate in Abia jumped from about 115,000 in 2015 to over 600,000 today!
During one of his recent visits to some schools in the state, Dr Ikpeazu directed the immediate construction of 13 new more Model Schools and 300 more new classroom blocks across the state while vowing to continue the State school feeding programme with the possibility of even extending it to junior secondary class students.
The teachers who have the enviable responsibility of moulding these children are also not left out. Over three thousand primary school teachers have undergone different forms of training and retraining by an Australian NGO. About 40 other teachers will soon go to Australia in furtherance of the training and it is expected that when they return they shall in turn train others. This is one of the reasons for the establishment of the Abia Teacher Training Continuing Education Centre at Umuahia by the Ikpeazu-led administration.
In order to further empower Abia youths and entrepreneurs, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu personally got involved in the promotion of Made in Aba goods, sponsoring exhibitions for them both at home and abroad, sent 30 shoemakers to China to enhance their skills with those trained returning to train others back home, and procured modern shoemaking machines from China to greatly enhance quality, quantity and speed of output of Aba shoemakers. Today, military and paramilitary organizations procure their uniforms and boots from Abia State; the same goes for several federal institutions who now turn to Abia for their scientific, technological, garment, leather, wood and other needs.
The Enyimba Economic City is what informed economic watchers and political analysts have dubbed “Mother of all Projects” in this clime because of its gargantuan scope and expected humongous returns and benefits to the State and her people in particular and Nigeria in general. If there is any project that befittingly crowns Dr Ikpeazu as a true trans-generational leader, it is the EEC. It is a project that mirrors the limitless possibilities of his thought processes and his fearlessness to achieve the impossible.
As its name implies, Enyimba Economic City is an industrial hub spanning a huge land mass of about 9,800 hectares covering three local governments of the state with strategic proximity to 9 southeast and south south states, seated directly on a large gas reserve belt and bordered by potential seaports, all of which enhance the industrial viability and business opportunities of the new “Dubai of Africa”.
The concept and development of EEC has been attracting rave reviews from both local and international investors for its vast potentials. Even the Federal Government has bought a 20% stake in it. The cherry on the cake is that the City has been designated a Free Trade Zone, a mouthwatering incentive for investors worldwide. On completion, the City which shall have uninterrupted power supply is expected to offer a massive 700,000 jobs to the youths and also enhance the already existing business clusters all over Aba and beyond.
The larger implications of this is that even if oil dries up in the nearest future or goes out of need by the world as is being projected, Abia State will still survive, thrive and prosper comfortably based on the massive revenue she will generate from the EEC. What this means is that while others do not know where their next meal would come from when oil goes into extinction, Ikpeazu has already secured the future of Abians against such shocks. It takes a man of uncommon vision to think far ahead and make hay for his people while the sun shines. The Governor alluded to this fact himself concerning the EEC and his vision when he told ThisDay newspaper “…in doing this I needed to be futuristic, I didn’t need to be an election politician but I want to be politician for development.” And I dare add, a politician for the next generation.
All this would not have been achieved if the governor had not taken security serious. Today, despite the malignant security threats afflicting the nation, Abia has remained the safest State in the country. Despite the violent deaths that marred the last election in different parts of the country, Abia recorded no death.
To prove that Governor Ikpeazu’s works of fulfilling his promises of today and guaranteeing the future for Abians has already started bearing real fruits, Abia was recently rated among the first three States with the highest Foreign Direct Investment only after Abuja and Lagos, and one of the only five states with the best ratings in the Ease of Doing Business index. Others are Kaduna, Enugu, Lagos and Anambra. These are no mean achievements by the Governor; they are not accidental feats but results of brilliant thinking, deliberate planning and uncommon doggedness to see things through to their logical conclusion, coupled with the Governor’s exceptional ability to build a team of stars who completely share his passion for a greater Abia.
From the foregoing, it is very clear that Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu is not only concerned about the Abia of today but also an Abia of tomorrow. This is why his policies and projects of today have a sociopolitical and economic umbilical cord tied to our tomorrow. Whatever he does serves the people today and also serves as a pedestal upon which our tomorrow stands solidly. These are part of the reasons he is Abia’s trans-generational leader!