Kingsley Megwara PDP chieftain in Abia State and General Manager Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest Scheme (ASPIMS) spoke on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s recent court victory validating his mandate and why he is bent on delivering his electoral promises, the setbacks notwithstanding. The former Special Adviser on Diaspora Affairs under Governor Theodore Orji also talked on Made in Aba products and why they are gaining global acceptance, all thanks to Ikpeazu, the chief marketing officer. He spoke with Nduka Nwosu
Okezie Ikpeazu’s recent Supreme Court victory was widely celebrated in Abia State. Why?
The celebration was the natural expectation of truth over falsehood. Anything to the contrary would have been a slap on democracy. It would have amounted to de-legitimisation of the wishes of the people. The majority of Abians who registered for the election went out en masse to vote for Okezie Ikpeazu and the result was decisive. Anything other than what the court ruled would have been a rape on democracy. The positive ruling of the court called for jubilation because democracy had been vindicated. It was a celebration of justice and fair play. We want to continue the peaceful co-existence of the three Senatorial districts of Abia State and this partly is what Okezie Ikpeazu’s mandate represents.
How has this whole thing impacted negatively the business of governance in Abia?
In spite of the distractions he may have been caused, Ikpeazu was largely focused in the business of governance. Aba the commercial nerve centre of Abia is a veritable evidence of his performance profile with its new look and work in progress. The expectation is that as we move forward into the future, electoral cases should be quickly dispensed with so that those involved would have time to face the business of governance.
Moving forward what are the expectations of the people?
There are expectations in every facet of our development of the state. The governor has pledged to re-double his efforts in tackling the problems of the state especially in those areas that were most affected by the distractions of the last two years. Our primary goal is to the people who are expecting so much to be done. This governor has already re-pledged his loyalty to the people and total commitment to efforts geared at improving their standard of living. There are efforts to upgrade the infrastructure of the commercial city of Aba and the result so far is very impressive so much that the opposition cannot but commend Ikpeazu for the transformation Aba is witnessing.
Aba is on its way to compete with other industrialised cities of the world enjoying high profile infrastructure development.
How would you rate Ikpeazu’s campaign for Made in Aba products?
Here in Abia State Georgio Armani and Beverly Hill suits are no longer in vogue. The brand name now is made in Aba because we are proud of the unique selling point of Aba made products-clothes, bags, shoes, high quality leather materials, et al. We are thinking inward and the responses as well as the results are amazing. Our shoes, bags, belts and other clothing accessories are made in Aba with the governor as the chief marketing officer and brands manager. He is working on his fellow governors to buy into Aba products as a way of promoting made in Nigeria products. This campaign extends to the Armed Forces-the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Civil Defence, NYSC, Customs Excise and the Immigration. The message is the same-patronise made in Aba products which have become even a more attractive imperative given their high quality and our foreign exchange constraints. It will interest you to know that these products receive very high ratings outside the country and with quality control adjustments that will add value to the marketability. Aba makes better shoes now than China and Malaysia.
Governor Ikpeazu was recently in China to bring in more sophisticated equipment for manufacturers of Aba made products while the artisans are being exposed to such countries as China, Malaysia and Korea to
broaden their skill and knowledge of what is happening elsewhere. The Governor’s vision is to re-position Aba on a global standard as the emerging Japan of Africa. When this happens, businesses would be reactivated, jobs would be available and the crime rate would diminish. This is already happening and this is Ikpeazu’s game plan as he markets made in Aba products in different parts of the world, the US inclusive later this year.
What is the state government doing to regain Aba market’s hold on the sub-regional market?
If the federal government can curb the volume of importation and smuggled goods competing with Aba made products, Aba market will go a long way regaining its hold on the sub-regional market. Government can
do this the same way it restricted the quantity of rice imported into the country. Boosting the infrastructure in the Southeast will be a sure way the FG can attract the ECOWAS member countries to the Aba International market. Our roads are in a dilapidated state and electricity supply is epileptic.
What happened and what attempts are being made to reactivate the traffic of Aba made garments to Aasia especially with the popularity of the Southeast created caftan, now a national dress?
It will interest you to know that the nationally accepted caftan from the Southeast has also gone global with large exports going to such Asian countries as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. In China, there was an impressive acceptance of the leather products considered to be of a very high standard. This is the game plan of the chief marketing officer and brand manager Okezie Ikpeazu, which is to make Aba the Japan of Africa. The net effect is that such surrounding towns of Arochukwu, Ohafia, Umunneochi, Igbere, Abiriba and Umuahia will be rejuvenated businesswise. Sociologists will tell you there is a correlation between increased business activity and a fall in crime.
When industrial activity is re-activated there is a multiplier effect that affects one form of business or the other. I am very impressed with the way this governor and his government are going in reactivating business activity in Aba, which is to place high premium on infrastructure development with emphasis on roads and electricity.
Is there a PPP arrangement to help fast-track development projects in the state, in particular Aba?
The PPP arrangement is part of the development process embraced by the governor and it encompasses most key projects in the state Aba inclusive. If you recall the Acting President visited Abia State recently and opened the Investment House in the state capital Umuahia.
The Investment House is a one talk shop where all you need to do business in the state can be packaged. In the past it was a cumbersome arrangement that would have taken you to different parts of the state but now under one roof the ease of doing business in Abia has been guaranteed. This is part of what the Ikpeazu administration has been doing in the past two years- to erect the right foundation for the effective take-off of a modern Abia State. Here too the immediate past governor, Senator Theodore Orji deserves commendation for his ability to erect a foundational structure, which Governor Ikpeazu is consolidating.
Under Ikpeazu our state has been in a better shape moving forward than it has ever been. That is why those of us who are here believe in equity and fairness. The founding fathers of Abia and the PDP said the governorship slot of Abia would rotate among the three senatorial zones starting from Abia North Senatorial Zone to Abia Central Senatorial Zone and now to the South. Six years from now, it will return to the North in the spirit of fairness and equity. Again Senator Theodore Orji deserves a pat on the back for fighting tirelessly by assembling men of goodwill who along with him insisted the governorship must move to the South because we want to live in peace and harmony. This is the only arrangement that guarantees the future of a greater Abia State under Governor Ikpeazu.
How has ASPIMS, the emergency response unit of Abia State fared till date?
ASPIMS is here to complement the efforts of the state government. At inception, ASPMS was set up to cater for the interest of commercial motorists but now extends to all motorists in Abia. If you remember ASPMS was set up 17 years ago, today it has grown to be the only emergency response unit that operates 24 hours with our ambulances strategically located within reach of a few minutes an emergency call is made. The state government has generously continued to increase ASPIM’s fleet of ambulances to a total of eight, which makes response very convenient and life-saving. This is a remarkable achievement and you will agree with me the number one priority of any government is not only to save and preserve life but to add quality to it. This is exactly what goes on here. We are empowered to hire and re-train our para-medical personnel so as to provide quality services to the people.
How is the state coping with such security issues arising from the activities of Fulani herdsmen, kidnapping, internet fraud, armed robbery and the like?
The issue of Fulani herdsmen has become a national issue that should concern every well-meaning Nigerian because one problem in one part of the country can create a chain reaction in other parts of the country.
Freedom of movement and free enterprise anywhere in the country are constitutionally guaranteed but that does not translate to trampling into other people’s rights and property. Abia remains one of the safest places in the country to do business. The issue of security loomed large under Governor Orji’s administration when kidnappers and people with other criminal tendencies became a menace to the state.
These criminals were effectively routed and since then Abia State has remained a reference point for other states that want peace and orderliness to attract investors. Under Ikpeazu Abia has gained the status of an investment haven and security is guaranteed with the armed forces and local vigilante, our own form of homeland security, effectively in-charge.
How strong is Abia PDP as 2019 approaches?
Abia PDP is totally intact and there has not been any incident of cross-carpeting especially with the promising policies of the Ikpeazu administration. The PDP remains the viable party that appeals to the Southeast because of its spread as a national party. In this part of the country we have always embraced the party with a national spread just like we embraced the National Party of Nigeria because of its geographical appeal. PDP remains Nigeria’s only national party and it has a track record people can connect with.
Nigerians are in a position to respond to the question whether we are better today than we were yesterday. Where is the change we were promised? Let me restate that Abia PDP under the Ikpeazu administration is one hundred percent intact. What matters to the people or the electorate is not the party but what each party in power is capable of delivering to the people. Our democratic space now is such that the electorate can vote out a party for non-performance. Yet we need INEC to perfect this new order because in spite of the fact that the days of ballot snatching are coming to an end there are politicians who feel they can do without the people’s votes through rigging.