JOHN OKIYI KALU
On Thursday, 3rd of January, 2019, Abia elders and living founding fathers from all the 17 LGAs of the state gathered in Umuahia to review the performance of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in office. After representatives of each Senatorial Zone made their presentations on his performance the meeting unanimously agreed that he has done very well and should be re-elected to continue in office for another four years.
During that meeting, the gathering assessed other governorship aspirants in the state and decided that in the spirit of equity and following the letters and spirit of the Abia Charter of Equity, only candidates from Abia South Senatorial Zone should be considered for the 2019 governorship election. When the delegation from Abia South was asked to confirm who their preferred candidate was they stated unequivocally that they have only one candidate for the election: Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
The gathering of Abia Elders and founding fathers, led by Prof Joe Irukwu, also reviewed the immediate and future plans of the Governor from 2019 to 2023 and thereafter decided that “given the good performance of the Governor and taking into cognizance Abia Charter of Equity, the people of the state should ensure that Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is re-elected to continue with his good work to ensure continuing peace and prosperity of Abia”.
It is instructive to note that prior to the final pronouncement by Abia elders and founding fathers, representatives of the people of Ukwa-Ngwa people of old Aba Division had gathered at Okpualangwa to endorse and declare Governor Ikpeazu their sole candidate for 2019 Governorship election. That was followed by a gathering of the people of former Bende Division in Umuahia who made a similar declaration. Traditional rulers in the state, including those ruling his opponents’ communities, trade unions, civil servants, the clergy and others had also made similar declarations before now.
Aside from the need to ensure that the cause of equity is served, as enunciated and agreed by our founding fathers, the sterling performance of Governor Ikpeazu made it easy for various segments of Abia Society to back his re-election.
It is public knowledge that in the history of Abia State no other Governor of the state suffered as much legal challenges and organised gang up against his administration like Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. As at April 2018, 3 years after his inauguration, he was still in court battling to save his administration from desperate politicians seeking to unseat him for no other reason than the fact that they felt they could do it successfully with their ill-gotten wealth and connections. Not only did they mount legal roadblocks to his administration they also orchestrated all sorts of subterfuge to frustrate his efforts to positively change the Abia narrative. Yet, Governor Ikpeazu refused to be distracted but instead kept his eyes on the work of reinventing Abia State.
To the eternal chagrin of his obviously malicious opponents, Governor Ikpeazu has successfully completed 68 road projects, delivered 3 new bridges in Ohafia, Arochukwu and Umunneochi as well as mitigated at least 4 gully erosion sites in the state, including Umuagu Isingwu Umuahia, Abiriba roundabout, Lohum Imenyi and Nsulu Isiala Ngwa gullies, all of which threatened to cut off the surrounding communities from the rest of the state. He is currently working at 94 other road project sites with some, like Brass- Faulks Road, Aba, Abiriba-Nkporo Road, Aba Road, Umuahia and 8 others set to be completed within the first quarter of this year.
In education, Abia State has maintained the first position in the ranking of best performing Nigeria states in West African School Certificate Examination, back to back, for four years. Enrollment in public schools have improved from 142,000 in 2015 to the current 685,000 with more than 1800 teachers retrained locally and internationally using Australian education service providers.
Governor Ikpeazu’s Abia State pioneered the school feeding program in the current dispensation with the state being the only one in Nigeria that feeds primary one to six pupils in public schools. Four new model schools were built at Ohafia, Obingwa, Abayi and Umuahia along with 359 new classroom blocks spread across the state. Recently, a public primary school in Ohafia LGA of Abia State was awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education as the 3rd best in Nigeria in terms of learning environment, teaching and learning facilities as well as qualification of teaching staff.
Healthcare in the state has improved under Ikpeazu with the state launching the innovative Tele-Health Initiative which is the first of its kind in Africa. Four new general hospitals have been constructed at Okikpe Ukwa, Ikwuano, Arochukwu and Obingwa with the long moribund Aba General Hospital reopened and functional. A new Mother Child Hospital is currently being equipped in Umuahia with a dialysis center established at Umuahia Specialist Hospital. More than N500m worth medical equipment and supplies have been delivered to Abia hospitals. In addition to that, four new fully equipped ultra-modern emergency medical Ambulances have been procured and deployed in the state, along with 5 ASPIMSS ambulances for accident victims to support fast and efficient emergency medical responses while a free home care for elderly persons was also launched by Governor Ikpeazu to take care of home-bound senior citizens of the state. Preliminary field data confirm that Governor Ikpeazu’s deliberate interventions in the vulnerable spectra of the healthcare chain have led to improvements in life expectancy in the state above current National average.
In agriculture, quantum leaps have been made by the state with over 4m tenera specie palm seedlings planted and two million already distributed across the state in an effort to bring back the good old days of thriving palm oil based economy last seen under Late Dr M. I. Okpara’s Eastern Nigerian government.
Dr Ikpeazu has revolutionised mushroom production in the state through the deployment of technology while also ensuring that rice farmers increase their production with the state added to the list of major rice producing states in the country.
To support trade and commerce, Governor Ikpeazu did not only reconstruct key roads to ease access to major trading centers in the state, he also partnered with the federal government to provide steady power supply to shops at Ariaria market and Supported Geometric Power Ltd to accelerate the process of rolling out steady power supplies to the Commercial nerve center of the state, Aba.
In addition to that, he personally led a successful promotion campaign for Made in Aba brands and hosted local and international fashion shows to support improvements in market shares for Aba SMEs. His focused efforts in promoting local enterprises have already earned him Independent Newspaper nomination as Best Governor of 2018 in Entrepreneurship as well as national recognition as the most SME friendly Governor. He also received awards as Vanguard Newspaper Governor of the Year 2017, Authority Newspaper Best Governor of the Year 2017 and Verbatim Magazine’s Best Governor of the year 2017.
To support the industrialization of the state as well as modernisation of production processes for Aba shoe makers, Governor Ikpeazu sponsored 30 young shoemakers to China to study automated shoe making and thereafter imported the automated shoe making equipment they trained on to Abia State to set up the first automated shoe production factory in the state. He is also actively supporting the resuscitation of moribund factories like Golden Guinea Breweries and Aba Glass Industry.
Yet, by far the greatest achievement of Governor Ikpeazu is believed to be his conception, approval and commencement of the new Enyimba Economic City which is a multibillion dollar project already acknowledged as the single biggest development project in the south east region of Nigeria since the end of the civil war in 1970. This project has already been licensed by the federal Govt with the area designated as the only free trade zone in the south east. With the estimated 700,000 new jobs expected to be created by this project which Ruyi Group of China has already committed to investing $2.5bn into, as the anchor investor, Abia State is on course to host the new “Dubai of Africa”.
Other areas the Governor has made good progress include sports, with the remodeling of Enyimba International Stadium with a new Astro-turf, improvements In security with the state rated as the second safest in Nigeria by Nigeria Bureau of Statistics as well as in electrification with more than 100 new power transformers already delivered to communities in the state.
Under Ikpeazu’s watch, Ozuitem Community in Bende LGA is set to drink the first pipe borne water this January, and there is no ward in Abia State that does not have an Ikpeazu project. More than 70 new houses have been donated to widows in the state and over 28 new markets constructed for rural women. More than 18,000 women have been trained in various skills and given seed money and materials to start their own businesses.
Governor Ikpeazu has done much more than already stated here. Elders of Abia state recognise that given the condition Governor Ikpeazu met the state; he should be given the opportunity to do more for our people.
It is an incontrovertible fact that no previous Governor of Abia State outperformed Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in four years or even 8 years and this, to some extent, can be attributed to the peaceful atmosphere in the state brought about by EQUITY in power rotation.
Only those who hate Abia State will work to truncate the course of EQUITY in the state, knowing very well that anything that denies the people of Abia South Senatorial Zone the right to serve two terms in Abia State will surely lead to crises and ultimately the implosion of the state.
Enthronement of EQUITY led to the emergence of a high performing Governor of Abia State who is ready to do more. Let no man trouble the bearer of the mark of Equity as even God, who loves equity in the affairs of men, will rise in anger against the enemies of the Charter.
Kalu, a Public Affairs Analyst, wrote in from Umuahia.