I will develop Aba to drive Abia economy —Governor-elect Okezie Ikpeazu

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Still savoring his victory, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, the Obingwa-born Biochemist and first Ngwa man to become governor of any state, took time off late Monday morning to address a press conference, the first since he emerged governor-elect, at his Umuobiakwa country home, where he gave an insight into how he intends to administer Abia as well as his plans for Aba in particular. Ikpeazu, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the just-concluded governorship election in Abia State, also spoke of the contest and assured that he would welcome on board any person, whether friend or foe, who has positive contributions that would drive his administration to success and make life better for Abians. Our Correspondent AGWU OKORO was there to document proceedings.

Question: You were last Saturday returned as winner of Abia governorship contest after the April 11, 2015 election and the April 25, 2015 supplementary poll. How can you describe your victory?

I like to say that what happened on Saturdy that culminated in the declaration Sunday morning is entirely the handiwork of God and the natural thing to say is to dedicate that victory to God Almighty who fulfilled His own words and crowned our efforts and our struggles with a resounding victory. I will also want to thank Ndi Abia, those that found time to express their confidence in me amd in my party, the PDP, through the ballot by voting massively and resoundingly,  both durimg the first elections of April 11, 2015 and the supplementary that came on April 25, 2015.

They made a statement and I want to say that that statement was symbolic because for the first time we saw the endorsement of a common Abian and somebody who has come to defend the middle class and more historically, somebody from the Ukwa/Ngwa ethnic tribe comprising of nine local governments.

My commitment to Ndi Abia, from Arochukwu to Umunneochi, to Ukwa, to Ikwuano, is that I will treat every person that is from Abia, that is in Abia doing business in Abia, equally and fairly.

My mandate is to serve the Abia citizenry and to catalyse infrastructure development, catalyse unity in all sphere of human development – politically, economically and socially – and also to catalyse unity among Ndigbo and the South East, wherever they may belong, and also support the overall development of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Abia making a strong statement as an economic hub in the days ahead and I know that God who started this journey will remain with us even as the strides become in the main, the frame of governance that will take off after May 29.

Are you going to extend hands of fellowship to you opponnents or will it be a winner-takes-all?

Well, I do not see what happened as a battle. We went to seek for endorsement of Ndi Abia and that endorsement could go this way or the other way. We thank God today that it went our way, and we say that the strength of the chain is equivalent to the strength of the weakest link. So, for those of us who may not have had the privilege of breasting the tape from this side as victors, I want to say that they are most welcome because the most important thing is the goood of greater majority of our people.

So, anybody that has positive ideas that can bring about the unity, progress and development of Abia State is most welcome.

I will say that God has given me the grace to recognise quality materials wherever they may exist. So, it is not going to take anything out of me to say, please, come let us run Abia together.

What I come to the table with is humility such that I will be humble enough to create a level playing ground and a platform upon which every manner of person that has positive ideas will be given the opportunity to make contributions.

I do not also have any doubt in my mind that they (opponents) will be forthcoming because all of us during the electioneering period professed that we loved Abia, we professed that we want the best for Abia. So, the time for us to know whether what we professed is true or not is post-May 29 and I want to seize this opportunity to say that we are open, we can’t certainly do it alone. We want everybody and this is going to be government of the people, by the people and for the people. So, they are most welcome.

The Abia 2015 governorship race has proved to be a tough duel. In the course of the journey, when did you begin to consider the journey dicey, winning or losing?

Incidentally, I do not think that it ever crossed my mind that we were not going to make it because we started very little like the mustard seed. So, with every passing day, we became stronger. Our strength, those of us who were in the think-tank and war room knew that everyday got us stronger and stronger. So, we were becoming more confident. Besides, this project was rooted in the scriptures and I am a strong believer of prophecy; I am a firm believer in the word of God and I knew that it will end in praise. So, at no point, sincerely speaking, did I ever feel or considered that it could have gone the other way.

My greatest problem, was, you know, when David confronted Golliath, he had to rely on his experience and how God had helped him in the past. I knew that God had not disappointed me. I have never failed in any assignment before and I did not come out to define failure for myself.

But in Nigeria, when you confront somebody with a bagful of money, you begin to imagine what is the worth of man, what is the price of men but Abians have come to say that “you can’t buy a man.”

Has any of your opponents called on phone to congratulate you?

In terms of calls from those who ran the election with me, it may interest you to know that even as close as six hours to the election, about six other guber candidates had collapsed into our party. So, we are all celebrating simultaneously. Chikwe Udensi (the governorship candidate of PPA) is celebrating alongside our people here. The candidate for UPP, all of them are celebrating alongside with us and I know that APC is not angry with our victory. Everybody has a common ground, which is to develop Abia State. Some are sentimental about developing Aba but globally speaking, I think the issue is Abia State in general but Aba needs to take a front burner.

You need to be very very courageous to tackle the issues in Aba. But I think we have the determination and the courage to drive it because I don’t have any other city than Aba, if I must own a city. But as governor, Abia is my constituency. I own Ohafia, I own Arochukwu, I own Isuikwuato, I own everywhere. But I think that what we get from Aba can help us to develop the other areas.

What will Abians be expecting in your first hundred days in office?

I want to say that within the first 100 days the main frame of our administration would have been defined. Like we said, it is no longer going to be business as usual. Everybody that will have business with this government will come to government business and it will be a very very serious business. There are some work to be done, there are some consolidation to be done and there is no time to sleep on the bicycle.

So, from day one, we will define our agenda, we will define the trajectory we are going to pursue and we will hit the road running. Like I said, if you want to remeber what you are going to judge us with in the days ahead, remember that I said we will develop Abia in a robust fashion, taking off from Aba, and I will do that.

What specifically will you do for Aba as soon as you mount the seat of power?

Before I lay emphasis on Aba, I want to put it on record that Aba is not the only city in Abia. Abia State is not synonymous with Aba but we think that our greatest challenge in Abia is to have a strong economic focus so that if we get our economy in Abia right, we can put food on the table of many, you can generate employment, and if you do that also, you will know that the pillar on which trade and commerce thrives is good roads.

To answer your question more specifically, we expect that, generally speaking, all those potholes around Aba will be a thing of the past in my time. I will expect to do the ring road that will decongest the city centre, that will pass through about seven local governments, from Ugwunagbo, where it will tangent on Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. We will have to do a third bridge across the Aba River to enter into some parts of Obingwa, take it round to Osisioma, between Arungwa Junction or somewhere there. The idea is to allow the city to develop horizontally in a way that the city centre will be decongested.

But the mundane things like resurfacing of asphalted roads should be taken for granted. I don’t like to campaign with those things because even a 12-year-old boy could do resurfacing of roads but the most important thing is that we are going to see strong foundation of our small and medium-scale enterprises that will employ 50,000 people in Aba.

We will also think of how to bring back to life, moribund companies like the textile mills and those that you see around Owerrinta axis. There about six companies located in Owerrinta which as I speak are not functioning and we are going to speak with those who own those companies to see how they can leverage government access to make sure those companies are resucitated becauee I know that if we return those companies to functionality, it means that a lot of people will be leaving the road as unemployed people.

If you want to follow my vision, we are going to look at an Aba where the manufacturing of garments, the manufacturing of the leather things we do – bags and all that – will take the front burner from day one and it must happen in a logical and prepared fashion, not the haphazard way it is done today.

We will think about the equipment that will lift the burden and hardship of making 1,000 shoes. Instead of spending two years to make 1,000 shoes, we want to be able to produce that in a number of hours and we want to bring in equipment that will help them finish the products in such a way that they can be evacuated and marketed even in Paris or in England or in New York. But for us to do all that, the roads will have to get a facelift. So, our economic vision first, then the roads that will drive our economic vision will come second.

We are going to take stock in all the 17 local governments of those that are jobless, we look at their qualifications and their competencies so that we can target our efforts specifically to those that need them.

What are you going to do with structures that are not approved in Aba?

I will borrow my answer from your question. You said for structures that are not approved. If anythig is not approved, it is not approved and in the eyes of the law, it does not exist.

You main rival, Dr. Alex Otti, while reacting to your victory, alleged that his mandate was stolen and he has vowed to go to the tribunal. Are you at all perturbed by such threat?

His statement is not a threat at all, that is the way of bad losers. All of them say the same thing and they do the same thing. It is not a threat. If I did not expect it, then I am not a serious-minded person. Luckily for me, he can’t go to the tribunal in my absence, we will all be there to defend the mandate. I am the custodian of that mandate and going with me will be 1.3 million voters of Abia State or if I like, I narrow it down to those who voted on that day.

It is his duty to prove otherwise but today, that is where we are. But in some places, I am bothered why we still have very very desperate losers in Nigeria. I thought some of us would have looked at what President Goodluck Jonathan did by conceding defeat and decide to toe the path of a statesman. But if somebody takes his desperation to the wire, there it goes.

The success or otherwise of your administration, economic wise, will depend on the calibre of men and women that will work with you. So, given a choice, technocrats and political loyalists, who will you choose to drive your administration.

I will start with political loyalists. Our political loyalists are Abians and they will help me get the technocrats that will do the job that we will need them to do. We are not going to put square pegs in round holes, we are going to make sure that we put round pegs in round holes all the time. It is foundational and it is very very important and I will define that from my first day in office. So there is no way I will throw away the political loyalists. They will be part of the team that will help me choose the technocrats that will do the works we desire.

•Photo shows Governor-elect Ikpeazu displaying his Certificate of Return from INEC.

 

Source News Express

Posted on May, 2 2015

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