Ikpeazu: Recovering Abia Economic Lost Grounds - Part 1

Posted by FN Editor | 3 years ago | 885 times

Written by Chinenye Nwaogu

The economic improvement happening in Abia under Governor Ikpeazu seems to be giving some of his virulent critics belly ache.

I have severally posited that one of the biggest challenges facing Abia is the unpatriotic stance of some of those who assumed the role of influencers, elites and opposition.

No state can be developed only by those within the corridors of power, it is usually a collective effort of all and sundry.

Generally, Abia elections seem to be an all time activity. In many progressive climes, once elections are over, every hand comes to the plough to ensure the citizens of the state enjoys the benefits of governance.

In Abia, it must be vile criticism. Criticism in itself is not bad, after all in a democracy, expression of opinion is free and unhindered, but when you reflect on the activities of some of those who claim to love Abia, you will come to the conclusion that some of these guys actually hate the state.

Prior 2015, nobody had made deliberate effort to expose the avalanche of opportunities in Aba. It took the deliberate decision and action of a committed Governor to do a deep study of the Aba ecosystem. The result of that study showed some of the key challenges facing those entrepreneurs in Aba. Infrastructure - roads, power, operating environment was identified as a major challenge, access to finance, marketing/market access, quality, quantity and standard of goods, automation, branding and brand ownership. Anybody who understands the plight of those who do business in this city of opportunities will just agree that these were the main issues. When the Governor decided to begin with branding and marketing, not a few considered that a mistake, but it has paid off hugely.

It is on record that Governor Ikpeazu resumed work on the first day as Governor on the streets of Aba, flagging of 7 critical roads with huge economic importance to the city of Aba. Those roads done in 2015 are still standing strong unlike the experience before 2015.

Tackling the Infrastructural challenge of a city like Aba required someone with deep understanding of the environment, deep commitment to leave Infrastructure that will survive the topographical challenges Aba presented.

Even those who think otherwise will agree that as at today, Aba, the commercial nerve Centre of Abia has witnessed tremendous infrastructural improvement.

When the Governor began to market and showcase the opportunities and activities of Aba entrepreneurs, every critical stakeholder became interested in what Aba had to offer. The FG brought the maiden edition of MSME clinic to Aba bringing face to face Aba entrepreneurs and every concievable MDA involved with the development of MSME. That event brought enormous advantage to Aba. REA, the agency in charge of rural electrification, pioneered its energising economies programme of providing cheap, efficient and clean power to the markets across Nigeria in partnership with the state governments and private investors. Today, Ariaria independent power is standing, fully completed as a testimony to that partnership and effort.

Prior to 2015, the Bank of Industry, a major supportive development financial institution which had closed shop in Abia returned with more determination to provide financial lifeline to businesses in Abia, particularly Aba.

In partnership with Ford Foundation, Fidelity Bank they delivered a 400 million naira revolving loan product to the Aba leather cluster, a great boost to the leather ecosystem in Aba.

Not done, the Governor deliberately decided to expose Aba artisans to the international space through various trade exhibitions that have seen Aba artisans in China, Brazil, Turkey, New York, Egypt, South Africa etc. These deliberate action of exposing the Aba brands and artisans has also bore fruits. In its maiden edition of Afrexim' Continental Trade Fair in Egypt, Aba was spotlighted by the global developemnt financial institution- over 10 entrepreneurs were fully sponsored by Afexim to that event. An appreciation and a clear testimony to the efforts of the State Government under Governor Ikpeazu to return Aba to global entrepreneurship reckoning.

Prior to 2105, it was very difficult to find any product out of Aba bearing he logo or insignia of Made in Aba, because of the massive campaign by the Governor, the confidence of these artisans have been boosted. Today, we have achieved some good mileage of over 40% of the products bearing the Made in Aba stamp.

Another effort was the institutionalisation of the efforts to ensure improvement in quality and standards by the setting up of the Abia Quality and Standards Marketing Agency. The vibrancy of that agency has brought massive attention to the activities of Aba Entrepreneurs.

Those belly-aching over the comments of the Governor, will not promote the fact that during the heat of Covid 19, Nigeria actually relied on Aba for PPEs when the borders were closed. When COVID 19 broke out the Governor provided funds to selected Aba tailors to begin massive production of PPEs, it is on record that over 2 million pieces of face masks and other PPEs came out of Aba to the rest of the country and globe. These efforts couldn't have been possible without the tacit support and deliberate efforts of the Governor.

Prior to 2015, all the shoes and leather products out of Aba were done manually. When the Governor began serious marketing of Made in Aba products, many agencies became interested and the question was the time and quantity of product delivery. To answer that, automation was to be introduced into the production value chain. That was what led to the processes that culminated into the setting up of Enyimba Automated Shoe Company that today produces shoes for several military, paramilitary and private Organization including international brands and the market.

This process included sending about 30 Abia youths to China for several weeks to undergo serious tutelage in a fully automated factory, importation and installation of complete production line of equipment used in setting up the first ever automated shoe company in Abia if not in the entire region.

Many visitors to that factory including international media have applauded the efforts of the state government. With that automation, shoes and leather products out of Aba now wear a stamp of quality and standard comparable to any such product from any part of the globe.

The reference to the influx of some international brands and chains into Aba must have irked the feelings of these good Abians whose only responsibility has been to undermine the efforts of Governor Ikpeazu. These guys do not care if in doing that they are demarketing the state, scaring away other potential investors interested in Abia.

In 2017, NBS reported an increased sales of over 1.5 billion naira just in the leather sector. These efforts have created massive opportunities for youths and others involved in the MSME ecosystem in Aba. So much have been achieved though these our beloved Abian who are bent with their measuring tapes and microscopic lens will not see neither will they appreciate it.

When asked what his major achievements as Governor is, Ikpeazu stated that he will focus on those things that are not the normal things anyone can achieve. Building the economic sub structure for any state is a very meticulous thing that requires being methodological and only a passionate and committed leader can achieve such feat.

Aba was left in ruins, even when the so called Umuaba presided over the Affairs of Abia. Aba witness exodus of businesses and viable economic activities. Now they are returning in droves, the best anyone could do is to applaud whatever effort the government is making that saw that happening or allow those who see the light and opportunities take full advantage, not to belly ache over such.

I think that Abians should encourage positive efforts of the Governor Ikpeazu led administration to reposition Abia, particularly Aba as the hub of prodcutive commercial and economic activities which will in turn create massive jobs and opportunities for the teeming youths of Abia, who are in dire need of them.

Any one who is claiming to love Abia can contribute to its growth by practically attracting positive attention, investors and opportunities to Abia State.

My worry is that when you look through the track record of these virulent critics, there is nothing to show in effort to improve even their own immediate communities.

Gladly, many are are seeing and taking full advantage of the opportunities being created, even while the arm chair critics and self imposed opposition continue in their pontification.

Let's all join hands and build a strong Abia, there is a role for everyone.

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