Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu on my radar - Ralph Egbu

Posted by FN Editor | one year ago | 1,424 times

Today I am doing what I have tried to avoid in my over 15 years of column writing, talking about the politics of Abia, my home state. It is not for lack of what to say, as reggae legend, Bob Martley, sang in one of his many hit songs, “There’s so much to say.” Indeed, for a very deep participant in the politics and governance of Abia State, one privilege I can take of my own accord and not be faulted by anyone is the truth that I know so much about the power matrix of this compact but very complex state.


Why then would I be very reluctant to talk about events in the state? The answer is a simple one. Jean Jacques Rousseau, a great philosopher got my mind. In fact, it would seem he had consultations with me before he put the following words of his on marble: «People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.» The unwritten protocol would teach anybody who has had the privilege to hold high public office to keep his mouth shout. There are many sensitive information that will definitely come your way by the privilege of the office(s) you have held and when you open your mouth to speak in a reckless manner you ignite unintended fire that would provoke calamity on a very large scale.


When Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who led Biafra›s bid for separate nation state failed to write his memoirs before he passed on, he was pandering to this unwritten power etiquette. However, experienced administrators have a duty or responsibility to join in the assessment of the leaders on stage and to draw out rich conclusions. Yes, many persons of such class have been on this and truly many of us have enjoyed many of such outings. But as it is today, doing assessments has become an endangered assignment for the reasons that firstly we don’t seem to have acceptable parameters.


   A citizen may well be standing on the road just recently constructed by an incumbent and yet he is full of arguments insisting to know what the leader has been doing with public funds. I have heard many say, «Yes he built schools, provided water and healthcare but what is my own after all I am still jobless.» Selfishness has become the game. It has become the basic yardstick for a number very large. The other impediment has to do with ethnicity and religion. For another set of a very large group except the person in the commanding seat comes from their stock he is never capable of any great achievement.


It would never matter what they do, they will become very blind, having eyes and yet can’t see. This kind even go a step higher fouling the atmosphere for no justifiable reason, except that the man they want in the saddle is not the one there. The trend has grown far worse these days, where the young ones not only desire a one liner debate but work very had to use force to achieve dominance of their perspectives on any given issue. Tyranny of opinion. Under this kind of climate, telling the truth becomes treason. People want you summarily dealt with. 


On Thursday, last week, I recall telling a close friend that President Muhammadu Buhari is the best on infrastructural turn around among leaders that have led our country since democracy started afresh in 1999. I had barely finished when the friend hushed me down. Yet the truth is what I have just said. It is true reckless pursuit of ethnic and religious agenda rubbished all the shine Buhari gathered.


Zeroing in on today›s subject matter it would have been sound approach to interrogate how Governor Okezie Ikpeazu came to be governor, to ascertain the level of his preparedness but in our clime sticking to that approach would bring out little of significance; because of the unique nature of our political culture, many pre-ambition works are hidden. However, what is certain is that Dr Ikpeazu became governor of Abia State in 2015 and by May 29 when he would hand over, his era in office would have clocked eight years of two tenures.


Did Ikpeazu acquit himself creditably as governor of Abia State? This is the moment and so it is exactly the point on which the debates and arguments rest. The arguments rage on and get more stringent towards the May 29 handing over date and it will remain a hot matter for months running given the fact that the incumbent failed to produce a successor. The bad side of the engagement is that many who are not knowledgeable have elected to join the fray and one obvious fallout is the misinterpretation of various scenarios and developments. Blind partisanship is the new normal.


Ikpeazu may have started very slowly thereby creating negative impression but he picked up marvelously and began to execute programmes that answered to basic requirements of classical development. As important and very crucial road and electricity infrastructure may seem to be, those who know development would tell anyone who cares to find out that real development drivers are buried in education, human capital development, healthcare and industrialisation.


Ikpeazu excelled in human capital development, apart from over 100 Abia persons sent to learn shoe automation process in China, many of whom ended up being employed in that country, raising the need to send additional numbers, the shoe and garment cluster is on and kicking servicing the Nigerian and African markets far better than it was hitherto. The boys sent to China are back and leading others on improved technology and high productivity that goes with it. Aba shoe and garment industries have been established and currently very operational. This is classic wealth creation effort. 


A micro bank has also been created and working to give revolving loans to local artisans and traders. If this is not giving life back to people then someone needs to say what is. This brings me to the point I made earlier: roads and electricity are great but at best they remain facilitators. Humans remain engine room of wealth creation and physical transformation. I am aware that Abia under Ikpeazu ran a scholarship scheme with over 300 indigenes to study very specialized subjects in Australia, Canada, England and India. Future drivers of our society I call them.


Four model schools are in place and infrastructure turnaround pursued with vigour, teachers welfare was given priority until very recently when salary arrears began to deal blows to what had all the while excellent imputs in the human capacity building sector. I recall an elder statesman who resides in Lagos saying he parted ways with the Ikpeazu administration over deplorable state of Aba roads. Kanayo Esinulo may have been right given events at some point but but the Aba I took turns to see last week while attending a conference was a beauty to behold.


The new and first ever flyover the Ikpeazu administration built at Osisioma apart from easing the traffic jam that was synonymous with the spot it has really beautified the environment. The sight at night is sweet to the soul. The Aba-Owerri Road is a great experience if you ride on it. My greatest joy was not the roads now back in shape but the fact that the city is lighted up. What I saw the previous night after I refused to sleep in the city made me decide to pass the night the second day of my visit. Guess what? It was a pleasant experience. The situation was topnotch.


The other parts of Abia may be complaining of poor road infrastructure, it could jolly well be but the veiled truth underpinning zoning of the governorship is this objective to register enough sense of belonging to all parts of the state and by the time Ikpeazu came on seat, the governorship position had gone round the three Senatorial zones. My Ukwa area didn›t gain in terms of physical infrastructure but it got reasonable attention in human capacity development push. I cherish that too because in few years from now it will speak.


The state has won several awards for having low infant mortality rate in surveys conducted by acclaimed world institutions and that is pregnant women have access to free antenatal attention together with a free post-delivery pack. There is one Mother and Child Who pecialist hospital in Bende road, Umuahia.


The last time I had opportunity to encounter Governor Ikpeazu in public about two weeks ago, I asked him to tell me what he would consider as his legacy projects. He did not hesitate to say: «Ralph, the fly is the first, it is a legacy project. It may have taken time but it has been done. Imagine if those before me built one each in other places like Alaoji Aba and Tower junction at the expressway in Umuahia, just imagine. The Mother and Child Hospital is a legacy project. Go there and see the state of the art healthcare equipment in that place.”


He continued:» Cottage Hospital at Nkporo in Abia North Senatorial zone is another. African countries should be emphasizing industrialisation and I have established two; no other governor before did even one. The new, yet-to-be commissioned diagnostics laboratory located in Umunneochi is a legacy project. It will cater for the entire Abia North Senatorial zone. The new specialist hospital with latest equipment in healthcare which will handle eye, kidney, lung and heart ailments in Aba General Hospital is a legacy project. It will start operations with six dialysis machines at the same time. Abia indigenes my administration gave foreign scholarships are legacy projects.”


If he did all these and his party still failed in the governorship race but won majority in Assembly, the question is why? The answer is that achievements may not be all there is in every election. Governorship poll in Abia State in 2023 was driven more by clanish interest than emphasis on performance. There is nothing Ikpeazu may have done that was done by some others before him. His desire to have another Ngwa man succeed him provoked resentment of high magnitude.


It caused his loyalists to abdicate positions and for the opposition to have a reason to couple together an emergency united force. It is the reason a former Minister in All Progressives Congress federal government, Chief Uche Ogah, would leave his party and candidate to pursue the interest of another candidate in an entirely different party. Pension arrears and salary issues with some parastatals were germane matters but like we saw in the past they weren›t enough motivation for regime change. Power games did. If I were to offer my verdict, my position would be Governor Ikpeazu did very well irrespective of the politics that went on during his time. It was bound to be hot and controversial given the forces that threw him up. 


- Sun Newspaper

Source: SUN

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