OPINION: Transgenerational Leadership: The Okezie Ikpeazu Example

Posted by Admin | 5 years ago | 2,014 times

By Sam Hart

"The era of listing roads and other infrastructure as achievements of a Governor is gone. These are basic things that leaders with access to State funds are required to do and it should not be celebrated. I do not want to be remembered for the roads I built and I have built 70 so far and will yet build more. I want to be remembered as the Governor who opened Abia State up to rapid industrial development as I believe that it is the only way we can leave a truly lasting legacy for generations to come”. The above quote is an excerpt from Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s remarks during his interactive session with Abians resident in Cairo, Egypt as part of his schedule in Cairo where he was a listed Keynote Speaker at one of the Sessions at the Intra-African Trade Fair hosted by the African Export-Import Bank which held in Cairo, Egypt from December 11 to 17th, 2018. 

That Governor Ikpeazu was in Cairo was indicative of his leadership credentials. He was selected to be a Speaker at an event that had Presidents and Heads of International Agencies in attendance. His invitation and slot to speak was in recognition of his pioneering role in promoting Trade and Investment in Africa. It was a celebration and endorsement of his new status as the drum-major for promotion of local goods – a status which has earned him global accolade and set him apart as a leader with a difference. 

A week prior to the Cairo outing, Governor Ikpeazu was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as guest of President Muhammadu Buhari where the definitive Agreement for the Enyimba Economic City was signed. At that event, he was lauded by President Buhari for his foresight and doggedness in pursuing the project to fruition. 

The Enyimba Economic City is an examplar of the power of vision and determined leadership.A project of gargantuan proportions that would scare mere mortals into trepidation yet from the onset, Governor Ikpeazu took up the gauntlet and went round the world marketing it. From China to America, Rwanda to Gambia, London to Abuja, the Governor was all over the place putting the entire weight of his office and reputation behind the project and winning believers wherever he went like the Apostles of old.

Today, the Ruyi Group of China, one of the largest conglomerates in the world who are world leaders in Garment Production and Power Generation are anchor-tenants at the Enyimba Economic City. Governor Ikpeazu was in China wooing the group on four different occasions and when President Buhari went to China to sign off on Investment Agreements between Nigeria and China, the Chairman of the Ruyi Group, which has also agreed to invest in other parts of Nigeria, stated that it was the doggedness and determination of Governor Ikpeazu that convinced him to sign off on the agreement to invest Billions of Dollars into Nigeria. 

A champion of the drive to promote local goods, Governor Ikpeazu also used the same midas touch to place Aba firmly on the map of global business reckoning. Today, Aba producers, who were hitherto operating at sub-local level, are global players. The Governor sent 30 Aba shoemakers to China (all of them traveling abroad for the first time in their lives) to learn automated shoe manufacturing but more importantly as he shared then and which has become obvious, to open them up to global possibilities and for the world to take note that Aba producers are no longer local champions. He did not stop with China. He also hosted a Made In Aba fashion show in Abuja and in New York, USA. The world took note.

Today, hardly any serious global fashion exhibition takes place without an invitation to Aba producers. The real catch is that the Government does not have to sponsor them anymore. Governor Ikpeazu showed the world that they can travel and now, National and global entities are sponsoring Aba producers for the world to see and for them to travel and exhibit their products. In Cairo at the Intra-African Trade Fair, four Aba Producers are showcasing their products all-expense paid by different organisations. Would they have been reckoned with if Governor Ikpeazu had not exposed them and their amazing capabilities to the world? Few months ago, it was at events in South Africa and Rwanda and recently, another event in Gambia where Aba Producers were hosted by the President of Gambia who wanted them to produce accessories for the Gambian Security Forces. 

Back home in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari in his 2018 Budget Speech, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo with his SME Clinics and Federal Agencies have all embraced Aba. The enabling environments are being created for the thriving of Aba businesses. Uninterrupted Power is being provided at Ariaria International Market. The Bank of Industry has kept N400M aside for Aba as support grant which they are accessing.

Everyone is keen to give Aba a lifting hand. Note that Governor Ikpeazu is not even a Member of the ruling party at the centre but he has charted an apolitical course where the elevation of his people is concerned. He will not be bogged down by politics in pursuit of the good of his people. He will do business with whoever needs to be wooed to bring development to Abia State. That is leadership. A full automated shoe production line has been acquired and installation is ongoing.

Aba will in a short while, consolidate its status as the prime destination for shoes production in West and Central Africa. Orders are on standby and producers, who hitherto went abroad to produce their designs are pre-booking production time at the factory as soon as it comes on stream. A popular saying goes ‘show me where to stand and I will move the world’. All Aba producers needed was to be shown where to stand.

Governor Ikpeazu with his transgenerational leadership philosophy provided a platform for them and hoisted them up and the world has taken note.Aba can no longer be ignored. No longer are they fake goods merchants and replicators. They have been given the confidence to stamp their name on their products and proudly own their creations. Governor Ikpeazu from day one as Governor till date has been wearing only items of clothing produced in Aba and people have had no choice than to follow suit. 

In Umuahia, Governor Ikpeazu in characteristic fashion, took up the gauntlet to ensure that Golden Guinea Breweries Plc, the largest employer of private labour in the City, comes back to life after over 10 years of lying moribund. He took the proposal of the new owners of the brewery to the Vice President and obtained approval for government lenders to support the funding of the enterprise. With that Presidential approval, the Nigerian Export-Import Bank extended a huge loan facility to the brewery and all equipments have been purchased, installed and tested. The famous Golden Guinea Beer brand has been test-brewed at the new line and all systems are go.

Recruitment is currently on-going at the brewery pursuant to imminent re-opening. All it needed was dogged, determined, foresighted leadership and when it mattered most, Governor Ikpeazu stepped up to the plate. Leadership is not just about roads and bridges. That is a given like Governor Ikpeazu said. Leadership is the ability to sit down and see far. To give your followers a place to stand and chart their own cause. To lay foundations for an Iroko Tree who’s immediate growth you may not witness but which will grow to provide shelter, food and a resting place for different species long after you may have left the scene. Politicians plan for the next election.

Leaders plan for the next generation. The seeds Governor Ikpeazu is sowing today in Abia State may not all fully manifest in the course of his tenures. But he is putting his all into it, averse to vain-glory but resolute in his determination that his people must enjoy economic emancipation. May God continue to guide and protect him. 


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