MADE IN ABA CAMPAIGN - Ikpeazu an Idea Whose Time Has Come

By Factnews on 16/01/2018

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By Chinenye Nwaogu

Many people thought it was another smart political cliché, but the Made in Aba campaign has not just gained traction among the people who have massively benefitted from this well-thought-out strategy that was originally in the Okezie Ikpeazu blueprint but have attracted other disciples. Before his election as Governor of Abia State Okezie Ikpeazu had a stint as the man who managed waste in the great city of Aba. Aba is not just an ordinary city, Aba holds many memories and histories for many people. Aba has always been at the centre of attention. Even prior 1929. Managing waste in Aba exposed the biochemist to the rich potentials and capacity of Aba, but it did more it also gave him a better eagle eye view of the challenges of the city and how best to maximize and address them. So, right from the very onset, his first point of duty on resumption was on the streets of Aba.

The vision and plan to restore the glory of the centre of eastern ingenuity, creativity and innovation was as crystal clear as the bright blue sky. The strategy was very simple though ambiguous to the undiscerned. Aba had an infrastructural and security challenge that had militated against its growth and survival, many flourishing businesses at some time fled the city due largely to the security challenge, but before their exit the last administration had done a great deal reducing the security challenge in Aba to some appreciable level. But the infrastructural deficit was too obvious to be ignored and that was where Dr. Ikpeazu began his urban renewal gospel. To show the world and the all strategic partners that the government meant business, it was very important that some measurable and impactful work was done on the infrastructural decay, which has become synonymous with Aba. 7 roads were flagged off in one day and by the end of 1 month, about 20 roads were under construction. The choice of the roads was also strategic and there were no pecuniary considerations. All the roads the government has worked on or is working on is crucial to rebuilding Aba into an urban commercial and industrial city that will compete with the other centres of trade and production across the globe. A huge task you must agree going by the magnitude of the challenge, but Dr. Ikpeazu is not known for cowardice.

Having shown some depth of seriousness in tackling the infrastructural challenges, it was time to begin the real trumpeting, it was time to tell the world that the old woman does not grow old in her trade. Governor Ikpeazu began a well-coordinated and conscious campaign for Made in Aba products. He spoke about it, he demonstrated it, he championed it, he magnified it he did all he could to let the world know that Aba is still a force to be reckoned with in terms of trade, commerce and MSME activities. He insisted that Aba would no longer be ignored by anyone both local and international in their consideration when making decisions on the above-identified areas. He told the Aba story in such a passionate and convincing way that the world listened and without hesitation key strategic partnerships began to grow. On the 16th of January, 2016 few months on the saddle, key partners and stakeholders gathered at the Enitona Hotels Aba for a properly articulated programme tagged “Aba Urban Development Summit”, this programme funded by an America based international development partner Ford Foundation created the ambience for key stakeholders to interact, discuss, brainstorm and extract fundamental and implementable plans to revive the once prosperous commercial nerve centre east of the Niger. It was a two days well spent, from visits to the key centres of activities, to the panel sessions, the keynotes and all that happened, the government was armed with a very technically rich document to further deal with the issues at hand. Governor Ikpeazu assured all and sundry that his government would not relent on its promise to restore the past glory of Aba and make it a hub of industrial, commercial and trading activities of global reckoning. He thanked the Ford Foundation and urged other related institutions local and international to join the fray.

The Ford Foundation didn’t stop there because few months after that summit the global community feasted on a 3 part well-packaged documentary styled media campaign on Made in Aba put together by no less an organization than TBWA, an international PR Company and shown on major media platforms both local and international. That stunt was too delicious and beautiful to be ignored because just recently, the Made in Aba media campaign fetched TBWA a global award in far away South Africa. To drive home the point, that entire PR Media Campaign that cost well over 50Million Naira was at no cost to the Abia State Government, it was fully funded by the international development partner, and more is on the way. The TBWA has continued to engage the operators of the Aba business community to expose them to the global platforms for better business operations, marketing, and increased revenues.

The work of the government didn’t not only attract Ford Foundation, others came along. Prior to Dr. Ikpeazu’s administration, the global institutions like the World Bank, AfDB had began discussions with the Abia State government to provide funding support to deal with the huge infrastructural challenge of Aba. At some point, the president of the World Bank actually visited Aba. However, because Ikpeazu was an idea whose time had come and his infectious and passionate story about Aba had reached feverish height, those institutions came calling with huge funds to support the urban renewal drive of the government. From stormwater management issues to road reconstruction/rehabilitation etc., they assured the Abia State government of their readiness to partner to make Aba great again. Today they are dotting the i(s) and crossing the t(s) to that agreement which will soon crystalize into a major boost to the efforts to rebuild the ramshackle-like infrastructure of Aba.

No done, Ikpeazu went for the jugular, the Federal government, due to the current structure of things in Nigeria, the Federal Government is still a repository of massive funds and capacity to drive development in any sector they decide to focus on. He enlisted the support of the Henchman of the federal government’s effort to deepen the development of MSMEs, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo the vice president of the federation and the head of the economic team of the federal government. So in January 2017, Governor Ikpeazu was the guest of the Federal Government and he spoke on behalf of the 36 state governors at the media launch of the MSME clinic series. This gave birth to the maiden MSME clinic event that happened in Aba with the then Acting President of the Federation Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON leading a very high powered Federal delegation made up of ministers and heads of relevant federal agencies to the city of Aba, the real center of MSME in Nigeria. Osinbajo was shocked and he confessed so, Aba entrepreneurs showed themselves and the world stood still, because in their records that Aba event remained the best in the series of MSME clinics that have been repeated in other cities across Nigeria. Having touched down in Aba and seen the enormity of opportunities and potentials, Prof Osinbajo in league with our brother Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah the minister of Industry, Trade and Investment have not looked back and they have consistently given a pat on the back of the Governor to support his drive to reposition Aba. Today part of Ariaria is enjoying uninterrupted power supply courtesy of the instructions of the Vice president to the Rural Electrification Agency to assist the Governor’s drive to grow the economy of the city. Prof Osinbajo didn’t stop there he enlisted the support of his boss, President Buhari and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, Aba featured prominently during his 2017 budget presentation as one of the cities to drive industrial and economic growth in Nigeria. He went further to state during his visit to Ebonyi State that going by the current status and efforts to reposition Aba as a major industrial and commercial hub, the federal government would commit 10 Billion to the Enyimba Industrial City and Economic Zone project. That is a result of the well-orchestrated and coordinated campaign by Governor Ikpeazu to retell the Aba story to key stakeholders.

The previous practice of branding shoes, clothes and other items produced in Aba as made in Italy, London, Paris, or China has vanished because our people are now proud of their products courtesy of the efforts of the Governor who has assured them “I am with you all the way”. He wears them, celebrates them and promotes them to anybody and everywhere. The reproach as it were has been removed and the proud Aba ingenious inventor, creator and producer is willing to showcase his trade and handiwork. He is not just wearing or using their products he has taken them to national and global platforms to showcase their ingenuity, last year, the Made in Aba Fashion Show attracted the crème of Abuja society including the diplomatic community who came in their numbers, following after that, a major fashion stunt was pulled off in New York United States of America, where Aba designers expressed their creative abilities freely with the support of the Governor, who has vowed to work and walk with them all the way. Today, the hitherto ordinary Aba shoemaker and ‘tailor’ prides himself as an international traveler having taken some to Brazil, Turkey, China, USA etc to rob shoulders with their peers and perhaps some of the best globally. Many of them have gone with the Governor to the presidency to lobby for Federal support for their trade. To the typical Aba entrepreneur, they have never had it so good, the support, exposure and lifting has just been miraculous, and it has yielded great dividends for them. By the close of business in 2016, statistics showed additional revenue of over 1 billion Naira into the pockets of these producers in Aba alone. Today more and more enquiries are coming from both local and international contacts of institutions and persons who want to do business with Aba.

Expectedly, the Made in Aba campaign efforts have received accolades and attention from all and sundry and the orders are coming, The current manual manufacturing and production effort of the signature products the government have taken-on – garment and leather can no longer meet up with the growing demand and market needs, hence the very urgent need to automate the process. It is no longer news that 50,000 pairs of military shoes were sourced from Aba, it is no longer news that INEC sourced some of its electoral materials from Aba, ABSIEC saved tens of millions in Naira by procuring some the materials used for the Abia State Local Government elections all from Aba. No longer are our people ashamed to identify with Made in Aba products. The automation plan is to ensure that Made in Aba products competes favorable with the best brands in the world. Its not in contest that the typical Aba shoemaker or dressmaker has a large dose of ingenuity and creative abilities, however, technology has taken its positive toll on manufacturing especially finishing and our people can no longer lag behind if we must compete globally, create the needed jobs, improve economic development and put more money into the pockets of our people.

As the genius with answers that he is, pronto 100 Abia shoemakers have been penciled down to a hands-on industry-based-practical training at Zaporoma Shoe Factory in Chengdu China, a country that has become synonymous with miraculous economic growth and industrialization, in fact a wonder the world. 
This shoe company servicing major international brands turns out over 10,000 pairs daily and has in its kitty wide range of top of the class state of the arts modern machines and equipments to produce the best in class shoes and leather products. 30 of these Abia pathfinders have already spent one week in Chengdu China and they are excited and happy that a visionary leader and Governor has opened their eyes to the world of limitless opportunities. Governor Ikpeazu believes that capacity building, especially retooling the youths and giving them appropriate skills is the most sustainable way to go in the face dire socioeconomic challenges. He believes that we have not managed properly the energies of our youths, because right here in Chengdu China, right before my very eyes, these shoemakers who have only been exposed to manual operations mounted very complex industrial machines few hours on the first day on their training. He is not just stopping there, on their return they will meet same machines, because machines for a full production line have been ordered and funds deposited for it. This will naturally lead to the establishment of a world-class Abia Shoe factory, reminiscent of the good old days of Lenard’s and Bata shoes in Aba.

This icing on the cake of the Made in Aba campaign efforts have distinguished Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the biochemist teacher turned governor as the consummate manager of men and material of our time.


Posted on January, 16 2018

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