As the race for who becomes the Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2023 intensifies, candidates are putting forward strong arguments why they should be chosen. The supporters and critics of the government are putting forward various claims and counter-claims for either continuity or change. It behooves on well-meaning Abians, Abia residents and political observers to evaluate these diverse claims by separating myth from reality. This will enable the electorate to make informed and correct choices at the polls.
In view of the foregoing, I wish to categorically make the following observations:
Whereas it is the right of the opposition to criticize the government in power, it is wrong for it to do so by casting aspersion on the State and its people. Making derogatory remarks against the State as the worst and or least developed in Nigeria, using spurious and prejudicial claims and arguments is uncharitable and ill-conceived. Such unfounded derogatory remarks only go to expose members of the opposition as ignorant people who are not in touch with the State and its people.
Contrary to these erroneous and misleading claims, the facts on ground show that Governor Ikpeazu has bequeathed and entrenched outstanding legacies in Abia State. First amongst these legacies are peace, harmony and social order, anchored on justice, equity, love and understanding. Hence, Abia is one of the most peaceful and secure states in Nigeria today.
Prior to and even at the inception of the Ikpeazu administration, Abia was under the grip of armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminal elements. Many residents fled and relocated. People feared coming to the State. Abia was a pariah.
The Ikpeazu administration has made spirited efforts at tackling insecurity in the State. It has committed enormous resources on the war against insecurity. Vehicles, security gadgets, equipment and apparatus are regularly bought and given to all the security agencies (police, military, paramilitary, SSS, custom, immigration, prisons, civil defence, Abia State vigilante, Homeland Security, etc. Allowances are paid to them. Ultramodern Buildings and complexes are constructed and given to them. Old buildings are renovated and modernized for them. These have given them conducive and enabling environment for optimal productivity. To the glory of God and betterment of our people and the State at large, they have been doing their best and the huge resources invested in security have been yielding very positive dividends. That is why Abia is no longer a pariah. It has leapfrogged from being the most insecure to the most peaceful and secure State in the South East, if not in Nigeria as a whole.
Secondly, in line with his commitment to make Abia more functional and livable, the Ikpeazu administration has made the most investment in critical infrastructure since the creation of Abia State. Before Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu assumed office as the Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2015, Abia was groping under gross infrastructural decay and deficit. In Aba, for instance, there was no motorable road except the Okpun-la-Umuobo Road built by the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints. All the internal roads were in complete state of disrepair. The same was true of all entry and exit roads; Obikabia, Ururuka, Portharcourt, Faulks, etc., roads were impassable. The only exception was Aba-Owerri Road which was full of potholes and gullies, where goods, products and property worth billions of Naira were lost daily from fallen trucks. Can we forget the harrowing hours lost in the most debilitating traffic dreadlocks?
However, today the infrastructural state of Abia has positively changed. This is evidenced in the OKE-ZUO Abia fly-over at Osisioma, over 160 roads (including Brass, Faulks, Eziukwu, Azikiwe, Okigwe, Aba- Owerri, Ngwa, Obikabia-Umuene, Umueje-Arungwa, Osusu, MCC-Samek, Ururuka-Umuobiakwa, Ukaegbu, Umuola, etc., all in Aba; including Ubakala – Aba, Isingwu Ohuhu Roads in Umuahia, Abriba Ring Road, Nkporo Roads in Ohafia, etc.). The Permanent Government House Complex (on-going), the JAAC Building, the Ultramodern ASUBEB Complex, the Investment House Complex, the upgraded and modernized Enyimba International Stadium, the ongoing remodeling and modernization of Ariaria International Market, etc., etc.
Furthermore, the Ikpeazu administration has paid the most critical attention to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in the State. MSMEs were in comatose and or near collapse when Governor Ikpeazụ assumed office as the Governor of Abia State. Made in Aba products were denigrated and rejected with disdain. There was very little patronage for those who managed to produce. Businesses operated under very difficult and severe conditions. There were no roads to access the markets. Power supply was virtually inexistent. Multiple taxes and levies were the order of the day.
Today, these negative stories have changed and everything is positively turning around for the good and betterment of Abia businesses and MSMEs. As an Aba Boy, Ikpeazụ took it upon himself to be the Chief promoter and marketer of made in Aba products. He assumed the role of the Ambassador of made in Aba products. He proudly wears, exhibits and projects them wherever he goes. With ‘Proudly Made in Aba’ conspicuously written on his apparels, the world took notice and the story of Aba products has changed. Access roads with drainages and street lights have been provided. Power supply has improved with the coming of IPP and Geometric Power.
Governor Ikpeazu’s assumption the role of the chief promoter and, in fact, the Ambassador of Made in Aba products has had revolutionary impact on both MSMEs and the Abia economy. The results of these pioneering and exemplary home-made business, trade and investment promotion efforts have been tremendous. The Presidency, the National Assembly, the Office of the Vice President, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ministers, State Governors, foreign missions and embassies, CNN, Ford Foundation, businesses, etc., are all caught up in the quest for made in Aba and Nigeria products.
Today, contrary to the erstwhile cynicism and disdain for Aba products, people now proudly patronize and wear made in Aba products. The turnover of Abia artisans, traders, businesses and MSMEs has significantly increased. The multiplier effects of the boom in their businesses are unquantifiable: more goods and services, more income, higher standard of living, additional foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria, reduced importation of foreign goods, etc.
More-so, all people of goodwill will continue to appreciate Governor Ikpeazu’s outstanding support for MSMEs. This critical support is attested to by the establishment of SME Microfinance Bank, as well as the ongoing construction of automated shoe and garment factories. It is, therefore, not surprising that Abia has emerged the undisputed headquarters of MSME in Nigeria.
Moreover, we need to appreciate and commend the Ikpeazu administration for granting international scholarship to students, coupled with training of artisans abroad on the latest technology in their crafts. We need to profoundly appreciate the fact that these achievements have galvanized and transformed the Abia economy. Hence, Abia State under Ikpeazu is one of the most secure and peaceful states in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Abia under Governor Ikpeazu is the State with the 3rd least incidence of multi-dimensional poverty in Nigeria. Abia has the least number of poor people in Nigeria (about 1.1m). Abia State is also the first in 3 key global indicators of development. Abia equally excelled as the best performing State in the South East and South South. Abia State under Governor Ikpeazu also elegantly bestrides among the top-ranked 5 States in Nigeria in ease of doing business.
Governor Ikpeazu has made critical infrastructural strides and laid solid foundation for exponential growth and development of Abia State . His exceptional skills in democratic dialogue and social engineering are evident in all spheres of governance: atmosphere of peace, harmony, social order and security in Abia, boom in home made products, his intermediary role in resolving the imbroglio surrounding Geometric Power, as well as the critical support he provided for Geometric in securing national and international funds, etc.
Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has made Abia home to an expanded, safe and effective physical and social infrastructure such as roads, power, portable water, as well as schools, hospitals, sports and other recreational facilities.
I, therefore, call on opposition political parties and their candidates to stop the useless and futile voyage of disparaging Abia State. This ill-conceived voyage in self-glorification is unavailing. Abia State does not need a Messiah. What Abia needs is a leader with sound vision for sustaining and consolidating the achievements of Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
Since the PDP is the only party whose candidate, Sir Ambrose Okechukwu Ahiwe, boasts of such sound vision, I call on all Abians and Abia residents to turn out in their large numbers to vote for the People’s Democratic Party on Saturday, 11th March 2023.
Professor Samuel Ngozi Agu wrote from Aba