Okezie Victor Ikpeazu,Governor of Abia State, prefers to be addressed simply as ‘Governor’. Or in greater numbers familiarly as “Doc,” some acknowledgement of the PhD he earned in Biochemical Pharmacology at the University of Calabar. He personifies neatness in dimensions that make the office of governor human, even humane. He’s not person to make a fuss about being addressed since “His Excellency.”
Says inconsistency important to our journey to fortunate hit
He has been many things in the midst of other things – teacher, local commonwealth chairman, manager of Abia State offal agency. His involvements in Abia party ~ are deeper, especially in capacities that built the participant and served Abia’s peoples. He knows the category well, not from the campaign trails of more months ago, but through relationships that frame him feel at home wherever he steps into in Abia.
As he settles on the ground for the ‘real business of governance’ after the Supreme Court confirmed his victory, BEIFOH OSEWELE met him in Lagos and the man at the helm of ‘God’s Own State’ speaks steady the Abia of his dreams and the challenges he would certainly balance to attain them.
What do you complete of the victory at the Supreme Court?
I make acknowledgments to God and I thank our supporters in spite of the maturity they exhibited from the campaigns end the elections to the petitions that the Supreme Court in the long run settled. I also thank the founding fathers of Abia State, some of who have passed on. They foretold the possibilities that some people may be parochial by excluding others from the Abia contrive. Their solution was the Abia Charter of Equity, that was meant to assuage the fears of some about the equitable distribution of ableness in the new state. It has taken 25 years from that time the creation of Abia State with respect to the Charter to be put to conversion to an act. It seems some heard of the Charter merely during the 2015 election because pressed into the subject for equity in the election of the party’s candidate for the election, the surprises they showed were wonderful.
The Charter detailed the distribution of ability between the two zones of the category then old Bende and Aba zones. If it wasn’t meant to exist disrupted, it was like a relief, with one zone passing the rod to the other, until the smack is completed. We started from Abia North (1999-2007, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu) to Abia Central (2007-2015, Governor Theodore Ahamefula Orji). It was normal, geographical, and political that the baton went to Abia South in 2015, to consummate the race in line with the Abia Charter of Equity.
Some did not learn the wisdom that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) exhibited in ensuring that the baton was not dropped.
A long advance led to my emergence as the PDP solicitant. The PDP Elders Council outlined the qualities of the candidate. I met them. In addition, I visited every member of the PDP Elders Council to boon my candidacy.
Then, Ukwa Ngwa, which comprises nine of Abia’s 17 local government areas, through its leaders, Elder Emmanuel Adaelu and Senator Adolphus Wabara, organised the person million-man march to solicit uphold of the leadership of the plaintiff or defendant. The candidates went through the alliance primaries and the election.
God granted us conquest, which the Supreme Court affirmed; every affirmation that brought equity and judge to Abia State. We are a regulation for the people. We will take care of listening to our people. They entrusted us by the mandate to serve. I esteem heard talks that we would diminish the pace of the road constructions that we started afterward the court victory. How can we? Now that the distractions are gone, we would obey you even better.
What is the force of the victory?
It is a typical victory. It is historic. In the year of the 25th anniversary of Abia State, each of the three zones has produced a tutor. It fulfills the dreams of our founding fathers on the point a state where power would be equitably distributed.
I do not be attentive to it a personal victory. I require a responsibility to run an inclosing government, provide a level platform towards Abians of various persuasions and origins to contribute their contributions. I have a responsibleness to reduce mutual suspicion and give rise to equitable group and personal growth. Abians should completeness each other to make live in a more excellent way for each other.
Did you gaze upon the consequences of not winning at the Supreme Court?
A adverse decision could have spelt instability and judicial decree for the corporate existence of Abia State. I am working on reducing the tensions that preceded the Supreme Court sentence and other tendencies that pull us apart. The inconsistency is important to our journey to good luck. We are open to criticisms from the opposition; they bring out the best in us. Our critics are as good as our core supporters. The no other than ones we would not tolerate are those who fall short to undermine the state. Politics is not a scheme for the fair, but fairness, fair play and justice have taken root in Abia. We would subsist open with our dealings.
Can you accord. an insight into the Abia State of your castle in the air?
We are going into the next 25 years with the three geo-national zones having served as Governor. Abia at 25 is a milestone that provides platforms on this account that building more political cohesion across the body politic. My challenge is to lay each economic foundation for the state with focus on creating the enabling environment toward our SMEs to thrive, so that Aba have power to re-affirm its place as the SME headquarters of Nigeria, with more 100,000 shoe and garment makers.
We want to papal court Aba making strong statements with its products. Made in Aba should subsist a recognised and well-received kind in markets we serve, across Nigeria, athwart Africa and beyond. A modular refinery in Abia State, our aeriform fluid and fertilizer production established in Owaza, and our nation would be in commanding heights of the thrift in their areas of choice, through our deep-sea port serving them. Our technical schools would yield skilled work force that would impress the Abia touch on wielding, carpentry, masonry and others through skills in refuse management, fire quarrel and dominate these areas.
Abia tourism would receive been in full bloom to rouse our cultural carnivals and creating unaccustomed possibilities for our peoples through them. The Abia of the next 25 years would be the time to consequence the fruits of our present labour.
Now, in what shape is the Abia economy?
Like everyone, we are conceited by the global and national economy. Oil prices have crashed and Abia is current in various places half of the revenue it was acquirement. Our revenues are down while costs are not static. We are re-tooling the good husbandry.
Our internally generated revenues are vulgar, the highest being about N900 a thousand thousand that we did last December. We regard that we can do about N3 billion quickly, and improve on that number. We are not amid the heavily exposed states, in terms of debts. We have managed our liability obligations and keep contractors on sites.
How force of ~ states survive without more bailouts?
There are backlog of salaries and pensions in chiefly states. Government is about priorities. However, through the pensions, I blame the obliging servants for not managing the allowance well.
After the bailouts, I expect that the Federal Government should create an intervention fund from which states could borrow to execute economic programmes that be in possession of been agreed are capable of directing the state’s thriftiness away from oil. States can achieve the programme alone as the Federal Government makes household decisions for the country.
A programme of that nature could lead to the convalescence of state economies and wean them from buttress on oil revenue.
There are legal limitations on the economic paradigms of states. Did that give life to the emphasis on the Aba good housewifery, instead of Abia economy?
It is the same economy. What we have emphasised is the weightiness of Aba not only in Nigeria, if it were not that as far as Central and West Africa. If we place Aba, it would fix Abia. Aba has native advantages that other cities do not esteem. It is within an hour’s be forced along of four important cities – Owerri, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Uyo – and combines communication with industries, manufacturing and an not exotic core of crafts people in leather works, textorial and tool and machine fabrications.
Aba has person of the highest concentrations of SMEs in Nigeria. Many commonalty from South-East and South-South be in actual possession of deep roots in Aba; some wish family houses in Aba or relations who be under the necessity lived in Aba for decades. The Abia thrift is being re-built around Aba. We be able to improve revenues by revamping the thriftiness of Aba, which forms a high part of the Abia economy. We are addressing multiple levies. A honest collector is working satisfactorily now by transporters.
What plans do you esteem to improve the ease of doing employment in Abia?
We have established a any-stop office where everything about doing affair in Abia can be done and total payments made. It is in our Revenue Building.
We acquire identified five areas of major collection upon a single point in the Abia economy:
Agriculture is number one for its abilities to bring into being value chains through processing of its products. We would created jobs from one side agriculture and improve our IGR end it. Emphases would be on crown oil, cocoa (we want to excite to the third position as the highest cocoa husbandman in Nigeria, we are currently sixth and behalf from the possibilities), cassava and indian corn would get our attention. We are in operation with Obasanjo Farms to establish poultries in Abia. Our set on shore areas are small; we are exploring technologies that could facilitate use of our farming areas everywhere the year. They would have ~ing integrated farms where wastes in existing parts are the materials for other accomplishments.
SMEs are the second enabler. Our buying and selling mission to Turkey was for outfit to improve the quality of shoes, belts, bags, dress made in Aba. Automation would answer for a lot of difference. We have power to earn a lot of revenue make the shoes that Nigeria’s security agencies use.
Oil and gas is in our radar taken in the character of the third enabler. Abia Investment Company is a uncommon purpose vehicle that would collaborate with sector interests to maximise the state’s stakes in the assiduity. Gas is of particular interest to us and Owaza, in Ukwa, has elastic fluid that we can use for our industries.
Obuaku Industrial City is proposed of the same kind with another enabler. It would benefit from its nearness to Port Harcourt. A deep-the deep port in its complex would assist parts of the country that are very much from the existing ports.
Trade and dealing, for which we are already noted, is the fifth enabler. Our Market Renewal Committees would upgrade the markets according to ease of shopping and as individual-stop places for shopping. The emphases without interrupti~ fixing our roads and building just discovered ones tie up with the projections to be spread out trade and commerce.
We are in addition planning to make good use of the rail services that regard commenced from Port Harcourt. Abia State is well located by the rails running through some parts of all our three senatorial districts. Our farms, markets and manufacturing bases would practice the rails to complement road transmission.
What are your plans in the yard of job creation?
We have plant up two agencies: one to manage traffic in our cities, and deal through traffic offences too, and the other to house public infrastructure from abuses. Both agencies bring forth employed 700 youth so far.
What are the other things in c~tinuance your ‘to-do-list’ in the manner that a matter of priority?
Health is up~ immediate list for attention. By the close of 2016, we would have established every integrated primary, secondary and tertiary soundness institution in association with a US-based NGO. Abians based abroad, by the appropriate expertise, are in collaboration with us to build a hospital to take care of the health needs of Nigerians and cut prostrate on the number of Nigerians who ramble abroad annually for medical attention.
Education, especially technical nurture, is critical to the sustenance of the industrialization we are planning. Our apparatus would require servicing, management and provisions. We are reviving the technical schools in Aba, Ohafia and Umuahia as being their students to attend higher institutions with their focus already on technology despite our industries.
Teacher education is imminent to our success in education. Enthusiasm and consecration are low. The state of the radical schools affects the next stages of tuition. We are working on ways of motivating teachers to have existence their best, particularly those who be seized of consistently and dedicatedly served in the pastoral areas. Abia just placed first in deputy schools examinations nationwide. We intend to hold that standard.
Our adopt-a-institute programme is going well. About 25 schools vital principle renovated through this programme are nearly ready. The importance of this advertisement has two main points – it saves regulation money, but more importantly, the friends of the schools, who be delivered of passed through those schools, are serving for example mentors to the pupils. Many of our pupils in the rustic areas would be motivated to know some prominent Nigerians have passed through the same schools they are attending. We are providing ready made-in-Aba foot wares to the greatest in number indigent pupils.
Not Me” is the part of a 12 month study that is aimed at helping those who are at expose to danger for type-2 diabetes.