By Philip Agbese
“Completion of all our major projects. A substantially renewed Aba and Umuahia, with more street lights. You’ll also see cottage industries in many local governments. I want to build 17 cottage agro-allied industries…. So, I want to see a rejuvenation of the rural economy. Abians will see an uninterrupted power supply and that will lead to a boom.” —A 2021 interview excerpts from Abia state Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu enlivening his dream portrait of a state he wishes to bequeath to Abians by 2023.
Abia state Governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu is not just a visionary leader; but someone who is genetically imbued with a knack for legacies. He is by nature, focused and committed to every positive cause.
Therefore, he dreads failure like a plaque and so, silently pulls the levers whilst in leadership with very rewarding outcomes. But unlike others of his status, Gov. Ikpeazu is noiseless about it; he does not blow his trumpet like other pretenders on the corridors of power.
To Gov. Ikpeazu, the global economic recession hurled at the world by the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic never procrastinated his agenda of bridging of the development gulf in the critical sectors of the Abia economy. So, the Governor has progressed steadily and impactfully on his people since 2015, when the mandate of leadership of the state fell on him.
Truly, leaders of substance are not flippant. They are muted by nature and hardly indulge in the tendency of loquaciousness. Great leaders imbibe the philosophy of actions speaks louder than words; they are unrepentantly diffident. They prefer to do the work; while the spectators or the public whom they serve anoint themselves for the noble role of publicists of their positive actions. It has been the defining character of Gov. Ikpeazu.
The unassuming and introvert, Abia State Governor Ikpeazu, consummates leadership with uncommon zeal, charisma and focus. A famed biochemist, who romanticizes work rather than noisiness; preferred academics and became a politician inadvertently. But both in academics and politics, Gov. Ikpeazu has deposited a striking mark of excellence and recognition of his worthwhile foothold in the corridors of leadership.
Gov. Ikpeazu is neither blemish nor fastidious; but strives to beat the odds to register amazing results anywhere the dais and onus of leadership falls on him to render public service. He leaves nothing entirely to his lieutenants; but personally, supervises every project funded with a penny of tax payers’ money. His unique leadership style catches the portrait of a man who knows the intricacies of blending the inner-self with the realities around him and ultimately targets the progress of humanity as his uncompromising agenda.
The greatest key to his success in life is personal discipline, a virtue inculcated in him ab initio by the parents. Therefore, he has grown up to embrace the principle of truth and honesty. He calls a spade a spade and believes accepting a public assignment is an obligatory personal endorsement and covenant with the people that the task must be accomplished no matter the odds strewn on the path.
His ascension to the coveted position of Governor of Abia state, with the support of key stakeholders and the electorates was mainly a consequence of his formidable footprints in previous assignments in the state. It surprised many that Gov. Ikpeazu emerged from the rear to upstage political juggernauts in PDP to clinch the party’s 2015 governorship ticket and eventually won the ballot.
He recently revealed his operative philosophy as ensconced in the catchphrase; “At every point, where I find myself, I try to leave a mark…I find the strength to remain calm, calculated and focused on what I want to do.”
He displays an infectious humility in governance and believes in teamwork. That’s why Gov. Ikpeazu has created and effectively utilizes the platform which has enthroned of all Abians as stakeholders. Every Abian who has something veritable to contribute to the development of the state, ultimately targeted at the guarantee of a better life for Abian people has a space in Gov. Ikpeazu’s Government.
Many have described Gov. Ikpeazu as a democratic revolutionary of some sort. And as a scientist, he applies scientific approaches in dealing with the multifarious development issues confronting Abia state; he adopts painstaking planning as catalyst in solving issues “at the molecular level until it fits into expectations.” And consummating these expectations have massively redefined the economy and development indices in Abia state.
The Governor discovered quite early in the life of his administration that basic infrastructure like road network and electricity were very essential stimulus in boosting the rural economy in the state. Therefore, he has turned Abia state into a huge construction site for road networks linking communities and villages. Next to it, Ikpeazu has worked assiduously to improve power generation and distribution to the state. The provision of these basic infrastructures became the secret antidote and propelling force of his economic rejuvenation.
A glimpse into Ikpeazu’s scorecard in these three sectors alone, shows that within a span of three years, Gov. Ikpeazu completed and commissioned 65 major roads in the state. Even roads that formerly resisted reconstruction or rehabilitation because of soil texture have bowed to the Governor’s demystification of the jinx. And aside the completed roads, a dozen others are under vigorous construction in all sections of the state. Even the famous perpetually potholed Aba road in Umuahia, which deified all solutions, like others in the state have been conquered by Ikpeazu.
From the outset, Gov. Ikpeazu irrevocably had his eyes fixated on improving the local economy of Abia state, which dwindled threateningly. Even the fortunes of the famed Aba or Ariaria markets in the state, which were popular commercial hubs in the Southeast and even in Nigeria thumped disappointingly. But Gov. Ikpeazu worked behind the scenes to restore the lost glory of these markets and other markets in the state.
The good tidings came in January 2021, when the FGN gazetted Enyimba Economic City as a free zone for manufacturing and exports; the first of its kind in the Southeast. His administration has reactivated numerous dead factories in Abia. As practical confirmation of Gov. Ikpeazu’s rewarding efforts at the economic revival of the state, “Made-in-Aba” products have rebounded back into Nigerian markets, earning patronage from individuals, corporate organizations and institutions like the Nigerian military.
Made-in-Aba goods have also regained their international recognition, through deliberate and properly implemented thought-out plans. Gov. Ikpeazu personally led the aggressive promotions of Made- in- Aba brands, locally and internationally, and even held fashion exhibitions in Abuja and New York City in America. By this feat, Gov. Ikpeazu was named the brand ambassador of Made -in- Aba brands and personally clads in them at all times.
Gov. Ikpeazu’s economic resuscitation initiatives in Abia state have manifested in enviable indices of development and socio-economic growth for the people. Within the span of one year in 2020, multi-million and big-time companies like Kilimanjaro, Chicken Republic, Dominos, Cold Stone, market Square and Cine21 invaded the economy of Abia state with investments running into billions of naira. Its spiral effects on the local economy, GDP, wealth creation, poverty reduction, and employment generation have been marvelously attestable.
He is insatiable with development. Gov. Ikpeazu has yet another big dream for the people of Abia state. He aims ultimately to transit Abia to the global stage to benefit from the large leather and garment’s multi-billion dollars economy of the world. He also wants Abians to “colonize” the leather and garments needs of the 200 million Nigerians. He disclosed in a recent interview; “That was why we consider electricity as the most important. We have ensured that Abia would become the first state in Nigeria that will have an uninterruptible power supply before the end of my administration. We will achieve it through Geometrics.”
Gov. Ikpeazu’s developmental shadows on the landscape of Abia state are too numerous to exhaust in a single piece. But he has come this far despite distractions from political adversaries and opponents. He scaled through 13 Court cases over his mandate and other allied issues. It never deterred him.
The indefatigable Ikpeazu personally triumphed over Covid-19, when it extended its cruel tusks on him. And he also defeated the economic crunch imposed on the state in the several months of lockdown to make the bold imprints in developments. It is an explicit statement that Gov. Ikpeazu’s self-effacing leadership style, which prefers to work to propaganda is truly the silent liberation force for Abians.
Agbese, a publisher and human sights crusader wrote from Umuahia.