On Saturday, 27 August 2022, Abia State will mark her 31 years of existence as a state government following the split from old Imo state on August 8, 1991. For these period of time Abia state have witnessed nine state governors either as military administrators or democratically elected governors.
However, between May 29, 2015 till date, one man has saddled the affairs of the state as an executive governor and his name is Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
The greatest legacy Governor Okezie Ikpeazu will bequeath to the people of Abia State, may not be the many physical structures and innovations that litter the state. Yes, Ikpeazu has constructed over one hundred roads. He built the first flyover in the state. He has recovered some of the major roads connecting Aba major markets. He has been intentional in recovering entry point roads into Abia state. Notable are Aba-Ubakala old road; Ekwerazu- Akwa Ibom road; Umuejea-Osokwa Road that leads off Aba-Port Harcourt Express Road straight to Aba. He has equally fixed parts of the notorious federal Aba- Ikot Ekpene express road.
He did the Abiriba- Nkporo road in Ohafia that was long abandoned.A feat that caused the deputy Governor and worthy Abiriba son, Rt Hon Ude Oko Chukwu, to shed tears of joy.
Through NEWMAP, the governor recovered some badly damaged erosion sites across the state.: From Umunneochi to Isingwu and Amuzukwu Umuahia ; From Umuakwu and Umuezegu Nsulu; From Ndiogoro to Ifeobara Aba axis.Very early in the life of his administration, he provided counterpart funds thereby activating World bank funding that made it possible for the CSDA to execute some of the notable pro-poor community service projects visible in almost all the local Government areas of Abia state.
He created a new ministry for the SME out of the existing Ministry of Trade and Investment; built an Investment house. Thus, ennobled a one stop integration of veritable SME vistas across the state .The JAAC building started by former governor T.A.Orji is nearing completion.
Yes, never in history have people been so proud of made in Aba products and never in history has Aba creatives received the kind of boosted prominence in the world of design and fashion;from Aba to Lagos,Abuja,United Kingdom and America,.Aba brand is eminently identified and proudly endorsed.
Ikpeazu became the brand ambassador of made in Aba,a task on himself he entrusted and never abdicated for once in the past seven years.It is on record that Ikpeazu never adorned nothing,publicly, but the locally made Aba wears.Who beats that?
He incredibly walked his talk as he took the Aba creatives to national and international exhibitions, and they won laurels.The back to back awards received by Abia creatives even at the annual SME awards organised by the VP Yemi Osibanjo’s is evergreen.
Ikpeazu has robustly facilitated the Geometric power project, a PPP project of Prof Barth Nnaji. He is key to the present successes recorded in that historic power project that will eventually provide uninterrupted power supply to over seven out of the seventeen local governments areas in Abia state .Having travelled with Nnaji to most of the countries and sat on the negotiating table where deals and agreements concerning the projects were discussed and sealed, Governor Ikpeazu’s government will hugely share the glory arising from the landmark unprecedented power project. Ikpeazu will equally take greater part of the credit for the revival of the once moribund Golden Guinea Breweries, innovative and visionary Enyimba Shoe Factory and the ambitious and lofty, Enyimba Economic City etc.
We can go and on. But as the Igbo say, Nkeiruka, the future is supreme. The governor’s infrastructural contributions will pale into insignificance if in four years or so time, his physical works dilapidate, decay and go into disuse, becoming carcasses for the dumpsite.
So, the governor’s diverse contributions to governance, perhaps, may seem like normal activities, but they are however stemmed from focused and purposeful leadership. It may not be populist, hence not appreciated now, but they are visionary.Moreover, their intangible essence are such that would snowball into visible,concrete impacts in the near future.
Therefore, the best legacy that Ikpeazu will hand over to Ndi Abia is enthronement of a leader that will not only continue his infrastructural development but sustain and build on his intangible achievements.
Abians expect him to prop up a leadership that builds powerful systems not powerful individuals. By systems, we mean building structures that are self-sustaining and will make an organisation work seamlessly with little effort. You build that by enthroning a leader with an ingrained leadership skills, and is adequately exposed to such systems.
Abia needs a leader that is contented, firm, fair and focused. Because Abia has rigmaroled far too long, with powerful individuals, its structures,at all levels, have regrettably weakened.People are not obedient to the laws that govern the state but to laws of the individuals they benefit from. That is why the government will ask traders, at Isi Gate in Umuahia, to vacate their illegal trade posts only for a powerful person to urge them on for instance.
Or,the revenue Agberos in Aba,vehemently resisting the express orders of the government because they are backed by powerful individuals. Inadvertently,the government, other than creating a strong “system”, has surreptitiously,over time, created strong individuals who won’t let go of power no matter what it takes.
No powerful man should control the Abia IGR.Ikpeazu has insisted. To ensure this, he has activated a result-oriented automated and fairly integrated revenue collection system in the state. Not without fierce battles with the cabals though, but he seems to be winning with the more determined Mac Atasie team. Through the digitised payment system things are coming up fine, even though very far from the expectations of Abia masses. But a system is engendered ,that is the good news .It will only require another focused and resolutely dogged administrator to sustain it. Ensuring that arrogated authority is taking away from powerful people, that did as they liked with it,to a seamlessly auto-piloted system that shields the state from reversing to status quo.
Abians now know their daily IGR flow or better still,can postulate possible result even from far away Europe.That is made possible by a system of some sort. Ikpeazu has launched an SME directory, a compendium of SMEs in the state as part of the one stop shop initiative that will create a system that works seamlessly for businesses in Abia. To boost this, Ikpeazu developed a 30 year- development plan for the state developed by -PIND Foundation in collaboration with Abia state government.
Never in Abia 31 years history has it articulated a plan talk more of a “master” plan!The plan focuses on 11 pillars of development and four cross cutting areas-oil and gas, health, education, social protection, governance and public service and public service reforms, infrastructure, environment and regional planning and monitoring and evaluation.
Abia under Ikpeazu is not there yet but the structures that enable a veritable system to thrive and get Abia to greater heights have been laid. It is now left for a courageous leader to continue.
Perhaps, that is why Ikpeazu is careful of who succeeds him since he understands the vagaries of Abia politicians as well as the precariousness of Abia economics . He does not seem to favour stranger elements,whose imperceptible sense of patriotism seem beclouded by crescive rage and unquenchable urge for vengeance. He is also careful of unstable personalities with questionable moral rectitude. Ikpeazu wishes to get it better with a leader that is better.
That is where the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP of the state, Prof Eleazar Uche Ikonne, comes in. But the question is why did the governor pick Ikonne? Was it just a personal imposition? No, there was an electoral procedure too. But why the preference for Ikonne?
Ikonne is on records for saying that he will grow strong systems, not strong individuals. He is also a no-nonsense person. Ikonne’s antecedents at the Abiaploy is evident. His reformatory efforts at the Abia state University ABSU is exemplary. He strengthened the academic, administrative, infrastructural frontiers being also responsible for the full implementation of the three zone campuses in Umuahia (Law Faculty) and Aba (Pharmacy and Engineering) as well as existing Uturu campus. This is about system creation. The Law Faculty is up and running while Aba Pharmacy /Engineering schools are nearing completion.
Recall that the ABSU three- zone campus plan was an Orji Kalu policy but none of the VCs could implement it fully until Ikonne came in, showing a strength of character typical of the leader that Abia state needs.
So Abia needs a man of strong character. When there were IGR leakages at the ABSU owing to payment racketeering, Ikonne stopped it through an electronic payment system, about the same thing Ikpeazu is doing in government, using automated payment system for the Abia IGR.
Because of Ikonne’s personality it is difficult for him to be manipulated or unduly controlled.
One of the biggest problems in Abia is attempt to control leadership. He knows how to handle such being an institutionalized management expert. He has records of enthroning successful fiscal policies and human resource management mechanism that checks abuse of power.He did it as VC, and throughout his tenure he ensured there was no strike or internal crises that could disrupt the school calender from 2015 till 2019.Not even the salary was owned but for the novel covid-19 pandemic.With a tested system stability module,Ikonne put ABSU on the path of speedy development.
Ikonne performed creditably well at his former postings . And as the university is micro of the state, he can repeat those giant strides as Abia Governor.
If Ikonne was not controlled in ABSU, it will be difficult to control him as governor.
It takes an effectual, sagacious leader; focused, dispassionate technocrat; a confident and contented person to lead Abia. Abia also needs a strong personality with high moral quotient to withstand the temptations that could either attract or distract the seat of governance.
Abia needs a charismatic leader for a formidable system that will stand the test and vicissitudes of time.
Abia is serious business, so there is not likely an opportunity for merger or outright sale,like it’s done in financial institutions, in an event of failure due to maladministration or any undisclosed malfeasance. Abians cannot afford to take such risk.
The next issue is equity. One of the biggest trait to peace and unity in Abia state is this unsavoury,albeit emerging, tendency towards clannishness . Abia’s unity needs to be strengthened. Thus, Abia needs somebody whose sense of equity and fairness is not in doubt. Not somebody whose only consideration for a worthy running mate is his brother, but one with strong sense of unity even amid our regional diversities.Ikonne’s implementation of the three zonal -campus policy shows a man of equity and for equity.
Did Ikpeazu notice all these qualities in Ikonne to have been attracted to him? Perhaps, yes. It takes a man with a strong sense, for the future, to raise an Ikonne whose personality is perfectly fit for the future that Abians long for.