Says I can’t be anybody’s stooge
AMID a tight campaign schedule, the Abia State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship Candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in this encounter spoke among others on his plans for Abia and how to actualise them, if elected. He admitted that Governor Orji has set a hurdle in terms of achievements but said he will run faster because he is younger.
BY Clifford Ndujihe
His take on comments that he is a neophyte and stooge of Governor Theodore Orji
I had my doctorate degree before my 30th birthday. I have taught in four universities, including being the external examiner of master’s degree students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It is not possible for someone to think of me as a stooge. All this can only exist within the realms of political propaganda. Almost every candidate in the race was once in the PDP, so apparently they all wanted to be stooges. They started singing different tunes when the PDP people said, “we want change but we want to change into certainty not into darkness’ and the civil servants said, “we want someone who can keep our jobs and pay us, not someone who will do right-sizing or down-sizing and retrench us at the end of the day.”
There is no governor in Nigeria that is anybody’s stooge. And if you played a role in canvassing for votes or helped a governor to be elected, you can’t expect the governor to be your stooge. You can only bring ideas that are beautiful on the table and if its falls into the main frame of a focused administration.
Abia people know that I am the only person that is humble enough to entertain all shades of opinion, logic and suggestions. If your logic is superior we will go and test it. If mine is superior you go with me. I am not coming with any airs of arrogance. I am humble enough to say that I need the support of the people of Abia and hopeful that they will give me.
The challenge of taking over and matching Governor Orji’s records?
The governor has enormous goodwill and he has carried himself as a gentleman. He has a lot of respect among the elders, and the common people of Abia. He is a huge challenge. But I know that by the time the people understand my style, the difference will show. I will try to be as meticulous as Orji but I will run faster because I am younger.
His plans: The first plan is our people. Abia is peopled by people with capacity in various areas. Our human capital is second to none and we are the best traders and very good in commerce. We are also very good with the things we can do with our hands. So in the years ahead we want to leverage on these advantages that God has given us to make sure that the economy of Abia rests on strong pillars of trade and commerce, small and medium scale enterprises.
Of course we are in oil and gas but we want to let the advantage of oil and gas recede to the background because we are just marginal producers. So oil will not be on the front burner of our economic decisions in the days ahead.
We have another advantage. If you look at Aba for example, the city is at the confluence of about seven other cities in the South-East and South-South. The city is about 30 minutes drive to Ikot Ekpene, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Umuahia among others. The strategic location of this city makes it what sugar is to ants and it attracts people. So we must leverage this strategic geographical location of Aba to place world class infrastructure around Aba so that we can return trade and commerce and build industrial clusters using the German model.
What I mean by that is the apprenticeship system where we have family line businesses. But government must intervene in terms of giving access to world class finishing and equipment so that there can be mass production, finished products that can compete for space in shops in top shops in European markets.
We will also do a mass reorientation of the way our people think. The time has gone when people will talk down on the people of Abia. We want to say that we are the best in the world and that we will attract the attention of not only the best in Nigeria but also in Africa to Abia in the days ahead. This is our focus.
Plans for Aba… People talk about Aba just because they are thinking about votes. I talk about Aba with more passion because that is where I come from. I don’t have a house in any other part of the world than in Aba. Nobody is more interested in the Aba problem as myself, because you can’t be more Catholic than the Pope. And nobody has a better plan for Aba. First, I have a proper diagnostics of the Aba problem. Aba’s problem is rooted in the fact that infrastructural stock, in terms of drainage, houses, roads, have been static for awhile and the population has grown geometrically. And when that happens, it means that there will be more pressure on the roads and the drainages and they will start collapsing.
The drainage system has remained unmanned and unserviced because it is underground. Once you have underground drainage system, you must maintain it. You must go through it every year. And it has been left for almost 50 years and some people have also constructed buildings across the drainage system. We have three storey buildings and churches across the drainage systems.
What we want to do is first of all to do a ring road around Aba. I said earlier that Aba is in the centre of our plans because it is at the confluence of the states in the South-East South-South and our industrial clusters are going to take off from Aba. What you can get in Aba in terms of internally generated revenue can help you develop other parts of Abia including Umunneochi and other places.
So we want to do a ring road while we revisit the existing roads, remodel them and redesign them.
We have two options on draining and de-flooding. One, there is an underground drainage system, which has been silted to the brim and that is why each time it rains there will flooding.
So, do we open up and use open drainage system or do we continue with the underground system where we have to get experts to open the underground drainage for it to enter into the Aba River? But draining straight into the Aba River is also not environmentally sustainable. So we are thinking about a secondary water plant around Aba River that would capture the storm water, treat it up to secondary level and then return it to the river so that aquatic life can thrive.
Do you have the political will to redesign Aba given the houses that will be affected?
Politically and socially, you have to localize your strengths and weaknesses. What did it take the incumbent governor to remove the market in Umuahia to Ubani? He is a son of the soil. His people are the people that own shops there and he found the political will.
For those who have constructed buildings across the drainages, those buildings will go. One kilometre of drainage will serve the entire city of five million people but a single house will serve just a family. We can’t allow your selfishness to put us all at risk. So we must do what we need to do when we get there.