By Uche Olehi
Meet Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu,the Governor of Abia State,Clinical Biochemist, former University don, one-time Chairman Obingwa Local Government, Former Chairman, Governing Board,College of Health, Technology Aba, General Manager, Abia State Integrated Passengers Manifest Scheme (ASPIMS) and Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA). But far more significant than his previous offices is his new job designation: the Chief Brand Marketer of Made- in- Aba products.
A position the governor willingly stepped into upon resumption of office on May 29,2015 when he assured in his inaugural speech he would ensure, “that ‘Made- in- Aba’ products become something of high quality and in high demand.”
“I am proud to stand in front of this crowd today clad in all made- in-Aba attire. I pledge to wear made-in-Aba all through my service as Governor and beyond, not because of lack of options but because it is good to be proud of what we have, especially if it’s the best.”
Some eighteen months in the saddle,Dr Ikpeazu has not eaten his word. He has massively promoted and patronised Aba- made products. To be candid,the Governor’s passion for ethnic fashion -and everything Abia- has naturally rekindled interest in local brands hitherto despised and banished by voracious and insanely acute appetite for foreign fashion. Whether in the state or overseas, Ikpeazu wouldn’t be comfortable in non-Aba-made dress or accessories.
The lesson in this is nobody sells you better than you. The Governor being genuinely proud of Aba -made products has greatly encouraged others to buy from home.
In the last couple of weeks, public institutions,the private sector and eminent Nigerians have taken more than a passing interest in made in Aba brands. From the Nigerian Army to politicos led by the former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki,Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, among others,demand for Abia products has soared to the havens.To be specific,Aba shoe makers are supplying about 50,000 pairs of military footwearsto the Nigerian Army. Just for an initial supply. Sister security agencies and MDAs are also on standby. Even as Governor Ikpeazu personally delivered made -in -Aba shoes to Obasanjo.
The lesson in this is nobody sells you better than you.The Governor being genuinely proud of Aba -made products has greatly encouraged others to buy from home
Diasporan demand for made-in – Aba products has also surged. Aba tailors are battling to meet demands of ethnic fashion enthusiasts who are paying in foreign currencies. The trend would continue as the nation is in recession,occasioned by drastic fall in oil prices, the mainstay of Nigeria’s largely undiversified economy.
Made -in -Aba shoes
An interesting article by Alexander Ndunagu,First Class Law graduate of the University of Ibadan and a Ph.D student at McGill University , Canada. also hints at the rebound of the Made in Aba products.The Cambridge scholar observed in a write up,entitled, “The Made in Aba Revolution: A Call For Networking,Global Diffusion and Collective Learning.”
“Made in Nigeria campaign has political traction, and has recently been given regulatory support through the amendment of the Public Procurement Act. Chief of this “Made in Nigeria” campaign at the moment is the “Made in Aba” jingle”,Ndunagu wrote in a recent opinion piece in BUSINESSWAY AFRICA.
“Aba is a buzzing city in Abia State, one of the states in the eastern part of Nigeria, reputed for its entrepreneurial qualities and innovative drive, nicknamed the “Japan of Africa.” It is also the hub of fashion, with volumes of shoes and clothes leaving its busy markets, on a regular basis…with the renewed interests of the national government to encourage local production, and the determination of the state government to make Aba, a global hub of top quality products, Aba may finally earn its long touted reputation of being the Japan of Africa.”
“Made in Aba revolution may finally be getting the national attention it long craved for. Government’s support for local manufacturers is a positive step towards ensuring that the potentials are harnessed and maximized. Aba must take advantage of government policy and turn itself into a global hub of top quality goods. I argue that establishing clusters and promoting networking among entrepreneurs, global diffusion and collective learning are important to the dreams and goals of the “Made in Aba” revolution.”
In Abia, government is determined to diversify its economy with less dependence on dwindling Federal Allocation. From the Agricultural revolution sweeping through the state to promotion of entrepreneurial skills,the future of the state called God’s own now rests on the hands of the people.