By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Outside his campaigns on the patronage of Made-In-Aba goods and services, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has been working to give his Abia State a face-lift. Anyone with a fair knowledge of his election story and the perennial legal battles that followed would no doubt express shock at the achievements he has recorded so far. The governor, last week, invited the world to Abia to assess his performance.
No sooner had he taken the oath of office as governor on May 29, 2015 than legal battles that took Okpezie Ikpeazu to various courtrooms in the land began.
His closest rival at the polls, Mr. Alex Otti of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, was the first to approach the Election Tribunal, challenging his victory. Otti lost at the Tribunal.
But on December 31, 2015, the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, Imo State returned Otti as the winner of the governorship election.
Luckily, on February 3, 2016, the Supreme Court came to his rescue by reversing the judgment of the lower court. He heaved a sigh of relief, thinking it was over. Yet, unknown to him, the legal safari and its concomitants were only gathering momentum.
Running on the sideline of Otti’s case was the case of falsification of tax documents allegation levelled against him by Mr. Uche Ogah and Mr. Friday Nwosu.
Both men had vied in the governorship primary of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, with him, lost and decided to exert their own pound of flesh.
But not many people took the issue very seriously until Justice Okong Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on June 30, 2016, returned Ogah as governor-elect of Abia. But just like Otti’s case, the Supreme Court took sides with the Appeal Court that had earlier entertained the matter, upholding him as the winner of the election.
Friday Nwosu also suffered defeat.
Despite the distractions, Ikpeazu remained focused on service to the people of Abia as could be seen on the day of his inauguration when he awarded 7 roads for construction.
Today, the people, including his unrepentant critics, are baffled that he has rewritten the trajectory of development in the state.
Though there is a simultaneous development measure in almost all the sectors of the state economy, Ikpeazu’s infrastructural freak is more pronounced on the road projects and their appurtenances.
Retrospectively, anyone with a fair knowledge of Abia would not hesitate to admit that the roads across the state were dilapidated. Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the South-East, was the most hit.
To say that successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 had remembered Aba is an overstatement.
Ikpeazu has since raised the bar of development.
On the completion of many projects, the governor decided, last week, to invite the National Working Committee, NWC, of his party, led by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to showcase his achievements. From Umuahia, the state capital, to Aba, down to Ohafia, representing Abia Central, South and North, completed and ongoing projects were commonplace.
The projects included Umuagu Isingwu erosion site, Umuahia; Abia Investment House, Umuahia; Aba Road in Umuahia, Abia State poultry cluster in Umuosu Nsulu, Isialangwa LGA;
Umuala-Nbawsi Road; Umunkpeyi-Amaiyi-Umuehim Road; Umuanunu-Ekwereazu Ngwa-Akwa Ibom Road; Abia State Multi Skill Development Centre, Unuobiakwa; Owo-Onichangwa-Iko t Ekpene; Osusu Amukwa model school; Ururuaka Road, Ukaegbu Road; Ehere Road; Umuola Road; Ovom Street; Faulks Road; Ifeobara pond; Osisioma flyover; Port Harcourt road and MCC-Samek road.
Others were Idima-Abam road; Ndi Oji/Ndi Okereke bridge Abam-Arochukwu road; Ohafia ring road; Abaribe ring road; Ozuitem water projects; Eluama road, Isikwuato; Nkpa Road; Mushroom farm, Umuahia and Owerinta-Egbule Mbutu road.
Of particular interest to stakeholders were the Umuagu erosion site, Ifeobara basin, Ariaria Samek-MCC road, Ndi Oji/Ndi Okereke bridge Abam-Arochukwu and the Umuahia mushroom centre.
Understandably, Umuagu erosion had been a threat to the residents of the area. House had been hitherto swallowed by the menace before the coming of the present government.
Also, anyone who was familiar with faulks road leading to Ariaria/Samek road better known with the Ariaria International market would admit that the area was another floodgate of rivers. So, to reclaim the area from flooding, the government articulated the Ifeobara basin where the water was channeled down to Aba river popularly called Waterside located at Ogbor Hill area of the metropolis.
The same treatment was given to Ndi Oji/Ndi Okereke/ Abam-Arochukwu road. For years, the people were cut off.
To ease their pains, the governor decided to build Ndi Oji/Ndi Okereke/ Abam-Arochukwu bridge. The project had been completed and reconstruction of the roads was also ongoing.
The mushroom project was a new thinking where the edibles are grown both in season and out of season.
Apart from Secondus, also on ground to see the projects were the Southeast National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Austin Umahi; Abia Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu; Abia PDP Chairman, Chief Johnson Onuigbo and the SWC; first Director-General of NDDC, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu; former Senate President, Senator Adolf Wabara; two traditional rulers; members of Abia National Assembly Caucus led by Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe; Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chikwendu Kanu and the entire members of the House; the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the state, former state PDP Chairman, Sen. Emma Nwaka, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Chief Empire Kanu, Professor Anya O. Anya, amongst other dignitaries.
The PDP National Chairman, Secondus told journalists that Ikpeazu was a silent achiever, calling on his fellow governors to emulate him.
His words: “We went on tour to various projects done by Abia State governor. The most interesting is the erosion control site. I think the technology there is the latest technology in the world. We were shown the site by the state commissioner. He explained that the place was a deserted area but that by the governor’s intervention through the project…lands and even a primary school that were already lost were recovered. I believe that the solution that has been provided by the government of Abia State to various infrastructure issues is commendable.
“We went to popular market in west Africa that is Ariaria International Market. At Ariaria, I have never seen that kind of technology. I think by the description of the Governor and his commissioner for works, the engineers came all the way from Holland. My surprise is that Abia State is one of the states that gets the least revenue but with the number of projects I have seen today, it is overwhelming which means that the governor is working. He has performed very well and prudently too. I believe also that PDP governors are actually the ones that are working in the true sense of it in Nigeria. Because if you go over the PDP states and see the volume of works they have done, you will surely agree with me. Abia governor is a silent achiever and he has achieved so much for his people. He has delivered the desired goals through projects.
“We also visited clusters of agricultural entrepreneurs skill acquisition centres. In fact, it is the first time I have seen such aggressive agrarian industry that caters for young school leavers and provides hundreds of jobs. If it will be sustainable, then our youth will all be employed. We also went over some other industries where skills were displayed such as garments manufacturing, steal fabrication, electrical polls and lights, all sorts. And I believe that what is happening here is the first of its kinds in this country. And if the federal government can emulate the aggressive agrarian and industrial model from Abia State, the whole talk about providing jobs at the federal level would be a child’s play. And obviously with the investment that have been done in the area of job creation in Abia state, if the youths of the of state follow it, they will all be employed. I think what Abia State government is doing is not just to provide infrastructure but to cater for the teeming unemployed youth. And this, I think he is attractively doing it. In fact I can say that he is an effective administrator and the people are happy. In fact, governors of other states should emulate what is happening in Abia.”
Also speaking, the State Commissioner for Works, Hon. Eziuche Ubani, under whose supervision most of the road projects were executed, said that the governor had decided to silently rebrand the state.
Speaking to journalists in the same manner, Okezie said his government was guided by the promises he made to the people in his inaugural speech.
Asked whether he would seek re-election in 2019, the governor said that the people who are the beneficiaries of the projects were the ultimate decider, vowing however, not to ignore a clarion call for service should there be one.
The governor said: “In the first place, three years running and we have been focused on the assignment before us. From the onset, we had a proper understanding of our job, proper description of our assignment and we went for the job immediately. We didn’t feel like starting with too much of noise making. One other thing that features today is that right there inside the vehicle, we were looking at some snippets from my inaugural speech and trying to match them with some of the things we are doing. Certainly, we have not done everything but I am pleased and happy that we are on course.
“Most of the things we have delivered were captured on my inuagural speech and it may surprise you to know that today was the first time I am seeing the script of my inaugural speech after that day. And I am pleasantly surprised that we remained focused despite all odds. We still have about 11 months this year and, by the end of 2018, we will also be ready to open ours doors for you to see how beautifully and wonderfully well we are going to tie up the loose ends on our projects. I am certain that Abia will no longer be the same. The time you do roads without drainage in Abia State is gone, a time you bring substandard contractors to work in Abia state is gone. We have four solid grade A contractors in Abia State: Setraco, Arab, the Chinese Company that are doing the flyover and of course, Bulletin. All of them working in various sites and I am confident they will continue to deliver quality job going forward.
Actions speak louder than voice
“So this is my way of saying that action speaks louder than voice. It is for the whole world to come and see what we are doing and pass their judgement themselves. I think the story is better told by those who have come than by us. And particularly, I am encouraged by the presence of our party chairman. As our leader and father, he is committed to ensuring that we do that which is right because it is only when we show him evidence of good governance that he can be able to take our party to the next level which is why we are here. And i am happy that he has counted us one of those states that will give him the leverage to do the needful at the national level.”
Do you intend to recontest in 2019?
“My work will speak for me. I am focused on that assignment and will continue to work. We are not election politicians, we are politicians that are concerned with the delivery of democracy dividends. In fact, it were possible to find me on site on that election day, you will find me on site. But let the people judge for themselves and talk about who they want. If they decide, if it is their wish, who am I to say no?”