In the life of every achiever, there are usually two outstanding seasons: the first season is usually that of work, work and work. The other season that follows is usually that of recognitions, awards and rewards.
For such great men and women, it might take years of hard work, unusual dedication to duty, unparalleled sacrifice for a cause they believe in and an unstoppable drive to lift their people from the doldrums and opprobrium to irreversible stardom, to keep working, sometimes with much fanfare while others may work their socks off silently, unnoticed, and steadily but surely until they achieve their ultimate goal.
For the latter, except they have grown the needed thick skin to wade off spanners and cogs that would surely be thrown their way by impatient armchair critics and professional detractors they would derail in no time.
It is therefore not surprising that the governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, having worked so hard and delivered on his campaign promises to the people of the State despite still having one year to go in his first of two tenures and despite the shenanigans and the needless bitter war of attrition brought his way by many of his detractors who hid under the guise of court processes which the courts themselves later declared frivolous, he has entered, and justifiably so, his season of accolades and encomiums.
For a governor to embark upon 140 road projects that are of strategic importance to the people of the state and complete the construction of over 60 of them in just three years, with effective drainage systems, and beautiful streetlights in some of them, is no mean feat. The roads do not just exist in name or to just make up the number, they carry with them the quality that reflects the caring heart of a governor who wants to give hope for the future and leave lasting legacies for his people.
Scientific research, assessments and reviews are usually carried out on those roads particularly the ones that had been constructed and reconstructed and kept failing in the past to find lasting solutions to them. Abia may not be an ‘A’ grade state in terms of revenue, in fact Abia might not even be in the ‘C’ grade, but Dr Okezie Ikpeazu in his desire to ensure that his projects far outlive him, engages the services of ‘A’ grade contractors to handle most of these projects.
Today, Aba, the State’s commercial capital city is abuzz and is working round the year no matter the season unlike in the past when the rainy season used to visit the people with tears and sorrow because of the flood that used to be the lot of the city in such a season.
The governor’s scientific approach to the construction of the roads has effectively seen to the end of such torrid season for the people. They now do their businesses round the year without the fear of flood or of such other natural elements. It is the same with Umuahia and other areas of the state. This is in addition to the fact that over 80 other road projects have either been awarded or are still ongoing.
As part of Development Pillars of his administration and his determination to diversify the economy of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, embarked on an aggressive agricultural policy implementation that has seen the State launch a large scale mushroom production and training programme, and also support for Abia farmers in the farming of rice leading to a boost in the production of the now popular ‘Abia Rice’ in the state.
With an audacious target of 7.5 milliom tenera palm seedling specie to be grown by 2019, 4 million have already been grown and 2 million distributed, leading to analysts rightly predicting that by 2022 Abia State will no longer rely on revenue from FAAC to survive but will run on a self-sufficient system largely sustained by agriculture.
Through the State’s ministry of agriculture, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has continued to give loans, grants and other incentives to farmers in the state with a view to boosting production and food sufficiency.
It is no longer news that since he took office, the governor has radically changed the face of education in Abia as the state, right from his first year in office, came first back to back in WASCE in the three years that he has been in office.
This should not come as a surprise as Dr Ikpeazu retrains and motivates teachers by giving out cars to the best performing ones in the 3 zones of the state, and this is in addition to enhanced government monitoring of private and public schools that has been the order of the day in the state.
In addition to the governor’s commitment to the training and retraining of teachers in the state through partnership with Australian education solution providers of which 800 teachers have already benefitted, a new teachers training facility has also been opened at Umuahia to ensure the continuous trainingof Abia’s dedicated teachers.
The home grown school feeding programme which saw Abia State government under Ikpeazu feeding pupils of primary 1 – 6 before the federal government later took over of those from primary 1 – 3 makes the State the only state in Nigeria where pupils from primary 1 – 6 are fed. This has led to the sharp increase of school enrollment from 115,000 in 2015 to 305,000 under the current administration.
In addition to 4 new ultra modern model schools equipped with state of the technology learning and teaching facilities, including staff quarters, 359 new classroom blocks are currently under construction in the state with more than 150 units of them completed and ready for commissioning.
Apart from the sinking of 9 Boreholes and reticulated water supply to 43 school toilets, 67 classroom blocks across the 3 Senatorial zones of the state are also beingrenovated or reconstructed. All these are geared towards giving the Abia scholar conducive environment for meaningful learning, and the results are showing.
Ikpeazu’s primary education improvement model is designed to feed and motivate pupils to attend well constructed schools where adequately trained teachers, who are the highest paid in the south east region, will teach them in a conducive environment using the best methods and facilities.
The industrialisaton of Abia State is one of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu’s Pillars of Development. Based on this, he has resuscitated the Aba Glass industry and is also working with the owners of Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia, Modern Ceramics, Umuahia and Enyimba Hotels, Aba among others to return these firms back to life after years of going under.
Just this week, Governor Ikpeazu endorsed a multi-billion dollars agreement with a Chinese company, Ruyi Group, to invest in Enyimba Economic City and the power sector in Abia State. This agreement is expected to support the delivery of steady power supply to Aba, construct a new textile factory and develop a new 4-star hotel within the 9600 hectares of prime property designated as Enyimba Economic City.
The governor’s aggressive promotion of “Made in Aba” brands has led to the global recognition and patronage of products from Abia State to the extent that even the military and other paramilitary agencies in Nigeria now patronize Made in Aba products for their boots and uniforms.
Dr Okezie Ikpeazu’s relentless search for improved conditions for entrepreneurs in Abia State made him pursue and collaborate with the federal government in the area of provision of steady power supply.
These efforts paid off recently when the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, granted Power Generation and Distribution Licences to Ariaria Market Independent Power Plant Limited and Ariaria Independent Energy Distribution Network Limited respectively for 9.5MWs of power supply specifically for the humongous and popular market. This, no doubt, will further boost entrepreneurial activities in the State to the benefit of all stakeholders.
In healthcare, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu revived the Aba General Hospital that had gone moribund since 2010; he is also building 4 new general hospitals at Obingwa, Okeikpe, Ohafia and Arochukwu while the other older ones are constantly receiving government attention for the benefit of the people.
A new innovation has also been introduced into the Abia health sector as Abians can now receive medical advice from qualified medical personnel in the comfort of their homes just by a dialing a number in the ‘Dial-a-Doc’ Telehealth Initiative of the Ikpeazu administration. This Initiative has no doubt brought medical care closer to the people especially the aged and physically challenged for whom he also launched the first ever JB Nigeria free home care service for senior citizens.
Under Ikpeazu’s watch, Abia hospitals and 292 primary healthcare centers have received equipment and supplies valued at more than N800m from United States of America, courtesy of donor agencies and in corroboration with Abians in the Diaspora.
It is laudable policies and actions of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu like the ones mentioned above that made Authority Daily, a leading Nigerian Newspaper, to single him out for an Award as Governor of the Year 2017 at an elaborate ceremony held at the prestigious Sheraton Hotel & Towers, in Abuja on Thursday, June 23, 2018.
To prove that this award is no fluke but well deserved, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu had earlier been awarded Governor of the Year 2017 by another foremost Nigerian Newspaper outfit, The Vanguard just two months earlier in April. Verbatim Magazine also awarded him for his stellar performance in office in the past 3 years, after visiting the state to review his projects.
As if taking cue from one another and in continued appreciation for what the governor has been doing for his people, members of the Abia State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, ASMATA, only about a week before the Authority Daily Award, showed an unprecedented solidarity and support to the governor in a One Million-Man March through the streets of Umuahia to Government House where they adopted Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as their sole candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial election in the State.
This also came shortly after people of Old Bende and Ukwa Ngwa political blocs of the state had at different times held grand receptions and rallies to endorse the governor for second term in office with the different expansive venues used filled to capacity.
Leaders and people who attended the rallies testified to the governor’s sterling performance and also endorsed him as their sole candidate for the election in 2019.
But who wouldn’t?
With audacious projects like the first ever flyover in Abia State located at Osisioma in Aba, the reconstruction of socio-economically important Brass-Faulks-Ariaria road and Port Harcourt Road, Aba, to a six-lane road with BRT lane, the restoration of peace and security in the state among other achievements of the governor, it is only natural to safely say that Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has entered his season of accolades, encomiums and awards.
Congratulations to him on this latest huge and colourful feather added to his cap. As he has always said in such forums, rather than make him rest on his laurels, these recognitions which he does not fail to dedicate to God for his grace and the people for their trust in him, will only spur him to greater actions.
With the way things are going, Abians should brace up for a continued radical positive change in the state’s fortunes for the better as Ikpeazu has only just started. A peep into his plan for 2019-2023 period will confirm his statement that Abia State has entered the era of irreversible giant leap in development.
By John Okiyi Kalu
… John Okiyi Kalu is the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Abia State