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The Choice Before Abians in 2019 Gubernatorial Election – By ThankGod Ukachukwu

Abia State voters must be careful not to acquiesce to the same predicament London-based The Economist magazine (which endorsed President Buhari) and Nigerians yielded to in 2015 when they were beguiled by a candidate who came with promises of change without requisite visionary leadership needed for socio-economic renaissance. There is no doubt that many Abians are vexed with godfathersim dynasties-grip since the restoration of democracy in 1999. Many are only interested in shredding every vestige of godfatherism without taking the realities of the incumbent, Gov Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (OVI) who from all indications has severed linkages to his predecessor who has never exerted control like we have in states like Lagos, where the governor is a pawn in the hands of the Capo D Tutti (apropos Gov Amosun’s recent pronouncement).

Abia State ThisDay Midterm 2017 Report

In review of a midterm report by ThisDay in 2017, I noted the following. That ThisDay newspaper used 5 indicators to grade two years performances of governors from least to most desirable scale: Non-starter, go back to drawing board (very poor); Work in progress, no clear results (poor); Good vision, slow start (average); Clear vision, promising start (good); good vision, flying start (very good). The newspaper reported that Abia State governor was bogged down by legal impediments, which he later won at the Supreme Court and has made progress in certain areas like infrastructure. It awarded the overall score of “Work in progress, no clear results” to the governor’s two years in power. Despite efforts targeted at revitalizing and boosting shoes and garment SMEs in Aba and attraction of $1.5billion Chinese investments towards construction of an industrial city. I proposed that Abia state should stop taking the last position when it comes to development in the South East. An airport, a standard stadium where Enyimba the most successful club in Nigeria in intercontinental football in Africa can play, investment in electrification projects to generate power for the state to boost industry and provision of real estate are areas that a visionary governor should harness.

Governance Philosophy of Gov Okezie Ikpeazu

The preceding paragraph was written in 2017 and quoted almost verbatim. Fast forward to the present day, the governor has made tremendous progress in almost all the areas highlighted except building an airport. The Enyimba stadium has a hybrid pitch for elite club football, SMEs are getting serious attention from the state government, the state’s education for employment (E for E) initiative is a success and Aba is being developed into an industrial hub amid an infrastructure renewal. OVI’s governance philosophy takes root in what he opines as “socio-cultural sentiments of development strategy” based on five developmental pillars of governance: agriculture, commerce, industry, oil & gas and education pivoted on seven enablers namely: ease of doing business, infrastructure, healthcare, housing, security, media & advocacy and education.

The governor describes his ideology of public sector governance as a ‘research-based government’ where information gleaned from available socio-economic data is strategically utilized to properly focus on the most important areas that impact the most on the progress of the state. (The construction of feeder/alternate routes to substitute for dilapidated FG roads linking Abia State to other states is an example.)  This approach to governance is the sine qua non in knowledge-based societies in the developed world “conditioned by national, regional and local policies, programmes and actions, as well as informed decision-making by individual citizens, families and other societal units.”

The Journey So Far

The ultimate question every discerning mind would ask is: to what extent has OVI achieved his vision? On education, model schools have been established and the homegrown free school-feeding programme extended to primary 3-6 while the FG caters from primaries 1-3. This boosted school enrolment by over 500% from about 140,000 to 640,000 within 3 years. This is massive progress in education.  Agriculture has bolstered with the establishment of poultry clusters across the state, planting of over 2 million palm seedlings, and increase in cashew production.

The focus on Aba as an economic city must be viewed from a broad economic perspective. The feasible vision of the governor of “Making Abia The Premier Business Destination In Nigeria, And West Africa” lies in development of Aba as an economic hub linking adjoining states and regions. If there no other lessons from the past four years, most people have realized that states should innovate and expand their IGR (moved IGR from N500m to over N2bn) to make up for allocation shortfalls to offset wage bills and improve development efforts. The development of Aba as the epicentre of Abia State economy is the most pragmatic route to economic independence.  Even Dr Alex Oti recognises this in his manifesto. OVI’s focus on Aba has made #MadeInAba trendy and is increasing brand awareness and acceptance. The revitalization of the collapsed Aba infrastructure is strategic and his government has made significant progress. The revolution in training and equipping Aba Shoemakers with vocational skills and equipment is on going. The government have trained 30 shoemakers in China and is building a manufacturing complex, partnering with Chinese partners, Bank of Industry and Ministry of Labour to enable SMEs to thrive.

With Aba as a bustling trade and manufacturing hub, Abia State can fully reduce its dependence on federal government allocations and have adequate funds to embark on much needed development. Building roads, proving pipe borne water, housing and ensuring food security are basic elements of development but substantial societal advancement has only been realized through industrial revolutions. Let’s imagine that the shoemakers in Aba control 50% of the shoe market in Nigeria and West Africa. This is the kind of foresight, which justifies the governor’s prioritization of development of Aba.

Abians must not be seduced and stampeded into the trap of creative destruction bamboozled by jejune arguments and flowery words of Alex Otti and Uche Ogah both of who have never held governance positions at state or federal government. A prerequisite, which is necessary for nuanced and functional governance because governance is serious business. The choice of Alex Otti for instance would mean a foray into an era of an inexperienced governor, which will create a period of chaos and stagnation most likely to bring about an ineffective government.  Abians must not condone political brinkmanship from political bigwigs bent on scavenging on the state treasury.

Survey of Abia Voters

Random survey of voters in Aba in a recent visit (October 2018) show that approval rating of OVI has improved from where it was in 2015. It can be located within 60-70%. Over 70% of people respondents adjudged his government the best so far since 1999 in every ramification and most important for being visionary and strategic towards the development of the state. Randomly, many voters expressed their sentiments towards the OVI main contenders in euphemism saying; “the devil they know is better than the angel they don’t know”. Most voters advanced that desperation of OVI’s contenders is a drawback on their ambitions and given that they have expanded fortunes in litigations to challenge OVI’s victory, they would spend the next four years recouping all they have spent. This would result in thwarting of OVI’s vision, which is currently on course.

Vote for Continuity

In conclusion, Abia State voters are sophisticated enough to understand that change doesn’t always result to progress and the intimidating profiles of OVI’s contenders are not better than his profile as a PhD holder. If ThisDay were to carry out a pre-4-year term report today, I am convinced they will award Governor Okezie Ikpeazu “Clear vision, promising start (good)”. Furthermore, I came across an article by Chinedu Ekeke on ynaija.com, a frontline stentorian promoter of Dr Alex Otti (APGA), OVI’s main contender, where he queried that Chief TA Orji administration (2007-2015) could not boast of roads constructed or any meaningful development while challenging OVI’s candidacy in 2015 but today, such a question has a resounding response from the incumbent governor and his supporters who have a plethora of projects and achievements to flaunt. Therefore, it is in the best interest of Abians to vote continuity to enable OVI consolidate on his visionary leadership for the good of the people of Abia State.

ThankGod Ukachukwu (@kcnaija) – IT Consultant and Current Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos

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