ON Saturday, April 25, 2015, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, a former university lecturer was elected Abia governor. And still celebrating his well-deserved victory after a re-run, the one-time chairman of Obingwa Local Government Area and Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) had an exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Associate Editor, UCHE OLEHI.
First was before his election and later in Lagos, where he attended the child dedication ceremony of Abia mogul, Mr. Ike Williams. That was on Sunday, May 3, 2015. From his expectations and fears before the Abia guber rerun to his sweet victory at the poll, Dr. Ikpeazu gave ENCOMIUM Weekly the idea of the government he would run after his inauguration on Friday, May 29, 2015.
So, how does it feel to be elected governor?
It feels good, especially when no man or woman of Ukwa-Ngwa extraction under the military or civilian regime has ever been elected governor. If the gates of heaven or hell open today, you won’t find a former governor of Ngwa extraction there.
Interestingly, the zone in question has nine out of the 17 local government areas in the state. We also have 65 per cent of the voting population.
You promised to fix Aba if elected governor?
Yes, we will fix Aba. I want to encourage all Nigerians to return to Aba. The city is an economic hub. Aba is more like a confluence town. From Aba you can access five states in just 30 minutes!
From Aba you can get to Port Harcourt (Rivers), Uyo (Akwa Ibom), Owerri (Imo), Enugu, Onitsha (Anambra), etc.
Aba is important to us. Please, come to Aba. We would be business like. When you come to do business in Abia, nobody would joke with your time. For us in Aba Government House, it’s strictly business. We won’t have the time for chieftaincy titles or courtesy visits. We have serious work at hand.
What were your expectations as the Abia guber rerun was going on?
I was very optimistic. And my optimism was hinged on the fact that after the April 11 guber poll, we were leading with over 83,000 votes. A rerun was ordered in some polling units. That was for 175,537 possible votes, not those with PVCs. That means we were looking at about 150,000 PVC wielding voters. Don’t also forget that some of these potential voters have joined their ancestors. Some also relocated. Again, there is the usual apathy which reduces the number of voters. So, we were confident we would win again.
It’s obvious you are generally accepted by all Abians across the three geo-political zones. So, what’s your message for them?
I’m indeed overwhelmed by the support across all the local government areas all through our campaigns. It would be noted that 24 hours to the election, the PPA guber candidate endorsed us. He even went on to streets campaigning for Abia people to come out and vote. By April 11, we already had more than 25 per cent of votes in at least 16 out of the 17 LGs in the state. That showed that our vision and narrative to Abians were well accepted. I also feel a huge sense of responsibility on my shoulder to make sure I don’t disappoint the common and ordinary people who voted for me. I belong to the middle class. The rich people are very few. I will make sure the middle class is not extinguished.
How do you intend to carry along the people of Abia North who didn’t vote for you?
What you said is not entirely true. We were beaten in Abia North marginally with less than 1,000 votes. If my supporters didn’t work hard, the margin would have been wider. I’m very, very sensitive to every local government and community in Abia State. I’m from Abia South, my running mate is from Abia North, so, going forward I will treat all manner of people equally. I will go out of my way to protect Abia people and their businesses wherever they live. Every Abian is my responsibility.
What were your fears?
My fear was the fear of every mortal. The fear of magical figures (laughs). Apart from that, sincerely speaking, I have express faith in God.
What are you going to do to diffuse the tension generated by the bitter guber election?
The tension would diffuse naturally because it was created. It is not natural. It’s artificial if we were declared the winner on April 11, the tension wouldn’t be there. I only advise those of us who play politics to tone down their level of desperation. We should put our people before our interest. We should all take a cue from what President Jonathan did. I’m not desperate about anything.
– UCHE OLEHI