ON Friday, May 29, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu was sworn-in as Abia’s 4th Executive Governor. And with a pledge to transform the state, the new Governor’s inaugural speech has been eliciting interest and passion among stakeholders.
Held at Abia International Conference Centre, the swearing in ceremony witnessed by many continued with a Thanksgiving Service at Umuahia Township Stadium. In his speech at the event which attracted thousands of Abians, as well as guests from all parts of the world, Governor Ikpeazu thanked them for giving them their mandate.
“My beloved Abians, I am humbled by the great and onerous responsibility you have bestowed on me to serve you and lead our State as the 4th democratically elected Governor, to develop her potentials and achieve our collective dream of uplifting the life of every Abian. I accept it with a heart full of love and commitment for our dear state. I regard it as the highest honor to lead Abia at this time in our democratic journey. I pledge to use all my strength and ability to live up to your expectation of me, as your Governor,” he began.
“As we acknowledge our electoral achievement, let us remind ourselves that it is not so much a victory of one party over another but a celebration of our democracy and our collective resolve to deepen and sustain it in Abia and Nigeria. We thank God and our great party men and women who through their selfless efforts and hard work contributed to our victory. I salute you! Your clamour for an even and effective distribution of our common wealth is captured in our slogan “Okezuo Abia”. Your desire and aspirations shall drive our actions in Government.”
Dr. Ikpeazu whose speech was heralded with cheers and jubilation also acknowledged the input of his predecessor, Chief T. A. Orji and other stakeholders in his emergence as Governor.
“I am personally indebted to the immediate past Governor of Abia State, His Excellency Theodore Ahamefula Orji, the people of Abia, who came out in hundreds of thousands under rain and sun, in long queues for many hours, to elect me. These include mothers, fathers, youths, market women, trade unions and town unions, the Peoples Democratic Party on whose platform I have been elected and given this mandate Ndi Eze, religious leaders…and many others out there. May God continue to bless you.”
Also, noteworthy is Ikpeazu’s extension of hand of fellowship to his main rival at the Abia guber polls, Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
“I extend the hand of fellowship to our brothers and sisters in other parties, who contested with us in the elections. I share these words of Tom Wilson, for our benefit, “Many of us are more capable than some of us…but none of us is as capable as all of us.” We are all winners. We all desire the upliftment of the living standard of our people and for Abia State to achieve greatness. Now is the time to set aside our differences and work together to deliver the greatness we recognise in ourselves and aspire to for all of us.”
He added: “Our dear State is known as ‘God’s own State’ and the time has come for us to explore and optimize fully all the resources and advantages that God has bestowed on us. The resourcefulness and diligence of our people, our unique geographical location and natural resources must be developed and utilized to the collective benefit of our people and those around us.
“To the glory of God, the hitherto pervasive insecurity which plagued Abia in years past has been reversed, thanks to the diligence of our dear Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji. Ochendo, his commitment to ensuring the entrenchment of security, peace and equity in our state is very much appreciated and we shall build on that Legacy to transform our state.
“Our story as a people is one of entrepreneurship, resourcefulness and diligence. This is our pride. We have astounded the world with our homegrown technical skills, especially during a period of pervasive adversity, and followed it up with our trade and commercial prowess elevating one of our cities, Aba, into a prominent commercial hub within the West African region. This historic renown is to become our future narrative. The time is ripe to use the over 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers as a launching pad to enable Abia to truly become the undisputed SME capital of Nigeria.
“I agree with the view of the great American industrialist, Harvey Firestone, ‘The growth and development of people is our highest calling of leadership.’
“Great Abians, our administration is fully committed to providing the enabling environment and infrastructure to facilitate the growth and development of Abia and its people; positioning it as a premier residential, business and tourism destination, with the ultimate objective of uplifting the lives of our people. It is achievable!!! But it requires our collective commitment, sacrifices and contributions, ‘ka oke zuo onye obula’ as well as upholding our values of Being God fearing, Belief in Abia, Integrity, Innovation and Quality.
“Aba was for many years a thriving hub for manufacturing and commerce until epileptic electricity supply and insecurity forced the shutdown of most of our indigenous and foreign owned industries. We must therefore recognize and appreciate the efforts of the Geometric Power Group and the Federal Government’s NIPP project at Alaoji towards providing a solution to the perennial challenges of electricity supply to our state. The forthcoming operationalisation of these plants will provide a critical input towards the actualization of our blueprint and roadmap for the regeneration of Aba and the entire Abia State. We shall pursue it with vigor.
“In line with our commitment to strengthening the existing security situation in the state, we will continue to provide support to the law enforcement agencies to improve and sustain a more efficient incident response time and introduce contemporary technology-based solutions to assist in the enhancement of Security. This is the dawn of the new Abia.”
The Governor also identified the four enablers or facilitators of economic and social development, which include, Ease of Business and Governance, Security Pledge and Healthcare Pledge.
“Our land Abia is blessed with its strategic geographic location and direct accesses to 7 other states. We can regain our status as a major commercial and transport hub in the South-East/South-South region of Nigeria. We have opportunities to forge partnerships that enable us all to implement economic goals, drive accelerated growth in our key economic sector so our hopes and dreams are achieved.”
“These sectors include:
Agriculture – Our land is blessed, fertile and is supportive of agriculture. My government will actively engage and support agriculture activities especially in mechanized farming of Cassava, Rice, and Palm Oil in line with the Federal Government’s programs and our state’s areas of natural advantage. In addition to the creation of a Commodity Marketing System, we will support our small farmers through organized cooperatives, agricultural extension services and partnerships with foreign donor agencies and development finance institutions. We will actively procure FG funds targeted at the agricultural areas we want to focus on and also encourage large-scale farmers to invest.
Trade and Commerce – Our heritage and source of pride will be reinvigorated because this Government’s pledge is to work towards accelerated growth in trading and commercial activities. We will support this with business initiatives including the regeneration of Aba and redevelopment of the Ariaria market. Key to this drive will be the involvement of all parts of the state. 13 other identified major markets across the state will be upgraded with modern structures and improved access roads.
Start-Up Business – By the year 2016, Abia State through Aba should be able to supply the Military, Customs, NPF, Immigration, and NYSC all their uniforms and foot wear.
Manufacturing – We will make those working in these sectors realise their true potential and make Nigeria and us proud. As a priority, we will facilitate the rebuilding of major manufacturing companies and plants across the state by leveraging the two power plants in the state. Industrial hubs will be created where Public-Private Partnerships can provide necessary infrastructure. Access to finance and markets are areas of SME development will be given significant attention. The new Marketing Board will help globalize our leather and garment industries, set up standards organization modeled after SON and aimed at ensuring that ‘Made in Aba’ becomes 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.
Oil & Gas – Abia State will become a major logistics base if we exploit the Federal Government initiatives and policies in the petroleum industry and our proximity to the major oil producing neighboring states. As an oil-bearing state we have the opportunity and will facilitate also the exploration of existing and potential hydrocarbon reserves for the benefit of our people. Establishment of an industrial Gas city at Owaza to serve as a basin for gas related industries and businesses.
Education and People – Our people are our pride and strength and building them will continually be a major thrust of my administration. Everyone, especially the youth, can benefit from qualitative formal and informal education that develops knowledge, skills and competencies. We will access all available intervention funds nationally and internationally to transform the educational sector in Abia, upgrade existing and create new technical training programs ranging from basic artisan to advanced ICT skills and provide our young with employable capabilities thus empowering them to uplift their standard of living through self-sufficiency. In my first 100 days in office the Boys Technical College in Aba will receive significant attention aimed at enabling it provide certificate programmes in carefully chosen vocational areas including garment and shoe making. In the long term they will be significant private sector involvement in BTC.
Sports – We will create a strong Marketing arm to commercialize the iconic image of Eyimba and Warriors. We have to reactivate schools sports and re-ignite the Academicals.
“Still in the area of advancing the capabilities (i.e. skills and mindsets of our people) this administration will institute an Eyimba Carnival. We will rebuild our cultural environment with a large elephant in the lead. This carnival will be a show of our rich culture and our commercial creativity and will be held every December starting from next year.
“This government intends to be firm in plugging all revenue leakages alongside developing new channels. I call on all sons and daughters of Abia to key into this by ensuring that they fulfill their statutory obligation to pay all their taxes timely. We will restructure our Inland Revenue Service to become a strategic contributory parastatal in the actualization of our vision for Abia. We will bring private sector competence and mindset to this agency thus paving the way for significantly increased IGR levels. With this, our vision for better life for our people can be realized.
“In addition to all the above this administration will emphasize the following:
The Judiciary We will provide all necessary logistic, financial, human capacity and operational support to maintain a strong, efficient and equitable judicial system in Abia State.
Legislature, Traditional Rulers and Religious Leaders We will strive to have an excellent relationship with the legislature to ensure we bring to fore the best policies for our state and its citizens. I will organize a workshop in my early days to socialize my economic blueprint to the members of the house to ensure we get their full buy in. Our traditional rulers and religious leaders will also be engaged from time to time to ensure a holistic partnership is achieved across board. In fact our blueprint will be hosted on the Abia State website for everyone, home and abroad to have full visibility of.
Citizen and private sector engagement My government will embark on targeted meetings with citizens. I will also inaugurate the Abia Economic Advisory Council in my first week in office. This body will be made responsible for advising my team on the policies to adopt. This is best practice and is a way for several leaders regardless of party affiliation to have an avenue to contribute to the progress of our dear state.
“We must make it work for all of us. I want to call on our sons and daughters in the diaspora, Abians in the organized private sector, Abians at home, the organized private sector in Nigeria and the Federal Government to engage and partner with us in the development of our state. “Individual commitment to a group effort.” That is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Those are the wise words of Vince Lombardi, the great American sports coach.
“I ask our brothers and sisters in diaspora to key into opportunities that emerge – bring your investment funds, but more importantly afford us the benefits of your knowledge, insights and experiences. We will greatly appreciate them. Start an office or a new business in Abia today and you would have started making your support count immediately.
“Finally, my beloved Abians, ask of us the same high standards of character and sacrifice that we have promised you, because I am most optimistic, that with good conscience as our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, and with God on our side we will provide the leadership that we all will be proud of.”
Meanwhile, the inauguration of the governor has elicited much expectation from Abia people who had been yearning for good governance.
Some of them ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with expressed optimism the new Governor would deliver.
“The new Governor has a job at hand and can’t afford to disappoint Abians. I can assure you Dr. Ikpeazu is capable of steering the ship of Abia state,” a PDP stalwart Dr. Chiemeala Erondu said.
Similarly, member representing Obingwa West Constituency, Barrister Thomas Nkoro has also expressed confidence in Dr. Ikpeazu whose inaugural speech he adjudged a blue- print for Abia development.
In his reaction former Obingwa Local Government boss and grass root politician, Hon. Erondu U. Erondu said Abians should be happy with the election of Dr. Ikpeazu.
“Dr. Ikpeazu is a seasoned academic and administrator and we’re abundantly blessed with such a personality at the helm of affairs. From his speech, you can affirm he has a broad development agenda,” the one-time Personal Assistant to Abia Deputy Governor, Comrade Chris Akomas added.
Also lending his voice, Chairman Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Eze Eberechukwu Dick commended Abians for electing an Ngwa man Governor many decades after the creation of the state. The monarch also pledged the support and loyalty of the people of the state.
Dr. Ikpeazu hosted guests at a state Banquet after which he proceeded to his Umuobiakwa, Obingwa home town where his kinsmen and political associates congregated to receive him.
The Governor worshipped with Seven-Days Adventist Church, Abayi, Aba the following morning, being Saturday, May 30.
He was in Umunneochi Local Government on Sunday, May 31, while he resumed work on Monday, June 1.
On Friday, May 29, 2015, governors elected on April 28 were sworn-in at their various state capitals. General Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) were also inaugurated President and Vice President that same day at Eagle Square, Abuja.
– By UCHE OLEHI who was in Umuahia, Abia State