Critical appraisal of Gov. Ikpeazu's manifesto two years after - by Okechukwu Keshi


Governor Okezie Ikpeazu
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

In ideal political practice, persons aspiring for various political offices are expected to present manifestoes, which reflect both the blue print and directions of their administrations. Manifestoes form critical components of electioneering. This is because it empowers the electorate to hold the leaders accountable on their promises, even when they did not fulfill them or promise bridges where there are no rivers.

Two years into Governor Okezie Ikpeazu's administration, it is pertinent to revisit his manifesto to enable political pundits and observers assess how he has fared. When analysing public policies, it is very imperative to use the words of a leader as strong indices of his performance whether in a short term or long term assessment. Also, time is of esssence in analysing the performance of an administration.

Gov. Ikpeazu's manifesto tagged "MAKING ABIA THE PREMIER BUSINESS DESTINATION IN NIGERiIA, AND WEST AFRICA”, was anchored on the mission of "elevating the quality of life of Abians", and vision of " making Abia State the premier destination in Nigeria, West and Central Africa; for investors, shoppers, workers and tourists’’.

The basic philosophy driving this objective was captured  thus" As a natural progression, it is critical that over the next 5 to 10 years, we make the ‘leap’ to realize the potential in Abia State and enable it take its natural place as a key growth pillar for Nigeria in particular, and the entire West African sub region in general".

It is basic that a goal must be accompanied by objectives that would drive it to ensure that it is met.Thus, Gov.Ikpeazu proposed to  leverage on areas where the state has comparative strength such as the people of Abia State whom he described as a vibrant people with enterprising spirit and diligence in labour. He promised to make them the core strength and pride of his administration, adding" we shall channel this resource by putting in place a competent leadership team of skilled and proven executors which will complement the energy of our population.

We will also transform the businesses of our very enterprising and skilled populace to achieve scale and world class appeal. That way ‘made in Aba’ will become something to be proud of and not something shoddy; Aba made products in shoe/ leather, garments and other such sectors will be bought in global retail chains and markets. We will have wealthy Abians and residents out of these historical areas of strength. Young men and women will finish school and come to our industrial centres to make a good living knowing they will get their first car in record time".

Again, the geographical location of a people forms their major strength. Abia State is strategically located with access to at least 7 other states across the south-East and South-South, and this  natural accessibilty makes it a choice location for establishing business and accessing other surrounding markets in Nigeria and abroad. It will be recalled that in the past leading corporations such as Bata, Colgate Palmolive, among others had manufacturing concerns in Aba.

Other areas of comparatives advantage are infrastructure where the state plays host to two important power generation plants-Geometric and NIPP, Alaoji. These infrastructure if optimally harnessed will make power available to industries and  will form a major attraction to businesses . Another infrastructure of note is the railway infrastructure traversing the state.

It is a fact that an excellent low cost transportation system presents an advantage for businesses to transact and evacuate cheaply. So, the strategic location of Abia State is further enhanced by the railway infrasture which we will leverage to transform our cities into a logistics hub in Nigeria and neighboring African countries.

In governance, Gov. Ikpeazu proposed to institute a government structure that is private-sector friendly, accountable and transparent, which will go a long way in attracting both institutional and private investors, as well as increasing the ease of doing business in the State; while in safety, the governor promised to empower the security agencies to ensure that the vatmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state.

It is worthy to note here that Gov. Ikpeazu's administration is running on five pillars or  thematic areas, namely AGRICULTURE, TRADE & COMMERCE, OIL & GAS, EDUCATION, and INFRASTRUCTURE.In agriculture, the governor promised the following: taking advantage of the State’s natural advantages and focus on major cash and food crops,toto empower the security agencies to ensure that the vatmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state to empower the security agencies to ensure that the vatmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state. empower the security agencies to ensure that the atmosphere of peace and security is sustained across the state. leveraging on the Federal Government’s existin programs covering cocoa, palm oil, cassava and grain/ rice; partnering with local and international agricultural research institutions (Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria -Ibadan, National Root Crops Research Institute – Umudike, National Cereals Research Institute amongst others) to provide advanced seedlings and extension services to small holder farmers;creation of large agro-allied zones for commercial and mechanized farming located within the State’s crop production areas, supported by irrigation, storage and transport infrastructure;facilitate increased investment in the agriculture sector through integrated farming and extending through the value chain; establishment of marketing boards to improve access to market to minimize economic shocks for small holder farmers and indeed all farmers within the state;enhance specialized/ vocational education to produce skilled workers for this industry.

The crucial question is" has Gov. Ikpeazu kept to the promises captured in his manifesto. Time and space will always pose a constraint in one's endeavour to x-ray the governor's achievements in these thematic areas but one would consider a peep into few of these areas. Several metaphors are competing for space to qualify the unprecedented revolution the state has witnessed in road infrastructure. The state is now described as "caterpillar reveolution", infrastructure revolution".

These metaphors reflect the unequalled transformation road infrastrucure has undergone in two years since the current democratic dispensation in the state.Scores of roads have either being reconstructed, rehabilitated or constructed with scores ongoing and some have just been flagged-off; bridges have been built- this time around not where there is no existence of water but where there is physical presence of water; the historic "Osisioma Interchange" is on course.

 Aba has now assumed an international brand that almost all celebrities in the country are struggling to market. Billboards of highly- acclaimed celebrities in the country marketing made-in- Aba wears is now the trend. The city has been restored to its glory and has assumed the Small and Medium Scales (SMEs) hub of the country. The prowess of Aba artisans is now echoed across the globe and now manifest in the quality of footwears they produce.

 It has been magnificent in the agricultural sector.Abia's economy in few years ahead would be substantially driven by oil palm.The state targets to develop 7.5million palm seedlings occupying 10,000 of oil palm plantation across the state.The project will come in phases. The first phase will produce 2 million seedlings. The second phase is projected to record 3 million seedlings, while the last lap will produce the rest 2.5 million seedlings.

The state is as well embarking on massive plantation of other economic crops such as ginger, pineapple and cassava, and Ohambele in Ukwa East Local Government Area of the state has mapped for the production of ginger and pineapple. Worthy of note here is that close to 2 million palm oil seeds have already been planted at Ayaba Umueze in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area. The state has also deployed latest specie of oil seedling called tenera which was bred by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).Tenera, which is a hybrid variety obtained by crossing Dura and Pisifera,  is a much better variety for industrial and economic purposes.

 Gov. Ikpeazu's has also launched the "Education for Employment" ,E4E, programme. The  concept of this programme is to that education leads to employment by imbuing the youths with the technical skills that would enable them become either self-employed or sought after by others.The Programme is to boost the current status as a Small and Medium Scale Entrepresises(SME) capital of the country where all kinds of equipment and devices will be imported to boost shoes and garments production.

Another essence of the programme is to launch Abia to technical education.The Programme would be replicated in primary schools across the produce primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.The Programme is designed to be replicated in primary schools across the state, and for primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.

Recently, the state commenced the training over 36,000 registered participants of the. The participants are expected to be trained in various skill areas. On the other hand, the programme is expected to locate jobs for those wishing to go into paid employment as well offer start up materials for those wishing to stand alone as well as offer monthly stipends to the trainees. The training will cover a four- month period for for each stream and is taking place simultaneously at 13 locations across the 17 local government areas of the state.

There is a consensus that all these feats, according to a popular litotes "are no mean feats. Gov. Ikpeazu has faithfully kept to an appreciable percentage of promises captured in his manifesto in two years of his administration, no wonder scores of prominent individuals and groups have started adopting for a second term. In the political parlance they say that" one good term deserves another".

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