The history of the development of Abia State would be incomplete without the achievements of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu led administration between 2015 – 2023 being remembered.
Abia State which clocks 30 years on 27th August 2021 has been administered by military administrators and governors with Frank Ajobena being the first military administrator and Ogbonnaya Onu being the first Civilian Governor.
Other military administrators include, Chinyere Ike Nwosu, Temi Ejoor, Moses Fasanya, Anthony Obi while, Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Ahamefula Orji were democratically elected governors.
From May 29th 2015, when Governor Ikpeazu took over the mantle of leadership of Abia State, he presented a blueprint which he tagged his pillars of development within which his government hinges it’s developmental agenda. These include: Agriculture, Small and Medium Scale Enterprise, Oil and Gas, Education and Commerce.
However, six years into the eight year tenure of Governor Ikpeazu, the state has matched words with actions by vigorously pursuing it’s aim of bringing development to all facets of the state’s economy.
Although many critics went to the cleaners to assess the governor’s achievement so far but present indications prove that the governor has placed Abia towards the path of national attention and development to the envy of other states; a feat that has attracted awards to the state as the fastest growing Small and Medium Scale hub while the governor himself who is the brand ambassador has received various awards for his outstanding vision and doggedness in pursuing his agenda for the state.
Though previous administrations had contributed to the Abia developmental project, the Ikpeazu administration has added further impetus towards achieving the aspirations of the Abia Founding Fathers. When Governor Ikpeazu assumed office, he vowed to reposition Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state by coming up with the “Aba Renewal Project”, a project which made the governor to relocate to Aba with the target of realizing the urban renewal vision of his administration.
According to the governor, if Aba is fixed, developing its infrastructure, the economy of the state would be boosted to encourage SMEs.
Those who are not deep enough in developmental strategies will find it difficult to understand that Aba is at the confluence of South East and South South states and thus cannot be ignored because of its specific economic value as the catchment of business population of millions of people who come to do business in the city from neighboring states like Rivers, Ákwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Imo and other Southeast states.
Suffice it to say that Governor Ikpeazu’s administration pioneered road construction using Cement Technology to tackle the scores of dilapidated roads in Aba. The aggressive construction of link roads to major economic zones in the state has further given momentum to the efforts of the present administration in driving Trade and Commerce which form the fulcrum of the state’s economy.
In the words of the governor, “Why should I be talking about the development of Trade and Commerce or Small and Medium Scale Enterprises without alluding to the roads that lead to the specific economic hub of the state.
“If I am unable to unlock roads leading to Ariaria and other major roads leading to major market places then, I am not serious about Trade and Commerce because the essence is to oil the wheel that moves personnel and goods from one location to another.
“Nothing drives somebody away from a marketplace as much as bad road, so if I get Aba right, I probably would be able to generate enough revenue to develop other parts of the state.”
The economic plan of Governor Ikpeazu in road infrastructure is paying off. Today, in Aba, the roads which are of economic value has created access for Trade and Commerce while efforts by the government aimed at improving security have all led to Abia becoming a choice destination for both local & foreign investors.
The commitment of the Ikpeazu administration to support SME development, creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, equipping the youths through the creation of Industrial Clusters, Empowerment, Skills Acquisition programmes in leather works, Garment and Automated shoemaking and promotion and expansion of Made-In-Aba Products have earned Abia State the SME Capital of Nigeria.
Also the promotion of Made-In-Aba Products has given local manufacturers the necessary resources including grants, training them abroad, etc, which has led to increased patronage even by foreign clients.
In addition to that, more than 3,000 street lights installed in the city by the present administration to activate night economy in the city and support security improvement should interest investors in businesses that operate late into the night, and also those involved in the informal economy of the city where beer parlors and other joints make fortunes at night.
These businesses, no matter how little, form the fulcrum of MSMEs that form the pedestal for sustainable empowerment of the people in particular and the state’s economic growth in general.
“Let me reiterate without mincing words that I’m proud of our achievements as a government so far in critical areas of human capital & infrastructural development for which our great state, Abia, has been rated highly by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which uses hard incontrovertible facts & figures to measure the socioeconomic performances of governments.
“Our efforts to reposition Abia for greater opportunities are surely yielding the desired results and the inflow of FDIs to the state is a confirmation that we are on the right track.
“It is not for nothing that in 2020, despite how COVID-19 ravaged world economy, and when 26 other states of the federation received ZERO Foreign Direct Investment, Abia received the 3rd largest FDI of $56m only after Lagos and Abuja.
“Such feats can only continue to strengthen our resolve to remain focused on doing the right things that will continue to bring prosperity to our land and its people and not be distracted by criticisms that are devoid of any known economic indices but only pander to emotions and politics.
“Foreign investors do not go to invest in a state because they like the face of the governor or because you advertise your state on TV. No! They come because they carry out their own independent studies of government seriousness and efforts at growing the state’s economy through human capital & infrastructural development among others. If government has provided the necessary favourable business environment through these means, then they will come without much ado. That is what we have been doing in Abia, and the result shows”, Ikpeazu maintained.
What the Ikpeazu administration has done in many sectors of the state’s economy speak for itself. For instance, in Education, Governor Ikpeazu’s investment in the sector has seen Abia return first in notable international examinations including the West African Senior Schools Certificate Exam (WASSCE) for five years consecutively.
Abia State under the leadership of Governor Ikpeazu also revived the once moribund state scholarship board where Abia students are granted scholarships to undertake overseas training, a move aimed at bridging the gap in specialised areas of study, especially in science related courses.
In the Health sector, the governor’s unrelenting efforts to provide premium healthcare services to Abians has rapidly advanced the health indices of the population in Abia State thereby putting the state on a national scale as among the leading destination for acquiring affordable, qualitative and sound Healthcare delivery. Needless to say that the Ikpeazu administration has provided affordable and accessible healthcare services at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The implication is that rural dwellers would no longer travel to far places to seek medical services.
The decision of the Governor Ikpeazu to push for the establishment of a Dry Port project for the state rather than an airport is borne out of the need to solve shipment and logistics problems encountered by businesses in the South East. This would in addition create a myriad of employment opportunities for the youths. The realization of a Dry Port project would also create a better life for the people as well push the frontiers of development in the state’s economy.
Also the Enyimba Economic City Project by the present administration, a viable project capable of providing 700,000 job opportunities for Abians will also promote socio-economic development within the South East Zone while the Goemetric power project, when fully operational will ensure steady supply of power in Aba and its environs and give more zest to the Enyimba Economic City.
While the present administration continues to push the frontiers of development and bring democracy dividends to the people, Governor Ikpeazu sums up his resolve to vigorously pursue his agenda for the state when he said: “our people are eager for development and our government will explore fully the opportunities available for the development of the state.”