Dr Okezie Ikpeazu speaks on creation of Abia state and the incarceration of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu

Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, in this interview shares his thoughts on 30 years of the creation of the state, the incarceration of the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, why Ndigbo must not actualise the plans of their enemies by shutting South-East economy down, and the politics of Abia among others.

 

Abia State would be 30 years as a state on August 27. Do you think Abia has done well?

I will say that Abia is a work in progress, like every other State. Abia is evolving and we have made progress.

We have moved away from where we were 30 years ago but we could do better. We are certainly perhaps not where we would love to be, but in all aspects of our lives we have made progress in terms of development; and I think Abia is looking upward and forward. I am particularly thrilled with the new narrative that is emerging from Abia State. We are now known, once you mention Abia, what would come to the fore is industrious, resilient, peaceful people, and that is the platform upon which whatever progress you want to make rest.

 

Among Abia founding Fathers, who are your role models?

Certainly Abia is a land of great people. Looking at our anniversary three years ago, I alluded to it, I painted a picture of our past in glorious light. I wanted us to see if we can draw inspiration and strength from the feats of our forefathers and the founding fathers of this state. This state has produced people like General Aguiyi Ironsi who was a foremost soldier and Patriot, who paid the Supreme price to keep Nigeria United.

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This state also produced M. I. Ìkpara, who ran the entire Eastern Region in such a way that the region became the fastest growing economy in the world and his footprints especially in the area of agriculture are very bold and golden.

 

 


In contemporary times, Abia state have had people like Anagha Ezikpe, late Eze Enweremmadu, Jaja Nwachukwu, Chief Ururuka, etc, This place is blessed with very brilliant, worthy statesmen, hardworking and resilient people especially in the area of trade, commerce, SME, even in public service. So, I have a whole lot of people, founding fathers, we can draw inspirations and hope from to do better as their grandchildren and children.

 

On his infrastructural development plan for Abia

I love to bequeath a one stop shop in terms of health with special emphasis on kidney and heart diseases. We have set up a paediatric specialist hospital for mother and child and I am happy to announce to you that we have waited for almost a year to take delivery of the equipment because of COVID-19; two containers just arrived, yesterday. We are expecting delivery of two more from America and with that I can say that before the end of this year, we will have our ultra modern paediatric hospital.

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We will also like to put in place an ultra modern laboratory in Abia North, which will be sited at Isuikwuato General Hospital to cover all the medical needs of those in the entire area of Abia North Senatorial District. The strategy is to make sure that our diagnostic capacity is enough to handle the medical needs in the entire five local government areas of Abia North.

 

We want to make sure that our diagnostic backbone is strong enough to support modern day clinical diagnosis so that clinical intervention will not be scarce and our people will be healthier. We will also bequeath a new Government House. We will complete that government house and probably before the first quarter of next year we would finish it and are hopeful for all other projects.

 

So, I am happy to acknowledge the great signs that our interventions have delivered in the area of small and medium scale enterprises, SME. I remember between 2015 and 2016, I shared my vision that I wanted Abia to be a repository of skilled manpower for small and medium enterprises especially in the leather and garment sub sector. I am very happy and proud to say today, that some citizens of this state, have been offered appointments and in fact, some of them have started leaving the shores of Nigeria to work in shoe factories in Dubai, courtesy of footwear academy and our interventions in the ENASCO Enyimba Automated shoe factory.

 

And I am also happy to say that the Enyimba Automated Garment Factory will also come on stream by the special grace of God before the end of this year. It is going to be one of the biggest garment factories in this country; about 250 pieces of machinery which means that it will employ nearly 500 young tailors and garment makers here. We have also received proposals from individuals who want to open a made-in-Aba shop in the UK, so, our narrative has completely changed, and I am happy to inform us that we will continue to work in this trajectory so that in no distant time, Abia and Abians will be known for what we do with our hands.

 

 


The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, said there is going to be total lockdown in the South-East today. What is your take?

I want to say that for the first time since this agitation started, the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, which is the leading Pan-Igbo socio-Cultural group, has expressed serious interest in making sure that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu gets fair judgement and a powerful delegation led by Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, was sent there and they are monitoring the trials. Our government is also monitoring and in contact with the family and other concerned institutions. What it means is that collectively, all of us are interested that Nnamdi Kanu will be given a fair trial and if the interest of IPOB represents the interest of the masses of this geo political zone, it means that we must not do anything that will seem as if we want to cut our nose to spite our face.

 

What will be the logic behind asking our children not to go to school? On Monday they will be writing mathematics in NECO examination which is national. What will be the logic behind asking our people not to go out to eke out a living? We are already crying that we are marginalized and also pressed hard by the consequences of COVID-19 and #EndSars protests. If our children and grand-children become illiterates in the future, have we hurt our perceived enemies in anywhere?

 

Let me say this on record, if we have enemies anywhere, I believe there is a way to address them. If we have people that are waging war against us, and then our response is that we will not go to market and school, whatever they are doing to ensure that we behave in that way, they will do it. So, this will be counter-productive against Mazi Nnamdi Kanu because withholding him can affect our economic base and make us illiterates. I think it is not the right thing to do; it should not even be a contemplation. Therefore, I will urge everybody to go about their normal business.

 

The political atmosphere is agitated as politicians are aligning and realigning. What is your political disposition?

If you watch and see my disposition in politics, you will notice I try to be a little bit different. My disposition in this regard dovetail from the fact that I am not persuaded because of pecuniary reasons in any way. I think I am driven by my desire to create a difference and better life for my people. If am driven by something personal then, jumping around would have been in contemplation. But I will only follow the interest of my people and that is the interest I will serve. My advice is that we all exercise restraint. 2015 is not like 2019 and 2019 is not going to be like 2023. One parameter that has changed is that we have economic and security problems. It calls for caution both in disposition, behaviour and utterance from every leader. We must not betray ourselves in such a way so as to aggravate the existing tension. That is my take. I solicit and call for caution while we wait for what God will unfold for 2023.

 

 


The APC said it doesn’t believe in zoning, does your party believe in zoning?

We are not looking at what APC is doing. Our manifesto is different from APC. APC behaves in the way that they feel will suit their agenda. My party, PDP, will also behave and do what we believe, which is equity and justice.

 

Are you worried that Ebubeagu is yet to take off in the South-East?

No, I think it has taken off in most states. The problem is that those who are watching the socio-political firmament have come up with stereotypes and expectations, which according to them, are not being met and therefore are expecting a completely different thing. Having said that, why you have not heard something so much about it is because the contraption called Ebubeagu is designed to respond according to the peculiar circumstances of every state.

 

Abia State Ebubeagu cannot reflect Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra or Imo Ebubeagu because our security challenges are not the same both in diagnosis and outlook. They are different. But we converge at a point where we want to share intelligence so that the identified criminals in those states are same. We can deploy economics of scale so that we can procure pieces of equipment that can serve our geopolitical zone without having to replicate expenditure in all the states.

 

Let me embellish my comments in this regards with what is happening in Abia. Just a few days ago, we officially inaugurated our Ebubeagu but we played down the relevance in the media because based on the strategic role envisaged for Ebubeagu the location is in the forest, and inside the bushes in our various communities. Their strategic response is to provide the various security units with intelligence, so, I will not because I want to please my spectators begin to dance naked in the market. The spectators include those who want my survival and those who don’t.

 

Those who expected us to bring out fierce looking people clad in lion skin and dance in the market square will not see such a thing. But they have gone to work, all of them have android phones, we have mobilized them, they are highly mobile, and we have worked out a communication channel to monitor every inch of our forests. We will continue to adjust until such a time when we can say we are happy the deed has been done. But I want to encourage you by saying, if the essence of Ebubeagu is to ensure peace and tranquility, safety of lives and properties, then it is very effective in Abia because we have peace, tranquility and people are going about their businesses.

Our Ebubeagu is working, if you want to see them, we will make them available for you to see but they will not dance naked in the market.

 

 


In a recent interview, you said you would be neutral in the search for your successor. Why did you choose to be neutral?

I have said time and again that I dare to be different in many respects. My position in this particular instance is that all those who influenced the emergence of their successors, 99% of them are not happy. My faith in God has revealed to me that power is important and crucial that God cannot leave it entirely in the hands of men. So, why would I want to do that which God would ordinarily want to do? Those are my comments for now. But I want to say that these months, these remaining months, as far as I am concerned are as important as my first month in office.

 

I need to focus and work hard for the remaining months of my tenure. I don’t want to abridge my tenure because I am expecting anybody to come. Let the person who wants to take over go and carry his cross, I won’t carry anybody’s cross for him. Yesterday (Thursday), as late as 11pm I was monitoring what was happening at Opobo Road in Aba.

My contractors were out there working; you hardly can see a second term Governor rolling out contractors working by 11pm in the night. That should tell you the zeal and urgency that I have brought to bear in everything we are doing and the fact that I believe every minute of my administration counts towards my administration and not towards that of any other person.

Are there projects you would have loved to carry out but because of paucity of funds you cannot?

There are so many of them. My message is that every person in my position would have loved to do so many things that money or circumstances couldn’t allow them do. I am in serious prayer about our Dry port project. It’s a project after my heart, and I’m believing God to make it happen. If you recall, I demonstrated preference for that dry port to an Airport because we are surrounded by airports that are 30 minutes to one hour away from Abia.

What we do not have in this region is a dry port and my people are importers. I want to give my people what they need and not what the elites want. 90% of our traders would rather have a dry port, a port of final destination where goods can come from China and all over the world and they clear it in our state here. So, that is what my prayers are.

I want to say that Abia has moved forward seriously irrespective of what the naysayers are saying. I will give you some instance; whoever is going to be governor after me in 2023 will not go back to the roads we have done. We are building roads that will outlive us for the first time in many years. We are going to have a geometrical rise in the road stock of our infrastructure, meaning that if I do 250 roads the next person will continue from there, and so on.

 

 


I want to be remembered as the person who started that course of event by ensuring deployment of rigid pavement technology with drainages on all our roads. That’s the way to go. I will also love to see our people embrace in greater number, our Abia Telehealth Initiative where you can sit at the comfort of your home leveraging the advantages of Tele density to access advanced medicare.

 

The State owned football team, Enyimba, achieved a feat last Thursday, coming from a distant position to land a Continental ticket: does it say anything about Abia spirit?

I congratulate Enyimba and Abia Warriors for the wonderful feat. When I go to talk to them privately, I will tell them they could have wrapped up their position long before now. Three unfortunate slips at home were not good for Enyimba.

We were busy concentrating on winning our matches away, I think Enyimba ended up with the best away record in the league this time, which is good but such record is important, relative to the log, if you win your home matches as well. If we had won all our home matches that would have been a great success. The third thing I would love to add is we need to score more goals. When the chips are down and you have two, three teams contending same position, at the top, goal differences begin to count. We have to go back to our scoring ways so that we can have two, three, four players contending for the highest goal scorer from the team in the national league. Having said that, I am proud of their performance in the league, it could have been worse.

 

I want to encourage them by saying that with their pedigree as champions, they should know that they have to work hard to remain on top because people are taking aim and firing at them from every angle. Every club in Nigeria wants to beat Enyimba, it’s a thing of pride. In fact some clubs will prefer to beat Enyimba and be relegated. It’s not a mean feat to be a champion. They should up their game and remain on top there.

 

There are rumours of the Cancelation of of Ndiegoro Flood mediation Project, what do you have to say?

There is nothing like cancelation of Ndiegoro Flood mediation project. I want to say in the first place that this government has spent a lot of time to open up our state for intervention with the World Bank. Incidentally World Bank intervention comes with some conditionalities including fiscal responsibility, transparency, sufficiently open Government etc.

The whole Ndiegoro story started in 2015 when I personally led a team of relevant government officials to the world Bank to say to them, can you come and see how we keep our books so that we can align with global best practices. They came and worked with us for 8 months. Since that time, not only have we engaged the Wold Bank through NEWMAP, AFRICAN Development Bank, IFC, all this funding agencies are either collaborating with us in Enyimba Economic City or in our infrastructure renewal agenda.

We are happy to say that the NEWMAP project in Ndiegoro is an ongoing project, but the challenge of that project is that the NEWMAP intervention project in Nigeria that was designed to last for 22 months, which was supposed to be officially closed in July, but all of us (states) went to World Bank, Me and other Governors, to appeal to them to extend the project time and it was extended by 11 months, and they are now reviewing the projects , project by project.

They now found out that Abia State projects being the biggest in Nigeria, is at a point now where we may not be able to conclude all the components of the projects in the scope or work within the 11 months that is remaining. And the components of the project that is being threatened has to do with tunneling beneath buildings in Ndiegoro area of about 5.2 kilometers.

 

 


It’s a massive project and requires a machine called Tunnel Borin machine (TBM) that is being manufactured for us in Dubai. This TBM machines are produced project specific as against mass production. There are engineering specifications. The TBN machines used in South Africa may not completely fit the purpose of the one they want to use at Ndiegoro. We needed them to use this particular machine to avoid bringing down many buildings and it takes about 6 months to deal with it.

 

If you add 3 months for shipping and clearing, that would be 9 months, and we just have 4 months in the NEWMAP timeline for all Nigeria projects. What the World Bank is asking is, can we in 4 months, assuming everything works at the snap of a finger now, do the 5.2 kilometers boring and Tunneling beneath houses at Ndiegoro, from Umuagbai, to waterside?

 

I have my fears regarding whether that can happen. But we are working with World Bank to deploy other options. One of the options is for us to now go to surface or open drainage and move Storm water from Ndiegoro because the problem is for us to do critical roads and take water away from Ndiegoro area. The other option is to agree with the World Bank and combine with them to see how much of a work we can do within the 11 months and see what is left.

 

Sincerely speaking, as the leader of this state, I think, if you give me 11 months and part of the money that World Bank has mapped out for the project, in Ndiegoro, I will rather use my 11 months to do Ngwa, Port Harcourt, Obohia, Ohanku roads, and also use surface drain to take water away from Ndiegoro which I can achieve in eleven months than to wait, for the company in Dubai to manufacture the machine so I can begin to go underground to do tunneling.

 

So, it’s a decision that all of us must take,. So those who are shouting and saying that the world Bank has withdrawn, my question is, what did they do to attract the World Bank in the First place? The answer is nothing. How have they shown concern for Ndiegoro people threatened by flood every year? The answer is nothing.

 

Their prayer and wish every day that World Bank withdraws is to pass a death sentence on our people at Ndiegoro, so, they are the most unpatriotic people on earth. When this kind of thing happen, every right thinking Abian that has empathy should begin to pray to God for us to find a way to deal with Ndiegoro matter and I have demonstrated sufficient concern and empathy as a leader by doing 5 number roads that have not been done since the past 60years in that area and also bringing the World Bank into the Process. So, he who shoots at the sky will shoot farther than he who shoots at the bush. I will continue to aim at the sky.

 

 

Vanguard

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