By Ubani Newman Ubani (UNU)
QUOTE: “We run what I like to refer to as a research based government, research based in the sense that we don’t just take decisions out of sentiments, we try to see what the data we have speaks to…
We did some researches and we asked, what are those things we can do in Abia which other states can’t do or if they can attempt to do it, we have comparative and competitive advantage over them?
So, we did a bit of study and said WE ARE THE BEST TRADERS IN THE WORLD, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT AWAY, WE’RE THE BETTER TRADERS THAN THE LEBANESE. This is how trade and commerce became one of our main focuses.” – Governor Okezie Ikpeazu_____________________
Plato, a well known philosopher while
recollecting the speech Socrates gave at his trial was credited with the quote, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. Hence, the need to reflect on one’s activities and programmes as well as promises from time to time. One of the campaign promises of the Abia Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu was to promote the ‘can do spirit’ and entrepreneurial instinct of Abia people, especially the youths. Little wonder, he decided to make trade & commerce cardinal point of his developmental agenda.
Within the last three years in office, this dedicated scholar in governance, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Ph.D, Abia people and residents have seen rapid transformation in many sectors of the economy. More interestingly, the trade & commerce sub sector of the economy as well as Micro, Small & Medium Enterprise(MSME) have received logical boost.
Apart from carving out separate Ministries for Trade value& Commerce and that of Small & Medium Scale Enterprise, the Governor has changed the narrative of the Aba entrepreneurs. He took it upon himself to promote the ‘Made in Aba’ products and he has since then remained the chief marketer of ‘made in Aba” products, a project he has taken beyond the shores of Africa.
It is no longer news that the Governor had earlier sent the first batch of 30 shoemakers out of 100 shoemakers proposed to be trained. These shoemakers undertook intensive training in automated shoemaking technology in China. Just recently, the State has just taken delivery of the equipment required to set up an Abia State Automated Shoe Factory in Aba and arrangements for it’s installation are in top gear. The Governor decided to bring the machines down here because of the ingenuity reportedly displayed by these artisans in China. Their coach in China and other supervisors who were with them in that trip confirmed that they almost took over the entire company by their show of mastering of the machines soon after being introduced to them.
The administration of Dr. Ikpeazu has given great hope to the electorates, particularly the youths, who are now empowered for life. The Governor has done that by redefining empowerment. He did that through establishing Education for Employment(E4E) Scheme in 2015, a scheme that aims at training people, especially youths on several skill acquisitions. Today in Abia State, youths are acquiring real skills, including training in modern carpentering, garment production and modern brick laying.
Many are undergoing training in the Multi-Skills and Entrepreneurial Centre located at Umuobiakwa, in Obingwa Local Government Area of the State. This centre houses trainees in several vocations, including Electrical Installation & Maintainance, Modern Furniture Making, Fabrications, Construction & Modern Brick Making among others.
The usefulness of this Multi-Skills and Entrepreneurial Centre has attracted the attention of the Federal Government to the level that the Federal government decided to use the centre to train N-Power build students, who specialize in learning building technology.
The Governor’s efforts in promoting trade & commerce have made Aba(Enyimba City) to regain its lost glory. It also has made the city to be recognized and confirmed as the MSME capital of Nigeria. The advancement of trade & commerce in Abia State has attracted the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinnajo, and leader of the federation’s economic team to the State severaly. Because of the achievements in this area, Abia at present produces two million pairs of shoes weekly while about 250 thousand artisans are doing shoe, belts and fabrics in Aba alone.
The feat achieved by Dr Okezie Ikpeazu’s ingenuity has made Abia to become the host State for the South East Entrepreneur Development Centre which train people in Micro, Small & Medium Scale Enterprises for the entire South – East. It is worthy to note that during the training for the CBN revolving loans for the entrepreneurs, held in Umuahia, the Governor donated one million Naira to those undergoing the CBN Assisted Skill Acquisition training under the South East Entrepreneur Development Centre.
Recall equally, that in order to encourage the enterprising spirit of his people, the State Governor assured the graduands of the empowerment programme of the Isialangwa North Council, that Abia State government will purchase with five hundred thousand Naira each, the products of the first ten persons among them.
Also, worthy to note is that Abia has just been rate 5th on the ease-of-doing business from its previous 34th by the World Bank. This was possible following Governor Ikpeazu’s giant stride in Trade & Commerce.
In order to achieve ease of doing business, the Governor has attracted Rural Electrification agency of the federal government and partnered with other stakeholders to endure an uninterupted power supply in Ariaria International Market, Aba. Efforts are geared toward achieving an uninterupted power supply for the whole of Aba, the Enyimba city. Also, the Enyimba Economic City(EEC) would soon be kick-started as the Governor is working tirelessly to achieve it with the help of some stakeholders within and outside the State.
For real, independent economy brings development faster to the society than a dependent economy. If there is anything Abia State needs most, it is revolutionizing the economy growth of the State. So, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is, by this huge investments in trade & commerce sub sector, gradually growing the economy of Abia State. Yes, many may not notcie it now, but certainly, posterity will never forget the good deeds of Governor Ikpeazu. He has succeeded in his quest to revitalize the ‘can do spirit’ and entrepreneurial instinct of Abia people and has achieved his aim of revolutionalizing the economy growth of the State.
Abia economy has already started growing because of the promotion and publicity Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has given to the ‘Made in Aba’ products. The Aba artsans have supplied uniforms and shoes to many military and paramilitary agencies in Nigeria, IDP camp, NYSC etc as well as constructed ballot boxes for elections .
Surely, Abia State under the able leadership of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is in safe hands and should continue to be in that divine hands until 2023. For a man who has turned the fortunes of Abia people and residents, for a man who has changed the mentality and psyche of the Aba artisans, making them to have confidence in what they produce and become proudly Aba brand, for a man who has led Aba out of ordinary commercial nerve centre to MSME capital of Nigeria and real Japan and China of Africa, for a man, who has promoted and projected the the ‘Made in Aba’ products and has brought food on the tables of the common artisans and youths who hitherto had nothing doing, what else would Abia people do for him if not ensure he finishes his second tenure thereby giving him more time to unfold more of his genuine programmes for the State.
There is therefore a growing need for all hands to be on deck in supporting this genuine effort of the Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Ph.D to further change the narrative of trade & commerce in Abia State. The best encouragement is to return him to power in 2019, after all, one good term deserves another.