- People attacking my aides have had their turn in government
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu had a media interface with Abia State Online Media Practitioners. During the media interaction, issues bothering on salary, Ariaria International market, internal transportation and so many other issues was discussed. Enjoy the explosive media chat from Abia Facts Newspaper.
So, your Excellency, what are your major accomplishments since assuming office since 2015?
First of all, I want to start by reminding us that this administration is a little different from what we’ve had previously. It is because some of the things we do may not be politically expedient but at the end, it will have profound social importance in the life of our people. I’m not an election politician, I’m not someone that must do something in a certain way. My views and opinion both on National issues, IPOB and others are always at the interest of my people. You see a courageous person who is ready to stay in a particular place for the best interest of his people whether the issue at stake is politically expedient or politically correct as at that time. Now, in 2015, many people may not know that when we decided to run for the Governorship election, that decision was not taken lightly because it was a product of serious planning of a group of people who sat down to think about how to move Abia to the world. I am proud to say that this people are brilliant and professionals from across the geo-political zones in Abia State, they asked me; what is my mission? I told them in that meeting that my mission is to better the life of Abians.
I have read a book which compared Igbos to the world best and came out with the conclusion that Igbos are better than them, he cited some empirical example to show this. Besides, I do not do anything without an empirical example, I will test my methodology before anything. He said in that book that in Aba and Onitsha, you won’t find a supermarket because an Igbo will not allow you to enjoy the monopoly of putting a price tag on goods and services. The Igbo man will look for that product elsewhere, buy it, open a shop near you and run you out of business. That’s why Shoprite in Enugu is in trouble at the moment.
This is my way of saying trade and commerce is one that will yield development in Abia State so if we must develop Abia, we must reconcile the traders. The next after commerce is small and medium scale manufacturing. To this end, it will interest you to know that, Abia State exports over 2 million pairs of shoes to Togo, Malabor, Cotonou, Guinea, Cameroun, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. Here, we are talking about bag, shoes, belts and all kinds of leather products that leaves the shores of Aba. Go to Powerline, Bakassi, Ariaria, and Umuehilegbu, you will see for yourself what I mean. As a result of that commercial exercise, the GDP of Aba is higher than the National average. So, there is no better pillar of which to build our economy than that of our small-scale business. The third one is Agriculture. A group came from Brazil and was looking for a soil for their ethanol production, they took samples of soils and came up with the conclusion that Abia State has the most fertile soil not only in Africa but in the world. Go to where rubbish is packed and throw out a seed of fruit, before you know it, it germinates. I was talking with a group of people from Argentina who are partnering with us in Agriculture, they have done some Agricultural experiment in Sokoto and came to do same in Abia. At the end of the experiment, they confessed to me that they are spending $1 million in generating one grass and that they know Abia do not only have a fertile soil but will generate oil palm. At a point, Abia State was the highest cocoa producers in Nigeria, in fact, an Abia man was the best cocoa farmer in Nigeria so you cannot throw away Agriculture.
The fourth pillar is oil and gas because we cannot do away with the fact that wealth is more generated from oil and gas. The last pillar is Education. This is because, we implore science for Agriculture using green house methodology. If we are talking about trade and commerce, you must think about automation and in this, you must have an education. Also, we will need youths who can go to the University to study Agriculture. It was on this pillars that this administration emanated. However, the things you see everyday will not be the high pillars but enabling forces driving the high pillars. On the first day we resumed office in Aba, we kick started so many roads. We have done so much in Aba and also leaving so much to do. There’s a road we are continuing; Ndi-oji, Ndi-abam, Ndi-okereke, Arochukwu. My predecessor did 7 Kilometer’s while I continued it. When you go there, you need to see the quality of roads being done, the funds spent on that road and the bridge is equal to the fund of 4 to 5 roads done in Aba. We decided to pioneer cement pavement roads. For the first time in Nigeria, there’s no State within our economic background that will do this but we decided on Arab contractors so to tell investors that when you are coming to Abia to invest, the infrastructure is one right track and bears the signature of the best. We can do a good job with a contractor unknown, but we wanted a contractor known so we can get the best and people will know that there is something serous going on.
Then looking at the economic impact analysis, we are doing Faulks road because it leads to Ariaria. There are over 100, 000 shops in Ariaria, so you can’t ignore the economy of those places. Rather than construct a road that leads to the home of my political friend, I better work on Ariaria, Port Harcourt roads because I know it leads to the economic hub of the State. I know Dubic, Textile miles, Nigerian Breweries, all of them depends on good roads. So, everything we do, we make sure that it leads to the economic growth. There must be something that stimulates economic growth. So, growth is an enabler since you cannot drive trade and commerce, Agriculture without reconciling man and his goods and services. There are 3 major inroads in Aba, there is Port-Harcourt road, Aba-Owerri road and Ikot-Ekpene road and all of them are in use. People are coming from Ikot-Ekpene because we are working on 2 or 3 big roads; one to Nlagu near Onitsha Ngwa off Ururuka road which is about 7.5 kilometres, another one is joining the one Akwa-Ibom State government has done at that point so that people coming from Akwa-Ibom on any of these roads could spend 1hr 45 minutes than before. But I cannot do that in Port-Harcourt road because I must reconstruct a pit. In all, there are still so much to be done. We have not done Ohanku, Osusu, Obohia roads, but we have actually done something but we promise that by the end of this dry season we will do more. I have put a contractor on Udeagbala road which is an alternative plan. I have also brought a chinese company. The Flyover in Osisioma is still ongoing,
For emphasis, my brother Governor in Ebonyi is doing 2 or 3 flyovers at once but he just had to do 9metres to erect a pillar. What you see in Faulks road today is bigger than what the eyes can see, if people are gracious enough, they will commend us because there will be a problem at Ukwu-mango again. What we did beneath the surface is far bigger than what we did at the surface because we have successfully tapped water from Ife-obara to water side keeping a permanent pump to pump water from Ife-obara to waterside. We have tested it last weekend, so, when you see this, you will see an administration that is not interested in narrative or window dressing. If I don’t want to do drainage in Aba-Owerri road, it won’t take anything, but the fact is that, I would not find sleep if I don’t do the right thing. When I’m off the road, I know that I am off it. That is why it doesn’t matter what people say, I will work on it so that when any of you here becomes Governor, you won’t go back to the roads, you get on to other things.
Enough about roads, we decided to do ‘Made in Aba’ goods. We saw Aba as a brand, the narrative is not about Aba, It’s about attaching respect for the ingenuity of the Nigerian youth, it’s about commending the hard work and sweat of the average Nigerian. If my child spends time to designs a shirt for me, only for me to reject it because quality, I don’t think that child will be able to go back and design another. So, if you ask my major accomplishment, I’ll say that I have been able to reverse this attitude of an Aba slaving upto18 hours to produce a shoe and the next thing is to stamp it a ‘made in China’ logo on it. Gone are the days when a shoe will be made in Aba, stamped with made in China and a Chinese will take the credit of something he does not know of. If you go to the market, you will see that shoes now proudly carry ‘made in aba’ logo. For me, that achievement is very huge. The second one is that, we have been able to make a direct sale of 1.3 billion to the shoe makers in Aba. I know how many pair of shoes that the first lady of this country has bought for people in IDP’s. Personally, I gave away 42 boxes to Governors, Friends and colleagues and all the boxes contains sandals, belts, shoes, bedsheets, and all of them were made in Aba including the trunk boxes. If you calculate all these, you will know how much it’s worth, and all was purchased from Ariaria, Umuehilegbu, Bakassi, and others.
Besides that, the Federal Government was not giving us the needed attention but we were able to meet Vice President, Osibanjo when he was the Acting President. The first day he came to Aba, he came with all the certification agencies in Nigeria, NAFDAC and the rest of them to shake those in these businesses and tell them that we are enablers and not obstacles. For the first time, a serious shoe maker will see the NAFDAC boss and will be enlightened on why he needs the NAFDAC number. The Vice President said that these people are suppose to be enablers to drive their business and not obstacles or barricades in registering their business. As a result, we were pushing for works to be given on how many certifications the shoe makers will get from NAFDAC in order to start a standard organization and this was the same thing for the Bank of Industry. As soon as he returned back to Abuja, he, with few of the House of Representatives said they will issue a procurement document for any item in Nigeria. Today, before you get a procurement document, you will ask Abia how they got theirs. To me, this is the greatest accomplishment. And when we were about to conduct the Local Government election, we were faced with a bill, I asked them how we are going to do it, they told me that we can design ballot boxes for INEC so they collected the logo and made the ballot boxes in Aba. We were able to cut the bill. For the first time, Aba was featured in CNN, the Government did not pay but they saw what we can do and was able to capture and feature it in the News. So, we have taken these manufacturers to China, Abuja and U.S.A where those talents were showcased in the runway. So, it’s high time we recognize the small talents around us and not just the ones on a big scale.
Your Excellency, I want to draw your attention into Governance and Politics. There is this notion that Governance has been cut off from the people. Recently, some members of your party who holds post in office, to be specific, Honourable Solomon Adaelu who said that one of the reasons he left PDP was because Abia is now a State where payment of salary is now seen as a privilege instead of a right. Secondly, that civil servant in Abia State now beg to eat and feed their families. There’s also the notion that some persons have hijacked your decision and these are said by people who are saying this are people who canvassed and convinced people why they should vote you as a Governor. As a leader Sir, how are you handling these issues raised, more especially the accusation that you have been cut off from the people?
There is no month since I became the Governor that I don’t pay salary. When I came in as a Governor, by June/July 2015, I paid ABSUTH 11 months salary. Governance is about continuance and intervening when all seems to fall apart. There was a time when our salary expenditure was N2.5 billion in a month, we did a reform of Governance which has never been done. This administration had the guts to tell all civil servants to get their BVN number which was done and we found out that most names in civil service do not exist. We saved quite a huge sum of salaries which was always taken by unscrupulous civil servant. I decided to ask questions when I could no longer get the allocation needed. As I speak today, there were banks who have crossed cheques from civil servants just because we told them to collect the cheques from the bank. It was discovered that Ohafia LG had about 34 ghost teachers in one instance.
The last Paris club, we collected N5.7 million and I gave all to workers in Abia State. Is it proper that I do that knowing fully well that a child can fall into an unclosed gutter in Faulks road and disappear? I had the courage to do this so nobody can accuse me of not taking care of workers. Why are their issues of salary? When I came in 2015, I found out that Abia Poly was owing the bank N2 Billion and it was already building interest every month. I checked what Abia Poly was collecting as school fees from students and their salary scale, I found out that they were suppose to have a surplus of N200 million and not owing. So, paying them salary when they have pocketed N2 million is unrealistic. I also found out that they had 42 accounts and I told them to close it all and have just 2 or 3 accounts.
On the issue of their being a gap in my administration with the people, well, people will always find something. If Solomon Adaelu becomes the Governor and gets a fund of N7 billion, how are you sure he will give all to the workers. Even if he does, that will be matching my records because he cannot supersede it. He has the right to express himself if he feels side lined. But one cannot be more catholic than the pope. You are not a civil servant and you are not employing anyone, you can’t even give what you have and you are talking about somebody who has employed a good number of people under him and has given all to benefit others. It’s unfortunate.
Sir, recently we toured Aba and we visited Ariaria market Int’l Market, Why can’t the government fix the market? What is the major challenge why the market is how it is at the moment?
Let me correct one impression here. Ariaria market does not yield a lot, I have not seen it. But that does not take away that the fact that it has a lot of potential as an international market. My first intervention in Ariaria was to bring all the traders to the market, and i told them that God will judge will judge us. In Africa and particularly in Nigeria, God will judge us because God has given us 12 good months. There is no day that anybody can be stopped from going to where he or she wants whether he has car or not. If it is raining and you have a good umbrella, you can find your way to the office. I have never seen anybody who was booked absent in the office because it was raining day. There are people who just have 4 months in a year to weed, plant or sow and harvest. There are people in this world who cannot boast of one-hour sunlight throughout the year. But in Ariaria, you hear them talk about season, ‘this is season’, ‘we are out of season now’, ‘if raining season come, we cannot do this and that.’ What has placed this inscription on us? Few months ago, you cannot go to Ariaria with a five-year-old child. If you are to do that, you will be preparing as if it is for war; you will wear a rainboot, fold your trouser, use water proof and cover yourself and you will be wedging yourself not to fall in a 22 level of water. In all, you will just be preparing as if you’re going for war. I told them that what we needed to do was to pave the floor and cover the roof.
Most of them go to China, Dubai, they see shopping malls and everywhere. Now, you can control your environment by using a roof to cover it and a pave. Even an escalator, there is no difference between someone that is in first floor and someone that is in third floor. Escalator will only carry about 40 to 50 people across. So, I said let us begin a piece meal development of Ariaria. Government will review it as it’ll yield money for the Government but it can only be done if they will build an escalator to take one to the 3rd floor because there is no difference between someone who is in the first, second and third floor. The escalator helps to carry things at once without suffering yourself. So, there is need to further develop Ariaria to 10 sections taking 10 shops. I told them that ill give them C of O on all the first floors but that am going to rebuild the market so that it will have a third floor if they build it, there have to be an escalator which can take people to the third floor. Government will raise money for the third floor for people who will be going to avoid any disadvantage. I shouted, I made it clear but they refused. They formed four parallel associations at once within one hour, and one of them was meeting with the House of Assembly. What I am hearing now is that, they are paying money to somebody.
So, I came back to the house, I couldn’t sleep and I started thinking. At that point, something occurred to me. That maybe because they have buried tortoise and they think it is the cause of the development. For those of us who have time, if you cover the entire Ariaria, it ought to be an all-season market; it will be in season in January, it will be in season in May and in even in December. I even told them that we fortunate to be surrounded by rich neighbors. If one of my friend decides to build one big market, Ariaria will close. I have a 100KV generator that I bought and say, if you agree, this generator I will donate to you. If you come to my lodge in Aba, there is a yellow bus there which I also told them that if they agree to the plans, I will give it to them to be conveying them and their customers free of charge. They did not take these advantages. Those people who will take advantage of political expediency will do on social media and begin to hit till you abandon the project. If you people turn around now, you will see how I have cleared fox road. I want to develop Ariaria. Something is telling me that our rich neighbors will build a market. You know, it is intuition that will load the gun, but it is courage that will pull the trigger. My intuition is telling me now, that if we don’t take the opportunity now that something will happen in the near future. So, to answer your question, it all depends on you. It depends on you people to tell Ariaria people be open and change. As you know, for the purpose of disclaimer, I will never own a shop there. The same thing is applicable to my wife. So, if you hear anything about me especially this shop of a thing, you don’t need to verify. Just say that it is a lie. I am a teacher. So, to say I come to haggle for a shop today, tomorrow, even by proxy, it is a lie. So, I don’t have any interest in building and rebuilding Ariaria apart from the fact that my intuition is telling me to do so.
My Governor Sir, recently there is an uncommon ventilation from your party member, Don Ubani, about how the party are being starved of funds while some of your aides are cruising in SUV’s, and building of hotels. Please sir, can you say that is the reason for the looming defection from PDP to APC?
In the first place, there is nothing like looming defection. Did you hear when Fidelis Nwajike moved from APC to PDP, did you hear that? Did you hear when about Reegan Ufomba? Did you hear about House of Assembly people moving to PDP? So, why didn’t say looming inclusion into PDP? Has Don Ubani defected? What about Solomon Adaelu, has he torn his membership? The day Reegan came, he came with all the ward register from APGA which was about 184 wards. That day, Reegan had about 2,000, besides him. Solomon is one man and you cannot compare both. Politics is a game of number, if you place Reegan with his 2,000 and Adaelu, i will go with Reegan. As I speak today, if you put Makarfi, who is the leader of PDP and 500 Abians, i’ll go with 500 Abians because it can make or mar me. That one vote may not make any difference. So, in politics, the raw materials are people and numbers.
If we go back to the question earlier raised, I’ll answer like this, I wish to redefine hard work, I wish to redefine selflessness. Let my crime be on those who worked with me and not on my people. Let those who work with me be prosperous because am a vendor of prosperity. Having said that, whenever party members begin to gallivant success and share money, journalist like you should be afraid. If i listen to what some of them are saying or fund them the way they have elaborately shared their appetite, then I won’t be doing justice but at the same time, i won’t ridicule my party. But I’ll say 2 things. One, let the party people be happy that we have been able to move our seat to a better place, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow. Secondly, let them use the prosperity they have seen to arm their younger ones so they will know what the experience is like working with this Governor because they cannot change me. Though I will not like to judge, but every one of them have had the opportunity to serve in the past and i wouldn’t want to join issues with my brother.
My being a Governor today is by God’s grace and I made a vow that since I am the head, I’ll not be the tail. So, that is why in all the work I am doing, I’ll always use the best and that is why I employed Setraco, Arab contactor and the Chinese company. Any day that I go to them for money, I have reversed the role. Some of the people that work for me marvel, I hear them saying ‘I have never seen a man like this.’ I am not a wealthy man but money has never stopped me from achieving whatever I want. When they see someone that works with me that they like and want to appreciate, do I stop them? The SUV’s you are talking about was bought by a contractor and given to them as gift, the Hilux was bought by a contractor doing Nkporo road for them, they told me. What would I have done? Is it to take it from them? You now see that these people don’t understand. So, I’ll not reverse roles. I like where my God has placed me. I will never come to you to beg for money, my wife can’t do that and children are not even around so as to discuss such kind of issues. So, if I carry myself properly, there is how people around me make money because I hate people who come around me to advertise poverty. So, anybody who doesn’t like it that way, there is no apology.
My question centers around the capital city. Sometime, there is this issue of insecurity in that region. Sometimes when it is beyond 7pm when you enter that city, all the whole shops are locked up and most times, there may not be any sight of keke drivers. So, is there anything that could be done so as to improve the security condition of the state? Again, there appears that is no good government house in the state. Recently, is like you intervened to that issue. So, we want to know if there are any plans so as to move the state to enviable heights?
There’s no curfew in Aba and Umuahia. There is just a restriction on keke movement at night but I’ll look into that. I will discuss it with the CP. Also, transport management can be such a huge business. In fact, it is an enabler in a State. With that in place, you can drive all kinds of logo and that’s what they are doing in Lagos. With a good transport management, they can do CCTV and everyone leaves from same place so the CCTV could capture and they keep track of all vehicles from that point in Oshodi to other parts of Lagos. I have been thinking of what to do but I think we will give out taxi’s which will have a logo as UBER. It will be packed at strategic places, depending on where you are, when one calls, the one closest comes to you. That is our preferred option instead of giving it to youths because the last time we did that, some politicians shared it among their people who do not have any need for it, as such, we wouldn’t want that to happen again.
Then about moving into the Government house, we have spent 2 years in court. In fact, we just rounded up few months ago. It will seem very selfish moving in there while I was still in court. Besides, this place is better than that place. Also, you people will still say how I am not being considerate and already moved in. I saw the hole they were digging so I quickly avoided it.
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