By Henry Umahi
On assumption of office in 2015, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu understood the problem of Abia State and has significantly changed the narrative by executing soul-lifting projects. He has given Abia a new lease of life, particularly Aba, which is the heartbeat of the state.
Even as governor of Abia State, the university don-turned politician, enrolled in a Footwear Academy in Aba, to learn the art of shoemaking. And to practically demonstrate his commitment to reviving the creative ingenuity and enterprise, which defines Aba, he sponsored 30 young Abians to China to understudy automated shoe making and upon their return to the country, he established the Enyimba Automated Shoe Company, Aba, for production of quality shoes.
Ikpeazu also established Ovom mechanic village in Aba, revamped Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia, and established Inner Galaxy Steel Company, Ukwa West. His interest in promoting home-made brands has led to the emergence of many young entrepreneurs in diverse areas of the state economy such as tailoring, shoe making and ICT.
Although the Ikpeazu administration’s roadmap to rebuild the state is anchored on his five pillars of development: Education, Agriculture, Trade & Commerce, SME Development, and Oil & Gas Development, Works and Infrastructure Development seem to take precedence over others. Despite funding challenges, the Ikpeazu administration has completed over 156 road projects across the state. It has also delivered four new bridges, including the popular Okezuo Abia interchange in Osisioma LGA. Ikpeazu has executed six major gully erosion mediation projects across the state, including Umuagu Isingwu in Umuahia North LGA, Umuezeukwu Nsulu and Umuogele Umuakwu in Isiala Ngwa LGA.
In the health sector, Ikpeazu’s administration established the Abia State Children’s Specialist Hospital, Umuahia; constructed or made functional, five general hospitals in Ukwa West, Obingwa, Ikwuano, Ohafia and Arochukwu LGAs; rehabilitated Aba General Hospital, built new general hospitals in Okikpe, Obingwa, Ikwuano and Ohafia communities; established Primary Health Centres and Mobile Clinics, among others. Ikpeazu paid special attention to education and human capacity development. He embarked on improvement of the education sector in the state by constructing more than 600 new classroom blocks and four new model schools in the state.
He also embarked on structured retraining of teachers to make them more productive. His administration was the first to launch a school feeding programme in this dispensation. Under Ikpeazu’s watch, public school enrolment improved from about 142,000 in 2015 to over 650,000 in 2022. For four consecutive years, Abia school children came first in West African School Certificate Examinations.
Owing to Ikpeazu’s efforts, the ranking of the state owned Abia State University (ABSU), Uturu improved to second position among state-owned tertiary institutions in the country, while it also moved from 97th to 26th position among all universities in Nigeria. The governor established Umuahia and Osisioma campuses of ABSU, and is set to open the new Umuobiakwa-Obingwa permanent site of School of Health Sciences and Management Technology. He also sponsored students on foreign scholarships with 30 of them currently studying in Australia and India.
To fight crime, Ikpeazu created the first ever crime prevention and monitoring centre in the state, reconstructed and equipped the new Zone 9 Police Headquarters in Umuahia. And to boost the morale of operatives, he constructed the new Police residential quarters in Umuobiakwa, Obingwa.
In agriculture, Ikpeazu distributed four million seedlings of Tenera species of palm trees across the state; constructed the Abia poultry cluster in Nsulu, Isiala Ngwa North LGA; launched the first technology driven large scale mushroom production; added the state to the rice production map of Nigeria by delivering improved seedlings to rice farmers in the state; provided financial support to farmers; and constructed five cottage rice mills in Umuahia North, Bende, Arochukwu and Isuikwuato LGAs of the state.
Ikpeazu also constructed six new cottage industries to process palm kernel produce across the state at the following locations: Umuobo in Ugwunagbo, Umuobiakwa in Obingwa, Nbawsi in Isiala Ngwa North, Umuegwu Okpuala in Umuahia North, Nkwebi in Ohafia and Awada Ngodo in Bende. He also remodelled key markets and went into partnership with Geometrics to provide steady power supply in the state.