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PERSPECTIVE 

Wale Suleiman writes on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s determination to create an economic revolution that will put Abia State on Nigeria’s investment map 

Economists have a simple phrase for it. They call it “The Comparative Advantage.” And it describes a situation where a state or country emphasises areas of its economic strength. But as simple as this old economic principle is, one can hardly count a handful of state governors who have taken it to heart.

That is why one is delighted with the news coming from Abia state where Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is quietly turning the tide and creating an economic revolution that is certain to last beyond his tenure and put the state on the investment map of the country.

In a clime where legal tussle over election is a major distraction for many state governors, Governor Ikpeazu is a refreshing example of a leadership that is focused governance deliverance.  Ikpeazu is helping Abia rediscover its strength and capitalising on it to lift the state and the country out of a grueling economic recession.

Aba, the bustling commercial town of Abia state, has long been known as a thriving city of business and local entrepreneurship. But no administration has invested in its potential as an entrepreneurial capital of not just the South East, but Nigeria, as Ikpeazu is doing. Thanks to the vision of the governor, Aba is set to be an example of the good that can come out of adversity.

In a country suffocating under economic recession due to over-dependence on oil revenue, experts have argued that diversification is the fastest way out of the woods. This is why the federal government is now giving more attention to solid minerals development and agriculture. But what are the states doing to diversify? One can hardly resist the temptation to say ‘Nothing.’ But Abia is the oasis in the vast desert.

Ikpeazu was unarguably prepared for office. He came with a blueprint for the transformation of the state. Within his first 100 days in office, one of the projects he launched was the Abia State Economic Advancement Team. The team was established to drive his economic agenda which is centred on making Aba the Small Medium Enterprise Capital of the country.

Any perceptive observer of developments in Abia since Ikpeazu came into office will see a frantic effort towards making the state a model to show case the country’s industrial potential. The Ikpeazu administration is admirably determined to leverage on the economic potential of Aba to create a buzz that would launch Made-In-Nigeria products on to the national and international markets.

First, the governor is leading by example. He wears made-in Aba clothes and shoes to official and private functions. He is serving as the brand ambassador for products made in Aba. This is the first time the commercial city is getting such an official recognition and endorsement. This is sure to have ripple effects as officials of his administration and many others are already marching in his footsteps.

To ensure that the local industry has abundant technical resources to tap, his administration also launched the highly innovative E for E (Education for Employment) scheme. The scheme gives youth vocational training in many areas of need relevant to the local industries.

To make sure there’s an endless stream of tourists to Aba in particular, and the state in general, his administration has also embarked upon an urban renewal programme that would ensure the clean-up of the cities, construction of drainages and beautifying the landscapes. Ikpeazu has also dredged the Aba River to enhance environmental protection and drainage flow.

The dredging of Aba River is strategic. Aba town lies along the western bank of Aba River, and is at the intersection of roads leading to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Umuahia, Ikot Ekpene and Ikot Abasi. Governor Ikpeazu foresees Aba, in the short term, as a commercial hub for the South-East and the South-South, and in the long term, for Nigeria and the West African sub-region. It is a dream that is realizable by focused leadership, the type Abia is witnessing now under Governor Ikpeazu

A Marketing Standard Regulatory Board has also been set up to promote local quality manufacturing and encourage domestic industrialists.

Governor Ikpeaza is not a man to personalise governance like many of his colleagues do. It is for this reason why his legacies will linger long when he has served his two terms and left office. With Aba in mind, and to ensure that his reforms are sustainable, he sent an executive bill to the state house of assembly for the setting up of Abia State Investment Promotion Agency. He also created the office of a Special Adviser on Public Private Partnership and Investment Promotion.

The agency and the office of the SA will ensure that investments processes are made easy to encourage local and foreign investors so that more people could be employed within the state. His love for the common man fuels his determination to reduce, if not end poverty in his state.

It is not surprising that the 2016 budget of the state was appropriately captioned: ‘Budget of Restoration through Enterprise.’ Ikpeazu had stated at the beginning of the year that the budget was designed to create a state that would be synonymous with enterprise and hard work.

Governor Ikpeazu’s economic revolution cannot be complete without investment in agriculture. No one knows this better than the governor. Aba has been a collecting point for agricultural produce since colonial times when the British constructed railway linking it to Port Harcourt. But no administration has taken advantage of this history to turn the state into a food basket for the region, until now.

Ikpeazu’s agric revolution is driven by youths. Youths across the state are being selected and sent to Songhai Farm in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic to learn agricultural value –chain production. It is expected that those trained would return to the state to train others on how to engage in commercial agriculture.

If the Ikpeazu administration succeeds in this, it would solve the state unemployment problems in a big way.

  • Suleiman wrote in from Abuja