Last week, some of the results of hard work gave way for the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, who was honoured at the Business Day Awards for Good Governance 2017 in Abuja, the nation’s capital for uniquely and devotedly marketing the country through some of the products manufactured in his state. A few days after, he took the honour a notch further by holding a fashion show, again, in Abuja, where he showed off some of his talents imbued in his people. With his dynamic approach to the complex politics and governance in Abia, Ikpeazu may have set the state on a high pedestal for a competitive future, writes Olawale Olaleye
Quite a few lines fell in the right places for the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in the week that just ended. First, he was honoured by Business Day Newspapers at its recent awards for good governance in Abuja for being a worthy ambassador in the marketing and positive projection of the country, beyond the South-east Abia enclave. About 15 other governors were shortlisted for different categories of the awards, but Abia’s Ikpeazu was practically the cynosure of eyes, interestingly without flexing muscles.
A few days after the awards, the state also hosted the nation’s capital city to the first of its kind fashion show, which paraded exclusive Made-in-Nigeria products with the best of qualities available in any part of the world and for any class of people. From leather works to fabrics and other finished ornamental products, a vestige of the incredible talent deposit in Abia was gladly showed off at the event without as much a doubt that they would compete anywhere in the world.
But that was not all to celebrate in Abia in the week that ended yesterday. A testament to why Abia is churning out incredible talents later came as the icing: it was the result of this year’s West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), where Abia again topped as it has been doing in recent years. And when these are put together, it is understandable why the governor has chosen to run a knowledge economy for competitive engagement in the comity of states.
In a lot of ways, particularly through style and personal disposition, Ikpeazu has given fillip to the truism that a leader’s capacity is first defined by his vision and exposure before other complementary factors can be considered. His evidently promising leadership in Abia is undoubtedly guided by his sound education and exposure, both of which are always evident in every of his effort.
From his ability to think through issues with attention to details and relating them to practical real life challenges with profound solutions provided almost on the spot, Ikpeazu has been able to hold the difficulties that are peculiar to governance in Abia and despite having about two years of his time wasted fighting to legitimize his mandate, he has left nothing to chance in making sure that he did not falter on the promises that brought him on board.
It was no wonder, therefore, that when the Transcorp Hilton Hotels, Abuja played host to the gathering of about 15 governors in recognition of their efforts towards encouraging competitive good governance at the recent Business Day Good Governance Awards 2017, Ikpeazu literally stole the show through his aggressive Made-in-Nigeria obsession.
Specifically, Abia was recognised for this initiative, which is also believed to have helped to create more employment, food security, entrepreneurship as well as enhanced inclusive growth for the overall economic health of the state.
In fact, the organisers of the awards, admitted that Abia at the moment was top on the list of states that have transited into the phase of dynamic governance component, which has seen it enhance its internally generated revenue, improve its economic wellbeing of its citizenry, creating integration and most importantly delivering value to the masses either through its cardinal governance agenda like agriculture, minerals, industry, commerce or enterprise as espoused by Ikpeazu himself. And these too, Business Day identified as the door to self-sufficiency in the near future.
As the Marketer-in-Chief of Made-in-Aba/Nigeria products, the first thing Ikpeazu did was to take the campaign to the federal legislature by way of promotion. From there, he took the campaign to the presidency, where he secured the federal government’s commitment and support. And after a few trips abroad, particularly to China, Ikpeazu changed the narrative from Made-in-Aba to Make-in-Aba, a change in slogan conceived to lure investors to come and domicile their industries in Aba for export purposes.
Commendably, this initiative has been complemented with the training of some youths in China to understudy the art of shoe-making and other accessories to meet international standard and with exportation in mind. With Abia on the map now as one of West Africa’s fast growing economic hubs, Ikpeazu has been described variously as one of the best governors in terms of the ease of doing business in the country.
And with a handful of laurels to his label, both locally and internationally, the Business Day Award comes as a worthy addition in recognition of his stellar performance despite his challenges as well as his indomitable commitment to changing the course of history in the state, which is sure to make Abia a self-reliant economy in the foreseeable future.
However, to think that the Abuja Fashion Show gave it more weight and blitz by way of creating increased awareness amongst the Nigerian people on the inherent potential in Abia, makes this very season one to recall for a long time for the governor. With finished works in leather shoes, belts, bags and garments – all made in Abia – the Abuja show turned out yet another huge success.
The focus of the fashion show was to encourage patronage of locally made products and by extension, change the taste board of the Nigerian people for foreign products. Thus, stakeholders, governments, embassies, diplomats and retailers, among others watched as each fashion designer, bag or shoe maker showcased a collection of their quality crafts.
To think that Aba, the economic hub of the state, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country and a bulk of this number is engaged in leather works, steel fabrication and garment making, which could be attributed to the popularity of the city, the Abuja fashion show could not have come at a better time, playing host to about 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers.
It was no surprise too that these positive projections especially, the garment and leather clusters, comprising the shoe, belt and bag makers, attracted the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the federal government, to set up a Common Facility Centre (CFC) in the city, to support the clusters to further develop their skills.
Ikpeazu is also not resting on his oars as far as such partnership is concerned. He has affirmed his resolve to create an industrial markets and parks, to include crucial developments of business and leisure along the Aba River, and new residential and business locations.
However, while these intertwined economic development feats were being celebrated across the state, the news came that the state came tops again in the May/June 2016 West African Examinations Council (WAEC). This is the second year in a row that the state is leading in WAEC with the highest number of candidates, who obtained five credits, including English Language and Mathematics.
In the May/June 2016 WASSCE statistics released, Abia was profiled as having retained the first position among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), whose candidates made five credits, including English Language and Mathematics.
The statistics showed that the South-south and South-east dominated the top 10 ranking. Taraba State recorded a major improvement in its students’ performance as it placed eighth in the state ranking from 21st position in 2015.
The performance chart revealed that South-south topped with Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa and Delta placing second, third, fifth and 10th, respectively. South-east however had three states in the top 10 ranking with Abia as first, Imo fourth and Anambra sixth. The statistics further revealed that 840,144 candidates out of 1,543, 976, who sat for the school examination obtained five credits, including English Language and Mathematics, in the May/June 2016 WASSCE.
With this latest ranking, Abia, which presented 51,839 candidates recorded 81.54 per cent of students, who obtained five credits with English Language and Mathematics.
Ikpeazu, while reacting to the news, congratulated Abia students for emerging as the overall best performers in the examination and applauded both the students and their teachers for a job well done, while vowing to prioritise the welfare of teachers within the state’s school system.
He also called on the newly inaugurated state scholarship board to ensure that the best performing student from each of the 17 local government areas was given tertiary education scholarship to study in any school in Nigeria.
Ikpeazu assured the people that his administration would continue to work hard to ensure that the state maintained its prime position in education in Nigeria and re-stated his commitment to constructing new model schools that would be equipped with modern learning tools and resources across the state before the end of the year.
The significance of the exams results is that the success of any nation is measured by the standard of education or how much attention education is accorded in such societies and with Abia pushing hard on education to complement the natural talent his people are endowed with, Abia remains the state to watch out for in the Nigeria of tomorrow, quietly streamlining its inadequacies and positioning higher for better competition.
It is certain that by the time the story of Abia will be rewritten many years to come, the place of Ikpeazu is assured. It is also the belief of observers that with his commitment to good governance, flanked by sincere leadership and capacity, Abia will soon become the nation’s poster state, particularly so if the people can rally round their governor and support his effort at changing the face of the state for good.