Visionary Leadership: The Ikpeazu’s Example

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Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Plethora of awards have trailed Governor Okezie Ikpeazu since his emergence as the governor of Abia State in May 29, 2015. The most recent in the pack is his nomination as ‘Vanguard Newspaper Governor of the Year 2017’.

The award, according to Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, who led the team of Vanguard editors, was in recognition of the governor’s novel contributions to good governance and purposeful leadership in Abia State.

Adefaye further dressed Governor Ikpeazu in robes- this time not borrowed but robes that really capture the character and laudable achievements of Governor Ikpeazu in Abia State. First, he described the governor as “exceptional leader with futurists ideas”.

Jay Mitchel paint exceptional leaders to be authentic, humble, they balance realism and optimism, they are committed to making others better. Others are that exceptional leaders surround themselves with people better than them; they put people and long-term results ahead of processes and short-term goals; they have their team’s back; wade into conflicts; and they are self-aware. All these qualities are embodied in Governor Ikpeazu.

Vanguard’s description of Governor Ikpeazu as an exceptional leader is not a misplacement, because, according to Jay Mitchel, “exceptional leaders talk openly about their struggles, both past and present, as well as their successes. They aren’t falsely humble, because they understand their strengths and operate within them. They are same person when they sit in the leadership chair as when they are at home, on the golf course, or in the gym. Leaders talk about real life issues and real world problems. People naturally follow authentic people because they know what they can count on them to be consistent, truthful, open, relationally-intelligent, and honest.”

Governor Ikpeazu is a perfect match of what Christ said about the requirement of humility in leadership, which is aptly captured in Matthew 23:11 thus: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” He is indeed a servant leader.

Besides, Governor Ikpeazu’s leadership is highly-driven by service to his people and he has strongly demonstrated and professed this thus: “The overriding import is service; we are desperate to give service to the people of Abia State. We will continue to do it as the funds are available. It is better we die serving Abia people. So, what are we keeping the money for? If money is available; we will use it to serve the people. Funding is not a barrier. The prayers of the good people of Abia will find the funds for us to do what we want to do. We are in government to serve the people and remember that in my early days, I said I was going to be common governor for the common people.”

The governor is a man with futuristic ideas, no doubt. This has reflected in the quality of roads he does. He pioneered cement technology, also known as “Rigid Pavement Technology in road construction in this part of the country. The technology ensures the mixture of crush rock-based materials and other items to achieve a thickness fill and compaction to the level of 300mm. This is followed by a concrete reinforcement cast with 8mm to10mm-high tensil (mash of wires) reinforcement bars over the stabilised base before treating it with prime coat and asphaltic concrete. Though the cost of this technology is higher than those of the conventional construction methods, Governor Ikpeazu chooses this technology as a means of strengthening the load-bearing capacity of roads in Abia and to boost the strength and quality of the finished work. The technology has a sustainability guarantee of10 to 20 years. Cement technology is one of the technologies used in the construction of airport runways, tarmac and places with heavy loads like machines and equipment. The technology is a good solution for achieving sustainable roads in Nigeria, and Governor Ikpeazu does not want to waste Abia resources returning to the roads he had earlier constructed after one rainy season.

One thing that continues to bother the minds of analysts and watchers of Nigerian politics, Vanguard Newspaper not in exception, is how Governor Ikpeazu was able to sustain these laudable achievements despite prolonged distractions. In the words of Adefaye: “Despite daunting legal distractions, you have remained focused on your vision and mission to transform Abia State into a functional private sector-led economy; creating opportunities for citizens, improving the quality of lives and shaping the state a regional entrepreneurship hub through good governance, appropriate development and provision of sustainable enabling environment.”

Throughout history, the truth is that visionaries and achievers are not daunted by distractions. The case of Nehemiah is a classical case. It will be recalled that Jerusalem came under serious sieges in 606, 597, and 586 B.C and was conquered and destroyed by the great Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The temple, palace, houses, and wall around the city were razed by fire. Many of the elite upper class of the Jewish people were taken captive to live in Babylon in 606 B.B, and most of the rest of the population were either killed or taken to Babylon in 597 and 586 B.C.

No wonder, Governor Ikpeazu’s exploits so much endeared to the Men Ministry of the Assemblies of God, Ukaegbu Road, Aba, that they conferred the award ‘Nehemiah of Abia’ on him. Governor Ikpeazu is a Philosopher King” as conferred on him by a Catholic clergy. Plato opined that a Philosopher king is a ruler who possesses both a love of knowledge, as well as intelligence, reliability, and a willingness to live a simple life. Such are the rulers of his utopian city Kallipolis. For such a community to ever come into being, “philosophers (must) become kings…or those now called kings (must)…genuinely and adequately philosophise” (The Republic, 5.473d).

Nehemiah’s story had everything to do with his vision of a preferable future for his people and their beloved city of Jerusalem. Despite strong opposition he fulfilled the vision process, implementation, opposition, and completion. Nehemiah was attached to the Persian court- he had been the king’s cupbearer. He was appointed governor of Judah and authorised to rebuild its fortifications. He demonstrated his organisational skills and had the walls of Jerusalem up in 52 days. He was greatly hampered by the opposition of Sanballat, governor of Samaria. Tobiah, governor of Ammon. He divided his forces into two shifts- one to stand at arms, the other to build.

Just like Nehemiah, Ikpeazu met a state, especially Aba, the commercial nerve of the state, lying literally prostrate. But his vision of a preferable future for the people of Abia forced him into action. This vision has converted the entire Abia into a construction site with scores of roads, bridges completed and more undergoing construction. This vision has subjected the state into an agricultural hub and barring any unforeseen circumstances, the state must have achieved the planting seven million palm seedlings by 2019. This vision has elevated Abia State to a Small and Medium Scale hub. The vision has caused revolutions in the health, education sectors of the state. The ongoing reforms, just like the reforms of Nehemiah in Jerusalem has saved fortunes that can be translated to millions from the ghost-worker syndrome that bedeviled the state all these while and eaten it up like a locust.

Furthermore, the vision has initiated the creation of the Aba Urban Renewal Agency with the mandate to drive the government’s urban renewal of power. It has demystified power in the state by de-emphasising the pomp and ceremonies that create the power mystique. The vision has communised the governor and simplified the age-long image of the man of power.

It is indisputable that visions and reformations are strongly opposed like Sanballat and Tobias did in Nehemiah’s era. In the contemporary times opposition to visions and reformations can come in the forms of protracted litigations aimed at distracting the leader; negative media publications with spurious, unfounded and baseless allegations which only aim is to denigrate the soaring fame of the leader. But despite how intense the opposition may be, by the grace of God, the vision process must be completed. To God be the glory.