By Sam Hart
For a large part of his administration since he got sworn-in on May 29th, 2015, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has made it clear that a major plank of his mission on the saddle of leadership in Abia State is to open the State up to investments so that the State can attain its full industrialisation potentials.
The Governor started off with an aggressive marketing of Made in Aba products which was positively received locally and internationally. To be sure, Aba has always been on the map of entrepreneurship and enterprise due to the innovative spirit of the inhabitants of the metropolitan enclave.
It was however not until Governor Okezie Ikpeazu came on board that a definite strategy to properly place the position of Aba in the mind of the general public was conceptualized and vigorously pursued.
Prior to his emergence as Governor, Aba was on the map no doubt but it had acquired a reputation as the centre of imitation and substandard products. The term Aba Made was a derisive appellation for all things fake irrespective of where they were made.
The producers in Aba had no pride in their products and minimised their impact on the production table by giving their products foreign labels.
This was the state of affairs until Governor Ikpeazu mounted the saddle of Governance. He rebranded items produced in Aba from the derisive Aba Made to Made in Aba and added a decisive touch by proclaiming them to be Proudly Made In Aba. He went a step further by putting his money where his mouth was. He declared that for as long as he was Governor, he would only dorn articles of clothing Made in Aba and advertise them as such.
Thus, he caused his clothes to carry a label on their sleeves Proudly Made In Aba. His aides and associates followed suite and it gradually caught on. He took it a step further by taking the products to political and celebrity influencers and obtained their buy-in.
He also exposed the Aba producers to the national and international market by showcasing their products at Fashion shows in Abuja, the United States of America, Europe and African countries.
He topped it up by sending 30 Aba Shoemakers to China to learn automated processes of shoe production and purchased the machines they trained with in China.
Prior to then, the Governor also took Shoemakers to Brazil and opened discussions with Brazilian Shoemakers to set up production in Abia State.
Today, the Aba producers have acquired a new swag. They are now proud to label their products Made in Aba and this is because they have a prominent marketer of their products in Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. By proclaiming his clothings to be Proudly MadeInAba, he has given the Aba producers the needed confidence to assert ownership of their products. Aba producers have also become international figures as hardly any entrepreneurial event holds anywhere in the world without Aba producers being invited to showcase their products.
All that effort has yielded positive fruits and more are yet to come.
The Nigerian Army were the first to embrace the marketing drive as they ordered 50,000 pairs of military boots to be produced in Aba. That order brought 500 Million Naira into Aba.
The Nigerian Navy, NYSC, Police, Customs, Immigration and Civil Defence Corps soon followed suit with orders in hundreds of millions of Naira.
Not satisfied with the progress he had made with the Made in Aba Campaign, Governor Ikpeazu soon thereafter, launched the Make In Aba Campaign with the objective of having international brands set up factory in Aba to produce for local and international consumption.
This led to his aggressive marketing of the Enyimba Economic City project and in his characteristic hands-on approach, he undertook several trips to China and other parts of the world to woo investors for the project and embarked on savvy shuttle diplomacy to relevant authorities in Abuja including the Presidency.
Today, the Enyimba Economic City licence has been signed at an elaborate event at the Presidential Villa with President Muhammadu Buhari supervising. Enyimba Economic City is the first Free Trade Zone to be so licensed in the South East. Of the 11 Anchor Tenants required to take up investments at the City for fruition, eight mega corporations have signed lease agreements and committed to the investment of over $2.5 Billion.
Chief among the Anchor Tenants at the Enyimba Economic City is the Ruyi Group that the Governor personally wooed on his several trips to China. The Ruyi Group is the largest textile producer in the world and they have signed on to build a textile factory at the Enyimba Economic City in addition to Power Plants.
Just recently, the Governor performed the Ground-breaking for the NIBRA Shoe Factory at Obuaku City between Aba and Port Harcourt with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) commiting $20M preliminary funding for the take-off of the Factory.
And the icing! The National Bureau of Statistics just released a report naming Abia State as the 3rd highest destination of investments in Nigeria in 2018 with investment inflows of $1.2 Billion. Only Abuja ($2.5B) and Lagos ($1.6B) got more investments than Abia State ($1.2B) in 2018.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was recently in Egypt where he held fruitful investment conversations with the AFREXIM Bank on investments in Abia State and they have signed on.
Note that the Governor also attracted a $10 million investment from the Nigerian Export-Import Bank into the Golden Guinea Breweries Plant which is gearing up to resume production.
The Abia Shoe Factory for which machines have already been purchased and delivered will soon commence operations.
The list is endless.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s re-election campaign is premised on three pillars:
Equity: Because other zones got 2 terms and it is only equitable that his Abia South Senatorial Zone is allowed to Govern for 2 terms in line with the Abia Chatter of Equity.
Performance: Because his performance in his first term qualifies him to be re-elected for a second term.
Hope: Because the things He has started give hope of a better Abia State and require him to see them to fruition so that they are not truncated by a new administration.
This write-up supports the third plank of his re-election drive. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has laid a solid foundation for the massive industrialisation of Abia State and he should be allowed to go back and continue his positive works.