The Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, has revealed his major challenges in running the affairs of the state.
Ikpeazu, who, in the next few months will clock 4-yrs in office, revealed myriads of his challenges during an interview with Dailysun Newspaper.
He spoke on the issues of payment of Salaries, Infrastructure and Opposition political parties in the state.
Parts of the interview reads; “One (of our challenges) is social mobilisation, getting the people to go with you, because the new paradigm in development is that you get the people involved in what you are doing. For instance, you don’t throw infrastructure, you don’t throw your vision in just like that.
“You must market your vision. You must market the very essence of what you are doing. Because of previous experiences, people have come to the point (where) they no longer believe government. They have become numb. You want to give scholarships, they would say, “no I don’t think this scholarship will work.” On that day, you won’t see any child coming to apply for scholarship, even with all the good intentions.
“The other challenge is what everyone will tell you: a few resources chasing many things. But it is also what makes governance exciting because, assuming you have all the money to do all you want to do, it won’t be exciting and that is eventually what would define success or otherwise”, Gov. Ikpeazu said.
According to him, his administration has engaged the people of the state more than his predecessors, “No government before ours engaged as many times as we have; we do three to four phone-in radio programmes bi-weekly. We engage even secondary school students, university students, market people, church people and so on, all the time. We keep talking and getting feedback to see how we can get everybody involved.
Speaking on his bid for re-election (2nd term), Gov Ikpeazu said, it’s the right thing to do. It’s called equity and fairness. Including his performance in the last four years.
He equally hinted the facts that nobody imposed him and he is an independent politician. No god-father or whatsoever people might think.
He said; “First, there is no government before now that has done more than we have done in the same space of time. Secondly, those opponents were in court with me till April 12, 2018, three good years. Their intention was to make sure I did not concentrate and that I would not have anything to show. So that mindset is what they are coming with; but they are shocked and surprised at what we have done so far in terms of achievement, and I have raised the level of governance. I don’t want to waste my time alluding to ‘superimposition’ or somebody disturbing somebody not to work or whatever, because all those who came before me were also blessed and endorsed by people and the basic characteristics of my government is completely different. They don’t look the same, both in character, form and shape. So, I cannot waste my time discussing imposition or otherwise.
Nobody can say, from knowledge of hindsight, that this is the signature of Ochendo in Ikpeazu’s government. There is no relationship at all and we are also saying that I am a very cultural and traditional person, who is happy to respect people and elders. I am also very natural and, in this political dispensation, this is the very first PhD in government in Abia State, without sounding immodest, and there is need to show something different. There is no need to quarrel with your predecessor. He knows where the red line is. He is an elder statesman and a distinguished senator and that relationship stops there. He knows that a sitting governor has enormous power and is faced with a lot of responsibilities and can become impatient with an overbearing person.
So, we want to redefine relationships, raise the interest of the common people above primordial issues, family issues, interpersonal relationship issues, etc. Some people are shocked and surprised that Abia is the most stable state in Nigeria today, no quarrel between the deputy and the governor, no quarrel between successor and predecessor, no Abuja politicians, all major stakeholders in Abia, Elders’ Council, the clergy are on the same page trying to develop Abia. It is a boat I don’t want to rock just for the purposes of, ‘yes he has quarrelled with him.’ People are waiting for it, they write it and try to stoke it up. Quarrel with him for what? They write things that are not true and I am saying, for the first time in Nigeria, can we raise the bar a little bit so that the discussion will be about the people and not about individuals?
Our government, for the first time in Abia, is a vision-driven government. I have challenged those who are contending with us to discuss their vision; can they forget about what we have not been able to do and put forward their own vision?
On Infrastructure, Ikpeazu said; “when the opposition continued to make noise, we now said, okay, let us do projects tour for independent people to verify what we have done so far. I invited key persons in the media, Abia stakeholders, local and national leaders of our party, PDP, and folks like Gbenga Arulegba of AIT; they came to Abia and for two days they couldn’t go through all our projects. In fact, some of them couldn’t summon the energy to go through all the projects; they said they couldn’t continue. The next Monday, Gbenga was on his programme and he said to the whole Nigeria, ‘I have seen what is happening in Abia, I am not saying I heard, I saw.” Because some people called him immediately he opened the programme and it was the turn of Abia, then the person said, “nothing is happening in Abia.” He said “my friend I said I saw it. I didn’t say I heard, I saw what Governor Ikpeazu is doing in Abia State.”
At times, when you bring it and show it on their faces they would say, “ah, it was the Federal Government that did it,” others would say it is propaganda.
So, for us in 2015, we decided to run on five pillars. We said we were going to promote trade and commerce, promote small and medium-scale enterprises or small-scale manufacturing; agriculture, oil and gas, education and so on.
We said to ourselves, how do we arrive at these pillars? We arrived at these pillars in such a way that anyone coming to Abia to do governance in future can’t run away from these pillars; the only thing you can do is to increase the tempo, emphasise on two or three of them because you can’t run away from areas where we have competitive and comparative advantage over other states, because you are not going to make it that way.
Anybody coming to do governance in Abia who ignores the fact that this is the shoe and leather-manufacturing hub of Nigeria is not serious, he is a non-starter. Anyone coming to do governance in Abia and forgets to mainstream trade and commerce, knowing that we are one of the best traders in the world, is not serious. Anybody that is coming and is not thinking of agriculture is not thinking about job creation.
I will give you an example. In Abia, because we are not strong in terms of land area, we must ask ourselves, ‘what type of agriculture are we going to do’? That is what brought us to mushroom farming, where a half plot of land can make N50,000 a day. Oh yes. Today the technology we exported to Ebonyi is flourishing there and they are planning to export mushrooms. Abia exported the technology to Ebonyi and the state is trying to export; but for us, it is not all about exporting mushrooms, it is about being vendors of the technology to every young person that wants to do it as a means of earning a living.
But the state took it up as a State Farm and, for us, we want individuals who will take it up at the back of their yards.
On payment of salaries to civil servants in the state, the governor said; “Payment of salaries should be taken for granted as something that should be done routinely. I don’t like discussing salaries because part of my frustration as a teacher was when it got to a point that, one, I couldn’t find a still water in a lab; secondly, when as a teacher you cannot fund any trip abroad for years and you are promoted to the next level and you’ve not done peer review, you’ve not seen what it is; you’ve not opened your window to see how it is done in South Africa, especially if you teach Biochemistry, which is dynamic and in the state of rapid flux, you will get worried.
“For me, what I wish and hope for Abia workers is capacity-building. For now, what we should be talking about is re-tooling them, ICT-wise, getting them to become more efficient, then calibrating whatever they are doing against their output, giving them responsibility that can enable them express themselves, not just go to work, take salary, come back, play draught; no, no, no. We should be able to think beyond just paying them to plan for their development and build teaching capacity. It is necessary because the human brain is the biggest computer ever, and the only way to sustain the functionality of the computer is to use it.
“Any brain that is not used goes into disuse and then that is not good enough. If you do too much routine work of pushing one green file up and down, up and down, you won’t know how to handle challenges. Truth of the matter is that every worker in all the ministries took their December salary before 24th and they are more than 24,000; not part of their salaries, all, and there was no outstanding. When I said all, I did not say all minus one. All the workers in our MDAs have received December salary and most of them have already been paid January salary.
“However there are parastatals that are supposed to be revenue-generating parastatals of government. I have had the privilege of being a general manager of one of them. The day I took over, I also inherited outstanding salary in that parastatal. I looked into the books. Those who were there before me painted the picture of Siberia, you know where it is, and you don’t want to go there. When they post you there, people would begin to sympathise with you, saying, “sorry o, onyeisi ga-emecha cheta gi, this one bu ka iwere ya na a manage (sorry, the governor will remember you, this is just to keep you busy), you will be recognised very soon.
“But when I got there, I looked at the situation and said, no, I would do two things: I would clear salary arrears and I would bring some innovations to bear and bring respectability to that office. I changed my mode of dressing. As the general manager, I decided to dress in such a way that people who would come to see us in the office would know that they are going to see a general manager and no less than a GM. Of course, I not only succeeded in paying four months’ salary arrears, I started for the first time ambulance service for accident victims.
The interview was first published on Dailysun Newspaper March 5th 2019 Edition. Excerpted by ABACITYBLOG.
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