By Sam Hart
The Bible admonishes anyone desirous of embarking on a building project to first sit down and count the cost. A scriptural imperative for the place of planning in the successful implementation of any project. Planning outlines your vision and options and helps you chart the best path towards the actualization of set objectives.
In the course of his aspiration to be the Governor of Abia State in 2014, even before the Primaries of his political party, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu held series of technical sessions with a broad-based team of economic, social and political experts to craft a solid development plan that will guide the Ikpeazu administration in the governance of Abia State.
The series of intense and engaging meetings led to the production of a document which outlined the pillars and enablers of the Ikpeazu vision and critical milestones for monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness or otherwise of those plans.
The writer was privileged to participate in most of the meetings in topic and is in a position to juxtapose what was planned, what was promised, as captured in the manifesto document, as against what has been delivered in various sectors of the Abia economy.
The write-up contains verbatim reproductions of relevant portions of the manifesto as it relates to what was promised in different sectors and provide empirical evidence of how those promises have been kept.
PROMOTION OF THE COMMERCIAL INGENUITY OF THE PEOPLE OF ABIA STATE
“We will also transform the businesses of our very enterprising and skilled populace to achieve scale and world class appeal. That way, ‘Made in Aba’ will become something to be proud of and not something shoddy; Made in Aba products comprising shoe/ leather, garments and other such sectors will be bought in global retail chains and markets. We will have wealthy Abians and residents out of these historical areas of strength” Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu – November 2014.
This was the vision and outlook of aspirant Ikpeazu even before winning the primaries of his political party to fly its flag at the general elections. He had clarity of what he wanted to achieve in this sector and he outlined how he wanted to go about it.
In the last five years, it is very safe to declare that Governor Ikpeazu has kept and even surpassed the promise he made to the entrepreneurs of Abia State. The Governor has personally taken up the mantle of championing the promotion of the ingenuity and creativity of his people. From his assumption of office till date, he has only worn articles of clothing Made in Aba/Abia State and that has elevated the standing of the creations of Aba producers as his personal example has given them confidence.
Made in Aba, true to his promise, has become a household name locally and globally. Hitherto unimaginable economic opportunities have come the way of Abians who are engaged in the leather and garment industry over the last five years indisputably as a result of the deliberate policy of the Ikpeazu administration. The Federal Government of Nigeria has paid special attention to Aba with a number of deliberate policies aimed at uplifting their status. Made in Aba Showcase events have been organized by the Ikpeazu administration in Abuja, Lagos, New York, Johannesburg, London, and other major cities locally and internationally.
The Nigerian Armed Forces and those of other African Countries have patronized Aba entrepreneurs for their military clothing essentials. At the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic, Governor Ikpeazu rallied Aba producers and they commenced the massive production of reusable Facemasks which were soon in high demand. At the peak of the pandemic, Aba stepped up and met the Nation’s medical essential clothing needs when foreign imports were impracticable.
Over 5 Billion Naira has been added to the economy of Aba as a direct knock-on effect of the aggressive Made in Aba Campaign with over 10,000 Jobs being created directly and new opportunities created for 100,000 other Abians who provide ancillary services for the productive sector in Aba and Abia State.
Governor Ikpeazu promised to scale the business of the Aba producer and afford them access to global opportunities and economic empowerment. This promise has been comprehensively kept with a lot more opportunities coming on stream shortly.
POSITIONING ABIA STATE AS THE PREMIER BUSINESS DESTINATION IN NIGERIA AND WEST AFRICA
“Our Unique God-given Geographical location and attendant assets- The State is strategically located with access to at least 7 other states across the south-East and South-south. This natural accessibility makes our State a choice location for establishing business and accessing other surrounding markets in Nigeria and abroad”. – Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, November 2014
The above is the backdrop and overarching vision behind the massive support for the establishment of the Enyimba Economic City. The project has been declared by international financial institutions to be the most iconic project with best prospects for massive return on investment in Nigeria at the moment. It is the first Special Economic Zone in the South East of Nigeria and a landmark project of trans-generational implications. Set on over 9,300 Acres of land spanning 3 LGAs in Abia State, the Enyimba Economic City is a mixed use industrial complex with the potential for the creation of 650,000 jobs over the next 10 years. With the full and financial backing of the Federal Government of Nigeria which has taken equity stakes in the project, other key anchor tenants have since come on board and formal groundbreaking for the project is expected to be performed imminently by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The landmark Enyimba Economic City is set on the backdrop of other outstanding feats in the industrial development of the State. The Governor Ikpeazu administration, upon resumption of office, prioritized the resuscitation of moribund industries in Abia State to ensure that they resume operation, provide jobs for the people of Abia State and contribute to the general industrial vibrancy of the State.
It is on the basis of that that the Ikpeazu administration provided massive support to the new core investors of Golden Guinea Breweries Plc, Umuahia, which enabled the company resume operation after a 30-year shutdown. Efforts are in top gear to ensure the resuscitation of similarly unoperational industries in Abia State.
Still on industrial support, the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in fulfillment of its promise to ensure that Abia State is an attractive investment haven, has midwifed establishment and expansion of a large Chinese Industrial Conglomerate in the State. Through constant hand-holding and support, the Inner Galaxy Steel Company, which started operations in 2017 as a single company, has since grown into a 5-company Conglomerate, metamorphosing into an industrial cluster which is expanding by the day, completely changing the landscape of the Ukwa Area where it is located.
Another key project is the establishment of the Enyimba Automated Shoe Company, Aba, which was set up by the administration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to introduce a critical missing link in the shoemaking prowess of the city of Aba to wit, Automation. The Factory boasts the most modern equipments in shoemaking while serving as incubation hub for the 30 shoemakers the administration had earlier sent to China to study automated shoemaking. Indeed, the machines installed in the Enyimba Shoe Factory are the latest editions of the same machines used by the trainees in China. They will, in addition to working as staff of the factory on the machines, train other batch of trainees on automated shoemaking using the same machines. This move is guaranteed to deepen technological penetration and automation in the shoemaking trajectory of Aba.
A technical study team has also being sent to Bangladesh and Vietnam to understudy automated industrial garment-making from the leading countries in the trade and upon return, The Enyimba Garment Factory will also be set up to cement the pre-eminent dominance of Aba as the Leather and Garment Capital of West Africa.
Other industries that have received the support of the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu administration to either set up operation, expand existing operations or restart halted operations include the NIBRA Shoe Company, Ukwa, with the support of NEXIM Bank, Tunnel End Group of Companies, Osisioma and Geometric Power Company, Aba, where Governor Ikpeazu has worked with the promoter, Prof. Bart Nnaji to resolve the issues and get the company to full operation.
On the promise of positioning Abia State as the premier business destination in Nigeria, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has delivered on that promise.
One thing is clear from all of the above, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was very clear on what he set out to achieve as Governor and has single-mindedly pursued his vision to the glory of God and for the benefit of the people of Abia State.
This series, in subsequent parts, will dissect other sectoral promises made by the Governor in his campaign manifesto and empirically provide proof of how they have been met and surpassed in most cases.
Sam Hart, a Lawyer, lives in Umuahia