Let’s put it this way: the Abia State economy, has no doubt, maintained a steady rise; healthy growth, appreciating significantly as the benchmark indices show its steady increase since the advent of Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration in May 2015.
It will be recalled that before the Ikpeazu government came on stream, Abia’s economy was staggering, moving at an arithmetic progression. Ikpeazu kick-started what today is known as Made in Aba nay Made in Nigeria revolution. Indeed, for the past six years Abia’s economic growth has somehow maintained a geometric rise.
How did the captain of this boat achieve this feat? It was through a combination of intellectual skill and hard work laced with wisdom and wits. He introduced an industrialisation drive that saw to the revival of moribund industries like the Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia, International Glass Industry, Aba etc. And in doing so, all parts of the state were in focus. But the major two cities of Aba and Umuahia were the target.
On his ascendency to the governorship seat, the inglorious Osisikankwu’s reign of terror still ruffled nerves as it had awed the people when it swept across the southern part of Abia, prompting small, medium and huge businesses to take flight of the state. Osisikankwu, we all know, was the kidnap kingpin that abducted and terrorized, with his gang, people in Aba and other adjourning towns and villages with brutal force.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like fast food ventures, cinemas etc suffered heavy casualties because of their relocation from Aba. Their proprietors also relocated as they did for their businesses. Aba in the 60s, 70s and 80s had many leisure and hospitality outlets like the cinemas, three star hotels with good discotheques; all added pleasure to the then burgeoning city.
Cinemas Halls such as Rex, Emi and Dandikos were all outfits that brought the leisure. Also, cuisine joints like Ndiafia, Kingsway Eateries and Stores, Ohanenye Super Stores attracted visitors from other parts of the country including those in the West African sub region to commercial city. The death of these firms put Aba on a reverse gear economically.
And today, somebody called Okezie Ikpeazu is trying to bring these companies that took their flight out of Abia’s economic space back to town. Aside Osisikankwu’s factor, the decay in infrastructure was also another issue. Absence of basic infrastructure in Aba and Umuahia were so pronounced that companies in the commercial city decided to hold their conferences out the town.
To correct this aberration, Ikpeazu’s government began some massive infrastructural development programmes in Aba, bearing in mind that Enyimba city, if put in the right track, could be a cash cow where the economic renaissance of the entire Abia State could be hinged. If Aba is gotten right, Abia’s economic leap to an Eldorado will be guaranteed.
Under six years of his governance, the administration has built 125 roads, facilitated and encouraged three brands of electricity networks like the Independent Power Plant (IPP) or Turbine; Geometrics Power Plant (GPP) and Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC). It also began a partnership with the World Band to provide pipe borne water to residents of Aba and Umuahia.
The Enyimba Economic City (EEC) is also another economic framework through which the government wants to reposition and offer a holistic infrastructure to the residents of the state. The project is 9464 hectares of work; an investment destination that will leverage on the opportunities Nigeria offers to bring about job creation and regional development through industrialization.
Today, Abia, has the highest percentage of SMEs. While Abuja is the political capital, Lagos economic headquarters, Abia via Ikpeazu is the SMEs capital of Nigeria. The huge presence of SMEs through garment and leather industry sub sector has led to the exportation of retail fashion to other parts of the world.
Ikpeazu‘s Made in Nigeria campaign is potent and as the chief promoter of Made in Nigeria, he draws the world attention to the abundant and untapped resources in the state, particularly those of the artisans. He sponsored over 30 of them to China to acquire skills in their chosen trades. And today, the Nigerian Army, Navy, Police, Correctional Centres etc are making their purchases in Aba.
Certainly, Aba is returning back to its burgeoning socioeconomic days after years of economic drought. Now, that many roads in the commercial are smiling to high heavens, electricity is gradually kissing the people’s homes and shops and portable water is giving signals of functioning again, who says Ikpeazu’s legendary analogy of the return of cinemas and fast foods is not a metaphor?
His statement on the return of cinemas and fast foods flows from the inner recess of his mind and pours out from the fountain of his knowledge, after all, a wise man speaks via a figure of speech to illustrate some wide range of issues, actions, reactions and innuendos. To the untrained mind, he speaks gibberish, but to the trained in the school of wisdom, his interjections are facts embedded in probity and honesty.
Sir William Schwench Gilbert, an English Librettist that lived 1836 to 1911 captures it succinctly when he said, “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.