Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, a biochemist and experienced public servant is aspiring to be the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State in 2015 but he will have to unsettle other strong contenders to clinch the ticket on Monday, December 8
| By Maureen Chigbo | Dec. 15, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
If humility is all it takes to win the governorship ticket in the forthcoming primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State on December 8, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, will certainly clinch it. His unassuming and likeable personality endears him to his audience whom he captivates with his tale of how he started life on a humble note and worked his way to be where he is today as a doctoral degree holder in Biochemistry and a stalwart politician under the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, now aspiring to be the number one citizen in Abia State.
But there are other factors which he will have to contend with to deflate the plot of myraids of contenders, who are equally qualified and very keen on the race including Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Alex Otti, former managing director of Diamond bank. For one thing, money is essential in the politics of Nigeria but Okezie downplays the fact and will readily admit that he is not very rich. Secondly, he will have to map out a convincing plan for the restoration of Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state which has been progressively in a state of decay because infrastructural and other sundry facilities in the city were neglected by the previous administrations. Aba is particularly an issue being robustly discussed now by all the aspirants in the current race to the Abia state government house. Incidentally, Aba falls within the zone that has been assigned to produce the next governor of the state.
Apart from that, Ikpeazu has to gain the confidence of the incumbent governor that he will continue from where he stopped. He will also have to prove that the people of Ukwa Ngwa, where the governorship has been zoned to are in support of his aspiration. This means that he will have to convince some of the aspirants from the zone to step down for him and promise that he will work with them if he is elected in the 2015 election. Already, it appears people from his zone are propping him up going by the recent million man march in support of his course by his people.
From his disposition when he spoke to journalists in Lagos, November 30, Ikpeazu, whose father and mother are teacher and nurse, respectively, is confident that he will reach the promise land. He is well heeled in the Abia politics having joined it long ago when he left the ivory tower where he taught. He also parades an array of programmes which aligns with his vision and mission in politics to reinvigorate his home state if he is elected in 2015.
His vision is to ensure an economically vibrant Abia State with strong institutions; open, transparent and inclusive governance, to guarantee high quality of life for the citizens, leading to sustainable development. Closely aligned to this is his mission, which is to transform Abia State into a functional private sector-led economy; creating opportunities for her citizens, improving the quality of their lives and shaping the State into a regional entrepreneurship hub through good governance, appropriate developmental and environmentally sustainable policies.
Ikpeazu’s service philosophy is his commitment to serve God and humanity. “Therefore, I am driven by a strong determination to achieve results. In this regard, I am propelled by the fundamental needs of our people. I believe that to successfully achieve this, there is need to consult and involve a wide spectrum of our society. I think through issues and consult appropriately before arriving at decisions”, he said. According to him, he appreciates intellectual discussions and contributions. “I encourage people to express themselves, share their opinions and ideas on issues of interest to our society. Most importantly, I take responsibility for every action and inaction under my watch. I am a team player; together we can achieve a lot.”
The cardinal questions on Ikpeazu’s mind when he is handling assignments are: How best do we identify and galvanize the best hands within the community to work with? How do we collectively push the frontiers of development, and achieve expected results? He is offering himself for service that is if he is elected as the Abia state governor because he served the Abia State Government for over a decade as an active participant. More importantly, he is committed to the vision and mission of the Chief T.A Orji administration.
“I am convinced that lack of continuity and shared vision has been central to the slow pace of development in most parts of Nigeria. I believe that a strong thread linking past and present leaderships in a state like Abia is indispensable if a new government of the state must fast track development in all spheres. This can only be achieved if a succeeding government makes it a duty to leverage on the foundation and vision for good governance already laid by the preceding administration. I shall therefore be driven by the philosophy of “Abia Consolidarity” i.e. consolidating the legacy of Chief T.A Orji and continuing to mobilise solidarity for further development.”
He thinks the Abia project is a collective responsibility in which everybody has a role to play, ‘so we can proudly say: this is where we met our State and this is where we have taken it, giving God the glory and the people credit.” “I appreciate what the Chief T.A Orji’s Government has done in the state and the challenges that have confronted the government, constraining the growth and development of the state at the pace the Governor desired. I am therefore well prepared to steer the ship of the state from where Chief T.A Orji anchors it. I represent a paradigm shift in two dimensions; I am young, vibrant and enthusiastic. I have the energy and capacity to pursue the dreams of our founding fathers and aspirations of our people. I have the experience in governance and a track record of bridge building and cementing relationships,” HE said.
His pledge is that given the opportunity to serve, his efforts shall be anchored on principles such as security and protection of lives and property; integrity, commitment, equity and social cohesion, transparency and due process, accountability, inclusive governance, gender mainstreaming, environmental sustainability, information sharing, rule of law, institution building, adoption of world best practices in procurement and service delivery
Ikpeazu intends to focus on the economy, health, education, agriculture, women and youth development, transport tourism and so on.
On the economic front, he said that industrialisation has historically been a core driver of modernisation and job creation. He believes the private sector is the platform that drives industrialisation. “We will therefore develop the state economy applying the economic anchors such as systematic consultation with the organised private sector to promote a private sector-led Abia economy; identification and addressing of the binding constraints to private sector growth in the state; massive infrastructural development; establishment of a functional small and medium enterprises, SME, centre to render critical, non-financial business development and support services to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing SMEs business operators.
Also, he plans to establish an SME Fund (under public-private partnership). This shall be aimed at addressing the challenge of finance access faced by aspiring and operating entrepreneurs in the state. There will be overall improvement of the business environment, BE, in Abia State. “Conscious of the fact that economic growth and development do not happen in a vacuum, we shall muster the political will to design and enforce appropriate public policies required to ensure an enabling business environment; pursuing vigorously the consolidation of the T.A Orji’s administration’s efforts in reforming and streamlining the State’s Tax regime to check multiple and unapproved taxation, while enhancing the internally generated revenue of the state,” he said.
On the Abare-development project Ikpeazu said the axiom, “get Aba right, and Abia is right”, would continue to be the pivotal development philosophy and the nexus upon which to hinge development policy for Aba.
“Aba is home to virtually all Abians, Ndigbo and has a strong attachment to many others. Re-developing Aba into a modern commercial hub; urban renewal and city upgrading, functional infrastructure, stable power supply, reliable and decent public transportation system, urban traffic management system, structured and planned industrial layouts, clusters and parks, will release her revenue potential that can be leveraged upon to develop the rest of Abia State. Aba with its strong entrepreneurial setting, attracting business operators from across the nation and most ECOWAS countries, has the potential to become a commercial and entrepreneurship hub of West Africa. We shall enhance international marketing opportunities for made in Aba goods and services by ensuring quality control and showcase the made in Aba brand in the economic capitals of the world,” he said. His plans for Obuaku Industrial Zone forms part of the Aba re-development project plan. Its components include, but not limited to, a sea port, housing estate, etc.
His policy on health is to enhance access to quality and affordable healthcare. Already, there are over 300 Primary Health Centers all over the State, functional general hospitals including the 3Nos 100-bed wards built and equipped by the Government. There are also the state of the art equipped Abia State diagnostic, eye and dialysis centres built by the T. A. Orji administration. “We shall integrate the vision of the present government by linking the Primary Health Centres, PHCs, to general hospitals and tertiary health institutions.
Our thematic areas in health sector will include, but not limited to, maternal/child care, HIV/AIDS, cancer, malaria control, the EBOLA scourge we shall however emphasize the preventive approach,” he said.
Educationally, Ikpeazu will continue from what the present government has done so much in the education sector, with the renovation, construction and equipping of model school blocks. Our policy will therefore be to ensure qualitative and functional education that will equip the Abia child to not only participate in, but also confidently compete on the global platform.
“We shall rebuild the confidence in our public education system to allow our children attend public schools. We will encourage our teachers’ capacity building until they are able to actualize their set career goals. We shall ensure uninhibited access to quality primary education.
We shall enhance their structures, manpower and facilities so that our secondary schools meet international standards. We shall prioritise Teachers’ welfare. We shall adopt training and re-training of teachers as an integral part of our education quality assurance programme. We shall vigorously pursue the establishment and resuscitation of vocational and technical education centers equipped with modern and functional facilities, with appropriate personnel, to ensure that our youth are adequately and skillfully empowered as part of our response to Abia youth employment challenge. We shall adopt the Recognized Vocational Training Centers, RVTCs, programme with the best artisans in every Local Government Area co-opted to train youth in their chosen vocations (Apprenticeship), equip them with practical skills and facilitate their self- employment,” he said.
The aspirant is not leaving out the information communication technology, ICT, development from his roadmap for Abia. He is of the view that today’s world is ICT driven and to ensure that our youth can compete effectively in the global village, they must be ICT compliant. “Pursuant to this, we, in partnership with international agencies and organisations, shall set up ICT development centres in each local government area of the state. These centres shall be well equipped and managed by well-motivated and highly proficient instructors, to drive the ICT revolution in Abia State,” he said.
As part of his strategies to sustainability in the state’s development drive, “we shall address youth unemployment and also stimulate the micro, small and medium enterprises sub-sector in Abia State. Entrepreneurship education will be compulsory in secondary, technical/vocational and tertiary institutions to develop in the students an enterprise mindset, creativity, innovation, business idea generation, critical small business management skills, ability to develop a bankable business plan and create in them the passion to start small businesses after school that will drive the state economy in the years ahead, with its attendant multiplier effects, furthering the state’s economic growth and development, he said, adding that adult education will be encouraged.
On agriculture, he intends to promote full exploitation of the state’s agricultural potentials for food security, agro-industrial raw materials growth, employment generation and poverty reduction. The present administration has established model “Liberation farms” in two local government areas with a programme to expand to the rest of the State. “We shall consolidate and expand this effort and establish a value chain for raw material production and industrial processing of finished goods to restore agriculture’s pride of place” among others.
He plans to mainstream gender balance as is now globally accepted as a strategy for reducing poverty, improving health and living standards and enhancing the efficiency of public investment. “We shall pursue the integration of women in the State’s human development agenda, while ensuring their full participation in the socio-economic and political development of the State,” the aspirant said.
To ensure the achievement of desired outcomes on women development, he intends to improve girl-child access to education. Specifically ensure that unskilled women in the state acquire vocational skills to enhance their sustainable livelihood; increase women’s access to microcredit and small business resources and economic opportunities, through massive support for women-based co-operative societies; initiate and or support legislative procedures to check harmful traditional practices, discrimination and violence against women.
Appreciating the massive investment of the Governor T. A. Orji’s administration in youth empowerment, and in realisation of the pivotal place of the youth in shaping our envisioned Abia State, his approach to youth development is to be multi-sectoral to ensure that our youth in secondary, vocational and tertiary institutions, are equipped with strong entrepreneurship skill and ensure that Abia youth are given critical value-adding ICT skills; pay special attention to youth enterprises creation through our planned SME Centre; facilitate access to start-up capital for youth-based enterprises while supporting existing youth small business operators to expand their businesses; integrate leadership, creativity and innovation in our entrepreneurship education programme’s deliverables to effectively equip our youth for the world of work.
Ikpeazu’s plans for agriculture includes making agri-business more attractive to our youth and partner with the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike and Abia State University, to design the Youth in Agri-business Programme, YABP, promote employment generation and livelihood for the youth.
He is also to set up a Youth Development Fund Support whose funds will be sought from donor agencies, development partners and the private Sector to assist in empowering our youth.
Ikpeazu believes that a good transportation system is essential in any modern society as it plays a key role in the movement of goods and services and facilitates socioeconomic activities.
“We shall design and encourage a new and effective transportation system. We will encourage safe and convenient mass transportation, including route designation, and explore the use of the railways. We shall also ensure the completion of the airport project of the current administration, because we are convinced that an Abia Airport will make a great difference in the development of the state’s economy and boost tourism,” he said.
The aspirant plans to consolidate on the successes of the T.A Orji administration in the area of sports. “We shall also encourage school and state sporting completions to identify budding talents and nurture them”, he said.
According to him, tourism has continued to be a sector with high return on investment in many parts of the world. “Abia State is blessed with numerous tourist attractions and sites, which we shall harness in partnership with the private sector, to further boost the state’s economy. We shall also encourage activities in the entertainment industry, partnering with credible groups and organisations in the industry,” he said.
Ikpeazu, a renowned biochemist and a highly acknowledged public servant, was born on October 18, 1964, to the family of late Pa Ishmael and Deaconess Bessie Ikpeazu of Umuebere in Umuobiakwa village, Isialaukwu Mbato Autonomous Community in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State, Nigeria.
Ikpeazu attended Amaise Central Primary School, Umuobiakwa. In 1973, while in primary five, he gained admission into Eziama High School, Aba and later moved to Ihie High School, Isiala Ngwa, where he took his School Certificate Examination in 1979. In 1980, at the age of 16, he gained admission into the University of Maiduguri, UNIMAID, to study Clinical Biochemistry and graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons.) Second Class Upper Division in August, 1984. From August 1984 to August 1985, Ikpeazu served as a clinical biochemist in the medical laboratory of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Port Harcourt, for his national youth service. He returned to the University of Maiduguri for an M.Sc degree in Biochemical Toxicology and graduated in 1990. In 1994, at the age of 30, he obtained a doctorate degree, Ph.D, in Biochemical Pharmacology from the University of Calabar.
Ikpeazu served as a Graduate-Assistant in the Department of Science Laboratory Technology, University of Maiduguri, from 1986 to 1987 while studying for his M.Sc degree. He also taught at the Calabar Polytechnic from 1990 to 1992 during his Ph.D programme. Between 1994 and 1996, he served as administrative manager with Cash Bond Investments and Credits Ltd, Lagos. In 1998, Ikpeazu joined the services of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, as Lecturer 1 in the Department of Applied Biochemistry, Faculty of Applied Natural Sciences, and rose to be head of Department by 2001. He was also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, Ebonyi State University College of Basic Medical Sciences, between 2000 and 2002. Between 2003 and 2004, he was a Masters’ Degree External Examiner, to the Department of Biochemistry, University of Nigeria.
In 2002, he served as the Transition Committee, TC, chairman for Obingwa Local Government Area. This marked his entry into politics. He also served as special adviser to the Governor of Abia State. He was appointed general manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme, ASPIMSS, from 2007 to 2009. Within the period, he turned around the fortunes of ASPIMSS, and made it a revenue yielding agency of government. In 2010, he was appointed chairman, governing council of Abia State College of Health Technology, Aba.
During his tenure, he facilitated the accreditation of three critical courses in the institution by the NBTE. In 2011, he was reappointed general manager, Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme, ASPIMSS, a position he held till 2013. In June 2013, he was appointed the first deputy general manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency, ASEPA, Aba and Environs; an assignment he creditably discharged to the admiration of not only the Aba populace, but also the entire Abia State and beyond, interpreting the vision of Chief T.A Orji, on environmental and waste management, till October 2014 when he resigned.
He is a member of Biochemical Society of Nigeria, the Nigeria Environmental Society and Rotary Club of Eziukwu Aba. He is a Trustee and the President, Eastern Ngwa Country Sports Club of Nigeria. He is happily married to Nkechi Okezie Ikpeazu, and has four children. Only time will tell if his programmes and chants of continuity from Where Orji stops will propel him to success.