My dear Governor, It is no longer news that you,in one fell swoop, dissolved your entire cabinet leaving just your Commissioner for Finance, Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice and Chief of Staff, but a lot of Nigerians especially Abians have continued to wonder what must have precipitated your decision, even though the constitution of the country gives you as a governor or any holder of executive office the authority to appoint and remove whoever you choose to work for you.
For a governor who unarguably was the most distracted since assumption of office – owing to the many legal battles you overcame within and outside your party – many Nigerians and particularly Abians may feel you ought to continue to sustain the tempo of governance with the present crop of commissioners who have been working with you since the last two years but it clearly obvious that the as a first term Governor must have learned a few things.
One of the hallmarks of a good leader is never to write any person or idea off until you try them. Gov. Ikpeazu did a good job with his take off as he was one of the few state govs who swore in his cabinet early in anticipation of the enormity of work to be done in Abia. A state that has suffered years of infrastructural deficit even under the control of military and civilian leadership and is yet to realise it’s natural potentials both in terms of human and material resources.
For those of us who shared the hope and aspirations of the average Abian who’s desire is to see a government that will work for them and bring basic improvements to their living condition. However, what we had for two years was constant litigation against the electoral legitimacy of the Ikpeazu led administration. Having noted that, the Supreme Court with its verdict in favour of gov. Ikpeazu seemed to have given the governor a fresh opportunity to deliver on his promises to Abians, and the opportunity he didn’t hesitate to grab by overhauling his cabinet.
With the recent tour of all 17 local government by the governor, I keenly observed the overwhelming goodwill Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu enjoys amongst Abians, just as he was literally given a confidence vote by most Abians to pursue his four year agenda with the remaining two years and he seems to have embraced that challenge with greater determination, realising the fact that he will be judged not by words but by works, hence his decision to dissolve his cabinet.
Even the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Eyinnaya Appolos who described his principals decision as normal, just like a game of football which has two halves and the decision to determine which players will be substituted or which players to remain during either halves solely lies with the head coach who alone knows what outcome or results he wishes to achieve with the players he picks at the end of the day.
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH IKPEAZU’S CABINET?
From the perspective of a realist, we cannot deny that majority of the decisions that a governor takes at the inception of his administration are usually based on political considerations and not necessarily on the merit, and this is basically because it is usually seen an an avenue to reward his political base for the job of delivering his victory at election. Having noted this, we cannot deny that this choice of decision sometimes works for some governors when they’re provided with quality options of individuals who have the prerequisite qualification for the task ahead. But in a situation where a governor’s political base lacks the individuals who can get the job done the entire state suffers. This was largely the case in Abia State where Governor Ikpeazu relied on his political base to provide him with the men and women whom he hoped to help him achieve his dream of a new Abia state but it ended up an error, one which Abia cannot afford again.
I don’t need to elaborate on the reasons why Abia State cannot afford another set of political lackeys in Umuahia because the reasons are too enormous to list in this article. The state of roads in Abia including state and federal roads, the infrastructural deficit, poor town planning, primary health care deficit, decay in education infrastructure, environmental pollution, incoherent SME development strategy, lack of pragmatic policy in oil and gas exploration just to mention but a few.
If for anything the last cabinet should be commended for even daring to dabble into new frontiers of governance as the Ikpeazu led administration courageously attempted to do what no previous government in Abia could do, which is to create a new Abia that will be built on the spirit of innovation, enterprise and commerce that has endured throughout the history of its peoples. In the governor’s inauguration speech this idea was revealed to Abians but perhaps due to the euphoria of having the first ever Ngwa born executive governor the opportunity of picking the best for the job of commissioners was squandered.
As a journalist who has transveresed several states in the country and have had the opportunity of chatting with men and women who occupy the position of commissioners in most states, I was utterly disappointed in the quality of some commissioners from Abia State. I am talking of some individuals who could barely put one or two sentences together how much more of being able to articulate government’s policy on matters pertaining to his/her ministry. It was a really sorry case when commissioners persistently avoid the media when issues that needed to be clarified in thier ministries were left hanging. There was a clear disconnect between the kind of leadership Governor Ikpeazu wanted the people of Abia to experience and the individuals eventually selected to drive it. The governor clearly brought in a new result oriented attitude towards governance which is similar to what is obtainable in the Private sector but the individuals (commissioners and some aides) picked for the job didn’t match the responsibility.
PRIVATE SECTOR ABIA PROFESSIONALS CAN DO THE JOB
For a state like Abia, Governor Ikpeazu might not need people who have experience in public sector service not just because the public service is synonymous to beaurucratic bottle necks that has largely impeded the ease of doing business in developing economies, but largely because the private sector itself will be key to the rapid development of the state. Abia state need men and women whom the local and foreign investors will have confidence in, at least enough to invest in a state like Abia where security has relatively improved tremendously. Governor Ikpeazu cannot do the job alone, because governance is not a “one man show”, he needs a credible team of young men and women who are hungry for success and have an undeniable track record of performance in their respective jobs.
Why do I say so? As we know today the developed economies of the world were all driven by private sector led growth, where the responsibility of government is simply to provide the enabling environment for business to thrive. Aba the commercial capital of Abia state hosts over 1million Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME’s) and invariably potentially West Africa’s biggest market. This alone is a huge investment goldmine for local and foreign investors who wish to support the federal government’s effotts at promoting made in Nigeria goods or those who want to take advantage of Ikpeazu’s relentless campaign to make Abia state products nationally and globally viable.
Suffice it to add that private sector trained individuals in public sector have recently been the trend especially in amongst the South-West states, like Lagos, Ogun, and in Niger-Delta here Rivers, Delta and Akwa-Ibom who have adopted it as the fastest way to drive efficiency in the public sector and make it attractive to partner with any government. In fact this makes the job of the Governor easier, because what Governor Okezie Ikpeazu needs is a group of young men and women who can articulate government’s policy by heart whenever they are confronted by the public.
Communication is very critical to governance, because a good project or idea that is poorly communicated to the public may end up as a narrative for political pessimists. These men and women must also be able to bring the knowledge and effective corporate governance skills acquired in their various professional careers to bear in governance as there won’t be time for anyone to learn on the job anymore. Don’t forget that Nigeria today has become a competition amongst the various peoples for the meagre resources available for development and Abia state has to present its very best that must be able to bring about that needed change.
Only individuals who understand the ethics and dynamics of achieving set objectives in the Private sector, be it banking sector, Insurance, Oil and Gas Industry and multinational corporations can best translate this bold vision of Gov. Ikpeazu, because it will eventually turn into a nightmare if another group of political apologists emerge as commissioners in a state where the scarce resources remain inadequate to satisfy the insatiable desires political Godfathers who will stop at nothing to exert their selfish will on the people not minding the enormity of the work expected to be done.
Abia state cannot afford another two years of politics and it will certainly be a disservice to the state if the governor bows to pressure and appoint Abians who we know do not match the credentials mentioned above. I am not saying that the governor should travel out of the country to begin to shop for Abians who embarked on self-imposed economic exile, but should shop for young Abians who are currently handling various responsibilities in their respective organisations resident in the country. I think it is also better to get individuals who have a diversified cultural background within the country, this is because we need Abians who can network smoothly across cultural and ethnic lines with a view to understanding the fact that Abians in various businesses need an existing large market that the Nigerian state provides as against the utopian state of Biafra as espoused by my brother Nnamdi Kanu.
An ideal scenario of what I am talking about is the ongoing Lake Rice project on going between Lagos state government and Kebbi state. Abia state need men and women who have well established contacts both locally and internationally that will add value to the state if appointed, in fact what I mean is that governor Ikpeazu will be first beneficiary of a highly cerebral cabinet, because his interactions and deliberations at state executive council meetings will incubate pragmatic ideas and actions.
WHY IKPEAZU MUST RAISE NEW CROP OF LEADERS
I am also of the opinion that this is governor Ikpeazu’s golden opportunity to raise new crop of leaders from different part of Abia. Abia state sincerely have not been privileged to have someone from out of the main stream political circle emerge a governor, and so a lot of us who are members of this new school of thought see this as the best chance for new sets of leaders to emerge without any major political shakeup as witnessed at the federal level with the emergence of the APC government. Now what this does is that, things are now going to be done differently and new communities and areas which have suffered deprivation and marginalisation will automatically become liberated.
It is also important to select a group of career young men who have a certain degree of financial stability and not those who will see the opportunity of serving the public as a means towards improving his personal worth and family estate or those desperately working towards getting a government appointment as their only means of financial freedom. It is also very important for the governor to select individuals who can deploy the use of technology and ICT to governance as the world is fast leaving behind leaders who cannot cope with the fast pace of global trends and innovations. We need people who can translate numbers to reliable data which will eventually end up as government policies in education, health, socio-economic empowerment, trade and investment etc.
We also need thorough bred individuals who have vast knowledge of procurement procedures that meets with international best practices. This is essential to safeguarding the dwindling resources being received monthly from the federal government. Therefore the need for people with proven integrity and record of consistency in their chosen career path cannot be overemphasised, this is because Abia state needs a consistent and sustainable economic trajectory that will engender growth and development in the short term and prosperity for all Abians in the long term.
NEGLECTING OSOKWA AGAIN WILL BE GREAT INJUSTICE TO NGWA PEOPLE
I will speak for the people of Osokwa in Osisioma Ngwa Local government who have remained one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped parts of the state. My last visit was filled with mixed emotions as I took pictures of a community which looked like a 19th century African colony just waiting to be conquered by any willing empire.
I recall during the gubernatorial elections, Osisioma Ngwa was amongst the three local government whose elections were cancelled and a re-election ordered by INEC. Osokwa community was at the forefront of this crisis where it was alleged that people had massively over voted for the then PDP candidate Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu who incidentally is an Ngwa man. So this shows that Osokwa community have also paid its due to the emergence of Ikpeazu as governor and must not be shut out as far as as appointments are concerned.
The only school in the community, Arongwa Community School currently lies in ruin as it presently seem to symbolise what education used to be for our parents. Only private education practitioners have taken over the burden to train and develop our children as their activities are seldom monitored by authorities. Osokwa community deserves a credible personality who is not a product of the existing political system, else we end up with the same results that have bedevilled us up till date. Assessing clean water has been a serious challenge to our entire community as people depend solely on private borehole as we have never had any single public water facility project which can be described as an initiative of state government or the legislators from the state. Sen. T.A Orji who represents Abia Central in the Senate and Hon. Solomon Ezinwa Adaelu who represents Obingwa/Osisioma/Ogwunagbo federal constituency have totally been disconnected from the people of Osokwa as the people have vowed to take their destinies in their hands come 2019. I have personally visited the two legislators to notify them of the numerous challenges confronting the people of Osokwa community but it has fallen on deaf ears as usual. This is not the kind of leaders Osokwa need, we need selfless individuals who would respond to the yearnings of thier constituents.
As a community, we have not had any single roads constructed, we have never had electricity before as our women and children constantly suffer due to the absence of primary health care facilities. We have never been listened to as a community by any administration as our federal legislators don’t even care if we exist or not. Governor Ikpeazu must see this as an opportunity to expand his achievements especially in Ngwa land which he must see as his primary constituency. Remember nobody will help you develop your land tomorrow if you don’t do anything about it today. Therefore my dear Governor Ikpeazu, it will be great injustice if someone credible is not considered from Osokwa in your new cabinet.
I remember when I first had a private chat with Governor Ikpeazu in Abia State Government Lodge, Abuja, he gave me that assurance that Abia state will be run differently under him, but perhaps the many litigations that just ended recently has now provided you that chance to redeem your promise. The root cause of the many challenges in Abia state is politics and so we can’t afford another 2 years of politics so therefore in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness that brought Governor Okezie Ikpeazu into power Osokwa people are calling for the nomination of a seasoned private sector professional to serve in the governors cabinet a commissioner. The governor can consult with the various existing associations such as the Osokwa Development Association (ODA) Lagos branch. The spokeperson of the association Mr. Emeka Mbgeahuru a retired manager in P.Z who have bitterly lamented the perennial neglect of Osokwa community by incessant governments but have shared his optimism about Governor Ikpeazu’s intention of bridging the gap of non-inclusion in Abia governance.
In my view, Osokwa needs a thorough bred young professional that will bring drastic change to the eroding landscape of our poverty stricken an underdeveloped community, which we don’t seem to lack. A good example is how Obinna Oriaku, Hon. Commissioner for Finance attracted several projects to Isi-alangwa South including the road connecting Umuojima his home town and Owerrininta which made it possible for me to drive to my uncle’s house at about 2am unencumbered whereas I couldn’t get a bike to my own village at about 8pm due to the risk of the flooded roads. This is why the advocacy for professionals from Ngwa land to join in the development of the state becomes inevitable.
WHY THE LANDSCAPE OF ABA MUST BE TRANSFORMED
The residents of Aba must be prepared to make sacrifices if the City’s landscape must change under Ikpeazu’s Aba Urban Renewal Masterplan. I say this because there is no way Aba can reach its potentials with the current state of road networks that have characterised the daily traffic gridlock it’s occupants encounter. There is just one major access road into the city of Aba which is the Osisioma Junction which governor Ikpeazu has just began the foundation of a massive overhead bridge and first of its kind in the state. But the traffic problem of Aba isn’t just a matter of one massive bridge, but the poor interconnectivity of roads within the metropolis.
The state government needs a seasoned structural engineer who can man the ministry of works and come up with a workable path to achieving the governors plan of a new Aba metropolis. Roads need to be expanded, drainages need to be cleared and structures impeding these master plan have to give way. This is the sacrifice Abians should prepare for. This approach has worked in Lagos and in Owerri Imo state where chaos was almost the order of the day but the governors upon realising this took the difficult but best decision to demolish obstructing infrastructures.
What the governor must do better in this process is the compensation method. The compensation of person in this category must not be taken for granted because it is usually a major soft spot for political detractors who wouldn’t want the governor to make any landmark or signature achievement in office.
The concluding two years of this administration will definitely be critical to 2019 and now is the time make that real difference Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. In your consultations ask the people through their associations and groups the kind of persons they want to serve them. Let the people who know their best sons and daughters nominate them to you. Please Your Excellency don’t heed the voice of political imposters who during their time did nothing for the people other than expand thier personal estate and deepening their political grip on the jugular of the people, because Abian must e great. History awaits your decision Governor Okezie Ikpeazu PhD.