By the Editors
Just like what some state executive governors who just stepped down from office on the 29th of May, 2023 are facing, the administration of the immediate past Abia State Governor, Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu has been receiving heavy bashing.
Not only was criticism limited to his days in office, it has followed him beyond the eight years he spent in office.
Some social media reports claimed that Ikpeazu was not committed to workers’ welfare and was owing workers’ salaries.
His administration was also accused of insulting the sensibility of pregnant women by giving them N500 and also sharing demeaning quantities of kerosene to market women in the state.
He was also criticized for allegedly claiming that his administration brought the eatery, Mr. Biggs to Abia State.
Abia state, especially Aba, is said to have become the dirtiest state in the country in the last eight years.
Other reports also claimed that Ikpeazu was compromising with the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) which made the state not to experience IPOB’s attacks like other South East states.
The massive criticism has gone beyond the social media, as the new Abia State governor, Alex Otti has also started reversing some decisions taken by Ikpeazu’s government, just like some Ex- Governors having a successor from a different political party have been facing.
But to put the records straight, Ex-Governor Ikpeazu denied the various reports as he bared his mind on his achievements in an exclusive interview with Security Watch Africa (SWA).
Explaining why he ignored the media propaganda against his administration when he was in office, he said, he felt action speaks louder than voice and he didn’t want to use resources meant for development of the state to fight media war.
According to him, Abians have never had it so good in many sectors like under his administration.
To succeed against insecurity in the state, he said he started by conducting a deep analysis of what the security problem was in the state.
Noting that security is an interwoven phenomenon, he said he also deployed his native knowledge of Abia and its borders, studied the areas of conflicts, and segmented the crimes around Abia.
Also to further secure Abia, the governor said he developed three approaches and did something about employment to indirectly tackle insecurity, which made him focus on garment and shoe production.
That alone, he said, engaged over one million people in the trade in Abia and Aba in particular.
The Governor said he also created an ecosystem that favoured SME Banks loaning money to petty traders and boost support for trade and commerce development.
In this direction, he said he sent thirty youths to China to learn how to do shoes with machine.
Speaking further on security, he said he adopted non-kinetic approach to deepen intelligence gathering in the state which in his non-arm bearing force, Ebube-Agu.
According to him, he only empower the force with bicycles and android phones towards reinforcing the existing gate keepers.
To have a close linkup with those that matter in security, the governor said he created a Whatsapp group comprising himself and all the service chiefs in the state.
While creating trust, he said that he worked hard on synergy to ensure no conflict among the security agencies.
“That’s why we led so many joint operations successfully,” he stated.
He said it enabled the state to track and recover many snatched vehicles and arrested the culprits within 45 minutes of when the vehicles were snatched.
The governor also disclosed that some traffic lights in the state were secretly installed with CCTV cameras.
To complement the CCTV cameras, he said his administration established Abia State Crimes Prevention and Monitoring System (CPAMS), which captures the crime diary in police stations into laptops.
Through this, he said, all bio data of criminals are taken, including facial marks, pictures, tattoos, pictures of country home, and pictures of parents, are stored in the database.
The governor pointed out that the CCTV cameras can only be very useful when there is database.
Stressing that his administration also equiped police within its resources, he said officers that burst serious crimes in the state were also instantly rewarded.
He said “So for eight years, there was no single bank robbery in Abia state. We did not have people beheading others in politically motivated assassinations.
“In some states, people cannot go home with Hilux, they cannot go home to conduct weddings for their children. But in Abia, for eight years, we were relatively safe.
The ex-governor, however, denied having any compromise with the IPOB leadership, as he called for more engagement with aggrieved people in the country.
He also took time to shed light on how his administration successfully tackled ENDSARS crisis and burning of buildings.
Noting that the ENDSARS crisis was a fallout of many things, the governor said he first tried to trace the sources of attacks in order to tackle them.
According to him, youths wanted to ventilate their energy through the ENDSARS as a result of their anger and frustration which were fuelled by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The economic recession at the time, he said, was a great factor in the crisis.
He said “What I needed to do first was to restore institutions of civil authority, all the police stations quickly, all the vehicles. Because some of these bad criminals got themselves enmashed and use the opportunity to loot and to cause destruction.
“So, I said I was going to frustrate the people that joined the ENDSARS, because they were attacking courts, attacking police and vehicles.
“So, I decided to build that back quickly and then changed a few things. One, most of my police stations have security towers so that anyone approaching a police station can be seen. Then I also noticed they were looting arms, so we changed the design of armoury. So, it became impossible, even if you burn it, you won’t be able to get at the arms and ammunition.
“I also replaced the vehicles and then built the confidence of the law-enforcement officers, who were at that time retracting. We needed to encourage them to come out.
“And then, we injected a few military checkpoints, which we later withdrew. As far as I’m concerned, it was a big challenge, but once again I give God the glory, we were able to survive,” he said.
Speaking on some projects completed by his administration, he said “But down the line, 250 roads, 750 classroom blocks, 4 model schools, an ultramodern multi specialist hospital, the brand new government house, which we never had before, the first fly-over ever, reducing infant and maternal mortality by 71% according to World Bank, increasing antenatal attendance of women by 35%. These are great projects.
“The intervention in Enyimba Economic City, which is perhaps the biggest and organise project in Africa now, and bequeathing two industries, a shoe factory and garment factory, I have over 170 young Abians abroad studying. It has never been done before.
“So, I think that regardless of the noise, we were able to do things that are profound, that touched the lives of the people.”
The governor added “I understand why all the noise. It was to de-market the state, to de-market me, distract me and make sure I don’t get anything done. But despite the odds, I got things done. I must admit that I did not do everything.
“Nobody will be able to do everything. But whether I responded to most of my promises, the answer will be yes. Whether I checked most of the boxes in terms of governance, the answer will be yes. And again, did he do everything, the answer will be no.”
On roads, the governor said “I’m a student of scientific leadership or evidence-based leadership, in fact I have established an institute for that. Everyday you see perennial pot-hole in one spot. Every year there will be failure there.
“Because I met some roads that have been bad for 30 years and successive administrations were working on them. Either their lieutenants were not faithful or they did not want to do anything differently.
“So, I asked the question what did we need to do. So, we did soil test and then did analysis and found out that most of those roads have no drainage. Again, we also discovered that for Aba, in particular, that was a war theatre during the civil war, most of the roads had gone under very very serious mortal attack.
“If you go to Uli, the distance between Onitsha and Owerri, after Ihiala, that used to be Biafra Airstrip. Before the federal force discovered that that was the airstrip, they were looking for a place with straight stretch of 3km or 4km or 5km where aircraft can land. And they saw a few places and one of the place was Opobo Road in Aba.”
He continued “And that place uptill tomorrow, it doesn’t matter what you do on that road, it will develop pot-holes, even if you bring Julius Berger. I think it was Julius Berger that did Onitsha to Owerri. Go back there, you will see today there are pot-holes there. Reason, when they discovered that was the airstrip, then the Biafran forces had no capacity to capture armoured tank unless they dig a hole and cover it with a mat or something.
“So, for those places they did that, perennial problem. That was what happened at Ariaria, Amankone, and Ukwumango.
“Since I became a governor I have done the problem of Amankone and Ukwumango. My successor would not have to go back to those places.
“So, what did I do. I made sure I did drainage, then I needed to do rigid pavement 12 feet concrete with BRC in-between or metal mesh, did the concrete and then finished it with asphalt. I did that in many roads, not one, not two, not three, Umuola road, Owerri road, Osusu road, Omuma road, then Force road lately.
“All these, we used rigid paved roads. There is Ochefu rigid paved road. So many roads to the point that people started doing rigid paved roads, and they called me to come and commission it and they tell me we learnt it from you.
“I did not do it as my style. I did it as my response to a peculiar problem in my terrain. I made a promise I was going to hand over roads that will give my successor some respite so that he can face some other roads.
“And I’m proud to say 90% of the roads I did within my first 100 days are still standing and I’m sure all my rigid paved roads will give you 30 years,” he stated.
The governor also disclosed that he attracted $50 million (US Dollars) for rural agricultural mobility programme as more foreign organizations partnered with the state under his watch to do 500 roads.
On the N500 payment to pregnant women, he said “There were six states at a time in Nigeria that keyed into the basic healthcare provision fund. And that was a Federal Government initiative, and the idea was that you pay some counterpart funding. My state was chosen as the flagship state in the South East.
“The programme was to equip primary healthcare centres and do everything to enhance enrolment in those primary healthcare centres for antenatal care for our mothers and pregnant women. That time, women were predominantly prone to patronizing traditional birth attendants and other places.
“I had a vision to improve on life expectancy in Abia. And these pregnant women were part of my vulnerable groups that I needed to capture and oversee personally. That basic healthcare provision fund programme became a blessing.
“So the idea is to create a management at the community level where the primary healthcare centres are. Meanwhile we have over 750 primary healthcare centres, almost one per ward. If these pregnant women attend these primary healthcare centres, every visits, the antenatal care is free. Remember, the idea is to draw the attention back to primary healthcare centres.
“We wanted to create incentives. Every visit is free antenatal and then the day you deliver, it is also free. Apart from being free, you will be given a free birth pack, all the follow up visits; the postnatal visits are also key because you have to be given vaccination for the new born baby and also look at the mother to see how she is recovering.”
He added “So, all visits, pre and post delivery, plus the pack were free and on each day you visit, your transportation fare will be borne by the primary healthcare centre and that is N500 for each visit.
“So if you visit 10 times, what it means is that some people will even visit 20 times. That was how we were able to reverse women from traditional birth attendants back to primary healthcare centres.
“But unfortunately, what the media heard or what they decided to propagate was the N500, which I think is unfortunate.”
On the report of kerosene sharing, the governor said “There was nothing like that except for once when there was shortage of kerosene, a friend of mine gave me a truck. So, I don’t use kerosene for my cars.
“I have women in the market, so I sent people with the same truck to give people in the market the kerosene free. Perhaps, I should have built a dunk in my village and store the kerosene. But I didn’t feel that was a proper thing to do, so I needed to give it out.”
About the report alleging that he brought Mr Briggs to Abia state, he said “2013, 2014, investments ran away due to some criminal activities, investment flight, capital flight. You can imagine that there was no fast food joint in Aba at the time I took over.
“So, I was only saying that life has returned. Crunches, for instance, started in Aba. They started with one branch, but today, Crunches have over 50 outlets and more than 40 out of the 50 are in Aba. When you see night clubs, cinemas springing up that means there is night life. But if you see a ghost town, a deserted town, that means you are not calibrating what you are doing properly.
“If the data has been well taken, Abia State was number three in direct foreign investments, Abia state will be clearly way up there. So, in my time we did better in foreign direct investment than we have ever done than any other state,” he said.
Speaking on waste management in the state, he noted that it is a big issue in Africa and in Nigeria in particular.
Stressing that Aba alone pushes over 40 tonnes while other areas pushes more than 40 tonnes, he said one will be embarrassed if he fails to push waste within 24 hours.
According to him, the state is presently using land field, which is a problem and not sustainable.
The governor said he got it right at the end when he built sustainable tertiary dumps.
Under his watch, he said that only Abia state was feeding primary one to primary six before the Federal Government started a similar programme.
Apart from creating jobs for 5300 women as food vendors, he said his programme also helped to reverse school enrolment in private schools to public schools by over 600 percent.
Getting pupils to the public schools, he said, made him to be able to guarantee the quality of teachings they received.
On the accusation of not paying salaries, he said he loves his workers so much and didn’t think any government has shown them so much commitment like his administration did.
He said “When we were given Paris refund, I think I got twice, the Federal Government directed that we use 50% for salaries. I did not use 50% for salaries, I used 60% for salaries, I think that was N11 billion. So I gave them 60% of N11 billion. Then the second tranche was N6 billion, I gave them 100%, all the N6 billon. Until I left the office, no civil servant, there are 31,000 workers in Abia, 29,000 of them were on regular pay every month until last month.
According to the governor, the workers strike in the state was politically-motivated.
He added “When they decided to go on strike, it was just because in Abia state the Nigeria Labour Congress have become the appendage of the Labour party.
They were talking about check-off dues, it has nothing to do with their basic salaries. And this is including the COVID-19 years.
“The 2,000 workers we had problem with are parastatals and agencies that were supposed to generate revenue. I’ve always told people that I have problem sponsoring carelessness and frivolities. If you are not prudent, you are not doing well.
“How can it be that you have a student population of 25,000 and you make N3.5 billion to N4 billion every year, which you don’t pay to the state. You manage it. And you are coming to the state to say subvention of N100 million is why you cannot pay salaries.
“Salaries should have seen paid from the money you made from fees, and the N100 million was supposed to be for overhead development. So, that is what it is,” he stated
For the opportunity to serve the state as the Executive Governor, he said “I want to thank God and Abians for trusting me with their fate for 8 years. The job is what I will like to describe in one sentence, ‘Pressure Cooker Job.’
“Eight years down the lane, in my last two days, I commissioned nine completed projects. It was work, work, work. And in between we had the options down, I faced Operation Python Dance, I didn’t hear anything like that before. Then the era of Unknown Gunmen plus the traditional issues/criminal activities.
“And then moving Abia into a place where we have become rightful, the SME capital of Nigeria. It’s been a long torturous journey. I must say I am tired. I checked almost all the boxes. I am a fulfilled man,” the governor declared.
Hon. John Okiyi Kalu, who served as Commissioner for Information and later Commissioner for Commerce and Trade under Ikpeazu, corroborated the ex-governor’s claims.
In an interview with SWA, he said “The successor of Ikpeazu is a lucky man because he’s handing over a peaceful and secured state. We didn’t get that when we came on board. He’s handing over basic infrastructure.
“As at the time we came on board in 2015, there was no single good road in Aba. No access to Aba. Umuahia was the way it was. But Aba was particularly problematic for us.
“Less than one year into his administration, God helped Ikpeazu, he manage to stabilize the security situation progressively.”
He added “Under his watch, there is no rich man, there is no poor man. He treats everyone equally. And he is not malicious. He’s so forgiven, he’s so kind. He’s so loving that people took that for weakness.”
Comparing his boss with the new governor, he said “I know there is a sharp contrast between him as a person and the incumbent.”
According to him, nobody in the state have ever provided employment for the youth like Ikpeazu.
He said “In terms of employment, before he came, what they called employment is equivalent to empowerment. You buy Keke, bicycle, you buy frying pan and the rest of them and give to the people.
“Ikpeazu’s method was quite different. Ikpeazu was building capacity of those who have things to do. And return them to that place to make them employers.
“So, we didn’t have many people who were not doing anything.
The work Ikpeazu did in Aba can only be matched by the work done by Late Sam Mbakwe.
“He’s a man who loves the state, he’s a man who believes that what is right should be done rightly.
Only Ikpeazu knows the security architecture that protected Abia state for eight years,” he stated.
Also speaking with Security Watch Africa (SWA) on Ikpeazu’s stewardship, a former Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Deputy Inspector General, Adeleye Oyebade (Rtd.) said “When I came to Abia the governor of the day really assisted me in terms of provision of some vehicles and some other things with the understanding and approval of the Inspector General of Police then.
“We were able to have some equipment which helped us to work. And then the morale of the men was so high. There is no place in Abia I didn’t visit up-to Arochukwu. I went round talking and lecturing the men.
“So, I was able to get their support and then I started building special teams for special situations. When you have a peculiar crime in an area, you develop a strategy to fight that crime as it is going to be localized in that environment.”
He added “So, what we did was to crime map the state and then get the crime that is prevalent in each of the areas we have crime mapped and then develop strategies to tackle them.
“If you now go to Aba, we were having kidnapping issues, so what we did was to engage all the community leaders, the people at the grassroots. Not only Ezes, there are so many people at the motor parks that we were able to draw to ourselves and giving us information.
“We also had the issue of IPOB then and what we did was to engage the leadership. But if we get them on the act, we don’t spare them.
“The Commissioner of Police is the next person to the governor of a state when it comes to crime.
Not only the Commissioner of Police, I was very very close to the head of security. The guy was part of my success story because we share information.
“The governor worked very well because he believed in security. I must commend Governor Ikpeazu because he takes the issue of security very importantly. Anytime I call him, he responds immediately. And he takes my information very seriously,” he said.
It is hoped that Nigerians at all level should begin to relegate politics of hates and pull down syndrome to the background.
Credit and honour should always be given to whosoever deserves it irrespective of political leanings and should shun irrelevant considerations.
While the commencement of new administrations in most states in Nigeria is offering a fresh opportunity for things to be done rightly, the people should start paying little or no attention to the political party each present state governor may belong.
A major factor against national development is spreading of malicious and outright falsehood to discredit or malign those in leadership at any level just to score cheap political gains.
In the case of Ikpeazu, the authors of all the news to de-market him and Abia state may think they have succeeded but posterity keeps accurate records of all human deeds.
What is very crucial is for every hand to be on deck to support the governors in order to have total turnaround and progress of the states in Nigeria at the end of the next four years’ tenure.
When all these are successfully done in the states, it will reflect positively on the nation as a whole and Nigeria will be a better place to be.