Exclusive Interview: Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu Speaks About Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, Security And More
Abia state Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has said that there is no wisdom in allowing one’s territory to be used as battle field because at the end of the the whole problem, it is that territory that will incur losses in all fronts.
According to him, one of the indices that define lack of appreciation of the first rule of human existence, which is self-preservation, is to allow battle to be staged in one’s own territory.
He sated this while interacting with a team senior Journalists from All Facts Newspapers, who raised questions on various issues concerning the state, the nation and her citizens, at a time like this when insecurity has become the order of citizen’s daily lives.
He was speaking on the heels of recent violence being perpetrated at various police formations in Abia by the baptized unknown gunmen and other crises going on in the state and country, particularly, South Easter states.
In this question and answer interview, the Governor said that he is willing to speak to the Indigenous people of Biafra leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, because he is a citizen of the state, on the basis that he is the governor of Abia State and Kanu is a citizen as well as his brother. Hear him….
Your Excellency, Will you be willing to engage directly with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB?
I am willing to engage Nnamdi, not on the basis of IPOB, but I can speak to Citizen Nnamdi Kanu who happens to be an Abian, not to affiliate with IPOB, but on the basis of the Fact that I am the governor of Abia State and he is a citizen of Abia State. I don’t have anything personal against him and I don’t think he has anything personal against me. It is just that all of us are saying the same thing, that there is injustice, marginalization, but our point of divergence is the approach.
If one is taking up arms Against the Nigerian Nation, what capacity does the person have to conclude it, because I, as an individual, I am not a suicide Candidate. I saw a bit of the civil war and I don’t want to get people on a boat that is sailing to nowhere.
Kanu is entitled to his opinion, views and approach, but I am also saying to him, that as a young boy who went to Maiduguri at the age of 16, the boundaries of the South East and Northern Nigeria is not in Umuahia or Ubakala Police Station, neither is it in Bende or Ohafia. We cannot afford to allow our territory be used as a battle field when the home of our opponents is thousands of mile away from our home. If properties are going to be destroyed during the battle, they will still be our property which we shall suffer to replace at the end of the whole exercise.
Fighting in one’s kitchen is one of the indices that defines lack of appreciation of the first rule of self-preservation, because after the fight, with which pot and plates, are you going use to eat?
Secondly, is it possible that while one is fighting in his kitchen with kinsmen, real enemies could be sitting somewhere drinking Champaign and be laughing at your lack of understanding and love among yourselves? If you have a perceived enemy and you embark on such a voyage and your son kills you, your enemy will just attend Your funeral and save his gunpowder for another enemy. I think there is need for good reason to prevail, so that we can sit down and talk about it. If there are things you want us to vocalize about the way things are going in this country, raise the tune a little bit, I think there are people who are willing to say that and do that. For me I think we need to change a few things in this country and I think we need to be smart about the way we change it. There is somebody who said that those who resort to violence have exhausted the capacity of their intelligence to resolve the matter. I don’t think we have exhausted the capacity of our intelligence to resolve the matter. Violence cannot be the First option.
Bearing the fact of the situation in mind, have you tried to reach out to either the IPOB leader or the ESN militia.
I have not actually, but I am working on that for now. In the next few days we are going to have a very robust roundtable talk on security, centered on Abia security. It is going to be anchored by Abians for Abians. The theme of that Roundtable is SECURITY FOR ABIANS BY ABIANS. We need to evolve our homemade strategy to tackle the challenges we are facing. In doing that, we will bring in Religious leaders, traditional rulers, what we want to do is to see how we can devolve power, responsibility and our responses to this issues. We will get a place where the community will be adequately sensitized, so everybody can come together to gather intelligence and proffer solution on how to move forward. In bringing all of this people together, we will also be open to listen to those who may have a hint as to who, how, when to engage, going forward. Am not a frivolous person and I don’t want to engage in anything that will not yield any positive result. I don’t want to engage for the sake of engaging people, I want to engage on the grounds that we have this country and we have to make it work, otherwise we may have difficulties responding to our grandchildren to the question as to why it just didn’t work. So, that is our plan and what we are going to do in the next few days, am optimistic it will yield result.
How do you intend to make Abia safer for Abians ?
My desire is to run the safest state, and I thank God that for the better part of this administration, we have remained the safest state. Even as we Speak, if you run an analysis on the challenge we have in Abia, we don’t have any challenge against the citizens. The Issues of armed robbery, banditry, etc, is controllable, apart from what happened at Okigwe which I will come back to later, but there is an issue that some elements are ventilating their anger against law enforcement officers which is very bad, but their Target is known, directly they have not gone to the point of molesting individuals moving around. But when somebody is attacking law enforcement officers, the safety of the citizens is what is been threatened. That is why we are thinking that the way to go is to deploy cautious diplomacy. Can we try to understand what message this people are sending out even though they are sending it the wrong way? What is the message they are sending out? Who doesn’t like the protection that the police officers and soldiers are giving and why? Who would want an ungoverned place? Who would want a place that is chaotic, ungoverned, without rules? Why would such s person desire such a thing?
Another consideration is, when this continues unabated, when this creates a lacuna for mercenaries and the dogs of war to pounce on our state and begin to make lives difficult and put all our efforts towards Development on the reverse gear, this considerations is the issue I want to bring to the fore, can we appeal to the conscience of this people? I wish somebody would be available to speak up so that some of us can echo those voices that have not been heard for sometimes now and see if it we can get something. This is the time when every person in this country from the Federal government to states must pick his or her ears now to listen to all kinds of sound. There is no sound now that is without meaning. Every sound, every noise is not without meaning. But do we have the capacity to do in-depth analysis as to Arrange all of this voices and create a language out of them that can be responded to.
We will continue to deploy intelligence to make sure that we are able to contain what is happening. Again, we will not run away from the fact that it is our Duty and responsibility to do everything possible to protect lives and properties including deployment of Kinetic Approach. We have all of this options on the table.
What is the place of Ebubeagu operators, would they be armed to face the situation at hand, secondly, are there plans to reintroduce Bakassi boys to fight criminality, because it is rumored that killer herdsmen are living inside our forest and would one day launch attack on innocent citizens?
Let me start from our forests, there is no denying the fact that forest will be combed and searched, that is the primary duty of the Ebubeagu. Our strategy is not what I will want to share here for two reasons, One, I will want us to sit in that Roundtable and I would not want to preempt them until after next week, we will now have a clearer picture of operational details. But we are going to get into the forest and flush out anybody that is not supposed to be there. Whether they are going to be armed or not? We will do the needful, we will do what we need to do to remain safe in our state. We will respond with equivalent force to the challenge we meet. So when the time comes, when the challenge arises, we will rise to the challenges and we will do the needful to make sure our people are safe.
Are there laws that will back up Enubeagu security outfit and check their excesses if there will be any?
There are laws that set it up, just like any other law that guides the setting up Abia Vigilante service. These laws are going to be amended to tally with the present arrangement.
It is exactly six years after you were elected, tell us how you have managed to get this far.
Assessment of the progress of any government is always a difficult thing to do because we try to run away from being subjective; rather we want to be empirical. My agenda was to create a better life for our people and that goes back to the background that I laid. How one calculates how much a better life he has created for your people depends on the reactions of those people. But I am proud to say today that we were clearheaded about how to achieve a better life for our people leveraging on our prowess in trade and Commerce, SME, Education, Agriculture etc., And to drive all of this, we decided to do the roads we are doing. I have deliberately avoided giving you a straight answer like saying we have done 150 or 200 roads, but prefer to say the roads we have done have been able to improve trading and commercial activities in our major cities especially in Aba and Umuahia.
Today, by the latest published statistics is not among the poorest states in Nigeria neither are we among those with hyperinflation. What it means is that we have managed to create an ambiance that enables Business to flourish and people are happy about.
Also, we are set to change the way we run our education system, by emphasis on technical education system. To that extent we have had to establish the education for employment program. We have over 3,000 youths in our data Bank today. We have also emphasized technical education, we have renovated the technical schools and we have gone ahead to introduce a continuous teacher training program. What it means is that we created an institution that on a continuous basis will refresh and retrain our teachers. So our teachers are continually being retrained, what it means is that the standard of education will be in the upward swing. You recall that for about 3 or 4 years now, we have maintained the first position in WASCE, Back to Back, many thanks to the efforts of our teachers, dexterity of our students and the environment we have created. Even the over Six hundred school Blocks we have built, all of them were built to create proper academic incubation for our education to flourish.
You are an Ambassador of made in Aba products, to what extent have carried that campaign, and how successful has it been ?
I think we have done well is in the promotion of indigenous products which is our way of Catalyzing and promoting the ingenuity of our artisans. We have remained the only state in Africa in terms of leather, shoes and bags etc, and other garments. In terms of Job creation, this Government has supported the rehabilitation of Golden Guinea breweries and coming with it is about 2500 jobs along the value chain. We have created direct Jobs through Enyimba Automated Shoe Company (ENASCO). We are also going ahead to do same thing for garment. We have placed order for the garment machines, we know before the end of this year, we will have a garment factory running side by side with the Enyimba Automated Shoe Factory. What it means is that the standard of shoe manufacturing and Production today in our environment has moved up from using hands to cut leather to a point that we can use machine from end to end to Produce our leather products. We have also done capacity building by training some of our children in China to drive the vision further.
As a result of the dwindling price of oil and for the fact that so many states are looking elsewhere for revenue, what has the state done in Agriculture?
The new thing today is that this government will want to be remembered for our intervention in creating Agro allied industries in various rural settings. We set out to create Seventeen, one in each of the Local Government. We had the first Five Local Government as our pilot scheme and we are concentrating on oil Palm processing, rice milling, depending on the needs of the respective local governments. Recall that early in our administration we proliferated 4m ten era specie palm seedlings. We want to create our small small community economies to reverse the rural to Urban migration and continue to ensure that the economy of our Women especially those involved in Cassava Production is booming. Establishing a Cassava processing industry will add value to whatever efforts our farmers are making in the Farmland.
These are some of the issues that are dear to my heart which compels me to say that by 2023, certainly we will leave a better state than we met it. Our people will be stronger, our people will be more focused, our people will be more prosperous. We want to bequeath an Abia that will have a private sector driven economy that will also be sustainable.
Have done any spectacular thing in health?
We have for the past Six years carved a niche for ourselves in the health Sector. This is perhaps the Only state that is running a technology driven health program with the TeleHealth initiative. We have over 772 primary Health care centers and we are working hard to keep them connected to our TeleHealth center where they can get support, referrals, assistance to do the work they do. Citizens of Abia State are also ready to support, they have been primed to key into the TeleHealth initiative where they can call from the comforts of their homes by 2am or any time to access expert medical advice. This is very handy especially for hard to reach areas. We also have the geriatrics initiatives which is an initiative for extension and deepening Health care services to those who are home bound and above 70 years and may not have the ability or capacity to access various Health care centers that are scattered across the state and in various Local Governments. We provide this health care free of cost, that is one other attribute for our health care deliveries.
In between this two in our healthcare spectrum, we have also established an emergency response service which will respond to health emergency like Accidents and all of that on 247 basis. To run that program and make it strong, we have people coming from the diaspora to train motor park workers, health care givers, all kinds of people that are found in public places to administer CPR, to resuscitate a fainting man or Woman.
These are some of the things we are leveraging to ensure that our numbers in terms of life expectancy becomes higher than the National average and at the moment we are in a good place.
Your admirers have been applauding you for the wonderful work you have accomplished in Aba with regards to road infrastructure, what have you done differently on roads?
We had a perennial problem in Aba, because, building roads that hardly survive one rainy season is difficult to achieve in Aba, but we managed to get by through invented technical applications. If not , at the end of the day, we have ended up spending a lot of money doing palliatives and repairing the roads. This Government came up with strategies to ensure that we have roads with longer lifespan and longevity. We are doing roads that will last an average of 30 years. Am proud to say that the roads we Commissioned in the early days of this administration are still standing strong without potholes and that is a good testimony to the fact that the strategy that we deployed are working. What are this strategies? It is now a rule though unwritten that in Abia, you cannot do Urban roads without drainages, that if you come to places where water has sat for over 10, 20 years, you must deploy rigid pavement Technology and this has worked. I am proud to also say that we are winning the war against flooding, perennial erosion especially in Urban areas. Though after the rain you may see some body of water but the assurance is that 30 or 45 minutes they will all clear, and that is what you see all over the world. We will continue to work until such a time we can remove water completely from the surface anytime it rains. But the way we are today, we are sure that you cannot see water on our roads for one hour.
Do you have plans of completing the new Government House before leaving office?
The issue of the new government house is a done deal. We will keep pushing that project. I will return for inspection there in the next Three months and I expect to see a remarkable improvement from what it used to be. At the end of this year, I expect to begin to look at the Landscaping, so that we have the next quarter of next year to begin what is left, the next quarter we begin furnishing. By December 2022, we will be ready to move into that Government House. Then to the proposed flyover in Umuahia, it is a desirable project, we are believing God that we will do groundbreaking very soon. We will continue to push it. For instance I inherited the government House Project from my predecessor, I also know going forward, God helping us, we will conclude the Umuahia flyover, but If we are unable to Complete it, at least people will see it progressing. END