Elder Chibuike Nwokeukwu, a lawyer and close associate of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia State governorelect, says the course of developing the State will change within six months after May 29. He spoke to The UNION, in Aba, on the people’s expectations and plans to get them fulfilled
Elder, now that the governorship election has come and gone with Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, as winner, what do we expect from his administration when inaugurated on May 29th?
Let me start by thanking Almighty God for making it possible for Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, the Ukwa/Ngwa people, PDP and entire State to emerge victorious. Like you have observed, there are very high expectations which came with the belief that Abia, especially Aba, did not have its fair share in the outgoing administration. Ikpeazu came as a “virgin” politician so Aba people did not have any reason to hate or distrust him as a person but they turned their eyes against the ruling PDP, the party they claimed, did not give them their fair share of democratic dividend. Truthfully, the outgoing administration may have ignored Aba and its problems and the people rose up against the PDP and its candidate, saying that he was coming from an angle they did not want. The sin of one was inadvertently transferred on an innocent person. We know what we passed through while campaigning for Dr Ikpeazu.
One thing that however, went for us was our ability and humility to appreciate their presentations that Aba had myriads of problems, ranging from filthy environment, operation of touts allover the place, that the town had once been in a siege of kidnapping and violent robbery activities. So we took time and the patience to assure the people that the case will be different if he wins the election
Having said that, you (the Okezie Ikpeazu Campaign Organisation), may have already prepared a programme on those areas of infrastructural turnaround to handle soon after assuming office?
Yes. Aba people expect our roads to be fixed this time because if you are following the traffic situation in the town, you will realize that it is difficult to drive from one part of the town to another on a straight, smooth road. Dr Ikpeazu made a promise to the people during his campaign on changing this anomaly and he stands by that promise. On my part as I speak with you, I stand by him. I will tell you that within the first six months of his administration, Aba roads will wear new look. By the time the government settles down properly, a new design of how Aba will look in future will come on board. Like I said earlier, Aba is a filthy city the sanitation situation in the town calls for a state of emergency. I know that a task force will be set up for handle environmental sanitation in Aba and Umuahia. In areas of water supply, and education, though private water boreholes are readily available in across the town, there will be a return of public water supply for the people as part of the administration’s priority policy thrust. The outgoing administration of Gov TA Orji, has returned many schools back to their original owners to manage. However, I will inform you that the new administration will ensure that such private schools and their government-owned counterparts, will be made to meet approved quality standards. While government spends money updating those it will be managing, it will make sure that private proprietors are up and doing in their updating of facilities and structures to reach quality standards. Our children will be made to study in good environment. I will say that the Okezie Ikpeazu administration in Abia State will work towards meeting the overall expectations of the people in its first two years in office.
Though you have mentioned the issue of having the road network in Aba fixed, I want you to be specific on this so that we can have an overview of the roads as per their importance and the need for their rehabilitation or otherwise?
On this, I would say that there are three major roads that crisscross the commercial city of Aba and are very important to its socio-economic development, but unfortunately are in very bad shape at the moment. The Aba/Port Harcourt up to the Alaoji end of the Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway is not motorable at the moment. Also, Faulks Road leading to the Ariaria International Market and to the expressway is always flooded and not passable during the rainy season. Another one, Ngwa road leading from Asa/Cemetry Market and down to the Aba River calls for serious work. These areas are places where majority of Aba residents live and they do not have access to the centre of the town on to their business locations in other parts of the town. The problems caused by the poor state of these roads has brought pressure on the only single access in and out of the town, that is, Aba/Owerri Road, which now takes vehicles coming in and going out of town that would have moved through Port Harcourt Road or Faulks Road as the case may be. Ikot Ekpene Road which joins our State with our brothers in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States is also in a very bad shape that people wanting to come into Aba town for one business or the other or passing through to other States of the federation, now have to go to Umuahia first, before coming back to Aba.
When the government sits down to work on its programmes and manifestoes of the PDP, the expectations of Abians will be met though, with their unflinching support and assistance. While speaking about Aba, it does not mean that other parts of the State will be left out. There would be efforts to ensure the opening of access roads in all Local Government Areas of the State so that those whose rural communities produce food crops and other farm produce will be able to transport them to urban towns where they are needed.
How will this huge burden of development be financed in view of dwindling allocations from the federation account and low income generation in the State?
The incoming administration will learn from the mistakes of past governments that have governed the State on issues relating to internal revenue generation and collection. Government in past years tried to use private agents they said were experts, to collect revenue for the State but we all know the results. They failed and since then, it had relied solely on federal allocation for its activities and this had not been enough to take care of the problems we are having. For the Okezie Ikpeazu administration, a new system will evolve. Just as the African parlance, say that “beta soup na money make am,” it is expected that Abians will come to the aid of the government by carrying out their social obligations. People ought to pay for the services they use while government on its part utilizes money realized from such payments for development and improvement of quality of lives of the citizenry. The problems enumerated here require money to be implemented and the new administration will not turn into money minters but will come out will come out with a blueprint on revenue generation and collection as it gets on board. Much of its successes will come from the kind of cooperation received from the people. While we would not want individuals to build or rehabilitate roads on behalf of government, eligible adults should be able to pay approved taxes and levies that would aid government to fund projects. The revenue generation mechanism will be sharpened and enlightened as well as handled in a transparent manner that it will be useful to the overall interest of the State and its people. I want to once again, thank the people in Aba and entire Abia State for the confidence of voting in Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, as their next governor and will assure them that since they have done their part by electing him into office, he will not disappoint them in building a better Abia State.